Most Americans know Hawaii as a beautiful vacation spot and not much more. But the island state has 1.4 permanent residents and an entire independent lifestyle and ecosystem. Hawaii is unique in its culture. It was an independent kingdom run by a royal family until the mid-1800s, and much of that culture survives today. It is woven into the traditions and heritage of the state.
Hawaii’s violent crime rate is lower than the average for the country, making it a safe place to raise a family. While being so far removed from the rest of the world naturally makes the cost of living higher than all other states, those who have taken the plunge to move here seldom regret it. Hawaii is consistently ranked number one among all states in happiness.
The state consists of six major islands, two of which are unsuitable for moving or living, especially with an entire family. For instance, Kahoolawe is a small island with no permanent residents that is only used for native Hawaiian spiritual and cultural purposes. Moloka’i is another smaller island that, while beautiful to visit, may not work for families coming in from the mainland due to cultural or logistic issues.
Therefore, when it comes to moving, Maui, Oahu, Hawaii, and Kauai are the main options. Using them as a starting point, here are the ten best places for families to live in Hawaii.
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1. Wailuku – Maui
Wailuku is a city in the northwestern part of the island of Maui and is home to 16,179. It was Maui’s most popular tourist destination in the early half of the 20th century before many of the island’s resort towns rose. Hence, it carries the distinction of a rich local history and a melting pot of culture.
Families will love Wailuku for its safety. The violent crime rate here is far lower than the national average and 40% lower across all Hawaiian islands. The amenities here can’t be beaten. Locals have their pick when it comes to places like cafes, restaurants, boutique stores, and even healthcare centers. All this benefit does come at a cost, however. The median home price in Wailuku is $690,400, and the cost of living is 59% more than the national average. That’s a cost that families should consider before choosing this town.
There is a lot to do in Wailuku, which is known as a community of artists and performers. There is always a show to catch or a public art installation to view. The arts district is the place to go, check out the local culture, and eat some of the renowned cuisines. There’s plenty of local pride in the quaintness of the downtown area.
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2. Mililani Town – Oahu
Located directly in the center of the island of Oahu, Mililani Town is distinguishable from its neighbor Mililani Mauka by its higher-rated quality of life. The town of 27,545 has good schools, job opportunities, and great amenities. All of it is overseen and maintained by a unique town association whose mission is to maintain public areas and high quality of life for all the residents.
Crime is low in Mililani Town, overall coming in 3% lower than the rest of the state. Home costs are expensive, however. The median home is priced at $834,800 for this area, which is high even for Hawaii. The overall cost of living is on par with the rest of the islands: high but not shocking. The neighborhoods are friendly here too. Mililani Town is the third wealthiest zip code in the entire state.
Being located in central Oahu has its perks. The city is known for its quality of shopping. The downtown area has all kinds of independently owned restaurants and the more familiar American chain businesses. Golfers will love the Mililani Golf Club, a great course and popular restaurant.
3. Wailua Homesteads – Kauai
The eastern side of Kauai is beautiful, and Wailua Homesteads is a town that can make families very happy. It’s a small town of just 6,282, so people who enjoy feeling like they live in a smaller community will want to give Wailua Homesteads a closer look.
A significant benefit of this area is the extremely low crime. Overall, crime rates are 22% lower than the Hawaii average, making this a safe spot to raise children in a worry-free environment. Like all of the places on our list, real estate is expensive. In Wailua Homesteads, a house costs an average of $762,600.
The biggest draw of this neighborhood is the emphasis on the beauty of the island itself. The drive up the hill from Wailua proper leads to an area with fantastic views dotted with residential homes of all sizes. The area doesn’t have a lot of city amenities, but there is a corner store, and it does feature some of the best hiking trails in the state. The island’s Kauai Hindu Monastery is also located here. Anyone is welcome for a morning of meditation and spiritual healing.
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4. Holualoa – Hawaii
This village of just over 9,000 people is next to Wailua-Kona, which people may recognize from drinking the famous coffee grown here. Holualoa is our pick for the western side of the big island of Hawaii due to the peaceful nature of the downtown area and the proximity to the big island’s major volcanoes. In fact, the town itself is named after the ancient activity of careening down the volcano on a sled made of wood.
Crime rates here are 7% lower than the state average, and real estate prices are 13% lower, making this a safe and slightly more affordable option for families to settle down. A home here will cost under $700,000. However, rental costs are higher than in the rest of the state.
If your family is settling in this area, the most popular thing to do is immerse yourself in the coffee culture. Tours are available at the Kona Coffee plant, and cafes are along the town’s main drag. There is also a bustling arts scene. Going through Holualoa, you can check out some great art galleries, including one dedicated entirely to ukuleles.
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5. Honolulu – Oahu
There’s something to say about urban living, even in a Pacific tropical paradise. Honolulu is a perfect fit for families who are used to living in more densely populated areas and want to experience the most exciting social aspects of living in the Hawaiian Islands. The population of Honolulu is 341,555, making it Hawaii’s largest city by far, and it serves as the central hub to the rest of the country and the world.
As far as urban centers go, Honolulu is relatively safe. It has a crime rate nearly 5 points lower than the rest of the United States and has a meager crime rate for a city of its size. Buying a home in Honolulu may be within reach for many families, at least compared with some of Hawaii’s smaller towns and beachside places. The median average home costs $751,900.
Vacationers already know about all the amenities Honolulu has to offer. The shopping, dining, and culture are all top-notch. It also gives its residents a lot to be proud of. Healthcare is available and abundant, there are several public and private schools from which to choose, and the city boasts one of the best public transit systems in the world. Overall, families could do worse than choosing Honolulu as their home.
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6. Haiku-Pauwela – Maui
With a population of around 7,500, Haiku-Pauwela offers a friendly, quiet lifestyle on the island of Maui. Not only is it the ideal place to settle on the island’s north shore, but the community also sticks together here for all who want to feel included and part of something.
Haiku-Pauwela is very safe, with overall crime rates 44% lower than the state’s average. However, it has a higher cost of living than the rest of the islands, and median homes cost around $811,000. It is cheaper than average to rent a home here for families who may want to choose that option.
Plenty of seaside restaurants are available in Haiku-Pauwela, giving families options for dining. Still, this area is perfect for lovers of the outdoors. Haiku itself features many different trails for biking or hiking. One of the biggest visitor attractions to Maui is the zipline tour, taking guests above the beautiful landscape and showing them stunning ocean views while zipping through the air.
One of the staples for the citizens is the Pauwela store, a local business providing groceries and other goods to the community. The family-owned store is involved with the community and treats everyone as family.
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7. Maunawili – Oahu
Maunawili is a tiny town located on southeast Oahu and northeast of the central hub of Honolulu. Fewer than 2,000 people call this area home. Still, it’s one of the ideal places to raise a family in all of Hawaii, even on the highly desirable island of Oahu.
Maunawili gets a supremely high ranking for safety. Its crime rates are a whopping 84% lower than Hawaii’s average. There is virtually no reason to worry about crime in this town. The schools are also incredible. Almost 96% more of Maunawili’s students go on to earn a bachelor’s degree or higher when compared with the averages of the rest of the United States.
For a family with children, there’s no better place on the island for education. All of these eye-popping stats come at a cost. The cost of living in Maunawili is very high, and the median home will cost a steep $1.2 million.
Being on such a famous vacation island, Maunawili has no shortage of things to do. There are many tours offered to tourists that locals can also enjoy, particularly the ones that explore the lesser-known areas of Oahu. While there aren’t any commercial businesses in town, plenty exist just a short drive away.
8. Waikapu – Maui
Waikapu is another small city on the island of Maui. Its central location makes it a convenient drive to other island areas. The small population of 3,373 means families can embed themselves into a tight-knit community.
As with all of our choices for families, Waikapu is very safe. Crime is 54% lower than the Hawaii average, and real estate prices are slightly below average for all the islands. Houses cost an average of $729,400. Even the cost of living in Waikapu is marginally lower by Hawaiian standards, by about 3%. These savings won’t affect the outstanding quality of life that residents enjoy here.
Waikapu was known for sugar production upon its founding, drawing plantation workers from around the world to build the area’s economic foundation. Today, the town takes care of its own by maintaining pedestrian-friendly streets dotted with serene public gardens and an easily accessible town square for all shopping and commercial needs.
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9. Kapaa – Kauai
Hawaii families looking to cut down on the cost of living can keep Kapaa in mind as an option. The cost of living is 7% lower here than the rest of the island in this town, of 10,623. Kapa’a is the most populous town on the island of Kauai.
Kapaa’s crime rate is on-par with the rest of Hawaii, meaning it’s a safer place than most in the rest of the country. The median home costs $674,500, making it slightly less expensive than the average of its counterparts on this list. Rental costs are also 11% lower, so living here is a penny-pinching family’s dream.
Kapaa is known for great shopping, highlighted by the Kinipopo shopping area. There are plenty of shops for souvenirs, water rentals, restaurants, and anything else people need. For Kauai living, Kapaa is an excellent choice.
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10. Kailua – Oahu
“Shop, dine, explore” is the motto of this beautiful city with a population of 38,514. Kailua is a suburb of Honolulu, so it represents another appropriate choice for families who like to be closer to the action of an urban area. Many tourists tend to come here, so keep that in mind when considering a place to live.
Kailua is incredibly safe, with crime rates 55% lower than the Hawaiian average. There are highly-rated schools here for the children. But all of this makes it expensive. The cost of living is 22% higher overall than the rest of the state, and the median home will cost over $1.2 million.
Some of the most scenic beaches are in Kailua. There are plenty of tourist attractions, but they will satisfy permanent residents. There is no shortage of shopping or dining for fun and many nightlife options.
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