12 Best Places to Live in Hawaii (By Quality of Life)

by Jem
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Hawaii is not just a state; it’s a paradise on Earth. From its world-renowned beaches to its lush rainforests and vibrant cities, the Aloha State offers an array of lifestyles and stunning natural beauty. Yet, with its unique geography, finding the perfect island or town to call home can be a challenge. To assist you in your quest, I’ve crafted this guide on the best places to live in Hawaii.

I’ve had the privilege of exploring Hawaii in depth, and I can vouch for its incredible diversity and allure. From the volcanic landscapes of the Big Island to the tranquil beaches of Maui, and from the bustling streets of Honolulu to the untouched beauty of Kauai, Hawaii’s range of experiences is second to none. Whether you’re captivated by the spirit of ‘Aloha,’ the rich cultural heritage, or the dynamic energy of its cities, there’s a slice of Hawaii that feels tailor-made for you.

So, where to begin? The perfect locale varies for each individual. Some may prioritize proximity to the ocean, others may seek top-notch educational facilities, and for many, the cost of living can be the ultimate deciding factor.

Join me as I delve into the best towns and cities to live in, based on what matters most to you. Having experienced the many wonders of Hawaii, I’m here to navigate you through its top living destinations. I’ve poured over research, analyzed statistics, and engaged with locals to create a list that accommodates every lifestyle and budget. Let’s dive into paradise!

The top places to live in Hawaii for all

The Best Places to Live in Hawaii          

Eager to explore the most enchanting places in Hawaii? Situated in the heart of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii offers something for every lifestyle. Continue reading to uncover the top places to live in the Aloha State.

Searching for your dream location in Hawaii? No matter what you have in mind, Hawaii has a spot that can meet your needs.

  • Best for tranquility: Hilo
  • Best for vibrant city life: Honolulu
  • Best for balanced living: Kahului
  • Best for suburban amenities: Kailua
  • Best for community feel: Kaneohe
  • Best for modern conveniences: Kapolei
  • Best for scenic beauty: Lahaina
  • Best for island authenticity: Oahu
  • Best for family-friendly neighborhoods: Pearl City
  • Best for budget-friendly options: Wailuku
  • Best for up-and-coming areas: Waimalu
  • Best for cultural mix: Waimea

Here are the must-know locations to consider when choosing where to live in Hawaii:

1. Hilo

Imagine waking up to the sound of waves crashing and birds singing. Welcome to Hilo, a place that effortlessly combines natural beauty with a laid-back lifestyle. As one of the best places to live in Hawaii, Hilo offers a unique blend of modern amenities and old-world charm.

Stroll through the vibrant farmers’ markets, or take a short drive to some of the island’s most stunning waterfalls. The city is also a hub for cultural activities, from traditional hula performances to contemporary art galleries. Hilo is not just a tourist destination; it’s the best city to live in Hawaii where you can genuinely experience the Aloha spirit.

Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty to do here. From hiking in the lush rainforests to surfing on the pristine beaches, Hilo offers a range of activities that cater to all interests. It’s a nice city to live in Hawaii, especially if you’re someone who loves to be surrounded by nature.

So, if you’re looking for a place that offers the best of both worlds—modern conveniences and natural beauty—Hilo should be at the top of your list. It’s a city that truly embodies the essence of Hawaii, making it a perfect place to call home.

Hilo is a place that skillfully blends a relaxed way of living with scenic natural beauty.
Hilo is a place that skillfully blends a relaxed way of living with scenic natural beauty.

2. Honolulu

Step into a world where skyscrapers and surfboards coexist. Honolulu, the capital city, is one of the coolest places to live in Hawaii. Here, you can enjoy the hustle and bustle of city life while being just a stone’s throw away from some of the world’s most beautiful beaches.

The city is a melting pot of cultures, offering a diverse range of activities, culinary delights and entertainment options. From high-end shopping at Ala Moana Center to the historic charm of Chinatown, Honolulu has something for everyone. It’s Hawaii’s best city to live, where you can experience a cosmopolitan lifestyle without sacrificing the island vibes.

For those who love the great outdoors, the nearby hiking trails and water sports opportunities are endless. Surf at the iconic Waikiki Beach or hike up the Diamond Head crater for panoramic views of the city. Honolulu is a great place to visit and live in Hawaii if you want a mix of urban amenities and natural beauty.

In a nutshell, Honolulu offers a balanced lifestyle that’s hard to find anywhere else. It’s the perfect blend of city and island life, making it an ideal place to settle down.

Hawaii's capital city, Honolulu, is among the best locations to live.
Hawaii’s capital city, Honolulu, is among the best locations to live.

3. Kahului

Unveil the magic of Maui in its bustling hub, Kahului. Often overlooked for its more touristy neighbors, this town is one of the best places in Hawaii to live. It’s the island’s commercial center, yet it offers a lifestyle that’s far from mundane.

Local eateries, charming boutiques, and cultural landmarks like the Maui Arts and Cultural Center make Kahului a vibrant place to reside. It’s not just a gateway to other Maui destinations. It’s a nice city to live in Hawaii in its own right. The town offers a blend of urban and island life that’s hard to find elsewhere.

Outdoor activities? Kahului has you covered. From windsurfing at Kanaha Beach Park to hiking in the lush Iao Valley, there’s no shortage of adventures. It’s a great place to live in Hawaii, especially if you’re an active individual who thrives in a diverse setting.

In Kahului, you’ll find a community that welcomes you with open arms, offering a slice of authentic Hawaii far removed from the tourist traps. It’s a locale that captures the essence of island living while providing all the conveniences you’d expect in a city.

Discover Maui's enchantment in its thriving center, Kahului.
Discover Maui’s enchantment in its thriving center, Kahului.

4. Kailua

Picture yourself sipping a fresh coconut on a world-class beach. That’s everyday life in Kailua, a coastal haven that’s one of the best places to live in Hawaii. Here, you’re surrounded by turquoise waters and powdery white sands, making it a paradise for beach lovers.

Kailua offers more than just breathtaking beaches. The town is dotted with boutique shops, cafes, and eateries that serve mouthwatering local cuisine. It’s a where to live in Hawaii that combines the allure of a beach town with the comforts of suburban living.

Adventure awaits around every corner. Kayak to the Mokulua Islands or hike the Pillbox trail for panoramic ocean views. Kailua is among the best Hawaii cities for those who can’t get enough of the great outdoors.

Living in Kailua means embracing the beach lifestyle to its fullest. It’s a town where the ocean is your backyard, and every day feels like a vacation.

One of the nicest areas to reside in Hawaii is Kailua, a beachfront paradise.
One of the nicest areas to reside in Hawaii is Kailua, a beachfront paradise.

5. Kaneohe

Trade city noise for the tranquil sounds of waterfalls and rustling palm trees. Kaneohe, located on Oahu’s windward side, is one of the good places to live in Hawaii. The area is renowned for its lush landscapes, including the breathtaking Kaneohe Bay and the majestic Ko’olau Mountains.

Life here is a nature lover’s dream. The Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden offers a peaceful retreat, while the nearby sandbars provide a unique spot for weekend relaxation. Kaneohe is one of the best areas to live in Hawaii, offering a serene lifestyle that’s still conveniently close to Honolulu’s amenities.

Water activities are a big part of life in Kaneohe. From kayaking and paddleboarding to fishing, the bay offers endless opportunities for aquatic adventures. It’s a nice part of Hawaii where you can live an active, outdoor lifestyle without the crowds of more touristy spots.

In Kaneohe, you’re not just close to nature; you’re immersed in it. It’s a place where the natural world enriches every aspect of daily life. This makes it an ideal locale for those seeking a balanced, peaceful existence.

Hawaii's best place to live is Kaneohe, which lies on the windward side of Oahu.
Hawaii’s best place to live is Kaneohe, which lies on the windward side of Oahu.

6. Kapolei

Dubbed “Oahu’s Second City,” Kapolei is quickly becoming a go-to destination for those seeking a high quality of life. As one of the great places to live in Hawaii, Kapolei offers a blend of urban sophistication and small-town charm.

The city is a hub for both business and leisure. With its growing number of shopping centers, restaurants, and entertainment venues, Kapolei is a where is the best place to live in Hawaii for those who want a bustling lifestyle without the chaos of a big city.

For outdoor enthusiasts, the nearby Ko Olina lagoons offer a tranquil escape. Golf courses, hiking trails, and community parks add to the city’s appeal. This makes it a most livable city in Hawaii for active individuals.

In Kapolei, you’ll find a community that’s both welcoming and forward-thinking. It’s a city that offers a little bit of everything, making it a fantastic place to call home.

Kapolei is fast becoming the preferred location for people looking for a high standard of living.
Kapolei is fast becoming the preferred location for people looking for a high standard of living.

7. Lahaina

Step back in time without leaving the comforts of the 21st century. Lahaina, once the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii, is Hawaii’s best place to live that offers a unique blend of history and modernity.

The town’s Front Street is a bustling area filled with shops, art galleries, and restaurants serving up delicious local and international cuisine. It’s among the best cities to live in Hawaii where history meets contemporary living, as evidenced by the 19th-century architecture that houses many of these establishments.

Water activities are abundant here, from whale-watching tours to snorkeling adventures. The nearby Kaanapali Beach is a haven for sunbathers and surfers alike. Lahaina is a what are the best places to live in Hawaii for those who appreciate both cultural richness and outdoor activities.

In Lahaina, you’ll experience the best of both worlds: a town steeped in historical significance yet brimming with modern amenities. It’s a place where every day feels like a journey through time, yet the conveniences of today are never far away.

With its distinctive fusion of modern and historical elements, Lahaina is the ideal place to live in Hawaii.
With its distinctive fusion of modern and historical elements, Lahaina is the ideal place to live in Hawaii.

8. Oahu

Discover a world where urban sophistication meets island tranquility. Oahu, often referred to as “The Gathering Place,” is one of the best towns to live in Hawaii that offers a bit of everything. From the bustling streets of Honolulu to the serene beaches of the North Shore, Oahu is a tapestry of experiences.

The island is a culinary paradise, boasting a variety of dining options that range from food trucks serving shrimp scampi to fine dining establishments offering Pacific Rim cuisine. It’s a place to move in Hawaii where your taste buds will never get bored.

Adventure is always just around the corner. Whether it’s surfing the big waves at Waimea Bay or hiking up the trails of the Ko’olau Range, Oahu offers endless opportunities for outdoor activities. It’s a where to live in FL that caters to thrill-seekers and relaxation enthusiasts alike.

In Oahu, you’ll find a harmonious blend of different cultures, landscapes, and activities. It’s an island that offers a dynamic lifestyle. This makes it an ideal place for anyone looking to experience the best of Hawaii.

With something for everyone, Oahu is one of the best places to live in Hawaii.
With something for everyone, Oahu is one of the best places to live in Hawaii.

9. Pearl City

Find your sanctuary in the midst of Oahu’s hustle and bustle. Pearl City, located near the island’s center, is one of the best Hawaii towns to live in that offers a suburban lifestyle with easy access to urban amenities.

The community is known for its excellent schools and family-friendly parks. This makes it among the top cities in Hawaii to live for families and young professionals alike. Shopping centers and dining options are plentiful, providing residents with a convenient lifestyle.

Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate the nearby hiking trails and Pearl Harbor’s historic sites. The city also offers stunning views of the surrounding landscapes, including Pearl Harbor and the Waianae Mountain Range. It’s listed as one of the best Hawaii cities that combines natural beauty with suburban comforts.

In Pearl City, you’ll find a tight-knit community that values quality of life. It’s a place where you can enjoy the best of both worlds: the serenity of suburban living and the excitement of city life just a short drive away.

Pearl City provides convenient access to metropolitan amenities while maintaining a suburban lifestyle.
Pearl City provides convenient access to metropolitan amenities while maintaining a suburban lifestyle.

10. Wailuku

Immerse yourself in a locale where culture and nature coalesce. Wailuku, situated in Maui, is the best city to live in Hawaii that offers a rich tapestry of experiences. From its historic Iao Theater to the natural wonder of the Iao Valley, Wailuku is a feast for the senses.

The town is a hotspot for arts and culture, hosting frequent events that showcase local talent. It’s Hawaii’s best city to live where you can enjoy live performances one day and explore scenic hiking trails the next.

Foodies will relish the diverse culinary scene, from traditional Hawaiian dishes to contemporary fusion cuisine. Wailuku is a nice city to live in Hawaii for those who appreciate the finer things in life, including a vibrant food culture.

Living in Wailuku means being part of a community that celebrates diversity in all its forms. It’s a town that offers a unique blend of cultural richness and natural beauty. This makes it a compelling choice for those looking to experience the essence of Maui.

The greatest place to live in Hawaii is Wailuku, which has a wide variety of activities to offer.
The greatest place to live in Hawaii is Wailuku, which has a wide variety of activities to offer.

11. Waimalu

Escape the crowds without sacrificing convenience. Waimalu, tucked away in Oahu’s southern region, is where to live in HI that offers a balanced lifestyle. It’s a place where you can enjoy the island’s natural beauty while still being close to urban amenities.

The area is known for its lush parks and scenic hiking trails. This makes it a best place in Hawaii to live for those who love the outdoors. Waimalu also offers easy access to shopping centers and dining options, providing a well-rounded lifestyle.

Beaches are just a short drive away, offering a quick escape for weekend relaxation or water activities. It’s the best Hawaii city where you can surf in the morning and dine in a gourmet restaurant by evening.

In Waimalu, you’ll find a harmonious blend of natural beauty and modern conveniences. It’s a locale that offers the best of both worlds. This makes it an ideal choice for those seeking a balanced, fulfilling life.

Waimalu is a place to reside in Hawaii that provides a healthy lifestyle.
Waimalu is a place to reside in Hawaii that provides a healthy lifestyle.

12. Waimea

Picture a place where the spirit of the Old West meets tropical paradise. Waimea, located on the Big Island, is one of the coolest places to live in Hawaii that offers this unique blend. Known for its paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) culture, Waimea provides a different take on island living.

The town is surrounded by rolling hills and pasturelands, making it Hawaii’s best cities to live for those who appreciate a more rustic setting. Yet, it’s just a short drive to some of the island’s most stunning beaches, offering the best of both worlds.

Local farmers’ markets and boutique shops add to the town’s charm, providing a community-focused lifestyle. Waimea is among the nice parts of Hawaii where you can enjoy the simple pleasures of life, from horseback riding to stargazing.

In Waimea, you’ll experience a unique fusion of cultures and landscapes. It’s a town that celebrates its rich history while embracing the beauty of its natural surroundings, making it a compelling choice for those looking for something a bit different.

With this special blend, Waimea is one of the hippest areas in Hawaii to reside.
With this special blend, Waimea is one of the hippest areas in Hawaii to reside.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the Best Places to Live in Hawaii             

Considering a move to Hawaii and wondering about the best spots? Here are some questions that I commonly receive about the state’s top living areas.

What part of Hawaii is best to live in?

Deciding on the best part of Hawaii to live in depends on various factors such as lifestyle preferences, career opportunities, and what you’re looking for in a community. If you’re a fan of bustling city life with all the amenities, Honolulu on Oahu might be your go-to. For those seeking a more laid-back lifestyle surrounded by nature, places like Hilo on the Big Island or Kahului on Maui offer a slower pace and scenic beauty. Kailua and Kaneohe, also on Oahu, provide a suburban feel with easy access to beaches and hiking trails. For a unique blend of cowboy culture and tropical living, Waimea on the Big Island is a compelling choice. Ultimately, the most livable cities in Hawaii offer a range of options to suit different tastes and needs.

What is the safest Hawaiian island to live on?

When it comes to safety, each Hawaiian island has its own set of considerations. Generally speaking, the smaller islands like Kauai and Molokai tend to have lower crime rates compared to more populated areas. However, Oahu, home to Honolulu, has numerous safe neighborhoods and excellent emergency services, making it a good place to live in Hawaii for those concerned about safety. The Big Island, with communities like Hilo and Waimea, also offers safe environments but can be prone to natural hazards like volcanic activity. Maui, featuring places like Kahului and Wailuku, is another safe option, especially for families. It’s essential to research specific neighborhoods and consult local crime statistics to determine the best areas to live in Hawaii in terms of safety.

What city should I live in Hawaii?

Choosing a city in Hawaii to call home is a personal decision that hinges on various factors. If you’re after a cosmopolitan lifestyle with a plethora of job opportunities, Honolulu is a great place to live in Hawaii. For those who prefer a more suburban feel with access to both city life and nature, Kailua and Kaneohe on Oahu are excellent choices.

On Maui, Kahului offers a balanced lifestyle with both natural beauty and modern amenities, making it one of the best cities to live in Hawaii. If you’re looking for a more relaxed pace, Hilo on the Big Island offers a tranquil setting surrounded by lush landscapes.

For a unique blend of cultures, Waimea on the Big Island offers a mix of paniolo (cowboy) culture and tropical beauty. Ultimately, the best city to live in Hawaii will align with your lifestyle needs, whether you’re looking for vibrant city life, a peaceful retreat, or something in between.

Hawaii has a certain charm and a list of things to keep in mind.
Hawaii has a certain charm and a list of things to keep in mind.

Where is the most affordable place to live in Hawaii?

Finding an affordable place in Hawaii can be challenging, given the state’s high cost of living. However, there are some areas where your dollar might stretch a bit further. Hilo, located on the Big Island, is often cited as one of the best towns to live in Hawaii for affordability. The cost of housing and daily expenses tends to be lower here compared to other parts of the state.

Wailuku and Kahului on Maui also offer more budget-friendly options, especially when you venture away from tourist-heavy areas. On Oahu, towns like Waimalu and Pearl City provide a more cost-effective lifestyle while still offering good amenities, making them top cities in Hawaii to live for budget-conscious individuals.

Kapolei, also on Oahu, is an up-and-coming area with new developments that might offer competitive pricing. It’s essential to consider not just housing costs but also the availability of job opportunities and public services when determining the most livable cities in Hawaii that are also affordable.

What salary do you need to live comfortably in Hawaii?

Living comfortably in Hawaii generally requires a higher income due to the state’s elevated cost of living. While the necessary salary can vary depending on your lifestyle and the island you choose, a ballpark figure often cited is around $60,000 to $80,000 per individual for a moderate lifestyle. For families, this number can easily exceed $100,000 when considering housing, education, and other family-related expenses.

Honolulu, being the state’s largest city, tends to be on the pricier side, so a higher income may be necessary to live comfortably there. On the other hand, smaller towns like Hilo or Wailuku might require a bit less, but job opportunities could be more limited, affecting your income potential. It’s one of the best Hawaii towns to live in, a decision that should factor in both income and expenditure.

Keep in mind that these are general figures and individual circumstances can vary. It’s crucial to budget for housing, utilities, groceries, transportation, healthcare, and leisure activities to get a comprehensive understanding of what salary you’ll need to live comfortably in one of the best areas to live in Hawaii.

Is Hawaii very expensive to live in?

Yes, Hawaii is generally considered one of the most expensive states to live in the U.S. The high cost is due to a variety of factors, including the expense of importing goods, elevated housing costs, and higher energy prices. Groceries can cost significantly more than on the mainland, and dining out often comes with a premium price tag.

However, the cost can vary depending on the island and even the specific neighborhood. For instance, Honolulu is typically more expensive than smaller towns like Hilo or Wailuku. While you might find more affordable housing options in these smaller communities, keep in mind that wages can also be lower, which balances out the best places in Hawaii to live in.

Despite the high cost, many find the unique lifestyle, natural beauty, and cultural richness to be worth the expense. It’s essential to budget carefully and consider both income and costs to determine if living in one of Hawaii’s best places to live is feasible for you.

Final Thoughts on the Best Places to Live in Hawaii

In wrapping up this comprehensive guide, it’s clear that Hawaii offers a diverse range of living options, each with its own unique charm and set of considerations. Whether you’re drawn to the bustling city life of Honolulu or the serene landscapes of Hilo, the Aloha State has something for everyone. However, it’s crucial to weigh factors like safety, affordability, and lifestyle needs when deciding on the best place to live in Hawaii.

While the cost of living can be a significant hurdle, the unparalleled natural beauty, rich cultural tapestry, and unique island lifestyle often make the financial challenges worth it for many. If you’re considering making the move, it’s essential to plan carefully, taking into account both the higher expenses and potentially lower wages. Researching specific neighborhoods, job opportunities, and local amenities can go a long way in ensuring you choose the best Hawaii cities that align with your life goals.

So, what’s the next step? If you’re serious about relocating to this Pacific paradise, consider visiting multiple islands and communities. Spend time talking to locals, exploring different neighborhoods, and perhaps even trying out the lifestyle for a short period before making a long-term commitment. After all, the best Hawaii towns to live in are those that meet your unique needs and aspirations.

Whether you’re a single professional, a growing family, or a retiree, Hawaii offers a range of options that can meet diverse lifestyle needs. So why wait? Start planning your move to one of the best cities to live in Hawaii and experience the Aloha spirit first-hand.

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