Best Big “Cities” in Hawaii
Does Hawaii really have “cities?” That might be up for debate (with the exception of Honolulu)! However, what Hawaii definitely does have is areas bustling with activity—people coming and going; heavily trafficked grocery stores and restaurants; plus plenty of activities like movie theaters, bars, shopping, and more things to do. Using those criteria, here’s our list of the best big “cities” in Hawaii.
The Winner: Honolulu, Oahu
You had to know the Big Pineapple would make this list! Honolulu has something for everyone: shopping, music, restaurants, beaches, bars, activities, museums, art. There’s plenty to keep you busy—and offer you the closest thing to city life in the middle of the Pacific.
- Wailuku, Maui – There aren’t that many places in Hawaii where you can grab a Vietnamese dinner, down a craft cocktail, buy a box of Minit Stop fried chicken, snag a vinyl record, sing a karaoke song, and be home in five minutes flat. However, it’s that kind of diversity that awaits you in Wailuku, which is chock full of local businesses and historic charm.
- Hilo, Hawaii – As the fourth-biggest town in Hawaii, as well as the home to the University of Hawaii at Hilo and the Big Island’s seat of government, there’s more going on in Hilo than in many other locations on the Big Island. However, that doesn’t mean Hilo lost its small-town charm, which it retains in spades.
- Lihue, Kauai – As Kauai’s center of commerce, Lihue is located right in the heart of Kauai. If it’s convenience you’re after—plus a central jumping-off point to explore the rest of the island—Lihue is a great choice.
Best Family-Friendly Areas
When you’re moving with kids (or planning for them!) you’ve got a different set of priorities. You might be thinking about things like proximity to schools, whether you’ll find other families in the neighborhood, if your kids will have a yard to play in, how loud the neighborhood might get at night, and how easy it will be to keep your house supplied with everything your family needs. Below, you’ll find four favorite spots for families who want to enjoy Hawaii life.
The Winner: Mililani, Oahu
Top-rated schools, local recreation centers, and easy access to plenty of stores make this neighborhood a perennial favorite. You’ll find plenty of families in the area, so your kids will quickly find new friends nearby.
- Wailuku Heights, Maui – Beautiful views, cooler nights, and a quiet respite from busy Kahului make this an ideal place for families. Plus, when you need to stock up on milk, snacks, and dinner supplies, you’ve got plenty of grocery stores (and other conveniences!) just a short drive away.
- Kealakekua, Big Island – Quiet enough to feel like you’re in the country but close enough to Kailua-Kona to make it easy to run all your errands quickly, Kealakekua is a tight-knit, supportive community perfect for a growing family.
- Kilauea, Kauai – If you’re looking for a quieter, more rural life for your family, Kilauea on Kauai’s North Shore might be a perfect fit. While Kauai’s bigger stores are a bit of a drive away, you’ll find plenty in nearby Princeville to tide you over, plus access to the area’s incredible beaches, just waiting for family fun.
Best Beach Towns
Hawaii’s gorgeous Pacific waters have lured many people to make the move to paradise. And, can you blame them?! Hawaii’s beaches are among the most beautiful in the world, and Hawaii’s residents get to enjoy them year-round. If Beach Life is the life for you, check out our winners for best beach towns in Hawaii:
The Winner: Kihei, Maui
Kihei features plenty of restaurants, bars, shopping, and entertainment options, all served practically beach side. No matter where you are in Kihei, you’re never far from the fun—or the beautiful white sand beach that stretches along the south Maui coast for miles.
- Haleiwa, Oahu – Oahu’s North Shore is famous for its big waves and its laid-back lifestyle. That’s where you’ll find Haleiwa. Although you’ll be a significant drive from Oahu’s center of commerce in Honolulu, the North Shore has a ton to offer, including a burgeoning food truck scene, local shops and galleries, plus plenty of charm.
- Poipu, Kauai – Poipu’s seemingly perfect weather has attracted several resorts and resort communities, which means it’s one of Kauai’s more developed areas. However, it’s perfect for someone who wants to enjoy all the amenities of a lively area, plus Poipu’s gorgeous, sunny beaches.
- Kailua-Kona, Hawaii – Like Poipu, Kailua-Kona is one of the Big Island’s busier areas, so it pairs sun-drenched beaches with plenty of restaurants, bars, and other things to do. If you love beaches and you plan to live on the Big Island, zero in on the Kona Coast.
Best Laid-Back Locations
We all have priorities. Yours might be finding a quiet place to live in Hawaii, far from the hustle-bustle of the touristy areas, where you can enjoy some solitude. Living in one of these spots might mean a longer drive to the grocery store, but it will deliver in terms of awe-inspiring natural landscapes and peaceful mornings and evenings.
The Winner: Kula, Maui
Kula is a large area with varying degrees of privacy that range from quiet subdivisions to acres of rural land with no neighbors in sight. But if it’s some degree of quiet you want, Kula is a great place to start your search.
- Hawi, Hawaii – If you dream of living in a place where you can enjoy close-knit community, picturesque farmland, and plenty of locally grown produce, Hawi deserves a look. While rural life in the Big Island’s North Kohala district isn’t always the most convenient—you’ll have to pick up your own mail and drop off your own trash—its natural beauty more than compensates.
- Maunawili, Oahu – With quiet streets, beautiful views of the Koolau Mountains and plenty of greenery, Maunawili offers a much quieter alternative to Town (i.e. – Honolulu!). Plus, the amenities of Kaneohe and Kailua are just a short trip away.
- Kekaha, Kauai – While some love the lush rainforest atmosphere of Hawaii’s windward locations, others prefer the state’s hotter and drier areas. You’ll find warm and sunny Kehaka on Kauai’s leeward side—and you’ll also find a welcoming, friendly community in a quiet area that’s less trafficked. Those looking for a serene existence with plenty of secluded landscapes to explore will love this area.
Best Locales for Golf Lovers
Dramatic ocean backdrops, pristine groundskeeping, championship courses designed by master designers: Hawaii is also a paradise for those who love their tee times. You’ll find plenty of courses throughout the islands, but if you want to be close to the action, check out the following spots.
The Winner: Princeville, Kauai
Perfect for golf aficionados who also enjoy the resort lifestyle. In Princeville, you’ll find well-manicured properties, as well as the ability to enjoy paved walking paths, tennis courts, recreation facilities and, of course, championship golf courses.
- Napili, Maui – While there are a couple of locations that offer golf on Maui, why not live near the course that hosts the Sentry Tournament of Champions each January—Kapalua? Napili is right next door, offering beautiful beaches and proximity to the fun of Lahaina town.
- Ko’olina, Oahu – You’ll find a number of golf courses Oahu’s on leeward side, and, if you’re living in Ko’olina, you can get to all of them easily—while skipping out on the traffic around Honolulu.
- Keahou, Big Island – Let Keahou’s location on the Kona Coast be your gateway to some of the most incredible golf courses in Hawaii. If you’re moving to the Big Island for its reputation as the Golf Capital of the state, Keahou is the perfect base of operations.
The Best Upscale Beachfront Neighborhoods
If you’ve got a healthy budget and you’re dreaming of a home with modern upgrades, set in a gorgeous, well-maintained neighborhood with plenty of amenities, these spots will fit the bill.
The Winner: Princeville, Kauai
One of Kauai’s first planned communities, Princeville residents enjoy paved walking paths, parks, tennis courts, golf courses, swimming pools, and more. You’ll find both condos and single-family homes in the picturesque area.
- Wailea, Maui – Home to a number of high-end resorts, Wailea offers upscale living in one of the sunniest areas on Maui. Think palm-tree lined streets, easy beach access, gracious residences, and elegant landscaping throughout.
- Waikiki, Oahu – Find yourself a recently remodeled condo in Waikiki, and you’ll enjoy world-class restaurants, luxury shopping, and all of the fun of Oahu’s big city at your doorstep. Plus, with plenty of direct international flights in and out of Daniel K. Inouye Airport, you can easily jaunt away to your favorite hot spot.
- Kailua-Kona, Hawaii – If living in a gracious, oceanfront estate property has long been a dream of yours, Kailua-Kona has plenty to offer. You’ll enjoy warm, sunny weather year round, gorgeous coastal views, and proximity to Kailua-Kona’s restaurants, bars, and shopping opportunities.
Hawaii Life, Your Way
One of the best parts about living in the Aloha State is that there’s no real way to do it “right.” Instead, you’re free to make your Hawaii life exactly what you want it to be. Whether that’s living in a condo in the heart of the Big Pineapple, settling into a neighborhood where your kids can play in the yard with the neighbors’ kids, waking up to the delightful tang of salt in the air and the sounds of the ocean, or enjoying the peaceful solitude of a rural landscape, Hawaii has it all. The right spot—and the best “city” for you—are waiting.
Need some help making the move? We’ve got a wide range of options for moving all of your personal belongings to Hawaii, no matter how big or small your move. Get started with a complimentary quote from one of our Hawaii-based experts.