Why Living on Oahu is More Affordable than You Think…

A friend peers out during an Eastside sunrise hike

The words ‘affordable’ and ‘Oahu’ usually don’t find themselves sharing the same sentence. Living in the most isolated chain of islands in the world, you’ll surely pay more for some things than you would in other US states. That initial sticker-shock most ‘mainlanders’ usually experience happens in the local grocery store, looking on Zillow or booking a hotel room in Waikiki. Yes, bananas are expensive, owning property in paradise can be costly, and staying for a night in a hotel will set you back several hundred dollars. But enough about what is expensive and more about what isn’t expensive. Here are simple ways to make life in Hawaii more affordable:

In my element on the windward side

The Best Things in Life Are Free!

In Hawaii, you can spend all morning hiking to secluded waterfalls, surf perfect waves illuminated by the setting sun, have a BBQ ‘beach day’ with family and friends, and find that doing so requires very little to no money. Beaches in Hawaii are all public (except military beaches) and the healing sun and balmy Hawaiian air is also free of charge.

One of the best things to do is to invest in some solid recreation equipment right off the bat. Things like surfboards, swim fins, beach chairs, and umbrellas can offer a great ROI and really get put to good use. If you want to spend your free time doing fun, invigorating activities that cost $0, renting equipment each time just doesn’t make sense. Make the initial investment on your own; buy that stand-up paddle board, dive mask, or pair of hiking shoes and what’s sure to follow is good, cheap fun in Hawaii’s beautiful outdoors. Disclaimer: This may lead to a healthier life!

Health is Wealth

Year in and year out, Hawaii is consistently rated as one of the healthiest states in the country. Not only that, Hawaii is ranked #1 for healthcare because of its quality and effectiveness. In a state where it’s always beach weather, it’s easy to stay healthy and active all year long. This can result in fewer visits to the doctor and less healthcare associated costs in general. Staying healthy and active may preventatively ward off big medical bills down the road.

Biki bikes wait in their docks for the next riders

Affordable Transportation Abounds

Oahu is making a transition towards a more commuter-friendly transportation model and nowhere is that easier to see than in Honolulu where it is more bike-friendly than ever before. Here, wide bike lanes share busy roads in town and bike sharing options like our ‘Biki’ bike-dock system make taking a bike ride as easy as hitting a button in the app on your smart phone. You can preload minutes into your account for mere dollars and have a bike at your disposal whenever you feel the need.

The public transportation is ‘The Bus,’ the aptly named city bus. This transportation system on Oahu is ranked as one of the best transportation systems in the entire United States. It’s easy to get from point A to B on the city bus and you can buy a daily, monthly, or yearly pass. Many people see the value of riding The Bus as opposed to driving around Oahu. The Bus shuttles 69 million passengers across Oahu annually and it seems like there is barely a neighborhood on island that you can’t get to for the cost of an affordable $5.50 day-pass.

The Honolulu Rail is currently being built and upon completion will run from Kapolei all the way in to Honolulu, ending at Ala Moana shopping center. The first phase of the rail is set to open in late 2020, although most of the folks who have followed the building of the rail since conception won’t be holding their breath. One thing is for sure, once it’s up and running, the rail will provide another affordable transportation option for the people of Oahu.

Lowest Property Tax in the Nation

Hawaii has the lowest property tax in the United States at 0.27%. That is extremely low compared to states like Nevada (0.77%) or Illinois (2.32%!). With this rate, property owners are saving hundreds, if not thousands of dollars more a year than they would on a house of the same value in another state.

Tacos from Leahi Health in Kaimuki

Food? You’ve Got Options…

Food is expensive in Hawaii, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. Many people take advantage of the spectacular growing conditions that Hawaii offers and grow their own food. Kale, basil, and papaya grow like weeds and maintaining a garden is easier here than it is in many continental US states.

Pay a visit to the numerous farmers’ markets on Oahu to buy local produce and products. Here you can buy affordable, fresh fruits and vegetables without the added import costs usually passed down to supermarket price tags. Great farmers’ markets include the Kapiolani Community College (KCC) farmers’ market by Diamond Head, as well as a few on the North Shore, in Haleiwa and Waialua. Many residents also stop in to some of the local roadside produce/fruit stands, such as the famous ones in Kahuku. Next time you’re in the area, be sure to get some ice cold pineapple, pickled mango, or BBQ corn. You can thank me later.

Aside from growing, shopping, and eating local produce, knowing where to shop for the rest of your food will also save you money. Many residents find that going to Costco to buy in bulk cuts down on grocery costs. Savvy locals also know which supermarkets have the best deals on which days (Friday at Safeway), as well as which markets have the best of what (Foodland for poke). Knowing how and when to shop can save you a pretty penny over the years.

Worth It?

The high cost of living often intimidates those making the move to Hawaii. While the cost is higher than many other states, living on Oahu can actually be surprisingly affordable in other aspects. Hawaii offers the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, get around town and cook dinner without having to ‘break the bank’.

Moving to a new place can be difficult and figuring out some simple insider information can be advantageous. If you or anyone you know are making the move to Hawaii, I’m a call/text/email away and happy to help.

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Rosalee Choi

August 30, 2018

You did not mention heating or cooling bills. Also no coats or boots in winter months. The price of food is higher but it is offset by winter costs which usually is more than 6 months long in most states. Most homes are well.cooled by ceiling gan and open windows to let the cool.breez in.

Ben Puccetti

August 30, 2018

> You’re totally right, Rosalee. Heating/cooling, wardrobe, jalousie/louvre windows, etc. Good points.


November 8, 2019

Whole article sounds fantastic but I am curious how do you travel from our island to island.i know the obvious would be by boat! But, since I wouldn’t be aware of the companies- can you share if there are inexpensive ways to get to the next island

Johnette Badame

August 13, 2020

That was a really exciting read through, thanks for expressing this information.

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