best Hawaiian island to live on

What’s the Best Island to Live on, and Why?

If you are thinking about moving to Hawaii, there are a lot of factors to consider before choosing which island to call your home. Each island has its own uniqueness and differences to offer, so the best Hawaiian island to live on will depend on your personality and lifestyle, as well as what you’re looking to get out of your move. For example, maybe you are looking for a change of lifestyle, which is a common reason for moving to Hawaii.

Perhaps you are dissatisfied with your current location in the states. Maybe you already love where you live but are simply looking for a change of scenery. A good place to start is to ask yourself what you would look for in a place to live in the continental 48.

  • Are you a city dweller, a mountain person, a hermit, or a socialite?
  • Do you enjoy spending time at home and want a large, comfortable place to live, or are you out of the house all the time and only go home to sleep and shower?
  • Do you have children or pets?
  • If you are not moving for work, what is your occupation, and are you open to changing it?
  • Do you own a car or prefer to take public transportation?
  • What are your extracurricular interests?
  • Are there aspects such as your age, income, or any medical conditions you may have are also factors in where you should live.

You will probably want to be able to meet other people and make new friends, so it is important to determine the qualities and interests that help define you.

It is impossible to say which island is the best to live on without considering all of these factors and more. Following is a rundown of the four main islands that people relocate to from the states when moving to Hawaii, including some of the advantages and disadvantages to each.


Oahu is the third largest island coving 594 square miles, but it has the highest population, around 880,000 people. The island’s highest point is Mt. Kaala at 4020 feet. Oahu is home to Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital and largest city, and much of the island is an urban cityscape of tall buildings, busy streets, and densely populated areas.

Therefore, Oahu has the most jobs, places to live, restaurants, and entertainment options. It is not the least expensive place to live, but it has the jobs with the highest salaries. Oahu is home to the University of Hawaii and the Iolani Palace, the only royal palace in the United States.

However, Oahu also has wonderful beaches, state parks and preserves, and some of the best recreation the islands have to offer. Oahu’s north shore is Hawaii’s most popular surfing spot, and Kailua on the windward shore is Hawaii’s most frequented windsurfing beach.


Maui is the second largest island, totaling 728 square miles and has a population of 107,000 people. East Maui is largely taken up by the mountain Haleakala, with an elevation of 10,023 feet. West Maui is dominated by the West Maui Mountains, with the highest peak reaching 5,788 feet.

Maui is also the second largest island for tourism, drawing about half the visitors of the outer islands. So while it is far less populated with year-round residents than Oahu, it still has plenty of tourism. The Wailuku district holds the island’s two main cities and is home to about half of the island’s residents.

Maui is becoming increasingly commercialized, but still has a lot to offer as far as outdoor recreation is concerned. It provides a happy medium between the city life of Oahu and the laid-back lifestyles of Kauai and the Big Island, offering something for everyone.

The Big Island

Also known as the island of Hawaii, the Big Island gets its name from the fact that it is almost twice the size of all the other Hawaiian islands combined. But with a population of only 142,000, it has the smallest population per area. The Big Island has only two cities: Kona and Hilo. Hilo makes up about a third of the island’s population as the Hawaiian islands’ oldest city, while Kona mostly attracts tourists, has the majority of the island’s accommodations, and is a major center for recreational activities.

The Big Island is the most geographically diverse of the Hawaiian Islands, including mountains that reach almost 14,000 feet, tropical rainforests, amazing waterfalls, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The island also has petroglyph sites and the world’s top astronomical observatories. Agriculture is a big industry on the island, producing the majority of the Hawaiian island’s macadamia nuts, coffee, tropical flowers, and fruits.

The Big Island currently has the most affordable real estate of all the islands if you are looking to buy a home when moving to Hawaii. However, it is restricted in jobs and has a high unemployment rate. There are a number of people living off the land and in communes if you are looking for a non-traditional living style.


Kauai is the fourth largest Hawaiian island at 558 square miles, so it is only slightly smaller than Oahu. The population, however, is only about 57,000 people. Its highest peak is the 5243 foot Mt. Kawaikini. The slightly shorter Mt. Waialeale boasts the heaviest rainfall on earth.

Nicknamed The Garden Island, Kauai has a lush landscape, steep cliffs, impressive canyons, the Alakai Swamp, and seven rivers flowing off of Mt. Waialeale. Kauai is home to the world famous Na Pali Coast, which is Hawaii’s premier hiking destination.

Fewer than half the residents of Kauai work and almost 50% of its workers are employed in the hotel and service industries. It is the least developed of the four main islands, with much of the island’s interior made up of a mountainous forest reserve. Its main attractions are its stunning natural beauty, hiking trails, and white, sandy beaches.