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Nowhere in the U.S. will you find a higher cost of living than Hawaii, the nation’s most expensive state. Across the board, you’ll find high costs of food, housing, and transportation. To live comfortably in Hawaii, a single adult needs to make around $75,640 a year.
Made up of eight major, breathtaking islands (seven of which are inhabited), paradise abounds in the state of Hawaii on white sand beaches, cool ocean breezes, and stunning mountains ridged by volcanic rock. But just how much do you need to make this paradisial getaway your regular morning view?
Here to break down the real costs of living in Hawaii is Jerry, the car and homeowners insurance super app that makes insurance a breeze. We’ll start with a general overview of the cost of living index, then break that up into smaller chunks (like what you should budget for gas and groceries).
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How high is the cost of living in Hawaii?
When you picture Hawaii you probably think of beautiful beaches, stunning volcanic mountains, and picturesque sunsets—but paradise comes at a price. In Hawaii, that’s a cost of living index of 193.3, nearly double the national average.
That’s right—across all measures except for healthcare, you’ll find Hawaii is the most expensive place to live in the U.S.
When you break the cost of living down into more bite-sized pieces—like the cost of food, housing, and transportation—you’ll find that the exact numbers vary by island and county. Oahu, has a median home price of $1.2 million, making it the most expensive island to live on.
The “Big Island,” by contrast, is the least populated and also most affordable—although when you’re in Hawaii, “affordability” is a pretty relative term.
Below, we’ll discuss how this elevated cost of living translates into real-world expenses like groceries, gas, housing, and healthcare on in Oahu, Hawaii’s most populated island. However, you can expect to find modest variations across the seven islands and five counties of the state.
Here’s what you can expect to pay for the essentials as a resident in Hawaii, as compared to the national average.
Food: $800-$1,000 per month
There’s no shortage of locally-grown coffee, coconuts, or pineapples among the Hawaiian islands. That being said, the majority of Hawaii’s grocery products are shipped in from the Mainland, which significantly increases the average cost of food.
With a grocery index of 152—compared to the national average of 100—Hawaii ranks as the most expensive place to buy groceries in the country.
You may not be surprised to learn that groceries in Hawaii exceed the average U.S. expense—but when you break down your grocery list by item, the prices may shock you. You can expect to pay about $5.30 for a loaf of bread, $3 for a carton of eggs, and nearly $8 for a gallon of milk—and if you’re planning on eating out for dinner, you’ll need to budget even more.
According to a 2020 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Honolulu-area households spent $6,118 annually on groceries and an additional $3,835 on dining out. Given recent inflation surrounding food costs, these estimates are slightly lower than what you can expect to pay in 2022.
Healthcare: $688 per month
Healthcare in Hawaii is 15% above the national average, which means the average household spends about $8,262 a year on healthcare costs. That’s an average monthly premium of $688—well above the national average of $477 a month. Still, it’s on par with healthcare costs among America’s most expensive states, including California and New York.
Keep in mind that your cost of healthcare can vary drastically depending on whether you’re paying for an individual or family plan, as well as the size and composition of your household. If there’s someone in your home with expensive prescriptions or ongoing medical concerns, you could wind up paying even more for healthcare in Hawaii.
Housing: $1,500-$4,000 per month
You’ll find the highest housing costs in the country in Honolulu, where average sale prices are over 200% above the U.S. norm.
The median home price is $1.2 million in Honolulu, and just around $1 million in every other county—but how that translates into a monthly payment, exactly, will depend on the type of home you live in:
- Median monthly mortgage payment: $2,472
- Average studio rent: $1,891
- Average one-bedroom rent: $2,163
- Average two-bedroom rent: $2,763
- Average three-bedroom rent: $3,869
You won’t find an apartment of any size for less than $1,000 per month in Hawaii—but the majority of decent apartments and condos are priced between $1,100 and $2,000 (before utilities). For luxury amenities, ocean views, and beachfront access, you can expect to shell out closer to $3,000 a month.
Transportation: $80-$1,145 per month
If you’re moving to Hawaii, you’ll likely need a car to get around. The island of Oahu has an extensive public transport system that may curb the necessity of owning your own vehicle, and you can obtain a bus pass for only $80 a month (or $880 for a full year). Otherwise, you’ll want your own car—and owning one on the island won’t be cheap.
If you already own a vehicle and want to bring it with you, you can expect to pay between $1,500 to $2,100 to have it shipped in from the Mainland.
On top of that, car registration costs in Hawaii are among the highest in the country—not to mention the state charges a beautification fee when you register your vehicle to help offset municipal costs of removing abandoned vehicles (an unexpectedly rampant problem across Hawaii’s five counties).
- Average annual cost of car insurance in Hawaii: $1,145
- Average commute length in Hawaii: 23.4 minutes
- Average cost of a gallon of gas, June 2022: $5.93
How much you need to live comfortably in Hawaii: $75,640-$154,760 per year
Based on the numbers above, one thing is clear: living in Hawaii is expensive. Just how expensive depends on your exact circumstances—but even if you’re a single individual looking to live alone and take the bus everywhere, you’ll still want to make at least $75,000 a year to live comfortably.
That means you’ll need to make about $22.69/hour.
If you’re moving with your family unit, you’ll need to make more—between $33.23/hour and $71.35/hour for families with 1-3 children, according to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator.
Given Hawaii’s minimum wage is currently set at only $10.10/hour, living comfortably in the Aloha State can prove a significant challenge. And even when you take into account the essentials of food, healthcare, housing, and transportation, there are tons of non-essentials that you’ll likely be paying for (like Mcdonald's or a night out). Here are how those prices compare to the national average:
- Average cost of a date: $240 (U.S. average: $116)
- Average cost of a cocktail in Honolulu: $13 (U.S. average: $11)
- Average cost of a Big Mac: $5.31 (that’s right, Hawaii even has the most expensive Big Macs)
- Average cost of tourist attractions: $45 per person
- Average sales tax: 4.44% (U.S. average: 5.09%)
At the end of the day, what it means to “live comfortably” can only be defined by you. You may find you’re able to live happily in your own little slice of paradise for significantly less than the average estimate—after all, there are hidden gems nestled all along the shores of Hawaii’s seven islands.
Hawaii’s most affordable cities
We’ve focused on what it’s like to live in Honolulu County (Hawaii’s most populated area). More affordable cities, however, dot the coastlines of Oahu’s neighboring islands, including Maui and the Big Island:
- Hilo (COLI: 125): You’ll find rainbow waterfalls, bubbling basalt-lava rock pools, lush rainforest, and a cost of living nearly 50% lower than Honolulu’s in this coastal community, located on the Big Island.
- Wailuku (COL: 153): The former tourist retreat-turned laid-back neighborhood, the small city of Wailuku on the island of Maui is pedestrian- and bike-friendly, and has a median monthly rent of just $1,069.
- Hana (COLI: 163.6): If you dream of the laid-back, surfer-and-sea-turtle beach vibes of Hawaiian postcards, look no further than Hana, a quaint town off the coast of Maui with a median rent of only $950.
If you’re looking for an affordable way to realize your dream of moving to Hawaii, these cities could be the perfect place for you!
How to find home, renters, and car insurance in Hawaii
If you’re planning a move to the islands, you’ll need to update your insurance carriers (or find a new policy entirely). But moving is stressful enough—that’s why Jerry’s got your back as the #1 rated insurance app in the country.
Jerry is the easiest and most effective way to find an auto, home, or renters policy perfect for you. As a licensed broker, Jerry does the hard work of collecting quotes. All you have to do is download the app, answer a couple of questions, and in less than a minute Jerry can find you dozens of quotes from the top insurance providers.
Shop and compare rates side-by-side right in the app. When you find the one that’s right for you, Jerry makes it easy to switch by taking care of the forms and phone calls—we can even help you cancel your old policy!
Compare insurance quotes from 50+ carriers with Jerry in under 45 seconds