Which Hawaiian Island Should You Move To?

(Note: If this article looks familiar, it’s because it was originally published in my newsletter. I have since changed the format of my newsletter and have moved all articles previously published under the old format to my blog, where they can be more easily found.)

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

Oahu 596.7 square miles
Maui 727. 2 square miles
Big Island 4,028.0 square miles
Kauai 552.3 square miles
Lanai 140.5 square miles
Molokai 260.0 square miles


Major Cities & Towns

Oahu Honolulu, Waipahu, Pearl City, Waimalu, Mililani, Kapolei, Kaneohe, Kailua
Maui Kahului, Lahaina, Kihei
Big Island Hilo, Kailua-Kona, Waimea
Kauai Lihue, Kapaa, Kalaheo, Koloa, Kilauea
Lanai Lanai City
Molokai Kaunakakai


Population, 2009

Oahu 907,574
Maui (Source: Hawaii Tourism Authority) 131,531
Big Island 177,835
Kauai 64,529
Lanai (Source: Hawaii Tourism Authority) 3,193
Molokai (Source: Hawaii Tourism Authority) 8,000


Population Density, 2009

Oahu 1,521 people per square mile
Maui 181 people per square mile
Big Island 44 people per square mile
Kauai 117 people per square mile
Lanai 23 people per square mile
Molokai 31 people per square mile


Median Home Sales Price, 2009

Single Family Home Condo
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



Oahu 5.1%
Maui County (Maui, Lanai, Molokai) 7.8%
Big Island 9.5%
Kauai 8.5%


Crime, 2008

# Class I Offenses
# Class II Offenses
Oahu 34,356 63,656
Maui County (Maui, Lanai, Kauai) 6,371 26,108
Big Island 5,935 17,564
Kauai 2,792 5,922

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

1982 (1 death statewide, $234 million damage)
1992 (8 deaths statewide, $1.9 billion damage)
Maui 1986 (0 deaths, $2 million damage)
Big Island
1986 (0 deaths, $2 million damage)
1992 (8 deaths statewide, $1.9 billion damage statewide)
Lanai None
Molokai None


Fatal Tsunamis Since 1946

Oahu 1946 (159 dead statewide)
Maui 1946 (159 dead statewide)
Big Island
1946 (159 dead statewide)
1960 in Hilo (61 dead)
1975 on southeast shore (2 dead)
Kauai 1946 (159 dead statewide)
Lanai 1946 (159 dead statewide)
Molokai 1946 (159 dead statewide)


Earthquakes Of Richter Magnitude 5.0 Or Higher Since 1838

5.3 in 1984
5.0 in 2003
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
Kauai None
Lanai None
Molokai 6.5 in 1871


Lava Flow Coverage Of Major Volcanic Eruptions Since 1802

Oahu None
Maui None
Big Island
Mauna Loa:
112 sq km in 1950
14 sq km in 1975
48 sq km in 1984
50 sq km in 1969
46 sq km in 1972
122 sq km in 1983
Kauai None
Lanai None
Molokai None


Volcanic Smog

(Source: U.S. Geological Survey)

Oahu None
Maui None
Big Island The 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.
Kauai None
Lanai None
Molokai None


Average Temperature (Fahrenheit) & Annual Rainfall

City Coldest Month Hottest Month Rainfall
Oahu Honolulu, Airport
Honolulu, Manoa
Kapolei (Source: Weather.com)
20 inches
152 inches
55 inches
41 inches
23 inches
Maui Hana
81 inches
15 inches
19 inches
14 inches
Big Island
Kailua-Kona (Weather.com)
Waimea (Weather.com)
129 inches
48 inches
11 inches
9 inches
21 inches
68 inches
41 inches
34 inches
21 inches
Lanai Lanai City 62 75 35 inches
Molokai Molokai Airport 68 81 26 inches


Number Of Attractions

Museums & Other Cultural Attractions National Parks, Historic Trails, Historic Sites & Memorials State Parks & Historic Sites
County Parks
Oahu 31 1 30 288
Maui 13 1 8 112
Big Island 17 5 19 126
Kauai 5 0 10 67
Lanai 0 0 0 4
Molokai 2 1 2 13


Costco Store Locations

(Source: Costco.com)

Honolulu (Iwilei)
Honolulu (Hawaii Kai)
Maui Kahului
Big Island Kailua-Kona
Kauai Lihue
Lanai No locations
Molokai No locations


Number Of Public Libraries

Oahu 24
Maui 6
Big Island 13
Kauai 6
Lanai 1
Molokai 1


University Of Hawaii Campuses

(Source: Hawaii.edu)

Universities Community Colleges
Pearl City
Honolulu (Diamond Head)
Honolulu (Airport)
Pearl City
Maui None Kahului
Big Island Hilo Hilo
Kauai None Lihue
Lanai None None
Molokai None None


Tallest Buildings

Oahu First Hawaiian Center 438 feet
Maui The Whaler 170 feet
Big Island Bayshore Towers 135 feet
Kauai Marriott Resort & Beach Club 107 feet
Lanai Four Seasons Manele Bay Hotel 48 feet
Molokai Molokai Light Station 138 feet



Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Honolulu Weekly
Honolulu Magazine
Maui News
Lahaina News
Maui Weekly
Maui Magazine
Big Island Hawaii Tribune-Herald
West Hawaii Today
Kauai The Garden Island
Lanai None are currently available online
Molokai Molokai Advertiser-News
The Molokai Dispatch


Chambers Of Commerce

Oahu Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii
Kailua Chamber of Commerce
North Shore Chamber of Commerce
Maui Maui Chamber of Commerce
Big Island Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce
Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce
Kauai Kauai Chamber of Commerce
Lanai None are currently available online
Molokai Molokai Chamber of Commerce


County Websites

Oahu City and County of Honolulu
Maui County of Maui
Big Island County of Hawaii
Kauai County of Kauai
Lanai County of Maui
Molokai County of Maui


  • On February 03, 2017


  1. Lise Post author

    I enjoyed seeing these statistics and learned some things I didn’t know before. Thanks for compiling and sharing the info!

    1. admin Post author

      You’re welcome! I learned a thing or two as well

  2. johnny102 Post author

    Wow, great stuff. Been thinking about moving to Hawaii for years. I learned a lot about the different Islands from this article. Thanks for sharing

    1. admin Post author

      Glad to hear you found this post helpful!

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