When we landed in Hawaii a little over a year ago we knew that it would be an expensive venture. We had always heard everyone say well I would love it but I could never live in Hawaii since it is out of our price range. We happened to find a great sublet on Oahu for 6 months so decided to go for it knowing we could always move on if it really was a pricey as most people say.
When the time came to find a house we decided, quite quickly, that we were priced out of Oahu. That coupled with the tourism and traffic and overall sense of craziness on Oahu made us take a closer look at the other islands. Since I have always had a love for all things volcanic we set our eyes on the Big Island. When we started researching we found an adorable little hippie type enclave called Pahoa that seemed to suit us so plans moved forward.
We have been here now for over a year so I think we have a pretty good handle on the costs of living. It’s been a shock after the extremely inexpensive cost of living in Central America and SE Asia but of all the islands this one is your best bet for an affordable place to live in paradise!
For a little background, my husband and I plus our 3 growing boys, aged 15, 11 and 7 ended up moving to Pahoa after many years of living out of the country. All information included is for 5 people.. So without further wait…
Housing Cost in Hawaii
Housing varies on the island. The Kona side is a bit more expensive than the Hilo side that I live on. All my details will be for the Hilo side, in particular Keaau/Pahoa. There is a huge range of prices for housing but we live in a 3 bedroom, 2 bath perfectly adequate sized home for $850 a month. We are on 1 private acre less than 1 mile from the ocean and aside from the 3 bedrooms we also have a lovely screened porch and large carport that is used as a soccer field and basketball court most of the year although it could easily house 2 cars.
I have seen everything from a small ohana or studio for $300 a month to a quite extravagant place for well over $3000 a month. Our home is not fancy or huge but it’s in a nice safe neighborhood near the ocean and is a great size for our family. It is by far the cheapest place to rent on the island!
Utility Cost in Hawaii
The utilities are pretty much the same as you would find on the mainland with 1 exception; electric! The rate per kwh is more than double the next most expensive state so as you can imagine that means a whole lot! The good news is that, with the exception of a few areas, there is really no need for heating or air conditioning, 2 of the most devastating aspects to any electric bill. You can also use solar and gas for some items to offset the cost. In fact I would highly suggest a place that had some type of solar power.
Here is a list of what we pay for our monthly utilities:
- Home phone and internet (decent speed) $65
- Satellite (Direct TV) $60
- 2 cellphones with Verizon 4g of data per month $120 (same as anyplace)
- Electric $350
Another nice aspect to life on the Hilo side of the big island is that we have a catchment tank so no water bills. We also have a septic tank so no bills on that end. We do need to buy water filters every few months but at $10 each this is not much of an issue. There is no garbage pick up so we also get to skip out on that expense. When we have a pail full we just gather it up and head to the transfer station. Yard maintenance for out 1 acre runs about $50 per month, quite reasonable.
Cost of Extras To Live in Hawaii
There are always extras that seem to be monthly occurrences. Car costs, braces, new computers etc but we have not found any of that to be much more expensive than anyplace on the mainland. Gas prices are higher, probably $.80 more on average. Anything you need shipped here will oftentimes cost extra and may even be flat out unavailable for shipping. And forget about Amazon prime’s 2 day shipping deal…read the fine print. Not available in Hawaii!
As far as touring around and activities go, this can be done very inexpensively. If you want to do a tour or scuba diving it will cost you, over $100 per person most times. The great thing here though are all the beautiful beaches, hiking, and waterfalls. All of these are free of charge and are really what make Hawaii so amazing! As with anything else you can spend a lot or spend nothing at all. No matter which way you go it will be memorable.
Food Cost in Hawaii
Now this is one of the biggest expenses and, aside from electric, where the cost really is quite a bit higher than average. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be found at local farmers markets or grown in your own yard so the local varieties tend to be reasonably priced. I work my butt off to shop to sales and research the cheapest possible way to get food and I still spend about $1500 a month of food and that is with hardly any eating out ever. If you are planning to live here I would highly suggest buying in bulk with sales and avoiding any tourist driven markets. You can also trek to the other side of the island where there is a Costco!
So you see it really is not that expensive to live in Hawaii! Sure, if you want to live on the beach in the North Shore of Oahu or Kauai it will be super pricey but if Hawaii is your goal you can make it happen, even with kids in tow!
This post is by Mary of Bohemian Travelers, a family of 5 adventurers who dropped out of the rat race over seven years ago in search of a more fulfilling lifestyle. After simplifying their lives, they spent a few years exploring Central America before heading off Southeast Asia and are now in Hawaii!. As Mary says, “Traveling and living with kids in exotic locations, homeschooling our boys, and working as digital nomads has taught us many useful life lessons. It’s our hope that by sharing our experiences on this site others will be encouraged to attempt a life of permanent adventure. It’s a heck of a lot more exciting than the suburban rat trap.” You can follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bohemiantravelers