Which Hawaiian Island Is The Most Expensive To Live On?

Hawaii is an exceptionally beautiful state which countless people choose every year to call their home. The reasons for this are countless, and anybody who has visited Hawaii can tell straight away why this is a great choice of place to live.

Boasting incredible landscapes, beautiful beaches, and thrilling activities to be enjoyed outdoors, Hawaii is the perfect destination for holidays as well as day-to-day living.

Hawaii is made up of a number of islands, but the most expensive of these to live on is Oahu when looking at an overall cost ratio. This is because Oahu is the main business center of Hawaii, and so job availability is the biggest drawcard to this area.

On average, Hawaii costs 30% more than the rest of the US to live in, making it the most expensive state of all in terms of average living cost.

Naturally, however, there are areas that are more expensive than others, and there are other options available that have a lower cost of living.

Oahu, The Most Expensive Island

Oahu is home to the capital of Hawaii, Honolulu. The major highlights in this area include historic Chinatown, not to mention the renowned Waikiki beach.

The main reason for Oahu having a higher cost of living than the other islands of Hawaii is due to its role as the main business center of the state. As a result, demand for accommodation is high, with people flocking to the area in search of work.

Thankfully, though, the salaries paid in Oahu are significantly higher than those on the other islands. This means that the extra cost of living can be offset somewhat.  The average household income is around $74500, which is significantly higher than it is on other islands.

The cost of housing, however, is substantially higher on the island of Oahu than it is on other islands, with an average cost of around $2000 per month for a two-bedroom apartment. This figure is around 55% higher than the cost of housing on Big Island, making a substantial difference to the overall living cost.

Oahu is also one of the most popular destinations in Hawaii in general, and this could be for a multitude of reasons. This island offers a host of different lifestyle options, from the hustle and bustle of the city of Honolulu to the slow-paced island vibe of the North Shore.

In contrast to this are the family-friendly neighborhoods like Ewa Beach, amongst others. Honolulu hosts some of the biggest employers in the state of Hawaii, like the University of Hawaii, Hawaiian Airlines, and the Hawaiian Electric Industries.

Kaneohe Station is considered to be the most expensive area within Oahu in which to live.  With a median income of around $59,939 and a median home value of around $1,069,400, this is the most expensive city in terms of the ratio between home price and average income. 

Housing Costs

Looking at Hawaii’s residents and their housing situation, it is clear that a large proportion of the population lives in rented accommodation. Around 43% of residents in Hawaii live in rented accommodation. The proportion of renters in an area is often indicative of the housing price.

In Hawaii, in order to afford the high living costs associated with the area, one needs to earn on average around $35.20 per hour. This estimate is based on the cost of a two-bedroom apartment with two adults living in it.

What this means is that in order to keep up with the high living costs of Hawaii, you will need an income of at least $1480 per week. When comparing housing costs with other parts of Hawaii, there is a clear difference to Oahu.

The lowest costs in the region can be found in Hawaii County, with a two-bedroom apartment costing no more than $1271. Comparatively, Kauai County (which includes the islands of Kauai, Niihau, Lihue, and Kuala) can give you a rental of around $1463 monthly.

Next up on the list is Maui county, where your average rental will cost about $1568. There’s a significant jump from here to the next highest-priced option, being Honolulu County, with an average rental value of a two-bedroom apartment at around $1982 per month.

This is a major price increase of around 55% from the costs associated with Big Island.

Now when referring to sales prices for homes that are being purchased as opposed to rented, there is a similar pattern of costs. Hawaii island is once again the most affordable option, while Oahu is by far the most expensive.

On Big Island, your average family home can go for around $330,400, while the same would fetch $625,500 on Kauai. On Maui island, you can expect to pay around $620,000 for a single-family home, while on the infamously expensive island of Oahu, you’ll pay at least $735,000. 


With Oahu being the main business hub of Hawaii state, the majority of the population resides here. This is simply because it is where the majority of jobs are available. Consequently, the average wages are higher here, which in turn helps to make the living costs more manageable to afford.

The median household income on the island of Oahu is around $74,460. This is significantly higher than the median income on Maui County of $66,476, as well as that on Kauai at around $65,101. While the housing in Oahu is expensive, it is often offset by the higher income found here.

Electricity Costs

Electricity costs in the state of Hawaii are known for being expensive. The electricity costs here are the most expensive out of all the US states. The electricity here is mostly fueled by oil and coal, with a vision to change this in the not-too-distant future.

The goal, implemented by the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, is to get the entire state running on renewable energy sources by 2045. While this is no mean feat, it is certainly something worth working hard to achieve.

Unfortunately, until the state is running on higher percentages of renewable energy, the electricity costs here will remain the most expensive in the country. On average, in the rest of the US, residents are paying between eleven and twelve cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity.

Residents in Hawaii, by contrast, will pay around thirty-four cents per kilowatt-hour. This is an astronomically big difference in cost and could be considered almost prohibitive to anybody hoping to move to the state of Hawaii.

Within Hawaii, the island with the lowest electricity costs is, in fact, Oahu, with an average cost of around 26.8 cents per kWh. While this is the cheapest in Hawaii in terms of electricity costs, it is still significantly higher than the average cost in the US of 11-12 cents.

The most expensive electricity in the state is found in Molokai and Lanai, with average prices of 33.6 cents and 33.9 cents per kWh, respectively.

Gas Prices

The price of gas is another item that differs greatly in Hawaii depending on which island you visit. Again, despite being the most expensive place to live, on average, Oahu boasts the cheapest gas prices.

This is due, in large part, to the high number of residents and visitors to the area. As a result, the owners of gas stations are able to bring down their costs, which in turn allows them to sell fuel at a slightly cheaper rate.

The lowest fuel prices in Oahu were around $2.47 per gallon, which could be found at Ewa Beach. On Hawaii island, fuel cost around $2.49 per gallon, and on Kauai, the prices started at around $3.29 per gallon.

On average, the cheapest fuel in Hawaii is found on Oahu island, while the most expensive fuel is found on the island of Maui.

Which Hawaiian Island Is The Most Expensive To Live On 01

Public Transport

Public transport prices are something that is affected most by the number of its users. Oahu boasts a fully comprehensive public transport system, being ranked consistently as one of the best systems in the entire United States.

In Oahu, a one-way fare will cost you around $2.50, while an unlimited monthly pass will cost you around $60. Maui features a public bus system which usually costs around $2 for a one-way fare and about $45 for the monthly pass.

Kauai island has a bus system that charges $2 for the main bus system and $0.50 for the shuttle. A $40 monthly pass is also available, which is extremely affordable.

Despite having the second biggest city in the state of Hawaii, Hawaii island lacks sufficient infrastructure in terms of its public transport system. The fee for the buses is only around $2 for a one-way ticket, but these buses have a reputation for being frequently late, unreliable, and limited in number.

Because of this unreliable system, a taxi system was introduced, which helps to ease the burden on the bus system somewhat. It’s possible to get around 15 tickets for $30, with each ticket able to take you around 4 miles in distance across the island.

While this is a good system on paper, there are limitations as to how many tickets can be used, as well as which of the island’s taxi companies will actually be willing to be involved in the program. Reliability is another factor that plays a major role in the ability to use this system. 

Since the introduction of Uber, all of the islands have now gained access to the system, but many of the remote areas tend to struggle to find uber drivers in their respective neighborhoods.

There is a bike-sharing company named Biki Bikesharing based in Honolulu, which has significantly helped to ease the traffic in the area. Another service that incorporates car-sharing is called Zipcar, and they also play their role in helping to unburden the city roads.

By making the idea of driving a car a more accessible idea to a larger number of families, this company also reduces the number of cars on the road at any one time. In more recent times, there have been large-scale urban developments planned.

These developments encourage a walkable lifestyle and make this an easier thing to achieve through good design. The location of amenities that are accessible and convenient allows for less need for cars and public transport, which in turn puts less strain on the transport systems. 

Affordable Places to Live in Hawaii

Despite generally high living costs, there are parts of Hawaii that are significantly more affordable to live in, while still retaining a significant element of fun and a host of activities.


Hilo is known as the gateway area to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This park is home to a number of the world’s most active volcanoes, as well as a series of nature reserves and beaches.

Hilo is situated on Bing Island and features countless shops, restaurants, art galleries, and museums. This city does have a large population of wealthy residents, but the living costs here are around 28% lower than the state average.

When referring to house prices, Hilo homes average around $318,000, which is almost half of the average price found in the rest of Hawaii.


This is a beautiful region of Hawaii which not only boasts incredible beaches, but also features living costs 37% lower than those around the rest of the country. The main drawback here, however, is that you will be forced to live completely off the grid.

Kaunakakai has some of the best beaches in the entire state of Hawaii, and the town itself is historical and particularly picturesque. The population here is quite small, and job opportunities are few, which means that you’d only be able to live here if you were able to work remotely.

If the peaceful, isolated, and off-the-grid lifestyle is for you, then this might be a great option.


Overall, it can be seen that Oahu is the most expensive island to live on in Hawaii. There are, however, a number of aspects of living on this island that are indeed more affordable than other islands, and the higher wages will help to offset the high living costs to some degree.