15 Best Places to Live in Hawaii

Written by Darren Griffiths
Updated on
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Sun, sea, and island life. At face value alone, Hawaii is a dreamy place to live. Although most people’s idea of a once-in-a-lifetime holiday, there is a lot to be said for moving in and ‘living on holiday’ as it were.

If you like watching the sunset on the ocean in the evening, walking for hours through rolling hills, and eating the most freshly caught fish, then Hawaii is for you.

We jest when we refer to living in Hawaii as being on permanent vacation; away from the tourist hotspots, there are thriving, functioning communities that seldom come in touch with the 8.9 million visitors who drop by each year.

Hawaii comprises eight main islands; Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, Kahoolawe, Lanai, Molokai, Kauai, and Niihau. Each island has a distinctly different atmosphere but is open and welcoming to tourists and new neighbors alike.

There are certain prerequisites for moving to a new area. Things to consider like public schooling, crime rates, access to health care, and the cost of living. When establishing the 15 best places to live in Hawaii, we considered all these factors and comments from local people, offering you the most authentic, rounded view of where to live in Hawaii.

Without further ado, here are the 15 best places to live in Hawaii:

1. Maunawili

Maunawili, HawaiiSource: sevenMaps7 / shutterstock

Maunawili, without a shadow of a doubt, is the best place to live in Hawaii. On the island of Oahu, Maunawili is a community home to just two thousand residents. Located just north of Honolulu, commuting options into the state capital are plentiful.

Bordering Kawainui Marsh and Kailua Beach Park, access to the great outdoors is in no short supply here in Maunawili.

 Although there is a strong coastal vibe going on in Maunawili, it is a suburban area.

Property prices are steep, as you would expect from the best place to live in Hawaii. The median home value is above the national average, meaning you’ll get little change from a $1m investment. 

The majority of homes in Maunawili are modern, light, and spacious. Many come with private swimming pools, tennis courts, and vast garden areas.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Maunawili are:

  • Kuli’ou’ou Summit
  • Manoa Falls Trail
  • Kailua Beach Park
  • Ka’au Crater Trail
  • Pillbox Nr.2 with Viewpoint
  • Maunawili Falls
  • Foster Botanical Garden
  • Mount Olomana
  • Kaiona Beach Park

2. Mililani Mauka

Mililani Mauka, HawaiiSource: www.thehawaiistatecondoguide.com
Mililani Mauka

Like with Manuawaili, the second best place to live in Hawaii, Mililani Mauka, is also on Oahu Island. This large suburban neighborhood borders the Oahu Forest National Wildlife Refuge and is connected to Honolulu by Highway 2/201.

Local people love living in Mililani Mauka. They say that the neighborhood is peaceful, with a strong sense of community. The local supermarkets and grocery stores provide exactly what residents need, and the landscape is ‘awesome.’

There are forty-two public schools in Mililani Mauka, spread between twenty-one thousand people, and there are small class sizes on offer at nearly every educational establishment here. Not to mention the consistently above-average exam performances from elementary to high school.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Mililani Mauka are:

  • Mililani Farmers Market
  • Mari’s Gardens
  • Rainbow Tunnel
  • Town Center of Mililani
  • Mililani Golf Club
  • Kiteboarding Paradise Hawaii

3. Waikele

Waikele, HawaiiSource: www.youtube.com

Waikele may only be the third best place to live in Hawaii, but it is fast becoming a popular area with the millennial generation. With that in mind, the small neighborhood of Waikele is considered one of the best places to raise a family in the state.

Waikele is far more affordable than Maunawili; house prices are above the national average. Excellent value for money can be found in property in the Waikele area; this goes for rental properties too. Although way above the national median, the average monthly rent in Waikele is around two thousand per month.

There is great access to green spaces here in Waikele. The Waikele Golf Club is a popular hangout for many residents, and the Pasty T Mink Park. There is a prominent designer outlet mall here, too, time to grab some bargains!

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Waikele are:

  • Waikele Premium Outlets
  • Waikele Country Club
  • Hawaii’s Plantation Village
  • Pearl Harbor Historic Sites
  • Laverne’s Waikele
  • Leonard’s Bakery

4. Kailua

Kailua, HawaiiSource: Guido Vermeulen-Perdaen / shutterstock

Residents love living in Kailua. The commute into the city is far from a trek, and the schools in the area give parents plenty of choice. Residents note that the public transport running in and out of Kailua makes life much easier.

The town is as popular with tourists, and sadly, second, home buyers have inadvertently sent house prices sky high compared to prices a decade or so ago.

This is now a more economically developed area of Hawaii, with a median household income of over one hundred thousand, double the national average. 

Just as in Maunawili, you should not expect change from $ 1 million. Properties set right on the beach front are fetching for more.

Kailua is one of the safest neighborhoods in Hawaii.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Kailua are:

  • Kayaking to the Mokes
  • Kailua Beach Park
  • Kalama Beach
  • Lanikai Beach
  • Kalapawai Market
  • Nalu Health Bar and Cafe
  • Lanikai Brewing Company
  • Kailua Farmers Market

5. Honolulu

HonoluluSource: Osugi / shutterstock

On Oahu’s southern shores, we find the state capital of Honolulu. This bustling, vibrant city is a bucket list destination for travelers worldwide.

Although very much a city, the sandy beach below the towering high rises is a constant reminder of Honolulu’s island nature.

Honolulu is Hawaii’s most densely populated area, home to four hundred thousand residents and growing. So for those who seek the tranquility and isolation that island life can bring, you’d be wise to steer clear of the city.

There are ample rental properties available in Honolulu, and the median rent is around the national average. With the job opportunities that come from situating yourself in the city, there is no harm in ‘buying your time’ renting in Honolulu before investing in Kailua or Waikele, for example.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Honolulu are:

  • USS Arizona Memorial
  • ‪Diamond Head State Monument
  • Koko Crater Railway Trail
  • Manoa Falls
  • Fort DeRussy Beach Park
  • Paradise Cove Luau
  • Diamond Head Trail

6. Mililani

Mililani, HawaiiSource: sevenMaps7 / shutterstock
Mililani, Hawaii

Mililani is a small city in Oahu, northeast of Honolulu. Local people say Mililani is ‘true Hawaii,’ beautifully embracing the area’s military history with the picturesque natural landscapes.

There are plenty of small shops providing residents with nearly everything they need. The occasional trip to Honolulu’s big city is warranted for specific shopping items.

Mililani plays host to several small, family-run restaurants that are at the heart of this close-knit community.

Twenty-eight thousand residents call Mililani home, an area popular with families, with forty-five schools. Mililani is ranked as the neighbourhood with the best schools in Hawaii. Parents, write this one down!

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Mililani are:

  • Mililani Farmers Market
  • Mari’s Gardens
  • Rainbow Tunnel
  • Town Center of Mililani
  • Mililani Golf Club

7. Ocean Pointe

Ocean PointeSource: www.haseko.com
Ocean Pointe

Directly south of Mililani, still on Oahu Island, we find Ocean Pointe. Right on Māmala Bay, eleven thousand residents call this coastal town home. Ocean Pointe is a midway point between Waikele and Kailua in terms of home value.

Median property prices in the area are above the national average. Although a pretty steep figure for many American families, if Hawaii is where you want to be, you’ll make it work financially.

Ocean Pointe is an up-and-coming area with the millennials of Hawaii. It’s not hard to understand their reasoning either; quality homes worthy of investment, good schools and idealistic proximity to the sea.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Ocean Pointe are:

  • Kualoa Ranch
  • The Lineup at Wai Kai
  • Wai Kai
  • Hawaii Prince Golf Club
  • Kailua Beach Adventures
  • Ewa Pointe Chinese Restaurant

8. Wailea

Wailea, HawaiiSource: Ivan_Sabo / shutterstock

Wailea is the first of our best places to live in Hawaii to be on Maui Island. Maui Island is the second largest of the eight Hawaiian isles.

The small community of fifty-six hundred residents says that the number of local businesses in Wailea is great and provides residents with great choices. The one downside to Wailea is that it is a popular tourist destination and during peak season the area can get quite busy.

The beaches around Wailea are stunning; in that sense, the people of Wailea are almost spoiled.

For such a small population, there are a lot of schools in Wailea, and high performing schools at that.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Wailea are:

  • Wailea Beach
  • The Shops at Wailea
  • Keawakapu Beach
  • Wailea Beach Path
  • Wailea Golf Club
  • Wailea Tennis Club
  • Monkeypod Kitchen

9. Kapolei

Kapolei, HawaiiSource: coconut wireless / Flickr

Kapolei is often referred to as Hawaii’s second city for it does live in the shadows of Honolulu somewhat.

Although jobs in the area are few and far between, with access to Honolulu CBD achievable in half an hour, there is nothing about Kapolei that screams unemployment issues.

Naturally, the cost of living in Kapolei is higher than the national average across the rest of the United States, but in comparison to other residential areas in Hawaii, the cost of living in Kapolei is more than reasonable.

With a residential population of eighteen thousand residents, there is a city feel to the area. Naturally, being a Hawaiian community, you don’t feel lost in the hustle and bustle of city life.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Kapolei are:

  • Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii
  • Chief’s Luau
  • Ka Makana Ali’i Shopping Mall
  • Ko Olina Resort
  • Ko Olina Beach Park
  • Coral Crater Adventure Park
  • Paradise Cove Public Beach
  • Rainbow Reef at Aulani Resort

10. Waimalu

WaimaluSource: hawaii / Flickr

Close to Pearl City and Aiea, we find Waimalu, right on Pearl Harbour. This historic dockland has many a tale to tell but what is it like living in an area so integral to modern history?

This is an area that has a rather transient population, with nearly 50% of residents renting properties in Waimalu; there is a cycle of tenants keeping the area fresh and vibrant. 

In terms of crime levels in Waimalu, there is nothing of note to report.

House prices in Waimalu are pretty dear, although if you look hard enough you shall find! You can invest a quarter of a million in a 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom family home. Not too much of an ask given the proximity to the coast and to Honolulu itself.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Waimalu are:

  • Tropics Mini Golf
  • Hawaii Escape Challenge
  • Pearlride Farmers Market
  • Kualoa Ranch
  • Waimalu Stream
  • Aiea Bowling Alley

11. Princeville

Princeville, KauaiSource: dirkr / shutterstock

With outstanding public schools, a diverse set of residents, and a perfectly placed on the coast, there is very little to find fault with in Princeville, which narrowly missed out on the top ten. Princeville is a 9,000-acres community of vacation homes and condo-style apartments, on Kauai Island.

Incredibly close to scenic spots like Queen’s Bath and Hanalei Pier, you can easily see why people fall in love with Princeville and never leave! Princeville is full of lush green spaces for locals to enjoy, and they do!

Properties here actually hit the three million mark. Exclusive as it may sound, there are many more affordable options in the area. A quarter of a million dollar investment would see you possess a 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom family home with your very own coconut palm tree in the yard!

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Princeville are:

  • Queen’s Bath
  • Hanalei Valley Lookout
  • Puu Poa Beach
  • Princeville Center
  • Princeville Botanical Gardens
  • Pali Ke Kua Beach
  • Princeville Makai Golf Club

12. Kula

Kula, Maui, HawaiiSource: John-Morgan / Flickr

Kula is a small, close-knit community primarily comprised of retirees. On the beautiful island of Maui, Kula is a simple and quaint place to live. Living in Kula would see you somewhat removed from the hub-bub of the rest of Hawaii.

For anyone looking for a slow, easy pace of life in a friendly and welcoming town, Kula may be the place for you.

Although there are good schools in the town, the lack of development may see many children struggling to find entertainment and extra-curricular activities outside of swimming in the sea.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Kula are:

  • Kula Botanical Gardens
  • Surfing Goat Dairy
  • Skyline Hawaii
  • Kula Country Farms
  • MauiWine
  • Kula Market Place
  • Paraglide Maui

13. Pearl City

Pearl City, HawaiiSource: sevenMaps7 / shutterstock
Pearl City

Pearl City is Hopping back to Oahu, just north of Honolulu International Airport. This bayside city is home to forty-seven thousand; there is always something happening in Pearl City to keep you occupied.

Pearl City is one of the more affordable areas in Hawaii to buy property. The median home value is above the national average. Shopping around would be of benefit in Pearl City; take time to see what is on the market before parting with your hard-earned cash.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Pearl City are:

  • Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum
  • Bishop Museum
  • Regal Pearl Highlands
  • Dole Plantation
  • Leeward Bowl
  • Waimano Falls Trail
  • Honolulu Zoo

14. Wailuku

Wailuku, HawaiiSource: Ralf Broskvar / shutterstock

Compared with many of the more flashy areas of Hawaii, Wailuku is sufficiently average. That said, residents here are happy and content with where they have laid their hats.

A small town of sixteen thousand residents, Wailuku provides residents with access to plenty of outdoor pursuits and reasonable access to a commuter route. 

Local people say that Wailuku is quiet and family friendly, that they enjoy being close to nature and the sea.

Statistics suggest that job opportunities here in Wailuku are few and far between. However, residents confirm that employment rates in the area are increasing and there is an improving job market.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Wailuku are:

  • Iao Theater
  • Kepaniwai Park
  • Maui Zipline Company
  • Maui Arts & Cultural Center

15. Lahaina

Lahaina, MauiSource: Jo Ann Snover / shutterstock

Lahaina is the largest community on the island of Maui, with eleven thousand residents calling this coastal-town home. Properties in Lahaina are pretty spectacular, certainly those that are right on the beachfront; others boast infinity pools that overlook the rolling green hills.

Lahaina is a typically Hawaiian holiday town; However, many cafes and restaurants have tourists in mind, and locals often enjoy the food they so lovingly serve.

Thirty-four public schools in the Lahaina area provide parents with a great amount of choice for their little ones.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Lahaina are:

  • Lahaina Banyan Court
  • Baby Beach
  • Old Lahaina Luau


15 Best Places to Live in Hawaii:

  • Maunawili
  • Mililani Mauka
  • Waikele
  • Kailua
  • Honolulu
  • Mililani
  • Ocean Pointe
  • Wailea
  • Kapolei
  • Waimalu
  • Princeville
  • Kula
  • Pearl City
  • Wailuku
  • Lahaina