The lighter side of real estate

These Are The 10 Best Places To Live In Hawaii

If you’re looking for your own little piece of paradise in Hawaii, start your search in these ten places.

Natalie Grigson

Staff Writer

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At Movoto Real Estate, we’ve traversed the Internet to bring you the best of the best when it comes to places you can live in the U.S. We’re obsessed with uncovering the hidden gems in our country; the little paradises within states. Places like Napili-Honokowai, Hawaii, for example.

According to our latest ranking, this locale in Maui County was ranked the very best place to live in a state, that, arguably, is itself the best place to live in the U.S—that is, if breathtaking natural beauty, a laid-back vibe, warm temperatures, and some of the most unique culture in the world are your type of mai tai. But hey, maybe paradise isn’t for everyone.

Which places in Hawaii ranked the highest, aside from Napili-Honokowai? Say Aloha to these paradises of paradise; the 10 best places in Hawaii:

1. CDP of Napili-Honokowai
2. CDP of Halawa (tie)
2. CDP of Aiea (tie)
4. CDP of Pearl City
5. CDP of Waimalu
6. CDP of Kaneohe
7. CDP of Kailua
8. CDP of Hickam Housing
9. CDP of Kaneohe Station (tie)
9. CDP of Haiku-Pauwela (tie)

If you’re a resident of the Aloha State, you probably see a bit of a pattern here: eight out of 10 of these paradises are in Honolulu. Just what’s so great about the “sheltered bay”?  Keep reading and we’ll tell you just that, plus the method behind our analysis.

How We Did It

Just like our other Big Deal Lists, we needed some measurable criteria to come up with our top 10 ranking. Of course, if we did judge our list by things like natural beauty, gorgeous people, and laid back vibe, well, we’d probably have ended up with a 10-way tie. So instead, we relied on the following seven criteria:

  • Total amenities
  • Quality of life (cost of living, median home price, median rent, median household income, and student-to-teacher ratio)
  • Total crimes
  • Tax rates (sales tax and income tax)
  • Unemployment
  • Commute time
  • Weather (temperature and air quality)

From there, we looked at the U.S. Census data for all of the places in Hawaii with populations over 5,000 people. After a quick break to catch some sun (just getting into the spirit of the post), we ranked each place from 1 to 46 in each of the seven criteria above, with 1 being the best possible score. After that, we averaged each ranking for an overall Big Deal Score, with the lowest score being the winner.

For those of you islanders who don’t see your city, town, or place of residence in our top 10, feel free to check out the bottom of the post with our complete rankings. For now, though, we’ll take a closer look at our winning place, Napili-Honokowai—after you grab some juice, take a break to read the paper, or maybe stretch out in a hammock.

1. Napili-Honokowai

Napili-Honokowai, HI

Source: Flickr user John-Morgan

Napili-Honokowai, located in Maui County, is one of just two places not in Honolulu in our top 10. Aside from being the home to the famous Maui Tacos—where, let’s be honest, the barbecue pork is reason enough to move to the area—Napili-Honokowai ranked well in our analysis for a number of reasons, but mostly for its low unemployment rate of just 5.7 percent (shared with all of our top 10), and some of the best weather in Hawaii: an average summer temperature of 81 degrees and an air quality score of just 20 (the lower the better).

This little paradise also had one of the shortest commute times on our list, an average of just 19 minutes, which means less time in the car and more time to enjoy the area.

2. Halawa

Halawa, HI

Source: Flickr user David Holt London

Halawa may have a population of just over 14,000 people, but as we found in our ranking, this certainly doesn’t mean that it’s lacking for things to do. There is surfing and general beaching about, of course; but then there are places like the Moon Garden Restaurant and Alan Wong’s Restaurant nearby, which are pretty much reason enough to move to the area. In fact, this place in Honolulu came in as No. 2 on list for its sheer number of nearby amenities.

Much like our No. 1 place, Halawa also had an average summer temperature of 81, an air quality score of 20, and an unemployment rate of just 5.7 percent; but where Halawa stood out was in its quality of life score where it ranked 12th out of 46. That’s because Halawa had a low student-teacher ratio of 16 to 1 and one of the higher median home prices on our list, $584,300, indicating the area’s desirability. (If that’s not a strong enough indication, just look at the picture of this place.)

2. Aiea (tie)

Aiea, HI

Source: Flickr user jmck

Tied with Halawa for our No. 2 spot was Aiea. This Honolulu County place came in high in our ranking, not because it’s home to the state’s largest mall, or even because of the Aiea Shopping Center with Koa Pancake House, but because it had one of the highest quality of life scores on our list.

Of course, much of this does have to do with things like shopping, which make the area more desirable, which ultimately jacks rent and home prices up. In Aiea, the median price for rent was $2,050 and the median home price was $656,400. People clearly want to live here.

Shopping isn’t the only reason, either; Aiea scored well in our analysis for its beautiful weather, low unemployment rate, and one of the lower crime rates on our list, just 2,610 crimes per 100,000 people.

4. Pearl City

Pearl City, HI

Source: Flickr user Official U.S. Navy Imagery

Yet another place in Honolulu County (I think you’ll be seeing a pattern here), Pearl City came in high on our list, mostly for its great quality of life score, low unemployment, beautiful weather, and a high number of amenities. That last part makes sense considering that, at 47,698 residents, Pearl City was the largest place in our top 10.

The reason Pearl City did so well in quality of was because of its high median income of $82,649, median home price of $564,100, and a median rent of $1,630; good indicators for the area’s desirability. Of course, the unemployment rate of just 5.7 percent had something to do with this; or it could just be the lilikoi cheesecake mochi at Made in Hawaii Foods. That’s reason enough to live in Pearl City right there.

5. Waimalu

Waimalu, HI

Source: Flickr user torus

Unlike the other Honolulu County places on our list so far, Waimalu, with 13,730 residents, knocked it out of the park for its number of amenities.

Waimalu also had a comparatively low cost of living of 138. Yes, that may seem a bit high if you’re reading this in any of the other 49 states, where the average cost of living is 100; but in Hawaii, this isn’t too bad. Just look at Mililani Mauka, where the cost of living is 178. That’s even worse than San Francisco. This low-ish cost of living plus a median household income of $76,244 and a student-teacher ratio of 16 to 1 gave Waimalu an overall high score for quality of life.

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6. Kaneohe

Kaneohe, HI

Source: Flickr user Vatsek

This place may have started out as an important agricultural area, but today Kaneohe is mostly a residential area, filled with things to do. In fact, this place of 34,597 residents is the largest of several communities along the Kaneohe Bay and one of the two largest residential centers on this side of Oahu.

The high median home price of $622,300 and rent price of $1,651 indicate a strong desirability to live in the area. This, plus the median household income of $81,927 and low student-teacher ratio of 16 to 1, combine to give Kaneohe one of the highest overall scores for quality of life on our list.

7. Kailua

Kailua, HI

Source: Flickr user skyseeker

Just north of the city of Honolulu lies the seventh best place in Hawaii, Kailua. This Census designated place of 38,635 residents really stood out in its high number of amenities and short commute time of just 21 minutes on average. As far as amenities go, well, where to begin? You can actually get some really delicious Korean food in Kailua at Willow Tree; if that’s not your thing, grab a pizza at Prima. Or skip dinner altogether and just head to Bob’s Sports Bar (only a short commute away!) for some pitchers of beer and a game of pool.

A minimal commute, some of Hawaii’s top restaurants and things to do, plus an average summer temperature of 80 degrees and an air quality score of 20? We don’t know why you’d ever want to leave (well, except maybe to visit Napili-Honokowai).

8. Hickam Housing

Hickam Housing, HI

Source: Google Maps

Hickam Housing is best known as a part of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, but as our analysis uncovered, it is also a wonderful place to live. With just 6,920 residents, Hickam Housing is easily the smallest place in our top 10, but proportionally, actually has a good number of amenities and things to do nearby.

Hickam Housing residents also had one of the shortest commute times in our analysis, just 15 minutes. Compare that to, say, Ewa Villages where the average commute time is 40 minutes, and you’ll see why residents love Hickam Housing. Of course, the beautiful Hickam Beach and Picnic Area, Hickam Field, and for those residents with a Military ID, Foster Point Peninsula… well, all of this might have something to do with it, too.

9. Kaneohe Station (tie)

Kaneohe Station, HI

Source: Flickr user Official U.S. Navy Imagery

This Marine Corps Air Station came in high on our list for its relatively strong quality of life score. That’s because Kaneohe Station has a median home price of $741,200 and rent price of $2,040, which is a good pointer to the area’s desirability. Plus, it has one of the lowest student-teacher ratios on our list, just 16 to 1.

Because most residents work at the station itself, not only is the unemployment rate one of the lowest in the state at 5.7 percent, but the commute time is also one of the fastest—an average of just 14 minutes to work.

Of course residents need a life outside of work in Kaneohe Station; afterall, this is still Hawaii. So it’s a good thing that just a short commute away, there are tons of adventures to be had—visiting the botanical gardens, gong to the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, or climbing the Haiku Stairs, which just sounds magical. Now this is why you live in Kaneohe.

9. Haiku-Pauwela

Haiku-Pauwela, HI

Source: Flickr user Navin75

If you have ever been to Tuk Tuk Thai Food Truck in Haiku-Pauwela, you know full well that the Panang Curry is reason enough to live in this most poetic-sounding of places. Of course it’s not the only reason residents love it here (though it’s a big one); it also had one of the highest median home values in the state at $783,300. This, plus its low student to teacher ratio, contributed to its overall quality of life score.

So if you’re in Haiku-Pauwela, perhaps whiling away the day at the Asian Dream Temple, and things are getting a little bit stressful; just remember, you have one of the highest qualities of life in Hawaii, you have Tuk Tuk, and you basically live in a poem. It’s all good.

Aloha, Hawaii!

It’s a good thing that we rely on facts and figures to come up with our rankings, because if we’d been basing this off of natural beauty, culture, gorgeous people, and a laid-back vibe, well, we’d probably have ended up with a lot more ties and a much longer list.

As it was though, we were able to (scientifically) narrow it down to this list of paradises among Paradise. So if you are lucky enough to live in one of these 10 places—especially in Napili-Honokowai—congratulations to you. Not only do you live on one of the most beautiful islands in the world, but you live in one of the best places within it. For that you win… well, you just win.

Best Places in Hawaii

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posted on: March 31, 2014
122,904 views, 2 comments


  1. cre_sam

    This article was obviously written by someone white and who doesn’t live in Hawaii. All of the places mentioned here are predominantly white and unaffordable to most local people. Also, why include a military bases where ONLY people who are in the Military can live? This is a totally unrealistic view of Hawaii. So sure if you want to move to Hawaii to live in the same white cookie cutter neighborhoods as the mainland than these would definitely be your pick…

  2. YoYo

    So what areas are best. I can’t afford white cookie cutter neighborhoods, but want to live decently.


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