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With its palm-fringed beaches, laidback lifestyle and year-round sunshine, moving to Hawaii is a dream for many. But between the notorious cost of living and sky-high real estate prices, can you really afford to make the islands your home?

Keep reading as we break down the budget you’ll need to live comfortably in the Aloha State.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Living costs in Hawaii are among the highest in the U.S., with the average household spending around $5,700 per month across housing, transportation, food and other expenses.

However, costs vary widely between different islands and neighborhoods.

In this detailed guide, we’ll look at average costs for housing, food, transportation, healthcare, utilities and more on 4 of Hawaii’s main islands – Oahu, Maui, the Big Island and Kauai. We’ll also compare living expenses in popular destinations like Honolulu and rural areas, and provide some budgeting tips for moving to paradise on a shoestring.

Housing Costs

Average Rents and Purchase Prices

Housing costs in Hawaii, whether renting or buying, are among the highest in the nation. According to the website Best Places, the median home price in Hawaii as of November 2022 was $879,000. That’s over double the national median home price of $384,800.

Rents are equally steep, with a median rent price in Hawaii of $1,904 per month, compared to $1,097 nationally.

Cost of Living Comparison

To give some context on how expensive it is to live in Hawaii, the cost of living is 65% higher compared to the national average, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research. Housing costs make up the bulk of this, being over double the national average.

For example, on Oahu, average rents are $2,193 per month, while the national average is around $1,000 per month.

Area Avg. Rent Avg. Home Price
Hawaii (Statewide) $1,904 $879,000
USA National Average $1,097 $384,800

Factors That Impact Housing Costs

There are several key factors that contribute to the high housing costs across the Hawaiian islands:

  • High demand – Hawaii is a popular tourist destination and retirement spot, driving increased competition for rental and real estate purchases.
  • Limited space – With islands, space is finite. Lack of available land places strains on housing development.
  • Construction costs – Hawaii’s remote location increases costs for shipping and transporting construction materials.
  • Regulation – Strict zoning laws, building codes, etc. control development and raise housing costs.

While wages in Hawaii are higher on average than other states, they have not kept pace with the rapidly increasing housing pricing, making affordability a major issue for many residents.

Food Costs

Grocery Prices

Grocery prices in Hawaii are significantly higher than the national average due to the state’s isolation and reliance on imported goods. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, food prices in Honolulu were 39.7% higher than the national average in 2019.

Some common grocery items and their average prices in Hawaii include:

  • Gallon of milk: $5.29 (compared to $3.27 nationally)
  • Loaf of white bread: $2.99 (compared to $1.66 nationally)
  • Dozen eggs: $4.99 (compared to $1.66 nationally)
  • Pound of chicken breast: $5.99 (compared to $3.73 nationally)

Fresh fruits and vegetables tend to be pricier since over 85% of these are imported. Local favorites like pineapples, coconuts, avocados, and mangoes can be cheaper when in season.

Restaurant Meal Prices

Eating out at restaurants in Hawaii can be very expensive compared to other states. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant costs around $15 per entrée on average. At mid-range establishments, entrees average $25-30, while upscale dining easily exceeds $40+ per plate.

Restaurant Type Average Meal Price
Inexpensive/Fast Food $15 per entrée
Mid-range $25-30 per entrée
Upscale/Fine Dining $40+ per entrée

The high meal prices are due to the steep rents that restaurants pay in popular tourist areas as well as the increased costs for importing many ingredients to the islands.

Travelers on a budget can save money by choosing food trucks, hole-in-the-wall eateries, or happy hour deals when available. But overall, Hawaii’s breathtaking beauty comes with above-average costs for dining.

Transportation Expenses

Gas Prices

Gas prices in Hawaii have historically been higher than the national average. As of December 2022, the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was around $5.19, compared to the national average of $3.30. This places Hawaii as the state with the most expensive gas in the country.

There are a few reasons why Hawaii’s gas prices are so high:

  • Hawaii has a limited number of oil refineries and relies heavily on imported crude oil and refined gasoline.
  • State taxes on gasoline are higher than the national average – Hawaii charges state excise tax of $0.16 per gallon plus a environmental response tax of $0.05 per gallon.
  • Transportation costs to ship the fuel to Hawaii via sea and distribute it across the islands adds to the retail cost.

The good news is there are apps and websites that can help drivers find the cheapest gas by neighborhood. Still, fuel costs will likely continue being a major expense for Hawaii residents and visitors.

Cost of Owning a Car

Owning and maintaining a car in Hawaii costs around $9,500 annually – higher than the national average of $8,849. In addition to high gas expenses, Hawaii drivers must budget for elevated parking fees, insurance rates, and vehicle registration/inspection costs.

Expense Hawaii National Average
Annual insurance premium $1,750 $1,574
Registration & inspection fees $450 $381
Average parking rate (monthly) $228 $168

High vehicle ownership costs in the islands mean that some residents, especially in urban areas, choose to rely on alternative transportation options instead.

Public Transportation Costs

Hawaii has decent public bus systems, but coverage is primarily limited to the most populated areas of Oahu and Maui. TheBus serves the Honolulu metro area, while Maui Bus operates over 20 routes across central, south and west Maui.

Fares are quite reasonable – it’s only $2.75 for a single, one-way adult fare on either system. Monthly passes offer even better savings:

  • TheBus (Oahu) monthly pass – $70
  • Maui Bus monthly pass – $45

Considering a monthly bus pass costs approximately the same as one tank of gas in Hawaii, public transportation deserves a look as at least a partial solution to high vehicle expenses.



Electricity costs in Hawaii are quite high compared to the national average. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average electricity rate for residential customers in Hawaii is 34.54 cents per kWh, nearly triple the national average of 13.19 cents per kWh.

This makes Hawaii the most expensive state for electricity.

There are several reasons why electricity is so costly in Hawaii:

  • Hawaii relies heavily on imported petroleum and coal for electricity generation. Over 60% of Hawaii’s electricity comes from petroleum, which is subject to global price fluctuations.
  • The isolated island geography makes it difficult and expensive to import fuel for electricity production.
  • Transmission costs are high given the islands’ small and dispersed markets.

The average monthly electricity bill for a Hawaii household is about $175. To save on costs, residents are encouraged to conserve energy through measures like installing solar panels or using energy efficient appliances.


Water rates in Hawaii vary by county but are generally expensive. On Oahu, the Board of Water Supply charges residential customers $2.50 per 1,000 gallons used. So for a household using 15,000 gallons per month, the water bill would be around $37.50.

Hawaii’s public water systems rely on groundwater, streams, and some limited recycled water infrastructure. Operating and maintaining these systems across the remote islands and rugged terrain involves considerable costs. Other factors driving up rates include:

  • Lack of scale – small population sizes spread out over large areas
  • Aging infrastructure requiring maintenance and upgrades
  • Treatment costs to meet safe drinking water standards

Water conservation measures like fixing leaks, installing low-flow fixtures, and using drought tolerant plants in landscaping can help reduce usage and bills.


Internet costs in Hawaii are on par with most other states. The average monthly cost for high-speed internet in Hawaii ranges from $50 – $100 depending on speed and data needs.

The major internet providers available across most Hawaiian islands are:

  • Spectrum – offers speeds up to 1000 Mbps for $74.99/month
  • Hawaiian Telcom – offers speeds up to 500 Mbps for $59.95/month
  • Verizon Fios – offers speeds up to 940 Mbps for $79.99/month

With average download speeds of 96 Mbps, Hawaii ranks 16th in the U.S. for internet speed and the connectivity is quite reliable. New fiber optic infrastructure is also expanding high-speed coverage across more communities.

Cell Phone Plans

Cell phone service generally costs more in Hawaii compared to other states. A typical postpaid unlimited plan from major carriers like Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile runs $85 to $100 per month after all fees and taxes.

Some reasons for the elevated cell phone bills in Hawaii include:

  • Lack of competition – only a few carriers provide coverage across all the islands
  • Investment required for infrastructure across remote islands
  • High taxes and fees – Hawaii general excise tax can add 4-5%

Residents can save money on cell phone service by using discount carriers like Boost Mobile and Cricket Wireless, which offer prepaid unlimited plans for as low as $50 per month. Using Wi-Fi calling and limiting data usage also helps control costs.


Health Insurance

Hawaii has mandated health insurance since the 1970s through its Prepaid Health Care Act. This law requires employers to provide health insurance coverage to full-time employees working at least 20 hours per week.

As a result, over 90% of Hawaii’s population has health coverage, one of the highest rates in the U.S.

For individuals and families not covered by an employer, health insurance options include:

  • Individual and family plans purchased through the state’s health insurance marketplace
  • Medicaid and Medicare for those who qualify based on income and age
  • Military health benefits like TRICARE and VA health care for veterans

Monthly premiums for individual health plans in Hawaii average around $500 for a mid-level plan. High deductible health plans have lower premiums closer to $300 per month. Overall, health insurance costs are over 20% higher in Hawaii than the national average.

Typical Medical Expenses

In addition to high monthly premiums, medical costs like doctor visits and procedures also carry a high price tag in Hawaii:

Primary care visit $177 average
Specialist visit $230 average
ER visit $1,941 average

Prescription drug costs can also be steep without insurance, frequently over $100 per month even for common generic medications.

Hawaii residents spend around $8,500 per year on healthcare, nearly 50% higher than the national average. The high cost of living coupled with elevated healthcare expenses makes affording medical care difficult for many local families.

Government programs like Medicaid provide vital assistance, as do free and income-based clinics. But for most Hawaii residents, paying for health insurance and out-of-pocket medical costs remains an ongoing financial challenge.


The bottom line? Yes, Hawaii has a sky-high cost of living compared to most parts of the mainland U.S. However, there are still ways to make living in paradise more affordable – like opting for rural areas or smaller towns over expensive cities like Honolulu, living a minimalist lifestyle, growing your own food or Leveraging remote work opportunities.

With strategic planning, the Aloha State lifestyle and natural beauty can absolutely be within your reach. What peaceful beach are you ready to call home?

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