Is it Expensive to Live in Hawaii?

Hawaii is the number one destination for anyone dreaming of sunbathing next to the ocean. It’s an ideal location for romantic getaways and extreme sports excursions, but is it livable as well? Is it affordable for you to move there? What should you expect in terms of living expenses?

Even though this state is a paradise in terms of nature and relaxation, the lifestyle can be expensive. Be aware of the cost of living in Hawaii before making a big move there.

You can find out everything you need to know about the cost of living in Hawaii here.

Is it Expensive to Live in Hawaii?

Yes, that’s the short answer. In its simplest form, it depends on how you live, as well as where you live.

The cost of living varies tremendously from island to island, with the Big Island being the most affordable and Oahu being the most expensive. Mauri, Lanai, and Kauai all fall somewhere in between.

How Much Do You Need to Live Comfortably in Hawaii?

Based on the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism’s (DBEDT) self-sufficiency income standards, the average resident needs to earn $17.63 per hour in 2020 to live comfortably. The cost of living in Honolulu requires residents to earn at least $120,000 in order to live comfortably in the state’s capital.

According to the U.S. Census, Honolulu’s median household income was around $80,000 in 2019. Whatever the reason, that’s a pretty big difference, and it shows that many Honolulu residents don’t live very comfortably.

A Payscale.com study found that the cost of living in Honolulu, Hawaii is 93% higher than the national average, and the cost of housing is 215% higher. Utility costs are 64% higher while gas prices and bus fares are 33% higher compared to the national average.

According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, an adult in Honolulu needs to earn $16.59 per hour to live. For a couple with two children, each adult must earn $17.70 per hour.

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What is the Average Cost of Living in Hawaii?

Living costs differ between Hawaiian cities, with the largest ones being significantly more expensive. For example, living in Honolulu, one of Hawaii’s four biggest cities, can cost $3,626 monthly for a single person and $5,987 for a family of four.

Are you wondering how much Hawaii will cost you? Read on for the ultimate guide.

Renting

No matter if you rent an apartment or buy a house, Hawaii is one of the most expensive places to live in the country. The median sales price of a single-family home in December 2020 was $870,000 – a new record high.

Condos on Oahu are priced at a median of $455,000. Despite the high prices, Oahu is still seeing an increase in home and condo sales. The Oahu housing shortage is intense despite the lack of affordability, which is why residential developers are flocking to the island to capitalize on the demand.

In neighborhoods like Kakaako and Ala Moana, developers have erected New Honolulu Condos for the last 6-7 years.

There are also developers in the West Oahu neighborhoods of Hoopili and Koa Ridge that will see nearly 15,000 new homes over the next 15 years.

Rental price per month for a family of four

 Honolulu, HawaiiLos Angeles, CA New York City, NY
Apartment Outside of the Center (3 bedrooms) $ 2,950.00$ 3,563.41
$ 4,037.54
Apartment in City Centre (3 bedrooms)$ 3,883.33 $ 4,477.23 $ 6,769.23
    • Compared with Los Angeles, CA, HI rental prices in Honolulu are 14.16% lower
    • Honolulu rent prices are 35.38% cheaper than those in New York

Buying a Home in Hawaii

Rental prices in Hawaii are much higher than most places on the mainland – and it all depends on where you live. Generally speaking, Hawaii apartments are some of the priciest in the country, but how much you pay will depend on which island you reside on and which side of each island you live on.

Honolulu apartments take the prize for the highest in the state due to their proximity to the business district and the majority of jobs in Honolulu. Honolulu’s average rent is $2,257 per month. Kahului residents pay an average of $1,784 per month in rent.

Rent for a one-bedroom apartment or home can range from about $1,500 to more than $2,000 per month, whereas rent for a two-bedroom apartment or house starts at $1,800.

You can also consider moving outside of Honolulu’s center, or even the other Hawaiian islands – the Big Island’s Hilo has a cost that is nearly 49 to 56 percent lower than Honolulu.

A studio can cost about $1,670 on Oahu, while a one-bedroom in Waikiki can cost about $1,400-1,700.

The figures above are average ranges that can vary significantly based on ocean views or proximity to the ocean. Most financial advisors recommend spending no more than 30 percent of your monthly income on rent.

Family of four apartment price estimate

 Honolulu, Hawaii
Las angles, California New York City, NY

Apartment in City Center - Price per square meter
$ 8,039.92 $ 9,087.08 $ 15,403.97
Apartment in City Center - Price Per Square Meter$ 5,687.65


$ 5,872.31 $ 8,778.95
Average monthly mortgage payment$2,659$ 1,969$2,156

Utilities

When it comes to utility bills, Hawaii’s residents pay the most of any state.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, you should expect to receive a monthly energy bill of $168.13 per month on average. This is $50.48 more expensive than the national average of $117.65.

According to Finder, the top five most expensive states for energy are Hawaii, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Massachusetts in 2021. On the other hand, Hawaii also has the highest percentage of residents with rooftop solar systems.

In spite of Hawaii’s high energy costs, the sun shines 8% more in Hawaii than in other states, providing an opportunity for cost-effective solar energy.  Hawaii is the first state to set a goal of generating 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2045.

Utility Bills for a family of four

 Honolulu, Hawaii
Las angles, California New York City, NY
(Electricity, heating, air conditioning, water, and garbage) for an 85-square meter apartment$ 271.12$ 122.19 $ 159.56
(No discounts or plans) 1 minute of prepaid mobile tariffs$ 0.34$ 0.12$ 0.11
Internet (60 Mbps or more, unlimited data, cable/ADSL)
Utility Bills for a family of four
$ 62.83
$ 65.75$ 64.67

Groceries

Hawaii is the most expensive state in the nation to buy groceries, especially since most items are imported from the mainland.

Based on a national index of 100, Hawaii ranked at 196.3, California ranked at 138.5, Washington at 111.3, and Oregon at 134.6.

For example, a gallon of whole milk on Oahu can cost $8.99 – around $5.50 at Costco. Bulk broccoli costs $3.79 a pound, bulk carrots cost $3.49 a pound.

Although buying locally is encouraged, the cost of Hawaii-grown mangoes is around $6.99 a pound. Four rolls of toilet paper cost about $6.

Comparison of grocery prices between Hawaii and other states

StateAnnual food costs for a family of four ($)The median family income
Hawaii
$ 14,000$ 91,000
New York$ 11,000$ 87,000
California$ 10,500$ 89,000
Colorado$ 10,300$ 92,000
Washington$ 10,500$ 92,500
  • Honolulu, HI has a 44.89% higher grocery price than Los Angeles, CA
  • It is $12.92% more expensive to buy groceries in Honolulu, HI than in New York, NY

Cost of Food

Hawaii’s food prices are a bit high since the food is imported from the mainland. Hawaii’s food prices varied from day to day, but on average, $61 is spent on meals on a daily basis. Breakfast in Hawaii typically costs $6 to $10, lunch will costs $7 to $12, and dinner will cost $10 to $30 (or more).

There are a lot of great restaurants on the islands that are more expensive than fast food on the streets. Therefore, if you want to save more, you can always purchase food at a fast-food restaurant. In addition, there are several chain markets like Costco, Sam’s Club, and Walmart that offer products at a discount. A Costco membership allows you to buy groceries in bulk at affordable prices.

It’s highly recommended to buy food on sale rather than when you need it. You will save a lot of money by doing this.

Transportation

If you live in a populated area and plan on using public transportation, you will be charged $2.75 for a one-way ride. Alternatively, you can buy a one-day pass for $5.50 or a monthly pass for $70.

If you live downtown and have long commutes, owning or driving a vehicle would be ideal. Therefore, you need to account for the cost of gas, which on the island of Honolulu is about $5.50 per gallon. You will also need to factor in parking if your company does not provide it.

Parking costs typically range from $100 to $200. A condo owner may also need to pay a similar amount for a stall, but it depends on the association’s rules.

You can explore the islands of Hawaii in different ways based on your budget and preference. Travel options include land, air, and water, each of which has advantages and disadvantages.

Renting a car may be a good option for you if freedom and independence are important to you. With a rented car, you are not restricted to specific routes and can go anywhere you want.

There are several rental companies in the region and most of them charge around $40 to $50 per day, not including a driver. However, if you want a driver, you may have to pay an extra $15. You’ll also have to pay for gasoline and insurance. Insurance may cost around $8 per day.

Comparison of transportation prices between Hawaii and other states

 Honolulu, Hawaii
Las angles, California New York City, NY
(Local Transport) One-way Ticket$ 2.75$ 1.88




$ 2.75



Pass for a month (regular price)$ 70$ 97$ 129.50
New Toyota Corolla Sedan (Or Equivalent)$ 21,820.00 $ 23,091.67 $ 24,899.48

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Taxes in Hawaii

When it comes to property taxes, Hawaiians are fortunate. Hawaii has one of the lowest property tax rates in the country at 0.35 percent. The income tax rate ranges from 1.4 percent to 11 percent. As the state does not tax Social Security retirement benefits and public pension income, Hawaii can be quite attractive to retirees.

According to a Commonwealth Fund study, Hawaii residents enrolled in employer-sponsored health coverage plans pay some of the lowest costs in the country.

There is no state sales tax in Hawaii, but businesses must pay a 4% general excise tax on all business activity, plus a 0.5% override for Honolulu County. Below are Hawaii income tax brackets for single filers and married filers filing jointly.

Hawaii Income Tax Brackets and Rates

Single or married, Filing Separately Married, filing jointly 
Taxable incomeRateTaxable incomeRate
$0-$2,4001.4% of your income$0-$4,8001.4%
$2,400-$4,800$34 + 3.2% $4,800-$9,600$50 + 3.2%
$4,800-$9,600$110 + 5.5% $9,600-$19,200 $166 + 5.5%
$9,600-$14,400 $374 + 6.4% $19,200-$28,800$562 + 6.4%
$14,400-$19,200$682 + 6.8%$28,800-$38,400$1,022 + 6.8%
$19,200-24,000$1,008 + 7.2% $38,400-$48,000$1,512 + 7.2%
$24,000-$36,000$1,354 + 7.6% $48,000-$72,000$2,030 + 7.6%
$36,000-$48,000$2,266 + 7.9% $72,000-$96,000$3,398 + 7.9%
$48,000-$150,000$3,214 + 8.25% $96,000-$300,000$4,820 + 8.25%
$150,000-$175,000$11,629 + 9%$300,000-$350,000$17,443 + 9%
$175,000-$200,000$13,879 + 10%$350,000-$400,000$20,818 + 10%
+ $200,000$16,379 + 11%+ $400,000$24,568 + 11%

What is the cheapest place to live in Hawaii?

1. Hilo, the island of Hawaii

  • Home Price: $298,500 median purchase price; $961 median rental price
  • Population: 45,579
  • Crime Rate: Lower than 20% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.4%

Are you looking for big-city amenities without the hefty price tag? Hilo is a great option! It’s not just the most affordable place to live in Hawaii, it’s also a great place to work, raise a family, or retire!

Hilo is situated on the east side of the Big Island and is known for its easy access to hiking spots and giant waterfalls. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,000, making it considerably cheaper than Honolulu

Because of the recent eruption of Kilauea, you may have to pay more for property insurance if you decide to buy a home here.

2. Kahuku, Oahu

  • Home Price: For the median home, $504,800; for the median rental, $853
  • Population: 2,486
  • Crime Rate: Better than 70% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 2.9%

Kahuku is one of the most affordable places to live in Hawaii, located on the northern tip of Oahu. Despite its lacking nightlife or upscale restaurants, this city offers a quiet, comfortable life without breaking the bank and you’ll also be just one hour from Honolulu’s job opportunities and fun.

Kahuku is home to some of the best rental prices in Hawaii, with cozy condos, cottage-style homes, and detached single-family homes.

3. Hana, Maui

  • Home Price: $459,100 median purchase price and $941 median monthly rental price
  • Population: 1,121
  • Crime Rate: Better than 72% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 5.0%

Maui is home to Hana. It may be physically close to the best parts of Maui, but the drive to the city is about 2.5 hours long. There are waterfalls and rainforests along the drive. A median rent of $941 and an average home price of $459,100 make this a driver’s paradise.

4. Waimalu, Oahu

  • Home Price: A median purchase price of $382,900; a median rent of $1,528
  • Population: 13,478
  • Crime Rate: Better than 34% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 1.8%

Are you looking for an affordable city in Hawaii with affordable homes and tons of fun things to do? Then Waimalu should be on your list! This Oahu city is just 22 minutes from Honolulu and is the perfect place to live close to the city without paying city prices.

Furthermore, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam is nearby, making Waimalu an ideal place for military families to settle down – especially with wonderful schools like Pearl City High School and Waimalu Elementary in the area.

Related Article: Best places to live in Hawaii

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Moving to Hawaii: 5 Things to Consider

The cost of living in Hawaii might seem high, but many locals will tell you how much they love the state and will offer recommendations, making the move easier.

Consider talking to a few locals to get their advice on relocating and preparing. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Traffic Can Be Brutal: If you think moving to Hawaii will relieve you of traffic, think again. Traffic in Hawaii can be quite heavy, both in Honolulu and in less densely populated areas. The roads in Hawaii are typically two lanes wide and can easily become congested as there are so many people trying to get from one place to another. There are public buses, but most people drive their own cars.
  • Wildlife surrounds Hawaii: Hawaii is a paradise for nature lovers. The Aloha State is home to birds, whales, turtles, and tropical fish. Additionally, you can go out on the water or into the mountains to see wildlife. So, if you love the outdoors, you have plenty to see and do.
  • Moving with pets can be difficult: Hawaii’s government guards its ecosystem against external threats including invasive plants, non-native animals, and pests that carry disease. If you plan to move to Hawaii with your pet, prepare for a lengthy and possibly costly quarantine process.
  • Discounts are available to locals: Many places in Hawaii offer discounts if you have a local ID or driver’s license.
  • The mainland is time-consuming and expensive to visit:  If you need to travel, work, or enjoy exploring the United States, then Hawaii may not be for you. Honolulu is six hours away from Los Angeles, and the cost of the flight can rise during high tourist seasons. Plan your trips carefully.

How to Make Your Move to Hawaii Cheap

Although Hawaii is a beautiful place to adventure and explore, the cost of living can be quite high. However, there is still a way to save money by evaluating your lifestyle.

  • You can save some money on a Hawaii vacation by cooking your own meals and shopping at selected stores. You can also try the local food.
  • If you are willing to sell nearly everything and bring only what you can fit in a suitcase, you may not have to pay much for your move. It is possible to ship a car to Hawaii. Costs are typically around $1,100 per standard vehicle if you’re coming from the West Coast. For pricing, contact Autostar Transport Express at 888-802-8250.
  • It might be more economical to sell your items and buy new ones on the island than to move the original items.
  • Make sure you know which stores are having sales to help you save on groceries, snacks, and fruits. Additionally, several places give discounts to those with a local ID or driver’s license.
  • Find cheap cities far from the tourist areas on the islands. We recommend Big Island and Hilo. When compared to living on the main islands, these areas are more affordable.
  • Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming more popular in Hawaii. EV owners are offered incentives including free parking on the street and HOV lanes.
  • Customers of Hawaiian Electric Company can save on electricity by using solar panels.

Conclusion

Based on the above calculations and excluding the costs associated with health insurance and expenses, we can draw a few conclusions:

  • Hawaii has one of the lowest property tax rates in the country.
  • Food costs are higher in Hawaii than in other states.
  • Transportation costs are higher in some places, such as California and New York. If you own a car, parking fees in New York are exorbitant, but you can avoid this by using their excellent public transportation system.
  • The cost of living in some locations, such as Seattle, Manhattan, San Francisco, and San Diego, is greater than in Honolulu; however, all of these areas also have a higher average income.

Even though Hawaii’s cost of living is high, you shouldn’t let that deter you from moving here. Hawaii offers numerous opportunities that you won’t want to miss. Hopefully, you have gathered enough information to make moving to the Hawaiian Islands an enjoyable experience for you and your family.

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Salam Team is made up of auto transport industry professionals. Their combined experience with the industry expands to decades. Knowledge sharing makes the team grow even faster and more effectively and they are rightly proud of strong team spirit. When they are not talking about auto transport, you can find them exploring new routes and exotic destinations like Anaconda, MT around the nation.
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