Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places to visit in North America, with its amazing beaches and superb sunshine. It’s a great place for a vacation – but living there is an even better dream.
If you plan on relocating to Hawaii, you’ll have to consider each island’s safety, cost of living, housing, utility, transportation, median income, and job opportunities.
In the end, your income, needs, and interests are deciding factors in choosing the best island. With this in mind, we picked the best islands that offer a balance between livability and affordability. Keep reading to find the best one for you!
Table of Contents
1. Hilo, Big Island of Hawaii
Hilo, the third-largest city in Hawaii, is one of the cheapest places to live. It’s considered the fourth most affordable city for housing, with an average home costing about $318,000. The median rent is $1,045 and the cost of living is 28% cheaper than the state average.
The median income in Hilo is $63,283, with housing costs almost half the average in Hawaii. Moreover, buying groceries cost almost twice the price of the rest of the state, and transportation is a little over the average cost.
It may not be as romantic as Waikiki or as luxurious as Honolulu, but Hilo offers major attractions that are charming and it’s a gateway to beautiful landscapes and natural reserves.
If you’re a nature lover, you’ll enjoy several parks including Akaka Falls State Park and the famous Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where you’ll find the most active volcano in the world. For more greenery, visit Liliuokalani Gardens and various Japanese gardens. Of course, let’s not forget about the beaches for outdoor entertainment.
If you enjoy waterfalls, head over to Wailuku River State Park, which is famous for its 80-foot Rainbow Falls that create a mesmerizing rainbow at around 10:00 AM on a sunny day.
As you stroll along the city center, you’ll find Hilo packed with countless restaurants, shops, galleries, and museums that are eye-catching.
2. Kailua, Oahu
With a population of 39,353, Kailua is a residential community in the suburb of Honolulu where 72% of the population own a home. Kailua’s median household income is $109,087, which is twice the amount in Hilo.
Its median housing cost is 813,600 and its median rent price is $2,225, with a cost of living index of 220. Overall, the cost of living in Kailua is 25% higher than the state average. However, the household income is 52% higher than the state average, making it still a realistic place to live.
Kailua offers the same soft, white sand and clear blue waters from its many beaches, including Kaʻōhao and Lanikai Beach. Although it has a suburban feel, you can still experience the city with just a 30-minute drive to Honolulu and Waikiki.
For hiking activities with impressive scenery, you can easily visit a tropical forest in the Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve and Ko’olau Mountain Range. Other places to include in your list are Kailua Beach Park, Maunawili Falls, and Marine Corps Base Hawaii, where words can’t even describe their beauty.
3. Waimea CDP, Kauai
A small lovely town in Kauai, Waimea CDP is located on the north shore with only 1,800 people. It’s considered the third most affordable place in Hawaii with its cost of living 22% lower than the state average and housing costs that are about $378,300.
It is quite affordable to live here, with a median income of about $91,074 – 20% higher than average. However, renting is a lot more expensive when compared to buying a house, so most residents opt to buy instead. Other than that, most utilities and groceries are less expensive when compared to other Hawaiian cities.
Kauai is a small calm tropical island with many typical island activities. There are several outdoor activities and scenic views, especially in the Waimea Canyon where mountains, volcanoes, and greenery can be appreciated. If you enjoy a hiking trail, visit the Kukui Trail and catch a gorgeous site of the Waimea Canyon.
Although far from Waimea, visiting the Polihale State Park is worth the trip. This small town offers several local places including stores, restaurants, and food trucks. If you’re choosing to stay for a short vacation, you’ll find two hotels: Waimea Plantation Cottages and The West Inn motel.
4. Waianae, Oahu
Located on the sunny side of Oahu, Waianae is the island’s best-kept secret, with a population of 13,609 and a promise of an affordable cost of living. It’s about an hour and a half from downtown Honolulu and Waikiki, and being on the same island as Honolulu, you can easily visit bigger establishments that aren’t in this small town.
The median home cost is around $322,000, and the median rent is less than $1,000/month. Moreover, the costs are 11% lower than the state average. Working here guarantees a median income of $62,172 with a home price to income ratio that is the 23rd most affordable, making it considerably cheaper to live here than on other islands.
While Waianae is more secluded, it still has the Waianae Mall – which includes some restaurants, shops, a drugstore, and a bank. You can also enjoy water activities such as snorkeling, swimming with dolphins, and cruising at the Waianae Small Boat Harbor, which is filled with many fishing boats and yachts. Furthermore, Waianae boasts some of the most fantastic landscapes and stunning beaches, such as Pokai Bay and Makaha Beach.
5. Kahului, Maui
With a population of 31,336, Kahului is the largest town in Maui. Living here is quite attainable, with a median home value of $485,000 and a median rent value of $1,346.
The cost of living index is at 168, which is less than Hawaii’s index of 176 in living expenses. With a median household income of $62,038, which is $20,000 more than the national average, living in Kahului is comfortable. Although food and groceries are a bit expensive, other living expenses including health, transportation, and utilities are cheaper than other Hawaiian islands.
Living in Kahului welcomes you with the Maui Arts and Cultural Center‘s 1,800 events to enjoy. Since Kahului is Maui’s retail and commercial hub, it’s the perfect shopping place to get your hands on the best items – especially at the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center.
If you prefer natural landscapes, visit the Kanaha Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary, Kanaha Beach Park, and the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens to experience unique adventures.
Go windsurfing or kiteboarding at Kanaha Beach Park or spot endangered Hawaiian species at Kanaha Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary.
6. Ewa Beach, Oahu
Located in the southwest corner of Oahu, Ewa Beach has become a hub for new homes since it became the solution to Oahu’s housing shortage dilemma. It is now a suburb of Honolulu that attracts new families to live with its abundance of warm, sunny days.
This town is located near Kapolei, making it a convenient location for a variety of shops and restaurants. Moreover, you can easily reach Honolulu in just 35 minutes during off-peak hours.
The cost of living in Ewa Beach is 72% higher than the national average. Its median household income is about $86,424, which is 56% more than the national average. If you decide to buy a house, the median housing cost is $462,100, which is 150% more expensive than the national average. Moreover, the median rent price is $1,668, or 76% more expensive than the national average. It is ranked 18 out of 52 as the most affordable places to live in Hawaii.
The most popular beach is the White Plains Beach, which is an excellent place for family BBQs, learning to surf, or just sunbathing.
If you’re into golf, you’d be surprised to find several golf courses, including Hawaii Prince Golf Club, Hoakalai Country Club, and Ewa Beach Golf Club.
If you enjoy a train ride while learning about history, then the Hawaiian Railway Station is a 90-minute train ride that teaches history in the sugar business.
Ewa Beach doesn’t fall far behind in shopping as you can find Ka Makana Ali’i Mall packed with retail stores and amazing restaurants.
7. Kapaa, Kauai
On the island of Kauai lies the Kapaa district, with a population of 11,143. The cost of living is 1.7 times higher than the US average, ranking it as # 16 out of 52 in Hawaii that is most affordable. Housing is reasonable, with a median home value of $543,900 and a median rent of $1,389. It’s possible to afford living here with a median income of $90,925.
Among the many activities to do in this small town, the most popular is shopping at local stores on the north of Wilau in Kauai. If you head over to Kinipopo Shopping Village, there are many diverse and unique shops and restaurants to choose from. You’ll also find souvenir shirts, vintage maps, artwork, and jewelry.
For more shopping galore, head over to the Wailua Shopping Plaza, which includes antique shops, restaurants, and the Coconut Marketplace.
8. Waihee-Waiehu, Maui
With a population of 9,319, Waihee-Waiehu is a small town positioned on the east coast of western Maui. It places 11th out of 52 Hawaiian cities that are most affordable, making it 1.6 times more expensive than the US average. Its median home value is $516,400 and the median rent per month is $1,347. Though it seems more expensive than other US states, the median income here is $100,042, making it possible to attain these expenses.
Living in Waihee-Waiehu gives you the chance to explore numerous activities and visit tourist attractions, including the Waihee Ridge Trail, which brings you to the clouds for the best scenic views of the rainforest valley.
If you enjoy golf, don’t skip the Maui Nui Golf Club and The Wailea Blue Course.
Since Waihee-Waiehu is located in Maui, you can also visit nearby attractions including Maui Pineapple Tour, Adventure Park Maui, and Olivine Pools.
Are You Thinking About Moving to Hawaii?
Hawaii is one of the most fascinating regions in the world. It’s the most ideal place to relocate with its mesmerizing Hawaiian landscapes that are often incredibly affordable, depending on which town or city you choose. It’s a dream to live in this paradise.
If you’re planning to live here, you have to consider how much money you’re making and how much you are willing to spend on a monthly basis to live comfortably.
Also, before moving to Hawaii, keep in mind that it’s an island state – so it can be quite difficult to move around on the road. Things are often expensive because of the shipping costs to Hawaii. However, if you don’t mind buying items in Hawaii, then you can focus on other more important factors such as living on the calm beach and sunset surfs.
Even though you won’t find any bustling cities, this paradise on Earth can still get a lot of traffic – and with it, comes increased crime rates. Like other cities, they also have problems including homelessness and drug-related crimes.
The weather in Hawaii typically has short bursts of frequent rains. If you don’t mind short rains, then this won’t be a problem for you – but if you’re always on the go with your bike or motorcycle, this can be a disruption to your day-to-day activities.
Because of the frequent rains and ocean winds, everything rusts quite quickly – so things are always replaced more often. You might have to repaint your home or replace your bike parts frequently because of the salty humid air. These are just some of the few dilemmas that are easily solved if you are willing to.
If you think it fits your lifestyle and preferences, then what are you waiting for? Pack your bags, call your agent, and find a home in Hawaii for you and your family.