Top 10 High Cost of Living in Oahu Myths and Truths

sunset on waikiki.jpgTop 10 High Cost of Living in Oahu Myths and Truths


Let’s be honest, Oahu has a reputation for being hugely expensive and having a much higher cost of living than anywhere in the United States. It’s true, if you listen to media and pay attention to certain statistics, you might even believe this is the most expensive place on earth.


But is any of this true and what about the real cost of living in Oahu?


Well, it’s not that the city is necessarily cheap but from my two years living in Oahu, I find many of these statistics are either inaccurate and exaggerated at the very least. With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the myths and truths about the cost of living in Oahu:


Top 10 High Cost of Living in Oahu Myths and Truths


  1. Truth – Rent is Super Expensive in Oahu


You may have heard about the high cost of rent in Oahu and this is certainly true in much of Hawaii. Some of the reason for these costs is due to the fact that renters are willing to pay the current prices but there are other factors which keep these rental figures so high.


You see, there is a distinct lack of land on the islands that would be considered suitable for construction. What’s more, construction is prohibited on most of the islands which means that the demand is usually a lot higher than the creation of housing itself.


  1. Myth – You Need to Pay More Than $1,500 Rent to Live in Oahu


As a rule, two bed apartments can be found for anywhere between $1,200 and $2,000 but even these averages are a little high and often exaggerated. In other words, if you check out some local property agencies online, you will see that apartments can be found for under $1,000. What’s more, when you compare this with the average price of one bed apartment in Los Angeles ($1,900),


Moral of the story: These rental figures are not necessarily what you will end up paying.


  1. Truth – Groceries are Expensive in Oahu


It’s true, many household items and food is a lot more expensive on the islands. In fact, it’s estimated that groceries cost up to 30% more in Oahu than on the mainland. While this is partly so that companies can afford to cover their own expenses, it must be known that most food in Hawaii is imported from elsewhere and the island adds 4% to account for excise tax.


For example, according to ExPatistan, bread for two people for just one day costs $4.50.


  1. Myth – You Won’t Be Able to Afford Groceries in Oahu


Well, you can pay astronomical prices if you want but the truth is, there are many affordable supermarkets in Oahu where everything can be found for less. After all, there are fresh food markets in Oahu where you can find produce on the cheap and Walmart, Costco and even Sam’s Club are some of the cheaper options among supermarkets in Oahu.


Just as importantly, if you have ever lived in New York or anywhere comparable to California, these costs will seem reasonable and possibly even less than you might be used to paying.


  1. True – Eating Out in Oahu Can Be Expensive


As already mentioned, 90% of the food in Oahu is imported which means the price is naturally higher. For example, Newsweek in Australia published an article some time ago in which it priced a dinner for two at $62 in a neighborhood pub.

beer at La Mariana Sailing Club

  1. Myth – Eating Out in Oahu is Not Something You Will Be Able to Afford


However, aside from the fancy restaurants, the average cost of meals in Hawaii is usually a lot less than most people think. In other words, while this price is obviously possible, the article fails to explain that this is not the average cost of eating out or the prices you might expect for the experience.


On the contrary, Expatistan produced a much more accurate reflection of eating on in Oaha this month in which is estimated the average cost of a mean at $15.


You know, everything is relative and you can obviously find restaurants with a lofty price tag but using these prices to explain the cost of a meal in Oahu is usually for the sake of creating a story.


  1. Truth – Cars and Fuel are Expensive in Oahu


With a Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI priced at just under $24,000 and a liter of gas at just under $1, buying a car and paying for gas is quite a significant expense. What’s more, car insurance is higher on the islands than on the mainland and this is also true of every other type of insurance.


  1. Myth – You Must Have Your Own Car to Explore Hawaii


Well, there are two parts to this statement.


Firstly, you will definitely want to get out there and explore the remote landscapes in Hawaii but you won’t necessarily need your own car to experience this side of the islands. That is to say, you can simply rent a car when needed and save the upfront expense of buying a car until you can afford one.


Secondly, you don’t really need a car in the city and “TheBus” is a very reliable bus system that costs just $2.50 to get about the island. Most of Oahu is covered by this bus and you can find schedules or routes for these buses here. visit


9 . Truth – Moving to Oahu Might Not Be Worth It


As you know, many of the articles mentioned above have an underlying theme that “Hawaii is not a prosperous place to live” and the high cost of living is a reason to avoid it.


In some cases, this might not be far from the truth and something to consider. For example, if a family of five moved to Oahu and the “bread winner/s” in the household had no real qualifications, it might be challenging to find employment to afford this lifestyle.


On top of that, maybe this move has nothing to do with Hawaii itself which I believe should never be the case for any individual or family considering a move to Oahu.


  1. Myth – You Should Not Move to Oahu Due to the Cost of Living


Oahu has a near perfect climate and some of the cleanest air you will find in any city, anywhere in the world. People seem to be more happy here and enjoy the relatively laid-back lifestyle that is usually absent in most of the United States. With great restaurants and a vibrant nightlife, the entertainment is not so bad either and when it comes to nature, few places in the world can rival the stunning beaches, forests, mountains and landscapes just outside of Oahu.


As you can probably tell, after two years living in Oahu, I believe that the cost of living is not as dramatic as many people expect and at the end of the day, it’s only as expensive as you make it!


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