What is the Real Cost of Living in Kauai?

What is the Real Cost of Living in Kauai?

  • Ilona Coffey
  • 07/19/23

The northernest island of Hawaii is Kauai. Known as the “Garden Isle,” it’s rich in dense forests, lush mountains, pristine beaches, and overall stunning natural beauty. It’s home to the Waimea Canyon State Park, considered the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, with its colorful valleys, soaring mountaintops, and sweeping views. Despite being a popular tourist destination, it maintains a more rural and untouched atmosphere. This is the ideal landscape for those who want a deeper connection to nature and love exploring the outdoors.

Kauai offers a relaxed and laid-back lifestyle, colloquially referred to as "island time." The slower pace of life and sense of aloha contribute to a more tranquil and stress-free environment. It features a range of luxury properties, grand mansions, and upscale condominiums. You’ll find large estates on picturesque hilltop locations, custom-designed residences, and resort-style communities. Residents and visitors also have access to high-end shopping and dining, world-class spas, and exclusive country clubs. The island truly embodies the idyllic coastal paradise. So what is the real cost of living in Kauai?

Kauai home prices are the highest in the state

A calendar year of high-priced homes for sale in Kauai put it on top of the housing market in the state of Hawaii. At the end of 2022, the median home sales price climbed to $1,180,000. That’s up from $1,100,000 at the end of 2021, marking a 7.27% increase in one year. Some of those sales were notable eight-digit transactions. They included two homes on the North Shore of Kauai. One closed in November of 2022 for $10 million, and another closed in December of 2022 for $10.3 million. If you are interested in buying a condominium, the current average sale price is $756,891.

Median household income and salaries

According to the most recent U.S. Census data, the median household income in Kauai is $86,287, and the per capita income is $35,351. Of course, salaries vary depending on the industry and the position. According to PayScale, account clerks can make an estimated $32,000 to $58,000 per year, lawyers can make an estimated $56,000 to $118,000, criminalists can make an estimated $37,000 to $66,0000 per year, and real estate appraisers or assessors can make an estimated $41,000 to $81,000 per year.

Electricity costs are the highest in the country

Residents of Hawaii pay the most when it comes to electricity than any other state in the country. The monthly cost for electricity on the islands is $403. Broken down, the current cost of electricity is 44.96 cents per kilowatt, the highest in the country. That is up from 37.61 cents per kilowatt last year, which is a 16.3% increase.

Several factors contribute to the high electricity costs. Hawaii relies heavily on imported fossil fuels, mainly oil, for electricity generation. Because the state is isolated, it’s challenging, time-consuming, and more costly to transport fuel. The transportation and storage expenses are passed on to consumers. In addition, Hawaii's unique geographic location and topographic terrain pose challenges for infrastructure. It’s more costly to establish and maintain reliable transmission and distribution.

It’s also important to understand that Hawaii's population is relatively small compared to the mainland, so there’s a smaller customer base to distribute out the costs of infrastructure and maintenance.

Costs for food, groceries, and dining out

Food costs in Hawaii can vary, depending on the size of your household. According to the Living Wage Calculator by MIT, a single adult spends $4,686 per year on food. Two adults in a household can expect to spend $8,591 per year on food. Two adults with two children can expect to spend $13,802 per year on food.

Kauai has numerous fine dining establishments, including Tidepools at the Hyatt, JO2 Natural Cuisine in Kapaa, and Red Salt at the Koa Kea Hotel. A restaurant dinner with drinks around Kauai can cost $100 per person or more, while a standard casual meal might be about $44 per person.

Transportation costs

The largest city and the county seat of Kauai is Lihue. About 85.6% of commuters drive to work, which is on par with the national average of 85.5%. About 34.4% of employees have jobs outside of the city, which is lower than the national average of 43.7%. Taking into account public transportation, car maintenance, and gas prices, total transportation costs in Lihue is estimated at $11,192 per year for a single person. This is higher than the national average, which is $9,760.

In Lihue and Kauai, overall, gas prices are higher than the national average. The island’s remote location and dependence on imported oil mean higher gasoline and diesel prices. There are also few public transportation options. While there is a public bus system, The Kauai Bus, frequency and routes are very limited. Most residents must rely on private transportation.

Find your next home in Kauai

As someone who has lived all over the island, Ilona Coffey can offer insights into the local lifestyle and the best places to live. She has worked in Kauai real estate for over 17 years, and no one knows the market better. She has remained one of the best agents specializing in luxury real estate. She has worked as a top realtor and high performer in the luxury real estate market, ranking in the top 1% internationally. Call Ilona today and find your dream home in paradise.

Work With Ilona

Ilona has called Kauai home for over 27 years and loves helping others find their own way of coming home to Kauai. Prepared to represent Buyers and Seller on Kauai, and around the World.