Last Updated: 9/13/2021

Between the beautiful beaches, lush tropical landscapes, and laid-back lifestyle, it isn’t hard to imagine why so many people are drawn to the idea of moving to Hawaii. Whether it’s trading a hectic life in the city for colorful jungles and breathtaking waterfalls or leaving a stressful work environment for a more peaceful state of mind, Hawaii has a lot to offer its residents.

However, this tranquility does come at a price. The cost of living in Hawaii is among the highest in the nation. In fact, by some calculations, Hawaii is the most expensive state in the U.S. If you’re considering packing your bags for Hawaii, we’ll give you a run-down of the real cost of moving to paradise. With our research under your belt, you can feel more confident that you’re making the right decision for you and your family.

How Does Hawaii Compare to the Rest of the U.S.?

CNBC, USA Today, the website Lifehack, and the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC) all agree: Hawaii the most expensive state to live in. But how does the cost of living in Hawaii compare to other states?

One piece of data you might find useful is the MERIC cost of living index. This set of statistics offers you 1) an index that aggregates several cost-of-living factors into one single number, as well as 2) an easy way to compare Hawaii to other states. You’ll find all 50 states on the MERC website, but here’s a quick list of the top 10

You might also find MIT’s Living Wage Calculator data useful. By examining these numbers, you’ll have a sense of how much you’d need to earn to get by in the state. To give you a little perspective, these wages don’t represent a comfortable living. Instead, consider these a “minimum subsistence wage”—what you’d need to stay afloat in the state.

These numbers also offer another way to compare costs between states. We’ve included a few states here for contrast, and you’ll find the rest at the Living Wage Calculator website.

Hawaii

Cost of Living

California

Cost of Living

Texas

Cost of Living

New York

Cost of Living

Now that you have a sense of the how Hawaii compares to the rest of the U.S., let’s take a closer look at each of Hawaii’s islands. The cost of living on Oahu is different than that on Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island—and that’s not to mention all the other differences in lifestyle, atmosphere, community, and more. As you think through which Hawaiian island is right for you, the below data on each island’s cost of living may influence your thinking.

Definitions of Terms Used in This Article

The 40th percentile of gross rents for typical, non-substandard rental units occupied by recent movers in a local housing market. (Source)

MIT’s The Living Wage Calculator accounts only for the basic needs of a family. In the words of the project: “The living wage is the minimum income standard that, if met, draws a very fine line between the financial independence of the working poor and the need to seek out public assistance or suffer consistent and severe housing and food insecurity. In light of this fact, the living wage is perhaps better defined as a minimum subsistence wage for persons living in the United States.” (Source)

Mean income computed when taking into account every person in the county. It’s calculated by dividing the aggregate income of a particular group by the total population in that group. (Source)

A smoothed, seasonally adjusted measure of the typical home value and market changes across a given region and housing type. It reflects the typical value for homes in the 35th to 65th percentile range (Source)

Maui County

(The Islands of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai)

Maui’s beaches are consistently ranked as some of the best in the world, making it a hugely popular tourist destination. Keep in mind that a number of jobs on Maui will be in the tourism industry, since the majority of large corporations are headquartered in Honolulu or on the Big Island. However, the Valley Isle offers an unparalleled opportunity to choose your scenery. You can live by the beach, in a tropical rainforest, in the rural uplands—all of which make gorgeous backdrops for your Hawaii life. Many will agree that life may not be cheap on Maui, but it’s more than worth it.

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7 Things to Know Before Moving to Maui

Make an easy transition to Maui with these must-knows under your belt.
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The City and County of Honolulu

(The Island of Oahu)

Oahu offers a range of diverse lifestyles, including the metropolitan bustle (and amenities) of Honolulu, the laid-back, island-style vibe of the North Shore, and family-friendly neighborhoods like Ewa Beach, as well as many, many others. Additionally, Honolulu is home to the state’s largest employers, such as the University of Hawaii, Hawaiian Electric Industries, and Hawaiian Airlines. If working in the industries that support tourism isn’t your cup of tea, Oahu offers a number of opportunities you might not find on other islands.

The expensive living in the city of Honolulu significantly drives up the average cost of living for the county, so if you’re looking for a more affordable neighborhood, be sure to look around. Wahiawa, Hauula, Laie, and Kahuku offer more affordable housing options.  However, they all require a longer commute into the city. Make your decisions thoughtfully!

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Your Insider's Guide to Living on Oahu

Discover Oahu's best neighborhoods, plus where to shop, where to work, and how to spend your days off.
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Kauai County

(The Island of Kauai)

Kauai’s spectacular scenery and diverse natural landscapes make it the ideal place for someone looking to immerse themselves in nature—and get away from busy city atmospheres. In addition to being impressive, Kauai’s landscapes might also seem strangely familiar. The island has been featured in a number of movies, including Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, and Pirates of the Caribbean, among others. You’ll find Kauai to be one of the more expensive Hawaiian Islands, but many treasure its relaxed pace and friendly atmosphere.

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Kauai Neighborhood Guide: Where to Live on the Garden Isle

Each area of Kauai offers its own distinct experience. Which one is right for you?
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Hawaii County

(The Big Island)

An active volcano, lush rainforests, and beaches of white, green, and black sand—the Big Island has an incredible amount of raw and unspoiled beauty to offer. Additionally, the Big Island can be one of the more affordable places to live in the state, especially where housing costs are concerned. If the Big Island is your destination, all that’s left to decide is the age-old question: Hilo side or Kona side?

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8 Activities and Things to Do on the Big Island

Curious how you might spend your day off once you move to the Big Island? We've got eight ideas for you.
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Planning for Your Big Move to Hawaii

Don’t let the slightly higher cost of living discourage you from moving to paradise! By doing your homework, learning about the job market, and budgeting your living expenses, you can make the transition to Hawaii, just as thousands of individuals and families have before you.

Once you’ve run all the numbers and selected the right location for you, let us take care of the rest! We offer an easy, affordable, and safe moving experience. Our friendly, Oahu-, Kauai-, Maui-, and Big-Island based teams will take the stress out of your moving process, so you can focus on getting acquainted with your new home! Request a free quote today to discover how we can help transition you into our island community.

i. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/15/these-are-americas-most-expensive-states-to-live-in.html
https://www.lifehack.org/articles/money/the-10-most-and-least-expensive-states-america.html
https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2014/09/13/cheat-sheet-most-expensive-states/15455129/
https://meric.mo.gov/data/cost-living-data-series
ii. https://meric.mo.gov/data/cost-living-data-series
iii. https://livingwage.mit.edu/states/15
iv. https://livingwage.mit.edu/states/36
v. https://livingwage.mit.edu/states/06
vi. https://livingwage.mit.edu/states/48
vii. https://www.zillow.com/research/data/
viii. https://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/fmr/fmrs/FY2021_code/select_geography.odn?data=2021&year=2021&fmrtype=%24fmrtype%24
ix. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/mauicountyhawaii,honolulucountyhawaii/INC110219
x. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/mauicountyhawaii,honolulucountyhawaii/INC110219
xi. https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/HIMAUI5URN
xii. https://livingwage.mit.edu/counties/15009
xiii. https://www.zillow.com/research/data/
xiv. https://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/fmr/fmrs/FY2021_code/select_geography.odn?data=2021&year=2021&fmrtype=%24fmrtype%24
xv. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/honolulucountyhawaii/INC110219
xvi. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/honolulucountyhawaii/INC110219
xvii. https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/HIHONO7URN
xviii. https://livingwage.mit.edu/counties/15003
xix. https://www.zillow.com/research/data/
xx. https://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/fmr/fmrs/FY2021_code/select_geography.odn?data=2021&year=2021&fmrtype=%24fmrtype%24
xxi. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/kauaicountyhawaii,hawaiicountyhawaii,mauicountyhawaii,honolulucountyhawaii/INC110219
xxii. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/kauaicountyhawaii,hawaiicountyhawaii,mauicountyhawaii,honolulucountyhawaii/INC110219
xxiii. https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/HIKAUA7URN
xxiv. https://livingwage.mit.edu/counties/15007
xxv. https://www.zillow.com/research/data/
xxvi. https://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/fmr/fmrs/FY2021_code/select_geography.odn?data=2021&year=2021&fmrtype=%24fmrtype%24
xxvii. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/hawaiicountyhawaii,mauicountyhawaii,honolulucountyhawaii/INC110219
xxviii. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/hawaiicountyhawaii,mauicountyhawaii,honolulucountyhawaii/INC110219
xxix. https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/HIKAUA7URN
xxx. https://livingwage.mit.edu/counties/15001

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