The Big Island of Hawaii is the island that birthed a king—King Kamehameha the Great, the first to unite the entire archipelago into a single kingdom. The future king was born in Hawi, located in what is now called the North Kohala district of the Big Island. Legend has it that Halley’s Comet streaked across the sky the night before he was born.
If its royal lineage alone doesn’t convince you, we’ve compiled a list of 11 (more) reasons why the Big Island is an awesome place to live. If you’re trying to decide which Hawaiian island to move to, these reasons will help you figure out whether the Big Island is right for you.
By the way, you wouldn’t be the only recent arrival to the Big Island. Recent census data reveals that the Big Island’s population is growing faster than the other three major islands in Hawaii. From July 2020-August 2021, the Big Island’s population grew by 1.1%. In a state where yearly population loss is the norm, that’s a noteworthy number.
Population Percentage Change (April 2020–July 2021)
- 1.1% – Big Island
- 0.2% – Kauai
- -0.3% – Maui
- -1.5% – Oahu
What’s drawing new residents to the Big Island? Let’s take a closer look!
#1: A Cheaper Cost of Living
Don’t get us wrong. Life is expensive in Hawaii, no matter which island you call home. However, if you choose the Big Island, you’ll find that life is a little less expensive than on Oahu, Maui, or Kauai.
Data from Sperling’s Best Places puts the overall cost of living index for the Big Island at 131.9. That’s still more than 30% higher than the U.S. average, set at 100. However, it’s less than the state average of 165.7, and it’s less than Oahu’s cost of living index, which currently sits at 171.5.
Sperling’s Best Places: Cost of Living Index
- 100 – U.S. Average
- 165.7 – Hawaii State Average
- 131.9 – Big Island
- 171.5 – Oahu
Utilities make up a big chunk of the cost of living in Hawaii, but the other main culprit driving Hawaii’s cost of living is housing. Where the Big Island is concerned, we’ve got some good news.
#2: More Affordable Housing Options
The median list price for a home in Hawaii is $825,000. That number makes some people wonder how they could ever afford to own a home in the Aloha State. While the Big Island has its share of multi-million-dollar luxury estates, it also features some more affordable properties. This can put homeownership within reach for some families who might not be able to afford real estate on Maui, Kauai, or Oahu.
The availability of budget-friendly options on the Big Island becomes apparent when you look at the median value of owner-occupied homes across the islands:
Median Value of Owner-Occupied Housing (2016-2020)
- $364,100 – Big Island
- $606,900 – Kauai
- $657,400 – Maui
- $702,300 – Oahu
Like just about everywhere in the U.S., the list prices and values of homes in Hawaii have soared in recent years. However, if you’re on a budget, the Big Island is the best place to start your search.
#3: A Welcoming Spot for Off-the-Grid Living
If your dreams of Hawaii homeownership also include visions of living off the grid, you’ll find plenty of like-minded folks on the Big Island.
Some choose off-the-grid living on the Big Island as a path toward an independent lifestyle that doesn’t rely on public utilities.
Others on the Big Island have gone off the grid on remote parcels of land that don’t come with pre-existing power or water infrastructure in place. In those cases:
- Catchment (i.e., collecting rain water) is the main source for water. (Note: If you’re considering a parcel that’s not hooked up to public water, make sure you do your research to ensure the area receives enough rainfall to make catchment practical. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself buying water, which can get pricey quickly!)
- Solar is a popular source for power. However, you’ll want to consider backup options, like a battery bank and/or a generator for cloudy days.
For many with off-the-grid dreams, the idea of a remote island lifestyle is a kind of paradise in and of itself. If you’re aligned with that vision, you’ll find plenty of kindred spirits on the Big Island, as well as plenty of ways to get supplies.
#4: Diverse Microclimates (One Will Be Right for You!)
If you’ve never been to Hawaii, you might conjure images often seen on postcards: hot, sunny, white sand beaches with palm trees in the background.
The Big Island has plenty of those, especially on the Kona coast. But, you’ll also find a wide diversity of microclimates that offer something a little different. Within those environments, there’s bound to be one that works for you. For example, consider:
- The higher, cooler elevations you’ll find in Waimea, where the evening temperatures can drop into the 50s.
- The lush, green, and tropical communities you’ll find along the Hamakua coast north of Hilo.
- The dry, sunny, and hot areas around Kailua-Kona, with easy access to white sand beach after white sand beach.
Before you make a decision, visit as many of the Big Island’s communities as you can. You may be surprised how diverse the weather can be—and you’re sure to find one that’s right for you.
#5: More Land, Fewer People
Some people move to Hawaii to escape the hustle-bustle of the mainland. But when you’re sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the H-1 freeway in Oahu, you may not feel like you’ve gotten away from anything.
If a more rural, serene setting is your goal, the Big Island could be a good pick for you. Purely by the numbers, the Big Island is a winner, with more than 4,000 square miles and around 200,000 residents, which makes for a population density of just 49.8 people per square mile. Even Kauai, the Garden Isle, is more than twice as dense. Compare that to Oahu’s population density at 1,692.4 people per square mile (nearly 30x that of the Big Island) and you’ll see why the Big Island feels so different.
#6: A Relaxed, Unhurried Pace
Along those same lines, the Big Island is known as a place where the pace of life is easy. It’s the polar opposite of busy Honolulu, and it’s even more laid back than Maui. In fact, Kauai might be the only island that gives the Big Island a run for its money in this category.
In other words, if peace, quiet, and serenity top your list, you should definitely consider setting yourself up on the Big Island. And, if you end up choosing an off-the-grid lifestyle on a remote parcel of land, your life will only move as fast as you want it to.
#7: Key Conveniences and Amenities
Peace, quiet, and serenity aside, we can’t overlook the availability of modern conveniences. Easy access to amenities (or not!) can quickly impact your quality of life and turn a serene dream into a logistical nightmare.
On the Big Island, you’ll find a full roster of stores you recognize: Costco, Walmart, Target, Walgreens, the Home Depot, Lowes, and more. You’ll also find plenty of grocery stores of all shapes and sizes, as well as natural food stores, plus farmer’s markets and produce stands. And, yes, Amazon offers free Prime delivery to the Big Island. You may have to wait more than two days—and you may have to go to the post office to pick up your package—but you won’t pay extra delivery fees.
(Of course, we encourage you to support the locally-owned businesses that support our local island families. However, larger chain stores do play their role on the Big Island.)
In summary, the Big Island can be a great place to get away from it all, but it’s also a place with the conveniences to meet your everyday needs.
#8: Incredible Natural Beauty to Explore
Of course, Costco and Amazon aren’t the reasons most people move to Hawaii. The Big Island’s awe-inspiring natural features offer a much deeper attraction.
White, black, and green sand beaches. Jet black lava fields left behind by now-dormant volcanoes—and the smoke and fire of Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Verdant and vibrant rainforests. Dramatic waterfalls that plunge more than 100 feet. You’ll find all of them—and more—on the Big Island.
Although the island has some amenities and some cultural activities (more on that below!), the outdoors really is the centerpiece of life on the Big Island. If that’s where you like to focus your leisure time, you’ll love the grand scale and variety you’ll find on the Big Island.
#9: Scenic Biking Opportunities for All Levels
And speaking of that natural landscape, one of the best ways to see it is by bicycle. The island has long attracted biking enthusiasts who take advantage of the long distances around the island and the (comparatively) fewer vehicles on the road to take in the sights on two wheels. And for serious bikers, where better to train than on the bike course of the iconic IRONMAN World Championship, held yearly in Kailua-Kona?
If you’re new to the Big Island, consider joining the Hawaii Cycling Club. This active organization offers organized group rides for riders of all levels. The club also welcomes e-bikers on designated rides. To get a sense of what the biking opportunities on the Big Island are like, check out some of the club’s suggested routes.
#10: The Merrie Monarch (and Other Festivals & Cultural Activities!)
Even though we’ve extolled the virtues of appreciating the Big Island’s natural features, you’ll also find cultural activities on the Big Island.
One of the biggest is the Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo, focused on the perpetuation, preservation, and promotion of the art of hula and the Hawaiian culture. Halau hula (hula schools) from all over Hawaii and from the mainland come to compete. Women also compete for the title of Miss Aloha Hula, by performing one traditional hula (hula kahiko) and one modern hula (hula auana) to win top honors. The festival also includes and arts and crafts fair, workshops featuring native Hawaiian arts, and the traditional Merrie Monarch Royal Parade through Hilo town.
In addition to the Merrie Monarch Festival, the Big Island also hosts music festivals, a coffee festival, rodeos, performing arts festivals, movie festivals, canoe races, and several other athletic events, including, as we mentioned earlier, the IRONMAN World Championship. In other words, even though the Big Island runs at a slower pace, you’ll still find activities to enjoy.
#11: An Easy Jumping-Off Point to More Hawaii Adventures
Finally, if you come down with a case of island fever, the most common cure is a change of scenery. Although Hawaii is one of the most isolated island chains in the world, a quick interisland flight to Maui, Oahu, or Kauai from either Kona International Airport (KOA) or Hilo International Airport (ITO) can be a quick and easy antidote.
Tickets on Hawaiian Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Mokulele Airlines can be surprisingly affordable. Not everyone gets the chance to get to know all of the Hawaiian Islands. As a Big Island resident, you’re uniquely positioned to explore the whole archipelago—for less!
Is the Big Island Right for You?
If you’re still deciding which Hawaiian island to call home, this list can give you a good sense of why people choose the Big Island. It may also give you a hint as to whether it’s the right island for you. Kauai, Oahu, and Maui can all make excellent places to live. However, it’s a matter of finding the right fit for your lifestyle—one that will encourage you to stay for many years to come.
If you’re ready to move to the Big Island, we’d be happy to help you get your belongings to your new home! We have teams and warehouses in both Hilo and Kailua-Kona, so we can help you get wherever you want to go on the Big Island. Just reach out for a free quote to get started.