Best places to live in Hawaii

Best Places to Live in Hawaii


Hawaii has so much to offer anyone who wants to make the islands their home. But, with so many places to choose from, it can be quite confusing. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best places to live in Hawaii just for you. We’ve based our list on several criteria such as amenities, livability, schooling, entertainment, scenery, and much more. 

Before we look at the best places to live in Hawaii in more detail, let’s take a brief look at the islands in general and share some interesting facts. 

A brief introduction to Hawaii

Hawaii is a constituent state of the United States of America. It became the 50th US state on August 21, 1959

Hawaii is a group of 137 volcanic islands spanning 1,500 miles. The islands are in the central Pacific Ocean. The islands lie 2,397 miles from San Francisco, California, to the east, and 5,293 miles from Manila in the Philippines to the West. 

Hawaii is the eighth smallest geographically of the fifty US states and is the 11th-least populous. However, it is the 13th-most densely populated. In 2020, the population of Hawaii was 1,412,690. 

The capital of Hawaii is Honolulu, which is on the island of Oahu. Oahu is the largest of the islands, but there are seven major islands in total.

Which island is right for you?

Which Hawaii island is right for you

The islands that make up the Hawaiian archipelago offer surprisingly diverse lifestyles. Each island offers a unique take on the concept of “island life.” Let’s give you a quick run-down on the major islands. 

Oahu - The Gathering Place

Almost one million people have made Oahu their home. The island covers 697 miles and is the location of Hawaii’s capital city, Honolulu. Other well-known locations include Waikiki and Pearl Harbor. 

Oahu is one of the most popular islands to move to because there are plenty of job opportunities. The salaries also tend to be higher than the other islands. 

The island is Hawaiian through and through, but it is the island with the most in common with the mainland. The pace of life is fast. It’s busy and modern. 

Many of the job opportunities in Oahu revolve around the tourist industry, especially retail. There are also a lot of government, military, and civil construction jobs as well.

Attractions include:

  • Honolulu - excellent restaurants, high-rise accommodation along Waikiki beach, the ninth-largest US shopping center known as the Ala Moana Center. 
  • Iolani Palace: Former royal residence of the Kingdom of Hawaii’s rulers and the only royal palace in the US. 
  • The North Shore: You’ll find some of the best big-wave surfing in the world and get to enjoy its associated laid-back community
  • Epic hiking: Oahu has seemingly endless trail options, all of which provide a good workout together with inspiring views, whatever time of the year it is.

Best areas to live in Oahu

According to, some of the best neighborhoods in Oahu are on the Leeward side. They include Kapolei, Makakilo, Ewa Beach, and Ko Olina. In these areas, there has been an explosion of construction, both residential and commercial. 

Best cities in Oahu

  • Honolulu: This city is the capital of the US state of Hawaii. It is on the south shore of the island.
  • Aiea: A popular attraction is Pearlridge, Hawaii’s largest enclosed shopping center. Aiea is also home to Aloha Stadium, where the National Football League’s Pro Bowl takes place every year. 
  • Ewa Beach: Ewa Beach is located on the Leeward coast, west of downtown Honolulu. It is a growing community with many new homes and stores being built.
  • Haleiwa: This is the largest town and commercial center on the North Shore of Oahu. It enjoys an old plantation town atmosphere and is popular with tourists and locals alike.
  • Kapolei: Kapolei is being developed as an urban center, second to Honolulu.
  • Waikiki: Waikiki is Hawaii’s center of the tourism industry. Many high-rise hotels line the shore, including some that date back to the early 20th century.


Hawaii, aka The Big Island - The Orchid Isle

Hawaii The Big Island

The Big Island is second on the list because it has the second-highest population. However, compared to the other islands, it’s much bigger, which means everyone is more spread out.

The main source of jobs here is tourism, closely followed by civil-related and agriculture. Much of the work is on the western side of the island along the busy Kona Coast. 

No other island matches the Big Island in terms of geographical diversity. Sights include mountains that reach almost 14,000 feet, breathtaking waterfalls, rainforests, and more. 

There are only two main cities on the island: Kona and Hilo. Hilo is the island’s oldest city, and its population makes up about one-third of the island’s total population. Kona is the tourism center of the island. It is where you’ll find most of the island’s accommodations and it's a central hub for recreational activities. 

One other feature to consider is that traffic can get surprisingly bad on the island’s Kona side. This is because many people commute from Hilo, on the eastern side, to work on the West Coast. Commuters can start as early as 3 am. 

If you’re looking for a non-traditional lifestyle, you’ll find like-minded spirits on Big Island among residents who live off the land or work in agricultural communes. 

Attractions include:

  • Volcanoes National Park: Features two active volcanoes: Mauna Loa and Kilauea.
  • Punaluu Beach: This is Hawaii’s most famous black sand beach. 
  • Off-roading adventures: explore green sand beaches, volcano summits, and much more. 

Best areas to live on Big Island

There are some incredible locations worth exploring if you want to live on Big Island. If you prefer a little hustle and bustle around you, Hilo and the area around it are thriving spots that still hold on to a relaxed life pace. It’s close to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and is surrounded by mountains and is situated right on the coast. It’s also much rainier than other sports on the island, but the downpours are brief and interspersed with lots of warm sunshine. 

North Kohala is somewhere to head for if you prefer the solitude of the countryside. It’s about as remote as you can get and is on the island’s northwest tip. Many people seeking “Greener,” alternative living have moved to this part of the world. They can grow their own produce and enjoy the enviable freedom, proximity to the great outdoors, and excellent climate.

Best cities on Big Island

Aside from Hilo, there are plenty of other cities worth considering:

  • Kona: This is Big Island’s second little city and is in the west of the country. It has a holiday feel about it all year round. 
  • Keauhou: This is the place to go if you love water sports, snorkeling, or scuba diving.

Maui - The Valley Isle

Maui Hawaii

Maui is larger than Oahu, but it only has one-tenth of the country’s population living there. The pace is generally busy, and the island has recently grown up.

You’ll find fewer job opportunities. Those you find are typically tourism-related, followed by civil work like construction and agriculture. 

The geography of Maui is more diverse than Oahu and is made up of several very different locals. Upcountry Maui, for example, is very different from living along the Hana Highway. Different in terms of climate and culture.

Attractions include:

  • Haleakala National Park: In this park, there is a dormant shield volcano with hiking trails crossing its crater. 
  • The Road to Hana: This is a 64-mile highway that twists and turns and will take you over one-lane bridges, past waterfalls, and red sand beaches. 
  • Laid-back living and big wave surfing: Surfing is big on the North Shore, including the world-famous big-wave surf break at Peahi. World-class surfing also takes place at Hookipa.

Best areas to live in Maui

The best areas in Maui are spread out a bit. very kindly narrowed it down to two areas for us. Paia and Lahaina are great areas. The people are welcoming, the restaurants are excellent, the ocean is incredible in Paia, and there are many things to do close by. 

Best cities in Maui

  • Wailuku: Wailuku is a town with a population of 17,000+. The town has a dense suburban feel. There are a lot of parks. Residents include families and young professionals. 
  • Kula: Kula is another popular town with a rural feel about it. There is a high percentage of retirees that live there.
  • Wailea: Wailea has an urban, suburban mix feel. There are lots of restaurants, coffee shops, and parks.

Kauai - The Garden Isle

Kauai Hawaii

Kauai is an island with a small-town feel and is dramatically different from the bustling Maui and Oahu. The economy of the island is fuelled by tourism and civil-related jobs. You can also find military/government jobs on the island because there is a small military presence in the island’s southwest part. 

What makes Kauai unique is that most residents live reasonably close to the coast. The bulk of the island’s interior is impassable terrain and highland swamp.

Kauai earned its nickname from its lush landscape, impressive canyons, scenic rivers flowing from Mt. Waialeale, and steep cliffs. 

Attractions include:

  • Hundreds of hiking trails: Plenty of opportunities to take in the diverse and exquisite views.
  • Dramatic waterfalls: These include Opaekaa Falls and Wailua Falls
  • Spouting Horn: This aptly named attraction is a blowhole that sends sea spray several stories into the air when the swell is right. 
  • Beautiful beaches: There are plenty of beautiful beaches, all of which are relatively uncrowded compared to those on the more populated islands.

Best areas to live in Kauai

There are some great neighborhoods to choose from all over the island, but each site offers something slightly different. 

The north shore is famous for its mountains, beautiful cliffs, and endless white-sand beaches, the most popular of which is the 17-mile-long Na Pali Coast. This section of the coastline features 3,000-foot-tall cliffs with majestic green valleys and impressive waterfalls. The north shore is also home to some famous surf spots with winter swells reaching 30 feet. 

The east side is also called the Coconut Coast because of all the coconut palm groves growing there. This side of the island is also home to the Wailua River, where you can enjoy kayaking, swimming, boating, and hours of entertainment and fun. 

Kauai’s south shore is popular for its beautiful beaches, offering fantastic water activities, prime surf spots, and plenty of sunshine. 

Kauai’s west side is home to Waimea Canyon, one of the island’s most spectacular sights. It is 10 miles long, 2 miles wide, and 3,600 feet deep. Port Allen is one of Kauai’s principal boat harbors. 

Best cities in Kauai

  • Lihue: Lihue is both the government and commercial center for the entire island. It is also the location of the main airport. It’s a great place to live if you’re looking for a more “city” lifestyle with amenities and shopping close by your home. 
  • Poipu: Sunny Poipu is the best-known town on the south shore. It gets its nickname from its great weather, being almost always sunny, even when the rest of the island is not. 

The majority of people who move to Hawaii find somewhere to live on one of these four major islands. But there are four more that might compete for your attention. 

Molokai - The Friendly Isle

Life is tranquil on Molokai. It’s also delightfully old-fashioned. There are no fast-food restaurants, big buildings, traffic lights, or shopping centers. However, you will find lots of local stores and local people going about their business at their own unique pace. 

Lanai - The Pineapple Island

Lanai was originally the home to the world’s largest pineapple plantation, hence its nickname. Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison purchased 97% of the island in 2012. Only recently has the island had paved roads, and most of the people who live there either work for the Four Seasons resorts located on the island or Ellison’s other projects, one of which is a hydroponic farm. 

The population of the island is concentrated in Lanai City. There you’ll find locally owned businesses selling art, souvenirs, and much more. 

Niihau - The Forbidden Island

This island was purchased by Scottish widow Elizabeth Sinclair in 1864. She paid $10,000 to King Kamehameha V. No visitors are allowed to this private island. The king requested that it be preserved for the native Niihuans who live in Puuwai. 

You won’t be able to consider Niihau for your new home, but the current owners, Elizabeth’s descendants, do offer half-day tours, and it’s well worth a visit. 

How much does it cost to live in Hawaii?

Hawaii is beautiful. It’s surrounded by a vast ocean, enjoys pristine weather, and has a rich culture. However, such a paradise comes at a cost. According to Expatisan, as of 2020, Honolulu is the eighth most expensive city in the United States and North America and the 19th most expensive city globally.

Is it expensive to live in Hawaii?

Studies have shown that to live comfortably in Hawaii, you’ll need a whopping salary of more than $122,000. We should point out, however, that standards of living vary according to each person, and it all depends on your level of “comfort.” 

Renting in Hawaii is much more expensive than most places on the mainland, and it all depends on location. If you’re looking to buy, the median sales price of a single-family home is $835,000, a new record high as of 2019. Purchasing a piece of land and building your own home could be more affordable, but that depends on location and your general contractor. 

When it comes to utilities, Hawaii’s residents pay the most for energy bills in the nation. According to the US Energy Information Administration, you can expect to pay an average energy bill of $168.13 per month. 

If you want to know more about the cost of living in Hawaii, there’s a fascinating article to read on

What is the cheapest place to live in Hawaii?

Cheapest place to live in Hawaii

  • Wailuku, Maui: This city is rich with history and culture and an excellent city for those who love to walk or cycle everywhere. It is more affordable because nearby Kahului has overshadowed it.
  • Kurtistown, Big Island: This town has easy access to amenities in Hilo and is home to a lush, tropical setting that receives more rain than the leeward coast of the island. 
  • Waimea, Kauai: This town serves as the gateway to Waimea Canyon and the Kokee State Park. It’s the perfect spot if you love exploring. 
  • Waianae, Oahu: This town is within easy driving distance to some great amenities in Kapolei. It is also home to some of the island’s most beautiful, less popular beaches.
  • Hana, Maui: Hana is relatively isolated and experiences more rain than the island’s leeward side. However, this does mean it is full of lush tropical gardens and incredible red and black sand beaches. It has also retained plenty of “Old Hawaii” charm.

Hopefully, we’ve not put you off, and you still want to know more. Let’s fill you in on some of the best places to live for some of our readers.

Best places to live in Hawaii for families

  • Mililani Town: Mililani Town is one-half of the greater Mililani area, just outside Honolulu and at the center of its commercial development. The schools are outstanding. 
  • Laie: Laie is home to a bustling community. Education for the community’s youth is excellent. 
  • Kailua: Many years ago, this was the home of kings because of its good weather and seaside location. Today, it’s popular for the same reason. It also has a burgeoning arts community, which supports galleries, a symphony orchestra and classes, and workshops for adults and kids. 

Best places for young people to live in Hawaii

  • Honolulu: There are lots of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and parks. 
  • Waimalu: This is a suburb of Honolulu that offers residents an urban feel.
  • Lahaina: Lahaina is a fantastic historic little town with a very diverse community. There are lots of restaurants, parks, and coffee shops.

Best places to retire in Hawaii

Places are abundant for snowbirds to stay for the winter or make Hawaii a more permanent long-term home. All of the islands we’ve mentioned above have something to offer anyone who wants to escape the north’s cold weather. 

Best places in Hawaii for nature lovers

  • Hanalei: Hanalei is one of the closest towns to Napali Coast State Park, one of the most beautiful parks in the entire US. 
  • Haleiwa: Situated in Oahu’s north shore area, Haleiwa serves as a hub for outdoor activities. It’s also relatively close to Laniakea Beach. 
  • Pa’ia: This Maui town features a rugged coast and views along terrain made for hiking. 

Best places in Hawaii for beach lovers

  • Lahaina: The historic town of Lahaina is one of Maui’s best beachside towns. It is also the original seat of the Hawaiian monarchy. 
  • Waikiki: Waikiki is not really a little beach town, since there are such a high number of visitors each year. It’s one of the most popular destinations in Hawaii and pretty unique. 
  • Hawi: This small town is one of Big Island’s best-kept secrets. It is perched alongside the far Northern coastline of the Big Island’s Kohala area. 

Best places in Hawaii for surfers

Hawaii is home to some of the best places to surf in the US. Surfing has played an integral part in the development and identity of the islands. You can trace its roots back to the 4th century AD when Polynesians began to make their way to the islands from Tahiti and the Marquesas. Some of the best places to surf include:

  • Oahu: Puaena Point, Chun’s Reef, Laniakea Beach, Diamond Head Cliffs
  • Maui: Launiupoko State Wayside Park, Kihei Cove, Guardrails, Lahaina Breakwall, Kaanapali Beach
  • Big Island: Pine Trees, Kahaluu Beach, Honolii Beach Park, Anaehoomalu Bay
  • Kauai: Kiahuna Beach, Hanalei Bay, Kealia, Shipwreck Beach, Kalapaki Beach

What is it like to live in Hawaii?

Move and live in Hawaii

Hawaii is definitely one of the most beautiful places in the world. If you’ve visited one of the islands already, you’re probably asking yourself the question: What’s it like to live in Hawaii?

We’d be lying if we said it was all good. It’s not for everyone, and there is good as well as bad. 


  • The weather is perfect: In Oahu, for example, there are probably more than three hundred sunny days each year.
  • The lifestyle is very laid back: Sure, everyone works, but there is an underlying attitude that life is not about work. 
  • Cultural experiences are plenty: Japanese and Filipinos are the predominant group, and there’s the Hawaiian culture that most groups have adopted. 
  • There is so much to do: So much so that you might have trouble figuring out what to do for fun after work. 


  • Island fever: This is a common complaint of those who have lived on the islands for many years. After all, you are isolated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles from any major country. 
  • The high cost of living. You might find the prices in the local supermarket rather shocking. Gas, renting apartments, paying for parking, auto, and health insurance are all very expensive on the island. 
  • Parking: Parking is a massive problem On Oahu, in particular, parking is a catastrophe. 
  • Traffic: If you have to travel to work, traffic will be a big issue. During rush hour, the traffic can be a nightmare. There can be some serious traffic jams at certain times of the day.

How to move to Hawaii

You should have your heart set on a particular destination by now, or at least narrowed it down to one of the islands. It’s about time we offered you some advice on moving there.

Can anyone move to Hawaii?

As long as you’re a US citizen or have a green card, you need no special permissions to move to Hawaii and live there permanently. Relocating to Hawaii is similar to relocating between states on the mainland. 

However, there are two significant differences: shipping your vehicle and complying with Hawaii’s animal quarantine laws. 

How much does it cost to move to Hawaii?

The actual cost depends on how much stuff you want to move. Where you’re moving to and from is another critical factor. Let’s give you a rough idea of the cost to move the contents of a three-bedroom house. You should allow anything between $5,000 and $10,000.

There are several other things to consider when moving to Hawaii, aside from the cost. They include:

  • Shipping your possessions to Hawaii: Shipping all your worldly possessions is not always the best option. Less is often more. 
  • Taking your pets to Hawaii: You’ll need to keep excellent records of your pet’s shots and vaccination history. Otherwise, you can expect to have an extended quarantine period once they arrive on the islands.
  • Jobs in Hawaii: You’ll need to plan your job strategy well in advance.
  • Hawaii health insurance: Factor in the cost of insurance when planning your move, as insurance is not always a given in Hawaii.
  • Housing in Hawaii: Expect to downsize dramatically for the same costs you’re paying now. Housing is expensive in Hawaii.
  • Culture Hawaii: Be prepared to adapt to the way things are done in Hawaii. Things are slower, more laid back, and if the surf is up you might have to wait a few days for the repair person to pop by and fix your water heater. 
  • Island fever: This is very real and can set in for people who aren’t used to being on an island. It can get very claustrophobic pretty quickly. 
  • Leaving family and friends: Think through the implications of leaving your family and friends behind.  

Can you ship a car to Hawaii?

There’s no reason why you should leave your faithful four wheels behind when you move to Hawaii. Buying a new car is an option, but vehicles in Hawaii can be expensive. You also run the risk of purchasing a lemon if you choose to buy a used vehicle. 

Hawaii car transport is an affordable option, and here at SGT Auto Transport, we offer a door-to-port service. If you want to know more about our car shipping service, speak with our shipping advisors at (864) 546-5038.

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