Which Hawaiian Island Should You Move To?

Deciding on which of the six major islands in Hawaii to call home is a nice problem to have. They are all beautiful and have something to offer their residents. But each island has its downside, too. For example:

  • Oahu has the highest job salaries. But it’s also the most densely populated.
  • Maui has relatively low unemployment. But its average price for a condo is much higher than any of the other islands.
  • The Big Island has the most affordable housing . But it also has the highest unemployment rate.
  • Kauai has the fewest incidents of crime. But it has suffered from hurricanes more than the other islands.
  • Lanai’s tallest building is just three stories high. But the island doesn’t have any Costco warehouse stores for buying cheap groceries.
  • Although it’s a smaller island, Molokai has two newspapers and its own Chamber of Commerce. But it doesn’t have a college campus.

Choosing the island that’s the best fit for you and your family really depends on which factors are most important to you. Is finding the best-paying job of utmost importance? Are you looking to avoid heavy rainfall? Do you want to live in a quiet, sparsely populated area with lots of undeveloped land to roam? Or is affordable housing your primary concern?

There certainly is a lot to consider. To help you get started, I’ve compiled a bunch of statistics below on the different islands so you can do some “comparison shopping.” (Unless otherwise specified, the source of all statistics is the 2009 State of Hawaii Data Book.)

Land Area | Major Cities | Population | Density | Home Prices | Salaries | Unemployment | Crime | Hurricanes | Tsunamis | Earthquakes | Lava Flow | Vog | Climate | Attractions | Costco Stores | Libraries | UH Campuses | Tallest Buildings | Publications | Chambers of Commerce | County Websites

Land Area

Oahu596.7 square miles
Maui727. 2 square miles
Big Island4,028.0 square miles
Kauai552.3 square miles
Lanai140.5 square miles
Molokai260.0 square miles

Major Cities & Towns

OahuHonolulu, Waipahu, Pearl City, Waimalu, Mililani, Kapolei, Kaneohe, Kailua
MauiKahului, Lahaina, Kihei
Big IslandHilo, Kailua-Kona, Waimea
KauaiLihue, Kapaa, Kalaheo, Koloa, Kilauea
LanaiLanai City
MolokaiKaunakakai

Population, 2009

Oahu907,574
Maui(Source: Hawaii Tourism Authority) 131,531
Big Island177,835
Kauai64,529
Lanai(Source: Hawaii Tourism Authority) 3,193
Molokai(Source: Hawaii Tourism Authority) 8,000

Population Density, 2009

Oahu1,521 people per square mile
Maui181 people per square mile
Big Island44 people per square mile
Kauai117 people per square mile
Lanai23 people per square mile
Molokai31 people per square mile

Median Home Sales Price, 2009

 Single Family HomeCondo
Oahu$580,000$305,000
Maui County (Maui, Lanai, Molokai)$498,106$450,000
Big Island$278,800$275,000
Kauai$470,000$330,000

Average Annual Salary, Q1 2010

(Source: Hawaii Workforce Infonet)

Oahu$41,444
Maui County (Maui, Lanai, Molokai)$35,828
Big Island$34,944
Kauai$35,932

Unemployment

Oahu5.1%
Maui County (Maui, Lanai, Molokai)7.8%
Big Island9.5%
Kauai8.5%

Crime, 2008

 # Class I Offenses
# Class II Offenses
Oahu34,35663,656
Maui County (Maui, Lanai, Kauai)6,37126,108
Big Island5,93517,564
Kauai2,7925,922

Class I Offenses: Murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft.
Class II Offenses: Other assault, disorderly conduct, DUI, drug abuse violations, embezzlement, forgery & counterfeiting, fraud, gambling, liquor laws, manslaughter by negligence, offenses against family & children, prostitution & commercialized vice, sex offenses, stolen property, vagrancy, vandalism, and weapons offenses. Traffic cases are excluded.)

Major Hurricanes Since 1950

Oahu
1982 (1 death statewide, $234 million damage)
1992 (8 deaths statewide, $1.9 billion damage)
Maui1986 (0 deaths, $2 million damage)
Big Island
1978
1986 (0 deaths, $2 million damage)
Kauai
1950
1957
1959
1982
1992 (8 deaths statewide, $1.9 billion damage statewide)
LanaiNone
MolokaiNone

Fatal Tsunamis Since 1946

Oahu1946 (159 dead statewide)
Maui1946 (159 dead statewide)
Big Island
1946 (159 dead statewide)
1960 in Hilo (61 dead)
1975 on southeast shore (2 dead)
Kauai1946 (159 dead statewide)
Lanai1946 (159 dead statewide)
Molokai1946 (159 dead statewide)

Earthquakes Of Richter Magnitude 5.0 Or Higher Since 1838

Oahu
5.3 in 1984
5.0 in 2003
Maui
6.5 in 1871
6.8 in 1938
5.1 in 1986
Big Island
Total of 36 quakes measuring 5.0+ since 1838.
Strongest ones since 1975:
7.2 in 1975
6.7 in 1983
6.7 in 2006
KauaiNone
LanaiNone
Molokai6.5 in 1871

Lava Flow Coverage Of Major Volcanic Eruptions Since 1802

OahuNone
MauiNone
Big Island
Mauna Loa:
112 sq km in 1950
14 sq km in 1975
48 sq km in 1984
Kilauea:
50 sq km in 1969
46 sq km in 1972
122 sq km in 1983
KauaiNone
LanaiNone
MolokaiNone

Volcanic Smog

(Source: U.S. Geological Survey)

OahuNone
MauiNone
Big IslandThe leeward Kona coast has a near-constant haze of vog, a smog formed from volcanic emissions. The sulfur dioxide in vog can irritate skin, eyes, nose, and throat, triggering asthma symptoms in those with pre-existing respiratory conditions. Depending on the wind currents, other areas of the Big Island can be affected by vog, too. For more info, check out these FAQs on vog.
KauaiNone
LanaiNone
MolokaiNone

Average Temperature (Fahrenheit) & Annual Rainfall

 CityColdest MonthHottest MonthRainfall
OahuHonolulu, Airport
Honolulu, Manoa
Kaneohe
Kahuku
Kapolei (Source: Weather.com)
70
67
72
69
71
84
80
83
81
79
20 inches
152 inches
55 inches
41 inches
23 inches
MauiHana
Kihei
Kahului
Lahaina
67
71
67
66
81
78
84
84
81 inches
15 inches
19 inches
14 inches
Big Island
Hilo
Naalehu
Kailua-Kona (Weather.com)
Puako
Waimea (Weather.com)
66
66
74
68
72
81
80
80
84
80
129 inches
48 inches
11 inches
9 inches
21 inches
Kauai
Kilauea
Lihue
Poipu
Kekaha
67
70
70
65
80
81
83
85
68 inches
41 inches
34 inches
21 inches
LanaiLanai City627535 inches
MolokaiMolokai Airport688126 inches

Number Of Attractions

 Museums & Other Cultural AttractionsNational Parks, Historic Trails, Historic Sites & MemorialsState Parks & Historic Sites
County Parks
Oahu31130288
Maui1318112
Big Island17519126
Kauai501067
Lanai0004
Molokai21213

Costco Store Locations

(Source: Costco.com)

Oahu
Kapolei
Waipahu
Honolulu (Iwilei)
Honolulu (Hawaii Kai)
MauiKahului
Big IslandKailua-Kona
KauaiLihue
LanaiNo locations
MolokaiNo locations

Number Of Public Libraries

Oahu24
Maui6
Big Island13
Kauai6
Lanai1
Molokai1

University Of Hawaii Campuses

(Source: Hawaii.edu)

 UniversitiesCommunity Colleges
Oahu
Honolulu
Pearl City
Honolulu (Diamond Head)
Honolulu (Airport)
Pearl City
Kaneohe
MauiNoneKahului
Big IslandHiloHilo
KauaiNoneLihue
LanaiNoneNone
MolokaiNoneNone

Tallest Buildings

 Building
Height
OahuFirst Hawaiian Center438 feet
MauiThe Whaler170 feet
Big IslandBayshore Towers135 feet
KauaiMarriott Resort & Beach Club107 feet
LanaiFour Seasons Manele Bay Hotel48 feet
MolokaiMolokai Light Station138 feet

Publications

Oahu
Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Honolulu Weekly
Honolulu Magazine
Maui
Maui News
Lahaina News
Maui Weekly
Maui Magazine
Big IslandHawaii Tribune-Herald
West Hawaii Today
KauaiThe Garden Island
LanaiNone are currently available online
MolokaiMolokai Advertiser-News
The Molokai Dispatch

Chambers Of Commerce

OahuChamber of Commerce of Hawaii
Kailua Chamber of Commerce
North Shore Chamber of Commerce
MauiMaui Chamber of Commerce
Big IslandHawaii Island Chamber of Commerce
Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce
KauaiKauai Chamber of Commerce
LanaiNone are currently available online
MolokaiMolokai Chamber of Commerce

County Websites

OahuCity and County of Honolulu
MauiCounty of Maui
Big IslandCounty of Hawaii
KauaiCounty of Kauai
LanaiCounty of Maui
MolokaiCounty of Maui

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