Cheapest Places to Live in Hawaii: Paradise on a Budget!

Aloha, fellow paradise-seekers!

Have you ever daydreamed about living in Hawaii, surrounded by lush landscapes, mesmerizing waterfalls, and sandy beaches that seem to stretch on forever? Well, I’m here to tell you that dreams can come true – but with a catch. It’s no secret that island living comes with its own set of challenges – primarily the high cost of living.

Luckily for you, my boyfriend and I have been roaming and nesting in various Hawaiian islands due to our work for quite some time now. We’ve explored each corner extensively and indulged in both the touristy delights as well as the local treasures. Armed with this first-hand experience (and plenty of anecdotes!), we are ready to guide you towards affordable paradise living.

Speaking from personal experience – believe me when I say there are still some hidden gems where your wallet won’t feel lighter than air! After combing through countless options and considering factors such as housing costs, transportation expenses, food prices, and overall quality of life; we’ve handpicked 5 budget-friendly havens just for you.

Warning: You may find yourself packing up your life sooner than expected once these breathtakingly affordable cities cast their spell on you!

Now kick off those flip-flops and dive into a world where tropical dreams meet practical reality! Let’s discover our top picks for the most affordable places to live in Hawaii together.

#1. Hilo – The Capital of the Big Island

This great city lies on the windward (East) side of the Big Island. It’s a great pick for those looking for a big-city lifestyle, at affordable prices. It’s also a city that offers great content, natural beauty,y and amenities for a comfortable life.

For those looking to rent in Hilo, the average rent is about $1,000 per month. Homeowners on the other hand can buy a home at about half of the average price in Hawaii. The average price of a home in Hilo is about $320,000. On the outskirts of the city center, the rental prices go significantly down, by a couple of hundred dollars. 

This city is filled with attractions and beautiful locations to visit and spend time in. Unlike some of the smaller cities and towns, Hilo offers a good opportunity to find work, has good infrastructure to support family life, and is a great place to retire. 

For those looking for content and activity native to the islands, some I love are Akaka falls state park, Kaumana Caves Park, Imiloa Astronomy Center, and Panaew, a Rainforest Zoo. The zoo is personally fascinating because this zoo stretches over 12 acres and is the only naturally occurring tropical rainforest zoo in the United States. It is home to over 80 species of animals which you would readily encounter in mainland zoos. And honestly, it’s a place I enjoy visiting and revisiting over and over. I find it a great change to the equally breathtaking beaches. 

#2. Pahoa – The Historic Small Town

Charming and historic Pahoa is located on the eastern tip of the Big Island. It is close to the Volcanoes National Park and filled with natural beauty and historic buildings. It is one of the most affordable places to live in Hawaii and offers a small-town feeling for those looking to get away from the big city hustle. 

For those looking to buy a property, the average mortgage payment is about $1,000. The rent is even less. Other typical yearly expenses are also lower, including food, transportation, and other basic amenities. 

Pahoa also offers some beautiful nearby sites and beaches. My personal favorites include Kehena Black Sand Beach, Isaac Hale Beach Park, the Steam Vents, and Kaimu Beach Park. Kaimu Beach Park is a particular hidden gem with a majestic view and black sand beach, perfect for walks and picnics. 

On Saturdays, the park hosts a farmers market with over 70 local vendors offering fresh produce and more. There is also a great smoothie shop and a corner market to enjoy whenever you come to enjoy the view. 

#3. Hana – The Hidden Gem of Maui

The tropical and tucked-away city of Hana is located on the historic road to Hana. Specifically on the eastern end of the island of Maui. This is one of the rare locations that can offer you the laid-back, beach-vibe lifestyle many are looking for when relocating to Hawaii. 

The area is rich in natural lush rainforests, waterfalls, and unique black sand and red sand beaches, which can be often secluded and tourist-free. It’s also a paradise for hikers, with an endless option of jungle trails and destinations suitable for all levels. 

Hana is one of the cheapest places to live in Hawaii, especially in Maui. For those looking to buy or rent, the prices here are well below the state average. For example, a good rental average is just below $1,000 per month. And the average home can be purchased at about $450,000. The best way to go about searching for the best place for you is through a local realtor, that is knowledgeable about the city, your lifestyle needs, and your budget.

Some of the specific gems that set Hana apart for me are ONO Organic Farms, Honokalani Black Sand Beach, Waianapanapa State Park, and the Hana lava tubes. With so many beautiful spots and panoramic views, swimmable beaches, and close-by waterfalls, this can be the ideal home for those looking to slow down and enjoy life. 

#4. Waimalu – The outskirts of Honolulu

This great place to live is located in Oahu, about 22 miles away from Honolulu. For those looking to live in a peaceful area with excitement just a drive away, this is a great pick. Waimalu is not a beach town, but it doesn’t take away anything from its beauty. It has great shopping, historical value, and natural beauty. And its location offers some of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii just a short drive away. 

For beach lovers, this means the endless stretch of white sand beaches offered by Honolulu and Waikiki. Close by is Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve with unparallel and stunning snorkeling, offering over 400 species of tropical fish, diverse coral, and the majestic green turtles native to the area. It’s also a great family spot, suitable for all levels of swimmers, snorkelers, and those who love to soak up the sun. 

As far as the cost of living is concerned the average home here costs about $450,000 thousand. Though this might sound steep, it’s well under the average for Hawaii. Rent is also higher than in the above-mentioned cities, averaging about $1,800 per month. The main drive for these prices is demand and the vicinity to Hawaii’s unparallel hub – Honolulu. 

For those with a higher budget, this is a well-worth spot. It’s constantly rated as one of the best places to live, especially for young professionals and those looking for diversity. Taking everything into consideration it is a great value with a high quality of life. Not to mention a good long-term investment for those able to buy property. 

#5. Wailuku – The doorway to majestic Iao Valley

Wailuku is located a little west of Kahului airport (about 10 minutes), at the entrance of the Iao Valley in Maui. This small city has just over 16,000 residents and is nestled in natural beauty as a small resort town. Those looking for tranquility, peace, quiet, and stunning natural beauty can easily call this place home.

Depending on your lifestyle, this is a city where it is easy to get around on your bike or just walk to the local bakery, coffee shop, and grocery store. The town is based on mom-and-pop shops and boutiques with local crafts. It’s easy to get locally-grown produce and reduce your carbon footprint. For a small town, it offers all the amenities one needs for a comfortable life, yet offers the charm and safety of small-town living. 

Wailuku is filled with indigenous and exotic beauty. For me, Iao Valley State Park stands apart and offers over 4,000 acres of hiking through Maui. These trails offer panoramic views of the ocean, cliffsides, waterfalls, and jungle vegetation. The town also offers historical value including the Bailey House, Pihana Kalani Heiau, and Kaahumanu Church.

If the price of renting or owning is the deciding factor for you, this charming spot still has a below-average cost of living for Hawaii. The average home can be bought for around $460,000, while rent is about $1,050 per month. Working with a good local realtor can help you find the hidden gems of Wailuku that will be well worth your money. Not only that but there is ample opportunity to save on everyday costs since there is not a lot of need for transportation and other traveling costs. 

Conclusion on the Cheapest Places to Live in Hawaii

Most people consider moving to a place like Hawaii. An island paradise is a dream for couples, families, and those looking to retire in a laid-back setting. 

Hawaii offers many livable options and there are affordable areas on many of the islands including the Big Island, Maui, and Oahu. Finding the right city for you
(like me) is a combination of affordability and quality of life. 

That’s why in my article above you can find all the important information about the 5 most affordable cities (and towns) in Hawaii. I included rent prices, mortgage averages, and other benefits and accommodations each place offers. I also added sight worth beaches, parks, trails, and more, that will make your everyday life even better.

All are based on my personal experience.

So read carefully and make an informed choice. 


Which Hawaiian island has the lowest cost of living?

The island with the lowest cost of living in Hawaii is the Big Island. T has several great areas with relatively low costs of living with Pahoa (on the eastern side of the Big Island) as arguably the cheapest place to live. In second place is Keaau which is a short 15-minute drive northwest of Pahoa.

The Big Island has the lowest rent averages and other typical yearly expenses, including food, transportation, and other basic amenities. The island has under 200 thousand residents and plenty of content is needed for a comfortable place to call home. This geographically diverse area is home to some amazing mountains including the Volcanoes National Park, and plenty of gorgeous beaches. 

Is it cheaper to live in Maui or Oahu?

Regardless of what Hawaiian island we are talking about, there are places with a lower and higher cost of living. But in general, Maui offers a few hidden gems for a high quality of life at a cheaper cost of living than Oahu. 

For example, Hana is one of the cheapest places to live in Hawaii, yet it offers a laid-back beach vibe with unparallel natural beauty, rainforest trails, waterfalls, and authentic small-town charm. Best of all it also has all the amenities needed for everyday life and comfort.

Another great Maui pick is Wailuku located adjacent to the Iao Valley State Park with just over 16,000 inhabitants. The city is charming, filled with local vendors, and locally grown produce, and easily navigable by walking or bike. It is a great place to save on time and transportation, yet only 10 minutes away from the airport and other big city excitement. 

Where should I live on a budget in Hawaii?

Though there are several great options for a low-cost living opportunity in Hawaii, Hilo is still considered the cheapest place to live. The capital city of the Big Island Hilo is considered the cheapest place to live in Hawaii when considering the cost of rent and buying a home.

It’s also a place with the most job opportunities. Hilo is considered a good place for raising a family and provides plenty of content for those looking to retire on a paradise Island. This city is filled with attractions and beautiful locations including Akaka falls state park, Kaumana Caves Park, and Imiloa Astronomy Center. 

Last Updated on May 1, 2023 by Brigitte