Country Guides September 22, 2020

What Is the True Cost of Living in Hawaii

Hannah Michaelson

Hannah is a freelance relocation writer from NYC that has become an expert on packing and unpacking.

Everyone dreams of spending their days sunbathing next to the ocean, and the number one destination we have in mind is Hawaii. While this state is a paradise in terms of nature and relaxation, the lifestyle might be too overbearing. So what is the cost of living in Hawaii? Well, for one thing, if you’re planning on moving there, you’ll need to check on your savings, as Hawaii will cost you an arm and a leg! But what truly matters is that, at the end of the day, it’s well worth it.

Is It Expensive to Live in Hawaii?

If you plan on cross country moving to Hawaii, you better brace yourself!

Generally speaking, HI is a state with one of the highest costs of living in the US. From the housing to necessities, everything in HI is 30% pricier than on the mainland. However, like in every state, this depends on where you want to relocate to, as prices differ depending on the island and city of your choosing. If you already have an idea for your dream home, we suggest checking out sites such as Numbeo, where you can calculate how much you need to save up and how much you’ll be spending once you relocate.

golden piggy-bank
You better lay aside a few wages before your relocation.

Cost of Living and High Housing Expenses

As mentioned, HI is probably the most expensive place in the US, with the median home price being $621,700.

It is quite clear that housing plays a significant role in the difference between the cost of living in HI and the rest of the US. If you want to buy a family house, it will cost you around $835,000, and for an apartment, you’ll have to pay $461,500.

Renting is also high-priced. For example, looking at Oahu, rent for two-bedroom apartments can range from $800 to more than $1,200 per month, without utilities.

Of course, this is when we look at Oahu, the most populated and the most expensive island. There are many affordable places on other islands, such as Hilo, on the Big Island. Hilo has considerably cheaper living expenses, so if you’re interested in an area with small-town vibes, it might be a great choice!

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Living Costs When Moving Alone to Hawaii vs. Moving with the Family

If you’re moving abroad alone, for example, to Honolulu, expect that your monthly costs will amount to $1,200 without rent, so a good option would be to find roommates to share the expenses with until you settle in. On the other hand, if you’re moving abroad with your family,  expect that, without rent, you’ll be spending around $4,335 per month. So make sure that your income can cover all of your living expenses before you decide to relocate.

How Much Do You Need to Live Comfortably Compared to the Mainland?

Finally, we come to the most critical question: How much should you make to live comfortably? According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, the average US salary is around $44,148, while Honolulu’s average salary is $60,328. You may think this is a given, but don’t forget the lifestyle! The Aloha state has one of the highest tax rates and being that HI is expensive as it is, the amount that you need, as estimated, is $122,000 in Honolulu. So if you’re moving across the country, you’ll need to be thrifty with your spendings, as the expenses will amount to more than what you’re probably used to back home.

If you’re interested in other people’s experiences, here is a video with some info about the cost of living in Hi!

Daily Necessity Prices

Since the housing is high-priced, it’s no shocker that the same applies to utilities, food, and transportation. Here’s how much these necessities will cost you.


Expect to be paying around an average of $150 per month for your energy bill. Additionally, people usually spend a lot on electricity. The climate is humid, so expect that your air conditioner will be running all day round!


If you plan on living in a busy, populated area, public transportation is a viable option. The bus fare is rather low-priced – you’ll pay $2.50 per ticket.

However, if you opt for living downtown or if you have to commute longer distances to your job or the city center, or you’re just one of those people that prefer driving, shipping a car overseas is the optimal option. Just bear in mind that gas prices as of 2019 are about $2.635 per gallon and that finding a parking space will be a miracle. Other than that, just find auto transport services, and you’re good to go.


You’ll probably ask yourself, why is living in Hawaii so expensive? Well, at least when it comes to food, the prices for groceries are high because the majority of products are imported from the mainland. Accordingly, HI has the most high-cost groceries in the US. However, don’t worry too much! There are many chain markets where you can go that are relatively affordable such as Wallmart or Costco and local shops that have sales. A piece of advice, try to shop on sale rather than buying what you feel like eating.

Food is imported from the mainland, so grocery stores are pricey!

Life in the Capital Honolulu

While life on the “Gathering Island” is the most high-cost, the capital offers many exciting experiences. From surfing and snorkeling to hikes around Manoa falls and sunbathing on the famous Waikiki beach. The city truly is a paradise.

Additionally, Honolulu is also considered the business capital. There many high-paying job opportunities in software engineering and tourism. Overall, if you choose Honolulu as your destination, you won’t be disappointed.

view of Waikiki
Honolulu is the most popular destination.

What is the Cheapest Place to Live in Hawaii?

If you think living overseas is costly enough and you want to find a place where you won’t have to tighten your belt, we suggest checking out cities and areas on the cheapest island in HI, the Big Island. The island specializes in tourism and agriculture industries (Kona coffee, macadamia nuts, orchids, etc.), and has more rural areas. You might find places such as Hilo, with the median home price of $346,400, much more befitting to your budget. So if you enjoy a bit of seclusion, Hilo might be for you.

Hawaii mountains
Check out rural areas as they are more affordable.

Don’t Let High Cost of Living in Hawaii Dissuade You from Relocation

We hope that you have gathered some useful information about living in HI from this text, so organize your moving services and start packing! Expenses in the Aloha State may be high, but the rewards are numerous and worth every cent. Cast all the doubts aside, and leave for the new life that awaits you on the Hawaiian Islands.

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