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The Big Island of Hawaii, also known as Hawaii Island or the Island of Hawaii, is the largest and most populous island in the Hawaiian archipelago.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: the population of the Big Island was estimated to be 211,361 in 2024 according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

In this comprehensive article, we will dive deep into the details surrounding the Big Island’s population. We will look at current and historical population counts, population distribution across the island’s districts, factors driving population changes, and population projections for the future.

Current Big Island Population

Current Big Island Population

2021 Population Estimate

According to the latest population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Big Island of Hawaii had an estimated population of 201,513 people as of July 1, 2021. This represents an increase of around 2,000 people from the previous year’s estimate of 199,459 residents.

The Big Island is the largest but least populated of the main Hawaiian Islands. However, its population has been gradually increasing over the past decade. Between 2010 and 2020, the island’s population grew by over 18,000 people or around 10%.

Population by District

The Big Island consists of nine districts. Here is a breakdown of the estimated 2021 population by district:

  • Hilo: 47,397
  • Hāmākua: 7,457
  • North Kohala: 6,515
  • South Kohala: 13,730
  • North Kona: 30,783
  • South Kona: 9,263
  • Kaʻū: 6,414
  • Puna: 52,941
  • Kona: 27,013

As you can see, the Puna and Hilo districts on the eastern side of the island are the most populous. In contrast, the South Kona, Kaʻū, and Hāmākua districts on the western side have much smaller populations under 10,000 residents.

The Big Island has seen rapid population growth in recent years, especially in the North Kona, South Kohala, and Puna districts. These areas contain major towns and vacation destinations like Kailua-Kona, Waikoloa Village, and Hawaiian Paradise Park.

Historical Population Trends

Population Growth Over Time

The population of the Big Island of Hawaii has seen steady growth over the past several decades. According to census data, the island’s population in 1980 was around 92,000 residents. By 1990, it had grown to over 120,000, reflecting an increase of over 30% in just 10 years.

Growth remained strong in the 1990s and 2000s as well. The 2010 census recorded a population of 185,079 on the Big Island, showing growth of over 50% from 1990.

Recent population estimates show that as of 2022, around 200,000 people call the Big Island home. While growth has slowed somewhat compared to the rapid pace seen in the 1980s and 1990s, the island’s population is still gradually increasing over time.

Experts predict the Big Island’s population could surpass 225,000 residents by 2030 if current trends continue.

Key Drivers of Population Changes

Several key factors have driven the steady population growth on the Big Island over the past 40+ years:

  • In-migration from other Hawaii islands and the U.S. mainland: The Big Island is seen as an attractive destination to live due to its affordability, natural beauty and landscape diversity, and slower pace of life compared to other islands like Oahu.
  • A growing tourism industry: Tourism creates jobs and business opportunities, attracting new residents. Visitor arrivals have increased from under 500,000 in 1980 to over 2 million per year today.
  • Expansion of higher education: The growth of the University of Hawaii Hilo campus since the 1970s, along with Hawaii Community College, has drawn more students and faculty to reside on the island.

While population growth has brought economic benefits, it has also created challenges like strained infrastructure, threats to natural habitats, and increased cost of living over time. Balancing growth with sustainability will be an important focus for the island’s future.

Big Island Population Projections

2025 Population Forecast

According to the latest population projections from the state government, the Big Island of Hawaii is expected to reach a population of around 220,000 by 2025. This represents steady but modest growth from the island’s 2020 population of approximately 200,000 residents.

Driving this growth is the continued popularity of Hawaii as a destination to live, work, and retire. The tropical climate, natural beauty, and relaxed pace of life on the Big Island attract new residents every year.

In particular, retirees from the U.S. mainland have been settling on Hawaii Island in increasing numbers.

However, population growth is constrained by the relative lack of economic opportunities on the rural Big Island compared to Oahu. As a result, population growth is slower compared to other islands in the state.

2030 Population Forecast

The state projects that the Big Island will reach 225,000 residents by 2030. This represents an average annual growth rate of just under 1% from 2025 onward. While healthy, this pace of growth is slower than Hawaii Island experienced during the 1990s and 2000s.

Experts cite the island’s infrastructure challenges, from roads to hospitals, as a limiting factor. Significant investment and planning around housing, transportation, utilities, and services will be needed to accommodate more rapid population growth while maintaining residents’ quality of life.

However, opportunities exist in sectors like healthcare, education, agriculture, and renewable energy that may draw specialized workers to relocate despite infrastructure constraints. These key industries can fuel targeted population gains through 2030 and beyond.

2040 Population Forecast

By 2040, state forecasts call for the Big Island’s population to surpass 250,000 for the first time. This milestone demonstrates the island’s long-term appeal for new residents even as growth rates decline over time.

Reaching a quarter million residents will no doubt put added strain on local infrastructure and public services. Proactive solutions around housing, transportation, education, emergency services, waste management, energy, and more will be essential to maintain livability.

With strategic investments and planning, though, Hawaii Island offers tremendous upside for population growth thanks to its unmatched combination of natural and cultural assets. Smart policies that balance development with aloha ‘āina (love for the land) can support population gains for decades to come.

Demographic Characteristics

Age and Gender

According to the census data from 2021, the Big Island has a pretty even split between men (50.2%) and women (49.8%). The median age is 41.2 years old. In terms of age breakdown, 19.8% of the population is under 18 years old, 59.5% is between 18-64 years old, and 20.7% is over 65 years old.

The largest segment of the Big Island’s population is the 45-64 age range at 26.8%. This is followed by the 25-44 age range at 24.2%. So middle-aged adults make up a significant portion of the island’s residents. The smallest demographic is the 85+ age range at just 3.4% of the total population.

Race and Ethnicity

The Big Island is quite diverse when it comes to racial makeup. According to 2021 estimates, 33.9% of residents identify as Asian, 31.3% as white, 9.8% as two or more races, 8.2% as Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, 2.4% as Black or African American, 1.2% as some other race, and 0.3% as American Indian or Alaska Native.

In terms of ethnicity, 18.4% of the Big Island’s population identifies as Hispanic or Latino. So while the majority is non-Hispanic, close to one-fifth claim Hispanic roots. This reflects the island’s rich mixture of cultural backgrounds and ancestries over the years.

An interesting note is that the Big Island has the highest percentage of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander residents out of all the Hawaiian Islands. In fact, it’s more than double the statewide average.

This shows the strong connection many locals still have to the indigenous culture and history of Hawaii.

Also read: Why Are There So Many Asians In Hawaii?

Economic Impact of Population

Labor Force

The Big Island’s labor force is largely driven by tourism and agriculture. With over 2 million visitors per year, tourism employs around 34% of the island’s workforce according to the County of Hawaii’s 2022 State of the County Address.

Major hospitality employers on the island include hotels, restaurants, tour companies, and retail stores. The agriculture industry is also a major employer, with around 15% working in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting based on US Census data.

Coffee, macadamia nuts, tropical fruits, vegetables, and cattle are major agricultural exports from the Big Island.

As the island’s population grows, more workers are needed to support these industries and provide services to residents. Recent population growth has already led to labor shortages in some sectors according to a 2022 Hawaii Business article.

The unemployment rate on the Big Island hit an ultra-low 2.8% in 2023, indicating the labor pool is nearly tapped out. Adding infrastructure like affordable housing and transit for workers will be important to support further population and economic growth.


The Big Island’s population growth is putting pressure on the housing market. With limited housing inventory, prices have risen rapidly in recent years. According to Zillow, the median home value on the Big Island was $550,000 as of December 2023.

Rents have also been surging, with median rents around $2,000 per month. Tourism has impacted the housing market by reducing inventory – over 11% of housing units on the island are designated as short-term rentals per county data.

More housing is needed to keep up with population growth in an affordable way. The County of Hawaii has plans to develop new affordable housing, but progress has been slow. Creative solutions like accessory dwelling units (ADUs), tiny homes, and repurposed commercial spaces may help add density in a more affordable way.

As the population rises, ensuring adequate affordable housing will be crucial for many local families and workers.

Infrastructure and Services

As the Big Island’s population expands, infrastructure and public services need to scale as well. Areas seeing rapid growth like West Hawaii are grappling with traffic congestion. The county has transportation improvement plans in place but lacks funding to implement many projects.

Other services like utilities, emergency response, healthcare, and schools also face capacity constraints. An aging population is increasing demand for healthcare services while enrollment is rising in Hawaii County’s public schools.

Upgrades to infrastructure and staffing will require significant investment to keep pace with population growth.

In the 2023 fiscal year budget, Hawaii County has prioritized funding for capacity improvements related to population growth. For example, plans are underway to increase staffing for firefighters, police, and public works positions.

Funding is also designated for projects like expanding solid waste capacity, improving road drainage infrastructure, and planning future wastewater treatment plant upgrades. While budgetary limitations pose challenges, the county is making efforts to address infrastructure needs stemming from an expanding population.

Also read: How To Move To Hawaii: The Complete Guide


In this comprehensive guide, we have explored various dimensions related to the resident population on Hawaii’s Big Island today and how it has grown over time. Key highlights include:

– The 2021 population estimate for Hawaii Island was 200,972.

– Historical growth has been driven by tourism, agriculture, healthcare, and scientific industries.

– Continued but slowing population growth is expected over the next two decades.

Going forward, population changes will have implications for jobs, housing, infrastructure, and public services across the island. We hope this deep dive into Big Island demographics has helped answer your question about what the current and future population of Hawaii Island looks like.

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