Living in Hawaii

If you have thought about relocating to Hawaii, you have likely asked yourself is Hawaii expensive? Honolulu’s cost of living is 88% higher than the national average. But for many people the appeal of being surrounded by water and quality of island life outweigh higher cost of living. The high cost of living in Hawaii is due to several factors, but the main reason is also the motive for why people are attracted to Hawaii – it’s surrounded by water. Nearly everything consumed on the island must be shipped or flown in from other location. This includes not just food but gas, housing materials, clothing, and more that all must be trekked into the island. Let’s break down the major budget items so you can better understand Hawaii living.


Hawaii’s median family income is $96,462 which ranks it seventh in the nation. Income does vary depending on where exactly you live in the state. Studies show residents of Honolulu need to have an income of more than $120,000 to live comfortably in the state’s capital. And in 2020, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) concluded that low income for an individual living on Oahu is considered an income below $93,000.


An important point to factor into the cost of living in Hawaii is housing. According to Expatistan as of 2021, Honolulu is the seventh most expensive city in the United States and the eighty most expensive in North America. Housing and rental prices are some of the highest in the nation, but a lot depends on which island and even which side of a specific island you live on. The state of Hawaii had 465,299 households. Of those households 60.2% are owner-occupied and 39.8% are renter occupied. Recently housing inventory and days on market are dropping, while offers on both homes and condos are increasing. Oahu median sale price hit a record high in March 2021, with home prices up 17% to $950,000 and condo prices up 2% to $445,500 from last year. Is Hawaii expensive? Let’s look at some of the median home prices in the state.

Median Home Prices

Oahu $795,000 Maui $747,000 Kauai $725,000 Hawaii $425,000 United States $266,000


The Honolulu rental market is the highest in the state. This is due largely to its proximity to the business district and jobs. Commuting within Honolulu is a primary benefit to residents of this area. Recently renters in Hawaii getting some positive news in the form of lower lease rates. Currently the average rent for an apartment in Honolulu is $1,725, an 8% decrease compared to last year. And rent in Honolulu is, on average, 33.01% lower than in New York.

Average Rental Costs in Honolulu

Studio Apartment $1,000 – $1,300 One-bedroom Apartment $1,400 – $1,700 Two-bedroom Apartment $1,700 – $2,100 Three-bedroom Apartment $2,100 – $2,600


There’s some good news when it comes to taxes. Hawaii’s average property tax rate is 0.35 percent, one of the lowest rates in the nation. Income tax rates range from 1.4% to 11%. For retirees, Hawaii can be appealing because the state exempts Social Security retirement benefits and public pension income from state taxes. The state does fully tax income from private pensions and retirement savings accounts.


Another item to budget for is utilities. As of 2021, Hawaii has the most expensive utilities in the nation. Resident’s average paying $587 per month compared to the national average of $370. This number does vary based on resident occupancy and usage. A lot of the utility cost comes from the expense of electricity. In addition to electric stoves and dryers, air conditioning usage on the island can get quite high and run up utility bills. According to the United States Energy Information Administration, Hawaii’s average electricity bill is the highest in the nation. Homeowners in Hawaii pay an average of $168 per month for electricity while the national average is $117. The only state that comes close to Hawaii electricity pricing is Connecticut at $150. Despite the high cost of energy, the sun shines in Hawaii at a rate of 8% more than other states, creating an opportunity for cost effective solar energy. Hawaiian Electric Company offers several programs to customers to save big on electricity. Hawaii is putting a lot of green efforts in place. The state was the first to set a deadline for generating 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2045.


Gas prices in Hawaii largely depend on what island you live on. According to AAA, the statewide average price per gallon for regular gas was $3.75 in April 2021 which was 50 cents more when compared to April of 2020.


It is estimated that things cost about 30% more on Hawaii than they do on the mainland. Shipping the food over the ocean in boats or planes is one reason, but another reason is that the stores must maintain huge stocks of food in warehouses to keep food on the shelves all the time.But the variety of food available to residents of Hawaii is amazing. The island location between the United States and Asia, as well as the native tropical fruits, offer residents an expansive array of food choices. A family of four can expect to spend an average of $800 to $1,000 on
groceries per month. A single gallon of whole milk on Oahu can be as much as $8.99. And eating out will add up quickly. The average cost of breakfast in Hawaii is $8 to $12, lunch at about $8 to $15 and dinner will cost $15 to $30.

Medical Costs

Is Hawaii expensive? Not when it comes to healthcare. According to a study by Commonwealth Fund, Hawaii residents who participate in employer-sponsored health plans pay some of the nation’s lowest costs. Hawaii is also the healthiest state in the nation. It has been named healthiest state nine times since 1990. Low obesity and smoking rates contribute to low levels of air pollution, less mental stress, and the availability of doctors.

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