Why is the cost of living in Hawaii so high? 

There are the basic reasons why the cost of living in Hawaii so high when compared to other states:

  1. High cost of land.
  2. Highest energy costs in the nation.
  3. High taxation. 
  4. High labor costs.

All of this adds up to making Hawaii probably the most expensive place to live in the country.

Why is Housing So Expensive In Hawaii?

  1. Low supply and high demand.
  2. Restrictive development rules limit supply. 
  3. New Developments are politically unpopular.
  4. Hawaii has some of the most desirable real estate in the country.  

Hawaii put the breaks on new development back in the 70s and ever since, prices have been consistently rising at a high rate.  What makes matters worse is that to this day, though people want more affordable housing, they are nearly universally opposed to new development which keeps supply low and therefore prices stay high. 

Average Cost of Housing Rentals in Honolulu – 2023

TypeSq FtAvg Rent
1 Bedroom450$1,548
2 Bedroom900$3,096

Hawaii House and Condo Median and Average Sale Prices – 2023

Big IslandCondo$635,000$927,000
Big IslandHome$520,000$921,000

Cost of Living in Hawaii: Groceries 2023

For most folks living in the US mainland, grocery shopping will be a shocking experience.  Put just a few items in your basket and watch the tab hit to $100.  Costco shopping will easily top $300.  Here’s a sampling of what things cost.  

ItemAverage Cost
Milk (regular), (1 gal)$7.71
Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g)$6.37
Eggs (regular) (12)$6.89
Local Cheese (1 lb)$7.57
Water (1.5 liter bottle)$2.53
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range)$17.50
Domestic Beer (16 oz bottle)$3.25
Imported Beer (12 oz bottle)$3.36
Cigarettes 20 Pack (Marlboro)$11.98
Chicken Fillets (1 lb)$8.45
Apples (1 lb)$3.49
Oranges (1 lb)$3.06
Potato (1 lb)$2.74
Lettuce (1 head)$3.89
Rice (white), (1 lb)$3.20
Tomato (1 lb)$3.73
Banana (1 lb)$2.30
Onion (1 lb)$2.36
Beef Round (1 lb) (or Equivalent Back Leg Red Meat)$10.61
Beef Round (1 lb) (or Equivalent Back Leg Red Meat)$10.65

Should you move to Hawaii? Find out and take the quiz.

Cost of Eating Out at Restaurants in Hawaii

Eating out in Hawaii is quite the luxury. We’ve got fabulous restaurants and you will pay, fabulously, for them. 

ItemAverage Cost
Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant$18.93
Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course$82.37
McMeal at McDonalds (or Equivalent Combo Meal)$11.92
Domestic Beer (16 oz draught)$7.02
Imported Beer (12 oz bottle)$8.96
Coke/Pepsi (12 oz bottle)$2.41
Water (12 oz bottle) $2.05
Cappuccino (regular)$5.43

Cost of Living in Hawaii: Monthly Utilities 2023

Nearly all of Hawaii’s energy is either coal, oil, or natural gas via ships. Solar is growing, but right now it has not made a dent in the high prices. 

ItemAverage Cost
Basic (Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Water, Garbage) for 900 sq. ft.Apartment$287.74
1 min. of Prepaid Mobile Tariff Local (No Discounts or Plans)$0.35
Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL)$64.31

Cost of Transportation & Gas Prices in Hawaii – 2023

Our gas prices are high, but other states like California and Nevada with high fuel taxes are higher. 

ItemAverage Cost
One-way Ticket (Local Transport)$3.00
Monthly Pass (Regular Price)$80.23
Gasoline (1 gal)$5.37
Volkswagen Golf 1.4 120 HP Trendline (Or Equivalent New Car)$28,033.60
Toyota Corolla Sedan 1.6l 97kW Comfort (Or Equivalent New Car)$21,755.22
Taxi Start (Normal Tariff)$3.49
Taxi 0.62 miles (Normal Tariff)$2.19
Taxi 1hour Waiting (Normal Tariff)$48.27

Cost of Childcare & Private School in Hawaii

Following our “shocking” theme, how do these compare with where you live today?

ItemAverage Cost
Preschool (or Kindergarten), Full Day, Private, Monthly for 1 Child$1,242.41
International Primary School, Yearly for 1 Child$23,679.29

Cost of Clothing in Hawaii

ItemAverage Cost
1 Pair of Jeans (Levis 501 Or Similar)$52.29
1 Summer Dress in a Chain Store (Zara, H&M, ...)$47.90
1 Pair of Nike Running Shoes (Mid-Range)$105.49
1 Pair of Men Leather Business Shoes$146.29

Cost of Sports And Leisure in Hawaii

ItemAverage Cost
Fitness Club, Monthly Fee for 1 Adult$53.07
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend)$38.41
Cinema, International Release, 1 Seat$14.98

Is the high cost of living in Hawaii worth it for you? How can you tell?

High recommend you watch this video. I have it set to start in the middle where I will help you figure out if Hawaii will be right for you, dollar-wise. 

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Other high costs of living in Hawaii you probably didn’t think of:

High cost of traveling practically anywhere

For many of us, Hawaii is so awesome that we don’t want to go anywhere else, ever.  But even still, various circumstances will require you travel off-island, especially if you have family on the mainland.

Why it will cost more when traveling from Hawaii to the mainland

  • Your shortest possible trip is to California and that’s 4 hours.
  • East Coast is 10 hours
  • Non-stop flights are much, much more expensive, so you’ll probably take a longer multi-leg flight.
  • Because Hawaii flights usually arrive in the afternoon, you’ll have to get there one day prior and leave one day after whatever your purpose is for traveling there.
  • Meaning – there’s no such thing as a one day trip.  It’s a minimum of 3 days. 
  • All of this adds up to make mainland trips very expensive.

High Cost of Family Travel from Hawaii

Unless you never want to see your family again, you’ll want to go there for the holiday or big family events like weddings, baptisms, and funerals. Each of those are going to cost you.

Assuming you will stay with family and avoid hotel costs, you’re looking at minimum $1,000 and probably more like $1,500 if you count miscellaneous spending. And because of Hawaii’s time zone difference, you have to add 2 days for travel time alone. So if you want to spend 5 days with family, you have to be away for 7 days. Add in the cost of lost wages and you’re looking at $3,000 per trip. And this assumes it’s just you by yourself. Married with kids? You’re looking at $5,000 just to touch your feet on the ground and now you’ve got food costs you’re talking about an easy $7,000. Per trip.

How does your city compare to Honolulu? 

We’ve got specific cost comparisons for the top US cities on this page: Cost of Living in Hawaii Compared To Your City