Cost of Living in Hawaii in 2023
Is it financially smart to move to Hawaii?
Moving to Hawaii can absolutely be smart move if you have a well-paying job, can adapt to the high cost of living, and you comfortably adapt to the culture and island lifestyle.
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The elephant in the room is undoubtedly how much it costs to live here so if Hawaii's has stolen your heart, let's make sure it doesn't steal your wallet too. Our guide below is aimed at helping you understand everything it takes to afford and live comfortably in our island home.
We'll break down the cost of your day to day to life here and if that doesn't scare you away, check our video below detailing what it's like to live in Hawaii including the differences between each of the Hawaiian Islands and some of the intangibles to adapting to Hawaii life.
There are few places in the world that share quite the same brand recognition as Hawaii does except for maybe New York City, London, Paris, Los Angeles, and other iconic destinations made popular by historic culture or Hollywood. I think it's safe to argue that if "Name The Top Vacation Destinations" or "Name A Place You Would Live if Money Were No Object" were Family Feud questions, "Hawaii" would roll off the tongue most frequently.
>>Related Article: Best Places to Live in Hawaii
That being said, it's no secret why Honolulu is often ranked in the Top 3 Most Expensive Cities in the U.S. According to a study by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center in 2019, Hawaii has the highest cost of living in the nation with an index of 191.8. The national average index was set at 100 and Hawaii absolutely crushed it with the closest 2nd being the District of Columbia at an index of 159.
Hawaii is a trophy destination, a never-in-a-lifetime or once-in-a-lifetime experience for too many. Some calculations suggest that the average Hawaii trip cost per person is roughly $1,899 a week for fun in the sun. Idyllic white sand beaches, mountainous backdrops, and the crystal blue Pacific Ocean are things of post cards and hard for some to imagine as every day lifestyles. Trust me when I say I wouldn't trade it for the world, but that doesn't mean there aren't concessions to be made.
So if you have ever wondered, "what is the cost of living in Hawaii?" allow me to break it down for you but from the perspective of a Missouri-born Hawaii transplant. I've run the spectrum of being born and raised in the 3rd cheapest state in the nation to starting a life, family, career, and real estate estate investment portfolio in one of the most expensive. I'll cover the dollars and cents on the topic but to close it out, I think it's responsible to shine light on the intangibles; the true costs of living in Hawaii and how it sees some local families brought together, or if you're family is like mine, how it pulls some apart.
How much does it cost to live in Hawaii?
Studies have the cost of living in Honolulu requires residents to have an income of $200,000+ are required to live comfortably in the state's capital. This is subjective of course, but according the U.S. Census, Honolulu's median household income was around $80,000 in 2019. Subjective or not, that's a pretty wide delta and it shows that many Honolulu residents aren't living very comfortably. According to a study by Payscale.com, the cost of living in Honolulu, Hawaii is 88% higher than the national average with housing clocking in at 202% higher than the national average.
What is considered low income in Hawaii?
In 2020 the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) concluded that "low income" for an individual living on Oahu is considered $93,000. That's a staggering considering it's nearly double the national average income of a full time salary earner is around $48,672.
What is state income tax for Hawaii?
Compared to the national average, Hawaii's top income tax rate of 11% is high but the state also has the lowest effective property tax rate of just .27% annually. There is no literal state sales tax but businesses must may a 4% general excise tax on all business activities, plus an 0.5% override for Honolulu County. Below are the Hawaii income tax brackets for Single Filers and Married Filing Jointly. Click here For Married, Filing Separately and Head of Household.
Income Tax Brackets
Using the above scenario of a "low income" earner of $93,000 -- we'll compute their net wages using federal tax rate of 22% and the Hawaii income tax rate of 8.25% per the chart. The individual's net wages, after taxes, pencil out to $64,635 annually which equates to $5,386/mo for housing and everyday expense. Let's take a look at some of the every day expenses one can expect and see how the individual budgets out.
Rent prices for Apartments in Hawaii are some of the highest in the nation but how much exactly depends on which island you're on, and which side of each island you're on. Honolulu Apartments taking the prize of the highest in the state and this is due largely in part to their proximity to the business district and majority of the Honolulu jobs.
Here's the average rent to expect for apartments in Honolulu County and/or single family home rents according to data analyzed from HiCentral MLS in 2023:
- Studios | $1,745
- One-bedrooms | $2,102
- Two-bedrooms | $2,642
- Three-bedrooms | $3,550
These are mere average ranges and these numbers can fluctuate significantly depending on the presence of ocean views or proximity to the ocean. Here's the top 10 most expensive apartments for rent in Honolulu to give you some context.
The Big Island of Hawaii sees substantially lower rent prices than Honolulu rentals and this is again attributed to the amount of commerce, jobs, and proximity to jobs. Hawaii Island is much slower and much less dense in population and job opportunities which in turn sees less demand for rentals and homes for sale, hence the lower prices.
It's important to point out that each island of Hawaii has it's own unique real estate market and median prices. The average sale price of a home in Hawaii went up by 2% to $970,000 in March 2023, and the price of a condo went up by 6% to $585,000. In March 2023, home sales in Hawaii State are down 37% and condo sales are down 34% from the same time last year. In March 2023, the number of days on the market for homes has gone up by 264%, to 51, and the number of days on the market for condos has gone up by 157%, to 36.
Given the lack of affordability and adequate housing on Oahu, residential developers have been flocking to the islands to capitalize on the demand for Oahu Real Estate. Neighborhoods like Kakaako and Ala Moana have seen developer erecting New Honolulu Condos for the last 6-7 years. Developers are also entrenched in the West Oahu neighborhoods of Hoopili and Koa ridge that will see nearly 15,000 Oahu new homes over the next 15 years. Rumors of a development named Makaiwa Hills in Makakilo may add another few hundred as well. For a full breakdown of everything you need to know about Oahu homes for sale, check out our Guide to Oahu Real Estate in 2023; arguably the most comprehensive breakdown you'll ever find covering all home-buying topics and concepts.
The average cost of electricity in Hawaii runs about $50/mo higher than the national average. The average electricity bill in Hawaii of $342/mo pins the Hawaii electricity cost at the highest in the nation according to the U.S. Energy Administration.
Gas prices in Hawaii largely depend on what island you're living on. The island of Hawaii gas prices hover around $5.30/gallon in 2023 with the average gas prices in Honolulu, Hawaii around $4.90/gallon.
You'll be hard pressed to find a wider variety of groceries anywhere in the world compared to Hawaii. Considering our geography of being halfway between the U.S. and Asia, as well as the tropical fruits native to the islands, Hawaii's food choices are abundant. Our geographical location also puts a steep price on groceries due to the costs of shipping them here. The aforementioned study done by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center concluded that Hawaii groceries ranked 164.6 compared to the national index of 100. The closest 2nd was California at 119.3.
Often times we hear visitors gasp at the Hawaii price of milk that can reach heights of $8.99. If you live here, obtaining a Costco membership is imperative so you can buy in bulk to scale your costs down. Plan for average of $4.79.
The Local Perspective | How to make it
With the right perspective, days off from work as a Hawaii can feel like the vacation of dreams but we're still human and and it's easy to lose that perspective while being subjected to some of highest home prices in the nation, and some of the worst traffic in the nation(if you're on Oahu). I tell all of my clients, both locally and from abroad that maintaining a comfortable lifestyle in Hawaii requires intention, and lot of it. Applying intention to every dollar spent, every financial decision made, and every job you apply for is going to go a long way in determining if you can continue to comfortably live here, or if you will inevitably be "priced out of paradise."
I even goes as far as to suggest that people be extra intentional about their relationships; the words they say and the way they resolve conflict with their other halves. Sure I want people to have healthy relationships but if that's not incentive enough, then you should know that it's just good business in Hawaii. Your boss will never give you bigger promotion or demotion than what you can give yourself by securing or destroying a healthy relationship with another income earner.
Aside from the benefits of companionship, raising a family, and stability, the term "it's cheaper to keep her"(and vice versa) has never rang more true while living anywhere else in the United States. Two income earners working towards a common goal is a surefire way to "level up" your financial situation while living in Hawaii. If you're hoping to make it on your own here, make room in your pantry for ramen noodles and rice!
To live comfortably in Hawaii, an annual income of around $70,000 to $100,000 for a single person, or $120,000 to $200,000 for a family is recommended.
Is it expensive to live in Hawaii?
Yes, Hawaii is known for its high cost of living due to factors such as housing, groceries, utilities, and transportation.
What salary do you need to survive in Hawaii?
To survive in Hawaii, a single person may need a salary of around $50,000 to $60,000, while a family may require $80,000 to $100,000.
Can I live in Hawaii with 50K a year?
Living in Hawaii on $50,000 a year is possible but may be challenging, depending on factors like housing costs, lifestyle, and personal circumstances.
Is it cheaper to live in Hawaii or California?
While both states have a high cost of living, California is generally cheaper than Hawaii, particularly in terms of housing costs.
Is it hard to find a job in Hawaii?
Finding a job in Hawaii can be challenging due to the state's competitive job market, limited industries, and remote location.
What part of Hawaii is the cheapest to live?
The cheapest part of Hawaii to live is generally the Big Island, specifically areas like Hilo and Puna.
What is the minimum wage in Hawaii?
According to the U.S. Labor Law Center, the minimum wage in Hawaii was $12 per hour.
What is the most common job in Hawaii?
The most common jobs in Hawaii are in the tourism and hospitality industry, retail, and healthcare.
What do people say the only downside of living in Hawaii is?
People often mention the high cost of living, limited job opportunities, and isolation as downsides to living in Hawaii.
Why do people move away from Hawaii?
People often move away from Hawaii due to the high cost of living, limited job opportunities, isolation, and a desire for a change in lifestyle.
What is a good budget for Hawaii?
A good budget for a trip to Hawaii depends on the duration of your stay and your personal preferences. For a 2-week vacation, budgeting $3,000 to $5,000 per person is reasonable.
Why is the Big Island so cheap?
The Big Island is cheaper than other Hawaiian islands due to its larger size, more affordable housing options, and lower population density. It's also sees far less job opportunities due to Oahu island being the state's major economic hub.
Do Hawaiians want tourists to stay away?
While tourism is a significant source of income for Hawaii, some locals express concerns about the environmental and cultural impact of mass tourism.
Is there a homeless problem in Hawaii?
Hawaii has a significant homeless problem, with one of the highest rates of homelessness per capita in the United States.
Are groceries expensive in Hawaii?
Groceries in Hawaii are generally more expensive than on the mainland due to the cost of importing goods to the islands.
How much is a Big Mac meal in Hawaii?
A Big Mac meal in Hawaii costs around $12
How much is a meal for 2 in Hawaii?
A meal for two in a mid-range restaurant in Hawaii can cost between $40 and $80, depending on the restaurant and location.
How much do jobs pay in Hawaii?
Job pay in Hawaii varies widely depending on the industry, position, and level of experience. Some jobs may pay less than on the mainland due to the lower cost of living, while others may pay more due to the demand for skilled workers.
Who is the largest employer in Hawaii?
The largest employer in Hawaii is the state government, followed by the federal government and various tourism-related businesses.
Is McDonald's more expensive in Hawaii?
Yes, McDonald's and other fast-food chains are generally more expensive in Hawaii compared to mainland US prices.
How to eat on a budget in Hawaii?
To eat on a budget in Hawaii, consider shopping at local grocery stores, eating at food trucks or plate lunch spots, and cooking your own meals.
How much does a cup of coffee cost in Hawaii?
A cup of coffee in Hawaii typically costs between $3 and $5, depending on the location and type of coffee shop.
Why is fast food so expensive in Hawaii?
Fast food is more expensive in Hawaii due to the higher costs of importing ingredients and general expenses related to the high cost of living on the islands.
What are in-demand jobs in Hawaii?
In-demand jobs in Hawaii include healthcare professionals, skilled trade workers, and various positions in the tourism and hospitality industry.
What are the top 5 jobs in Hawaii?
Top jobs in Hawaii include healthcare professionals, educators, IT professionals, skilled trade workers, and tourism industry professionals.
What is the top 1% income in Hawaii?
The top 1% income in Hawaii is around $400,000 or more per year.
What is Hawaii's main source of income?
Hawaii's main source of income is tourism, followed by industries such as agriculture, defense, and renewable energy.
What is the number 1 business in Hawaii?
The number 1 business in Hawaii, in terms of revenue and economic impact, is typically related to the tourism and hospitality industry.
Can you bring groceries to Hawaii?
You can bring some groceries to Hawaii, but there are restrictions on certain items due to agricultural regulations. It's important to check the guidelines provided by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture before traveling.
How much do you tip for dinner in Hawaii?
A standard tip for dinner in Hawaii is 15-20% of the pre-tax bill, depending on the quality of service.
What salary do you need to live in Hawaii?
To live comfortably in Hawaii, a single person may need a salary of around $70,000 to $100,000, while a family may require $120,000 to $200,000.
How to make money in Hawaii?
Making money in Hawaii can involve working in industries such as tourism, healthcare, or agriculture, starting a small business, or pursuing remote work opportunities.
Is Hawaii a rich or poor state?
Hawaii has a relatively high cost of living and median household income, but there is also significant income disparity and a high poverty rate in some areas.
What is only sold in Hawaii?
Unique items that are only sold in Hawaii include certain Hawaiian-made products, such as Kona coffee, macadamia nuts, and local artisan crafts.
What part of Hawaii is the cheapest to live?
The cheapest part of Hawaii to live is generally the Big Island, specifically areas like Hilo and Puna.
How much money should I have saved up to move to Hawaii?
It's recommended to have at least 3-6 months of living expenses saved up before moving to Hawaii, in addition to the costs of moving and securing housing.