Some people will tell you that Hawaii is one of the best places to retire in the U.S. Many retirees are lured to the islands by Hawaii’s year-round balmy temperatures and postcard-perfect tropical landscape. In fact, Kiplinger named Hawaii the second-best state to retire in, citing its low health care costs and high life expectancy for residents. i  

However, you’ll find plenty of divergent opinions on the topic. In 2019, WalletHub ranked Hawaii as the 11th worst state to retire in. However, in 2021, the state jumped all the way up to the 18th best state for retirees in WalletHub’s rankings. ii 

So which is it: Is Hawaii an ideal place to retire—or a nightmare for retirees?  

To help you decide whether retiring in Hawaii is the right move for you, we leveraged our years of experience living and working in Hawaii and created the following pros and cons list. We’ll show you everything—the rain and the rainbows—so you can make the best choice for your situation. 

Let’s start with the good stuff! 

Pro: Perfect Weather

It’s a climate that’s practically made for Goldilocks. It’s rarely too hot, rarely too cold, and most often just right.  

Unlike a place like Boca Raton, Florida where summers come with brutally hot temperatures reaching 90°+, Honolulu summers are significantly cooler, with highs in the low 80s.iii Winter nights in Honolulu can even be as cool as the high 50s, giving you a break from the warmth of the day.  

0°
Average High in July in Boca Raton
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Average High in July in Honolulu

Plus, you’ll also enjoy Hawaii’s year-round tradewindswhich means there’s an almost constant gentle breeze blowing. This makes life without air conditioning pretty comfortable for most of the year in a number of locations in Hawaii. (Can you imagine living without A/C in Florida? We can’t!)  

Pro: The Laid-Back and Pleasant Island Lifestyle

The Aloha State isn’t just a nickname. It’s a way of life—a level of care, respect, and kindness people pay to each other in Hawaii. It makes Hawaii a pleasant place to live, and it makes the state an attractive one for retirees.  

In fact, Hawaii was named the healthiest and happiest state seven years in a row in Gallup’s National Health and Well-Being Index from 2012–2019.iv If you’re a retiree looking for an enjoyable environment for the later years of your life, Hawaii might just fit the bill. 

Hawaii is also a place that moves at its own, leisurely pace. Retirees who are tired of the hustle-bustle of their current location will welcome the more relaxed timeline of the Hawaiian islands. 

Pro: Health Advantages in Hawaii 

Health and health care are big issues for retirees, and Hawaii puts up some pretty good numbers in that regard.  

Life expectancy in the state is the highest in the nation at 86.5 years. Additionally, the poverty rate for residents 65+ is the fourth-lowest in the nation at 6.5%.v Plus, if you’re concerned about what kind of healthcare is available in Hawaii, US News ranked Hawaii #1 in the nation for both health care access and health care quality. 

#1

Life Expectancy

in the U.S. at 86.5 years 

#3

Lowest Poverty Rate

For ages 65+ in the U.S.

#1

Health Care Access

US News Rating

#1

Health Care Quality

US News Rating

Pro: Safety of Life on the Island

Retirees who are concerned about safety in the Hawaiian Islands shouldn’t worry too much. The website Consumer Affairs ranked Hawaii the 17th safest state in the nation, based on factors such as violent crime rates, property crime rates, the number of law enforcement officers per capita, and law enforcement budgets.vi

The website HomeSnacks takes a slightly dimmer view of Hawaii, ranking it #27, right in the middle of the pack. However, their analysis, which leveraged 2019 FBI crime data, put Hawaii right on par with Florida, another popular destination for retirees—just to offer some perspective! vii

Pro: Some Tax Advantages

Although Hawaii isn’t necessarily a tax-friendly state overall (more on that in the next section!), it does have a couple of unique tax features that can benefit retirees. 

Pro: It Doesn’t Get More Gorgeous Than This 

waterfall in hawaii
mom and daughter snorkel in hawaii
maui beach
park in maui with palm trees and kayak

Looking out at a beautiful landscape has a way of lifting your spirits, and you’ll enjoy some of the most amazing vistas the U.S. has to offer in Hawaii. From picture-perfect beaches, to lush rainforests, to majestic waterfalls, to towering volcanoes, and even daily rainbows, Hawaii has it all.  

If you want views like these to be yours every day, retiring to Hawaii will get you there. 

Now that we’ve run you through all the upsides to living in Hawaii, we want to share a few of the challenges so you can make a well-considered decision. 

Con: The High Cost of Living

We’ve written about it extensively, but it deserves repeating: The cost of living in Hawaii is significant. CNBC, USA Today, the website Lifehack, and the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC) have all named Hawaii the most expensive state to live in.ix  

Just to give you a sense of what that means, MERIC’s recent cost-of-living index ranked Hawaii first in the U.S. for most expensive groceries, housing, and utilities. The state scored second-highest in transportation costs, second only to California.

#1

Groceries

most expensive in the U.S. 

#1

Housing

most expensive in the U.S. 

#1

Utilities

most expensive in the U.S. 

#1

Transportation

most expensive in the U.S. 

So how do seniors make it work in Hawaii? One thing many retired couples do is rent out a part of their house or their ohana, a separate cottage that you’ll find on many properties in Hawaii. This rental income offers many retirees in Hawaii some extra income to help defray the cost of living in an expensive state. 

Con: Tax Disadvantages 

We mentioned earlier that there are a few tax advantages to retiring in Hawaii. These are balanced by a few tax disadvantages: 

In other words, make your tax calculations carefully before you decide to retire in Hawaii. 

Con: You’re Going to Need a Car

Hawaii doesn’t have too many big cities to speak of outside of Honolulu. As such, public transportation is more limited than you’ll find in other urban areas in the U.S.  

Oahu, the Big Island, Kauai, and Maui do have their own bus system. However, if you really want to get around the islands, you’re likely going to need a car. While this may not be a problem for those in the early stages of their retirement, this can get tricky as retirees get older. As eyesight wanes and reflexes slow, you may not want to be behind the wheel as often as you were in your younger years. 

That’s why this next one can make or break your retirement possibilities. 

Con: You’ll Be Far from Friends and Family

As you get older, having friends and family around is both a comfort and a necessity. When you want some companionship, need a hand with something around the house, or could use a ride to pick up a prescription late at night, it’s really nice to have someone you can count on.  

In Hawaii, that Aloha Spirit means that you’ll likely find neighbors who are willing to help out. Caring for and respecting elders is an important tradition to many of the cultures who have settled in Hawaii, including the native Hawaiians and those who hail from places like China, Korea, the Philippines, and Japan.  

Some lucky retirees move to Hawaii to reunite with their families and enjoy a built-in support system. However, if you’re moving to Hawaii without any close ties in the islands, you’ll want to consider what life might be like should you need help. You’ll likely make friends quickly, but you’ll also have an easier transition if you already have trusted people in place. 

Con: Possibility for Extreme Weather 

Extreme weather has become more of a concern around the globe, and Hawaii has its own share of potential threats. As a resident of Hawaii, you’ll need to keep an eye out for: 

Con: Health Care Access on Outer Islands

Finally, just a quick note on health care access on Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island.  

Even though US News rated Hawaii #1 in terms of health care access, you’ll have access to the widest variety of facilities, providers, specialists, and specialty equipment on Oahu. For example, the state has a single hyperbaric chamber, located in Honolulu. If you need a PET scan, you’re also headed for Honolulu. 

If you have a specific medical condition that requires specialized care or facilities, make sure to do your research before choosing an island in Hawaii. Of course, frequent interisland flights are available through Hawaiian Airlines, Mokulele Airlines, and, to some extent, Southwest Airlines. If you don’t mind flying to Honolulu for treatment, it’s pretty quick and easy to get there. 

In many ways, Hawaii is a retiree’s dream: a beautiful location with perfect weather, pleasant people and a slow, laid-back style of living. However, as you’ve seen, even paradise has its problems.  

Now it’s up to you to decide: Will retiring in Hawaii be a dream come true for you—the perfect place to spend your golden years? Or is there another place that might be a better fit? With all the pros and cons laid out for you, you’ve got everything you need to make the right choice. 

Need some help relocating to Hawaii? Our experts would be happy to help you move all of your household belongings to Hawaii. We can even do all the packing and lifting for you! Just reach out to one of our experts for a free quote to get started 

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