Sun, sea and island life. At face value alone, Hawaii is something of 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 the idea of watching the sunset on the ocean of an evening, being able to walk for hours through rolling hills and eating the most freshly caught fish around, 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 who seldom come in touch with the 8.9 million visitors who drop by each year.
Hawaii is comprised of eight main islands; Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, Kahoolawe, Lanai, Molokai, Kauai, and Niihau. Each of these islands have a distinctly different atmosphere but are open and welcoming to tourists and new neighbours 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 took into consideration all these factors as well as comments from local people; offering you the most authentic, rounded view on where to live in Hawaii.
Without further ado, here are the 15 best places to live in Hawaii:
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 2,149 people. 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 $914,400, meaning you’ll get little change from a $1m investment. The majority of homes in Maunawili are modern, light and spacious. Many come with their own private swimming pools, tennis courts, and vast garden areas.
2. Mililani Mauka
Like with Manuawaili, the second best place to live in Hawaii, Mililani Mauka, is also on Oahu Island. This large suburban neighbourhood 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 neighbourhood is peaceful with a strong sense of community. That the local supermarkets and grocery stores provide exactly what residents need and that the landscape is ‘awesome’.
There are 42 public schools in Mililani Mauka, spread between 21,000 people, there are small class sizes on offer at nearly every educational establishment here. Not to mention the consistently above average exam performances from elementary level, right through to high school.
Waikele may only be the third best place to live in Hawaii but it fast becoming a popular area with the millennial generation. With that in mind, the small neighbourhood of Waikele is considered to be one of the best places to raise a family in the state.
Waikele is far more affordable than Maunawili, house prices here are around $414,400. 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, average monthly rent in Waikele is $1907.
There is great access to green spaces here in Waikele. The Waikele Golf Club is a popular hangout for many residents, as well as the Pasty T Mink Park. There is a big designer outlet mall here too, time to get grabbing some bargains!
Residents just 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 a lot easier.
The town is as popular with tourists and sadly second home buyers have inadvertently sent the house prices sky high, compared to prices a decade or so ago.
This is now a more economically developed area of Hawaii, with median household income at $105,316; double the national average. Just as in Maunawili, you should not expect change from $1million. Properties set right on the beach front are, naturally, fetching for more.
Kailua is one of the safest neighbourhoods in Hawaii.
On Oahu’s southern shores we find the state capital of Honolulu. This bustling, vibrant city is a bucket list destination for travelers from around the world.
Although very much a city, the sandy beach that sits right below the towering high rises serves as a constant reminder of Honolulu’s island nature.
Honolulu is the most densely populated area of Hawaii, home to 400,000 people 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 median rent is a much more agreeable $1300 a month. 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.
Mililani is a small city on Oahu, northeast of Honolulu. Local people say that Mililani is ‘true Hawaii’ beautifully embracing the military history of the area with the picturesque natural landscapes.
There are plenty of small shops providing residents with nearly everything they need. The occasional trip into the big city, Honolulu, is warranted for some specific shopping items.
Mililani plays host to a number of small, family-run restaurants, that are at the heart of this close-knit community.
28,021 people call Mililani home; an area popular with families, there are 45 schools in the area. Mililani is ranked as the neighbourhood with the best schools in all of Hawaii. Parents, write this one down!
7. Ocean Pointe
Directly south of Mililani, still on Oahu Island, we find Ocean Pointe. Right on Māmala Bay, there are 11,000 people who 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 around $539,000. 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.
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 5,600 people say that the number of local businesses in Wailea is great and provides residents with a great deal of choice. 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 absolutely 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.
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 issues of unemployment.
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 18,737 people, 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.
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! For $749,000 you can invest in a 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom family home. Not too much of an ask given the proximity to the coast and to Honolulu itself.
Outstanding public schools, diverse set of residents and 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 $3m mark. Exclusive as it may sound, there are many more affordable options in the area. A $869,900 investment would see you possess a 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom family home with your very own coconut palm tree in the yard!
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, then Kula may just 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.
13. Pearl City
Hopping back to Oahu now, just north of Honolulu International Airport is Pearl City. This bayside city is home to 47,021 people, there is always something happening in Pearl City to keep you occupied.
Pearl City, overall, is one of the more affordable areas in Hawaii to buy property. Median home value is $592,000. 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.
Just as $725,000 will get you a 3-bedroom family home, $570,00 would see you investing in the same amount of bedrooms but with a bigger garden and a more modern looking home.
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 hat.
A small town of 16,000 people, Wailuku provides residents with access to plenty of outdoor pursuits as well as good access to a commuter route too. Local people say that Wailuku is quiet and family friendly, that they enjoy being close to nature and the sea.
Statistics would suggest that job opportunities here in Wailuku are few and far between but local residents confirm that employment rates in the area are increasing and there is an improving job market.
Lahaina is the largest community on the island of Maui, with 11,700 people 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, although many of the cafes and restaurants have tourists in mind, the food they so lovingly serve is enjoyed by locals much of the time too.
There are 34 public schools in the Lahaina area which provides parents with a great amount of choice for their little ones.