7 Best Places To Live In Hawaii

It’s no wonder that you are thinking of moving to Hawaii. Although it is a world-famous tourist spot, it’s also one of the best places in the U.S to live. You can experience multiple and diverse cultures in one location. If you want a fresh start, Hawaii is just the place for you.

Before you can make solid plans, you first need to decide where you’re going to live. There are so many islands and cities in this state, which makes choosing a place to live quite tricky. However, we have created this guideline to help with your decision on possible places to live.  Check out our ideas of the best places to live in Hawaii and why we picked them!

Key Takeaways

  • Hawaii is 2,400 miles away from the U.S. mainland. It is an excellent way for you to start afresh in a calm island state and still be in America.
  • It has wonderful weather, with the Big Island holding 11 out of the world’s 13 climate zones. Still, there are some islands prone to tsunamis.
  • Hawaii is a modern-day paradise with urban infrastructures. There are standard hospitals, hotels, and telecommunications. Also, you will find quality education across all levels such as the public University of Hawaii at Hilo.  
  • People whose indigenous heritage can be traced to Hawaii are called Hawaiians. At the same time, people who only reside here are merely called locals. The two official languages spoken are English and Hawaiian.   
  • The main job opportunities you’ll find are in the tourism, agriculture, and trade industry. For an active boosting career, move to Oahu or Big Island, where the major cities are.
  • Life as an Expat is effortless and convenient in Hawaii. You’ll find strong Expat communities in big cities like Honolulu and Kailua-Kona. The overall cost of living is higher than the U.S. mainland average at 170.0. Nevertheless, there are some more affordable places in Maui, Kaui, and the Big Island.

What You Should Know about the Islands of Hawaii

An image of a beach cove in Hawaii. It shows a crescent shaped cove with crystal clear aqua blue water, a white sandy beach and palm trees. A rocky outcropping is at the top of the picture

The Island Hawaii, also known as the Aloha State, is one of the best places you’ll ever visit. Although it was once an independent state, it is now the 50th state in the United States and is the only state outside of North America— over 2,000 miles from the U.S. Mainland. This state has 137 volcanic islands, almost comprising the whole Hawaiian Archipelago.

It is the home base of the most active volcanoes in the world. The volcano is Kilauea, and you can find it on the Big Island. This state is truly a tropical paradise because it includes beautiful sandy beaches with vast valleys and sight-worthy islands. It is unsurprisingly the most tourist-drawn place in the world. 

There are eight major islands in Hawaii. These groups of islands are north of the Pacific Ocean. They are often referred to as the high islands because they are above sea levels and have beautiful plains and mountains. These islands have over 1,200,000 inhabitants, several big cities, towns, and settlements.

Each island has its unique official nicknames used to describe its primary qualities. The nicknames not only add some mystery but show just how peculiar and separate they are. If you’re wondering what these names are and their meanings, see the list below.

Hawaii, “The Big Island” – As the name suggests, the Big Island describes Hawaii as the biggest among all the Hawaiian Islands. It is so big that it can easily contain other islands. Hawaii is also home to Kilauea, the most active volcano in the world.

Maui, “The Valley Isle” – Maui is the second-largest Island in Hawaii. On this island, there are giant mountains right in the middle of the northwestern and southwestern volcanoes. It got its official nickname, ‘The Valley Isle,’ from its many great valleys found on these mountains. These valleys are broad, and they are a sight to behold.

Lanai, “The Pineapple Isle” – One of the primary economic industries of Hawaii is its plantation. You’ll find pineapples and other fruits on the other islands too. However, Lanai has the most extensive pineapple plantations out of the eight islands. 

This island was once the major exporter of pineapple in the world. There was even a period where 75% of the world’s pineapple came from Lanai. You see that this name is truly befitting, and Lanai is the land of pineapple. 

Molokai, “The Friendly Isle” –  One of the main things this island stands out for is its tall palm trees. Meanwhile, this island also boasts of being the friendliest Island in Hawaii. All the islands are welcoming and pleasant mainly because of tourism. However, the lifestyle of the people living in Molokai is super laid back.

The people here do not like to make trouble and are minimalist. They are always open to share their culture and make friends with tourists. That is why the nickname of Molokai is fitting, ‘The Friendly Isle.’

Oahu, “The Gathering Place” – The Island of Oahu contains almost 80% of the entire Hawaii population. Although it is not the most significant island, it is the most prominent dwelling place for Hawaiians, Hawaii locals, and tourists alike. It has the most developed cities and towns. 

Not all islands are accessible to tourists. Oahu is the third-largest island in Hawaii. It has more than 125 beaches and a total of 596.7 square miles.  

The island’s nickname ‘The Gathering Place’ describes how this island manages to balance itself as a tropical paradise while also being an urban town. You can visit this island as a vacation get-away, or you can also live here and have a busy life. It has bustling cities, small towns, schools, anything you’d expect in a regular enormous city-state.

Kauai, “The Garden Isle” – Kauai is mainly known as the ‘Wettest Place on Earth.’ Kauai is far right in the center of the Pacific Ocean. It is the oldest island and also relatively undeveloped. It has a landmass of 562.3 square miles and is the fourth largest island. 

Kauai consists of several mountain tracks and rainforests. It is a green land, and this is because of how much it rains on this island. Every year, the island receives about 460 inches of rainfall. 

Niihau, “The Forbidden Isle” – You may not know this, but Hawaii is a U.S. Military home base. Some islands restrict regular entry, and Niihau is one. The island is the 7th largest and has about 69.5 square miles. It is off-limit to anyone who isn’t a U.S. Navy Personnel, government official, or related to the island’s owners. 

Kahoolawe, “The Target Isle” – In World War 2, it served as a United States military training camp. The borders are secured to protect the public from access because it is not 100% safe. It is called ‘The Target Isle’ as a tribute to its history and current status. 

Best Places to Live in Hawaii

The following guide on the best places to live in Hawaii will help you make the right choice. Our top options have been selected based on different categories: affordability, cost of living, safety, etc.  

Honolulu – Best Livability

A photo of the skyline of Honolulu at Waikiki beach, Hawaii. It shows a huge beach pool packed with people and several large sky scrapers

Honolulu is on the south shore of Oahu. It has a population of 348,945 occupants. This is not including the number of tourists that flood this city every year. You’ll love living in Honolulu because it has the most considerable urban living qualities out of all the cities. 

The Island of Oahu is the most populated in Hawaii, so it’s no surprise that so many people live in Honolulu. It is one of the most developed cities in Hawaii, where you can experience urban life to its fullest. 

Since so many people live here, you’ll experience diverse lifestyles and cultures. It also has a very serene nature with beautiful views and places to visit. It is a place where you can go on grand adventures by yourself or with your family. There is also great infrastructure and excellent accommodation. 

However, the cost of living is not cheap. The average price of living is 176.5. Getting solid housing in Honolulu is expensive, with the median home cost at $660,300.

Other factors to consider include; 

  • Walkability: It has pleasant weather for different outdoor activities. If you love spending time outdoors, you’ll enjoy this city. There are so many places to hike and bike around. There’s always traffic, and it can be hard to get to places on time. Regardless, you can easily walk to stores, schools, and other areas from your home like any other urban city.
  • Crime Rate: Honolulu is a pretty safe city to live in. The violent crime rate is only at 2.59. But since there are many tourists here with a high population, there are some petty property crimes. You’ll need to be careful to lock your doors when you leave home and be mindful of places you visit at night. 
  • Number of Expats: Honolulu has grand commerce and industrial system. There are several job opportunities here that aren’t related to tourism. As a result, it has a high number of expatriates.

Overall, Honolulu provides an excellent quality of life. If you’re under 30 and want to experience great adventures, you’ll love this city.

East Honolulu – Safest Place to Live 

East Honolulu is not the same as Honolulu. Although it is also on Oahu, it is east of the center of Honolulu. It is also a census-designated place with a population of about 49,914.

The cost of living here is high, but it’s suitable for large families, singles, and couples. It has a median income value of about $111,582. This is a costly town, but it offers many significant benefits. 

There are good public schools for children and multiple occupations. While it doesn’t have the bustling city lifestyle like other places, it has stunning homes where you can conveniently raise your family. There are shopping malls and grocery markets. It is one of the most developed places on the island. 

  • Walkability: East Honolulu has several walkable neighborhoods, especially in Hawaii Kai. Although there are not too many bike lanes, you can easily walk from your home to grocery stores, shopping malls, etc. There isn’t a lot of public transportation, but you won’t miss it.
  • Crime Rate: East Honolulu is the safest place in Hawaii. The crime rate is at 9.78 every year. This rate is 66% lower than than the entire U.S. national crime rate average.
  • Number of Expats: Due to the recent job growth, it has a growing number of expatriates. 

Kailua-Kona – Best Expat Community

A picture of a large green turtle on a beach in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Located on the Big Island, Kailua-Kona is mainly known as the commerce and tourism industry center in Hawaii. It is on the west coast of Big Island and is often confused with Kailua in Oahu. 

It has humid weather and is where the famous Kona Coffee comes from. It used to be a lowly fishing village but has developed into a lively town. There aren’t too many scenic views, and most places here are underdeveloped. However, it is the only city on the island for tourists since it’s the most developed city on the Big Island.

You can enjoy several outdoor activities here, such as snorkeling, swimming, and exploring beautiful beaches and countless historical sites just outside the city. The cost of living is at 152, which is 11% lower than the Hawaiian average. Housing is notably cheaper here than in Oahu. You’ll find more affordable accommodation here at a median home cost of $504,900. 

  • Walkability: The public transportation in this city isn’t too reliable. And it is hard to get around without a vehicle. The beaches are far away from the homes, almost outside the city’s limits. If you plan to be indoors most of the time, you won’t need a vehicle. If not, consider making arrangements for transportation before you move.
  • Crime Rate: The city is pretty safe with a considerably low crime rate. However, if you’re walking alone, you’ll need to beware of some areas, especially at night.
  • Number of Expats: Since it is a huge trade center, Kailua has one of the best Expat communities in Hawaii. If you’re moving as an expatriate, you’ll find several groups you can join. Many expatriates are drawn to Kailua-Kona because it’s pretty cheap and also has many job opportunities.

Mililani Town – Best for Families

Mililani is a small suburban town in Oahu. It has about 28,000 residents and isn’t too populated. You’ll love this town if you have a family or you’re hoping to start one soon. It has many great communities for children and outstanding public schools. 

There aren’t many activities on this island, and it is a great place to settle down. It has a close commute to Honolulu if you need to work. And the average ride from Mililani to Honolulu takes about 10 – 15 minutes. It’s a tranquil town and doesn’t usually receive tourists. It has small shopping malls and grocery stores, and you can always visit the big city if you want more.

The cost of living here is relatively cheap, and you can save money on housing here. The median home value is $783,000, which is reasonable for a town in Oahu. You and your family can build a great life in this small town.

  • Walkability: Mililani Town has adequate public transportation, but it doesn’t have many bike lanes. You can easily walk around to visit other neighborhoods since it’s not a big town. However, you’ll need a vehicle if you’re going shopping or to the big city.
  • Crime rate: It’s a pretty safe town and is quite similar to most suburban towns where you know everybody. You’ll still need to make sure you’re watchful and careful of some places you go. 
  • Number of Expats: This town is not a place for expatriates. Maybe families of expatriates can live here, but if you’re looking for work, you can’t live here. It is primarily a residential town, and all the work happens in the big cities around.

Related: Pros and Cons of Living in Hawaii

Kihei – Best For Retirees 

A picture of a beach at sunset near Kihei, Hawaii. It shows a small beach with several palm trees and an orange sunset

Kihei is a small town situated in Maui County.  If you’re looking for a simple, relaxed life without any disturbance, you’ll enjoy Kihei.

The town has a pretty bland aesthetic with a long stretch of land across the coastline. 

It is a laid-back secluded town filled with plenty of unique stores and restaurants. It’s perfect for older retirees who do not have to work. There aren’t any jobs, and it’s far from any major city. There isn’t much to see here, and so its tourist visits are very low. This town is mainly for people with minimal lifestyles. 

The overall cost of living is cheap, and you’ll find low housing costs here. The people are friendly but also private. 

  • Walkability: There aren’t many public transportation options because of the low population. Luckily the streets are pedestrian-friendly. You can easily walk to stores and shops if you need to. Since this place is mainly for retirees and older people, walking is a pretty common hobby.
  • Crime rate: Kihei is a pretty safe place to live. The crime rate is low, but if you need to be watchful and avoid dark areas. If you don’t know your way around, you could also quickly get lost.
  • Number of Expats: Many Expat retirees are living here. 

Hilo – Cheapest Place to Live

Hilo is a very charming small town on the Big Island. It is known for its beautiful rainforests and tropical weather. Although it contains one-quarter of the residents in Big Island, it’s still a small town. There are many historical sites here, with museums and art galleries. 

It has primarily rainy weather, so there aren’t many outdoor activities. However, the cost of living is low, and it has famous farmer’s markets. You’ll find cheap housing here. There are even places to rent that are as low as $900. It is one of the places in Hawaii that is not brimming with tourists.

  • Walkability: Schools, shops, and workplaces are typically within walking distance. Public transportation is difficult, but you can get around quickly if you have a car. 
  • Crime Rate: The crime rate is on average as there aren’t a lot of violent crimes. There are some gangs, and you won’t get in trouble if you avoid them. 
  • Number Of Expats: The kinds of jobs available here are office or administrative positions. There’s also some construction work, but overall it isn’t a place for Expats. You can’t have a promising career here like you’ll find in other cities.

Haleiwa – Best for Surfers

An aerial picture of a twin arched bridge over the river Anahulu in Haleiwa on Oahu. It shows a large bridge over a caal which leads towards the ocean

This town is a surfer’s paradise with its beautiful tides. It has excellent weather and many scenic beaches. If you love the ocean, Haleiwa is for you.

 It is a Northshore small town in Oahu with a tight-knit community. You can have great adventures here at a low cost of living. The price of renting houses is also more affordable than other places in Oahu. However, there aren’t many stores so you may have to travel to other cities for simple amenities.

  • Walkability:  Public transit is pretty much inaccessible. You’ll have to work if you don’t have your own vehicle. It has a somewhat walkable distance to stores. You can accomplish several errands on foot.
  • Crime Rate: This is a very safe town, and the crime rate is 51% lower than the entire Hawaii average. However, it isn’t very safe at night.
  • Number of Expats: You won’t find many (if any) expatriates because there isn’t much work to do.

Conclusion

You can live a meaningful life in Hawaii without any worries. It is a great place to raise a family and as well experience an exciting, diverse culture. Hawaii is a land filled with many possibilities regardless of your background. However, since there are so many cities and towns, finding a place to live may be problematic. 

The best place to live mainly depends on your preference and needs. Luckily from our list of the best places to live in Hawaii, you can make a more informed decision. What do you think about our choices? Do you have other ideas? Let us know in the comment section below.