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Hawaiian islands are paradise on Earth. Still, if you decide to move there, there’ll be more to life than lush forests and turquoise waters of endless summer. And that’s what turns many people away. To live there is expensive – the cost of living in Hawaii is among the highest in the US. Honolulu is in the top ten most expensive US cities. But it is worth every cent — both the capital and other prominent Hawaiian cities.

Hawaiian islands are the preferred option for a new life for many people, and they are willing to pay a lot for it

What Can Be Earned and Where

Before we get into details on how much money you’ll have to spend, let’s take a look at chances of earning. Not surprisingly, the most significant slice of islands’ economy consists of tourism, more than 20 percent. Agriculture is another important industry, even though selling food in the mainland US can prove to be less rewarding than expected due to shipping costs. However, beekeeping can be very profitable, since honey bees are Hawaiian product that pays handsomely.

And there’s the Pentagon. Due to its strategic location, Aloha State is home to tens of thousands of US military personnel and 11 bases of all military branches.

Average Wages and Taxes in Aloha State

According to the sources, the average yearly income on Hawaiian islands stands around 60,000 USD. That is quite higher than the national average. However, expenses can skyrocket. It is said that a person needs at least 100,000 dollars per year to live comfortably (keeping in mind that preferences vary from one person to the next.) It has to be noted here that prices are lower outside of Honolulu (for example, in Hilo, on the Big Island), but the salaries follow suit.

On the other side of the equation are omnipresent taxes. But fear not, for they are quite benign. For example, property tax stands at 0.27%, which is extremely low for US standards. Income tax rates are progressive, from 1.4% to 11% for the biggest salaries. High income tax doesn’t prevent Oahu, Maui, and others from being the state with one of the highest number of millionaires per capita in the country.

There is good news for retirees as well. Retirement benefits and public pensions aren’t taxed, but the private pensions are, as well as IRAs, 401(k)s and alike.

Tourism is the main Hawaiian industry

Expect High Prices of Housing and Utilities

In overall high costs, housing is leading the charge. So, unless you’re okay with a beach tepee or some other kind of tent, be ready to give a serious buck for a home. The median price for a home in the Aloha State stands around 675,000 dollars, and most of the real estate there is priced more than 360,000 dollars. As you can imagine, being a real estate owner there is an excellent place to be in.

Before we move on to the questions of rent, we have to mention the utilities. The middle amount for the utility bill is 150 dollars per month. Electricity will occupy a fair share of your earnings unless you’re a fan of hot and humid weather conditions. Of course, the price varies between the islands, and not every city residents pay the same amount, but it’s still way higher than the mainland.

Renting a Home

If you prefer to rent a place to live, don’t be surprised by the amount of money landlords will demand. The average rent nears 2,500 USD. Again, in many cities it is less than that, but that depends on the island and the city. For example, tenants in the city of Kahului, on the island of Maui, pay rent in the middle region of 1,790 dollars.

Let’s Compare the Housing Part of the Cost of Living in Hawaii vs. California

Now we’ll make a little comparison of, in a way, adjacent states, though enormously different in size and population. But there is one similarity. California, too, is mostly thought of as a place of people who earn tons of money every month while basking in the sun. With a lot more neon lights around, though. Another thing they have in common is expensive housing.

In Californian hotspots of the Bay Area, San Diego, and even Los Angeles, median real estate prices easily top one million USD. When you move away from the ocean, though, those amounts decrease sharply, so that you can buy median-valued accommodations in Sacramento for 355,000 dollars, give or take a few. Rents are skyrocketing on Golden State’s seaside as well, with a whopping median amount of more than 2,000 dollars a month in San Diego.

But, thanks to large gaps between the different parts of California, the Hawaiian housing index is higher than the Californian one. So are all other main cost of living indexes, except the transportation one. It is understandable, though, having the nature of moving around the Aloha State, which we’ll get to in a moment.

Housing prices are very high, both to buy and to rent

How Much to Take to the Supermarket

Once you enter a supermarket in Hawaiian islands, you’re probably in for quite a shock. For example, not so long ago, Honolulu was the place with the most expensive toilet paper on Earth. Groceries are very steeply-priced, too. There is a reason for that. Most food and consumer goods come to the Aloha State from the mainland US. Since shipping to the islands is almost like international moving due to the distance, costs are quite high, and that shows on the final tags.

The positive thing is that all supermarket chains, like Costco and Walmart, have regular sales when you can purchase some groceries at a discount. On the other hand, local products such as tropical fruits and coffee are in abundance, and also a bit cheaper.

When everything is summed up, you can expect to spend some 200 dollars buying groceries monthly.

Food and consumer goods are expensive in Honolulu and elsewhere due to the expensive shipping from the mainland US

A Few Words About Amenities

Once in the Aloha state, you won’t have to worry about breaking the language barrier. There is a local native language, but very few speak it. Therefore, you can quickly settle into the local community, whichever you choose as a base for your new life. Now we’ll say a few words about what you can expect from the cities and their surroundings.

Transportation in Aloha State

Hawaiian public transportation options depend on the island. Oahu, Maui, Kaua’i, and Big Island all have their respective bus services. In Oahu, where Honolulu is located, a single ticket costs $2.75, a monthly pass is $70, and yearly one 770 dollars. There is also a daily pass for 5.5 bucks.

Maui’s monthly pass is 45 dollars, on Kaua’i that’s 40 bucks, while on the Big Island you’ll have to pay 60 dollars if you wish to use local service. Lanai and Molokai don’t have public transportation.

Some islands are connected with ferry lines, usually costing a few dozen dollars in one way. But many lines were canceled due to ecological concerns, and the main link between some islands became cruise ships.

Because of limited public options, overseas vehicle shipping may be the best option. Not all shipping companies offer this service for Aloha State, and those they do charge from 1,000 dollars upwards.

Car-related expenses aren’t insignificant, either. Fuel price in Oahu is more than 2.6 dollars for one gallon (which is good when compared with a statewide average of 3.6), and parking slots can be charged up to 200 dollars monthly.

Having Fun Alone or With Family

Even with all the expenses, it is totally worth having a car in Hawaii. Thanks to the landscape, outdoor fun opportunities are many and also free. Public beaches, tropical forests, and national parks all offer endless chances for hiking, surfing, and other ways of enjoying nature. City parks are another way to enjoy pastimes, especially if you’re moving to Hawaii with pets. All in all, just a few days in Hawaiian nature will undoubtedly take away all the moving stress.

Rich Hawaiian history can be experienced and learned during a tour of Iolani Palace, a former royal palace turned into a museum. The ticket for a tour is 27 bucks. Those who want to visit a more modern setting can go to the USS Arizona Memorial in the iconic Pearl Harbor. The entrance in the memorial to the sailors killed in the Japanese attack on the base in 1941 is free.

If you wish to go on a romantic dinner with your significant other, prices can significantly vary from one restaurant to another, but still, beware of losing track of the expenses. Middle pricing for dinner is a few dozen dollars, give or take a few, depending on a place. A treat in the restaurants is so-called plate lunch – a combination of dishes that is more often than not enough for two. Plate lunch is usually ten bucks.

If there is a public transportation system in the Hawaiian city, it's the buses, while the price of fuel and parking isn't low

A Bit More About Expenses in Honolulu

Now we’ll talk a bit about Hawaiian capital, Honolulu. It’s not the most affordable place in Aloha State. According to the latest data collected by specialized website numbeo.com, if you wish to buy the apartment in the city’s center, you’ll have to splash 700 dollars for one square foot. The same area outside of the center comes for around 510 USD. The average rent for a small apartment in the center is approximately 1,785 dollars. The monthly bill for basic utilities amounts to 260 dollars, and reliable internet access is 60 bucks.

CityAverage SalaryAverage sq ft In City CenterAverage Rent in City CenterMortgage RateUtility Bill
Honolulu$3,285$700$1,7854.36%$260
Los Angeles$4,460$730$2,2354.05%$125
San Francisco$7,840$1,270$3,5153.99%$150
San Diego$5,015$580$2,1604.12%$140

Schools and Doctors

Essential parts in the equation of every relocation are education opportunities and healthcare options. If you’re moving with kids, it is natural to want the best for them. For pre-school children, the monthly fee for the private kindergarten is around 1,175 dollars. On the other hand, one year in international primary school will cost you in the region of 20,670 dollars.

When it comes to eventual medical expenses, specialized website expatistan.com tells us that the price of basic medical examination is around 135 dollars. Box of antibiotics comes for 16 dollars, while a pack of medicine for cold is nine bucks.

Average home prices in Honolulu are above the state ones, but life there more than pays off

There’s the Cost of Living in Hawaii For You

After all that has been said, the only possible conclusion is that Aloha State is very expensive. Why is Hawaii so expensive to live in? It’s quite simple – the demand for homes is high. People want to live in a tropical paradise and are willing to pay top dollar for it. If you are among them, consider hiring packing services to help you in the process. One thing is sure, though. You may leave all your warm and winter clothes behind, or in storage.

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