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Live on the Big Island Blog

Your Big Island Real Estate resource, by Annette Mejia

How Much Does it Cost to Live in Hawaii?

Hawaiian Beach

For many people, Hawaii tops the list of dream locations. Island living, a fabulous climate, stunning scenery and a relaxed pace of life are all big draws for those of us who fantasize about escaping the rat race and moving somewhere a little bit special.

But if you’re looking to move somewhere with a low cost of living Hawaii may not be your first choice. In this blog, I’ll be answering a question I hear all the time: “Is it expensive to live in Hawaii?”, crunching the numbers to discover whether your Hawaiian daydream is  
  financially viable and asking: Can you put a price on quality of life?

How much does it cost to live in Hawaii?

A combination of geography and desirability make Hawaii a comparatively costly place to live. The cost of transporting goods to the Islands adds to the price tag of many commodities including food and white goods.

Meanwhile, sheer demand for a “Hawaiian lifestyle” has an effect on property prices. As a universally desirable location with limited room for building new properties, the cost of rent and property is relatively steep compared to the US average. Overall, you’ll pay less to live in Hawaii than you would in hot spots like New York. Compared to foreign nations like the UK and Japan, the cost of living is, again, often lower.

Let’s take a closer look at how cost of living in Hawaii breaks down…

Property

Property costs Hawaii

At 10,430 km2, Hawaii’s Big Island is larger than all of the Hawaiian islands combined. Yet, even in total, there’s no denying that space in Hawaii is limited. From rugged terrain which is impossible to build on, to protected land where building in prohibited, space on Hawaii is at a premium compared to mainland US.

Combined with ever-present and growing demand, this lack of space means that property prices and rental prices are high. These property prices from April 2015 will give you a picture of typical property prices on key islands:

  • Hawaii (Big Island) – $350,000
  • Kauai – $650,000
  • Maui- $586,000
  • Oahu – $675,000

Utilities

Gasoline prices in Hawaii

The majority of Hawaii’s electricity generators depend on petroleum, which means that the price of gas can cause electricity rates to fluctuate. In recent years Hawaiians have been paying the highest rates for electricity in the US, but with gas prices now in decline, energy rates are at a 3 year low on the islands, and falling. As of February 2015, electricity was priced at:

  • Hawaii (Big Island) – 33.8 cents per kWh.
  • Lanai – 37.3 cents per kWh
  • Molokai- 37.7 cents per kWh
  • Oahu – 27.9 cents per kWh

On average, that works out at around $214.71 per month for a typical bill for 600kW. With the state committed to building more renewable energy sources by 2030, bills could fall further in future.

Water rates vary between islands, dependent on local infrastructure. Honolulu enjoys the lower rates (around $46.73 monthly) thanks to a dense water system and a “compact” neighborhood. On the Big Island, however, an ageing system of pipes is pushing up prices as infrastructure demands repairs. Prices are expected to rise by as much as 20% from $50.87 per month over the coming 5 years

Hawaii has long had the highest gas prices in the US, but this month (May 2015) California finally took the crown as the costliest state for gas in the country. While prices at the pumps are higher than the national average, they are far lower than the sky high rates of 2014. The summer of 2015 is set to be the cheapest for gas since 2009. As of May 2015, gas is at $3.19 a gallon as a Hawaiian average.

Food & goods

Food in Hawaii

With 80% of all goods and 90% of food on Hawaii coming from the mainland via ship or air, groceries and white goods do not come at competitive rates. However, the extra journey may not add as much to your cost of living in Hawaii as you may think…

In fact, the need for extra transportation could add as little as 7.5% to your cost of living and, if other estimates are correct, this percentage could be much, much lower thanks to big investments by Hawaii’s primary shipping company Matson Navigation Co. in upgrading their fleet.

To give you a general idea of food prices in Hawaii at the moment. In May in Honolulu you could expect to pay:

  • 1 liter of whole fat milk – $1.57
  • 1 kg of apples – $4.45
  • 1 bottle of good table wine – $11
  • 500g of chicken breast – $5.90
  • 2 liters of Coca-Cola – $1.96

Entertainment

Hawaiian beach

One of the very many beautiful things about Hawaii is the abundance of utterly stunning nature right on your doorstep. Whether you love long walks, a scenic surf, a relaxing swim or a romantic evening on the beach as the sun sets, there’s a lot of living to be done on Hawaii that’s absolutely free. It’s this freedom and quality of life which really starts to add up when you weigh it against Hawaii’s cost of living.

Meanwhile, the majority of paid-for entertainment is no more expensive than it is on the mainland. A pair of cinema tickets will set you back around $11, while a dinner for two at a good quality Italian restaurant will come in at around $73.

Can you put a price on quality of life?

While all these numbers answer the question of “is it expensive to live in Hawaii?” with a fairly clear “yes”, it’s also clear that there are a huge number of pay offs you’ll receive as a local. How can you put a price on a relaxed pace of life, good living and access to incredibly beautiful nature all year round?

While it does cost a little more to live in Hawaii, the rewards are extraordinary and, if you can budget for a higher cost of living Hawaii is a location worth investing in.

Do you have any further questions about the cost of living in Hawaii? Are you already interested in exploring property on The Big Island? Contact Live on the Big Island team on (808) 217-8500 or take a look at Big Island properties online today.

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