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What's the Best Hawaiian Island to Live On?

Beautiful beaches. Lush landscapes. Fresh air. Vibrant sunsets. Towering mountains. Majestic waterfalls. These can be found on every one of the seven inhabited Hawaiian Islands, but each of these islands also has unique features – and even its own nickname.

By REAL. Updated Oct 01, 2023. | Living in Hawaii | 23 min. read
  1. OahuJump
  2. MauiJump
  3. Big Island of HawaiiJump
  4. KauaiJump
  5. LanaiJump
  6. MolokaiJump
  7. NiihauJump

How many Hawaiian Islands are there? Total there are 137 islands in the Hawaii chain. Hawaii is typically recognized by its eight main islands, seven of eight which are inhabited: Oahu, Maui, Hawaii, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe.

When moving to Hawaii, you may be wondering which island to live on. Not only do each of the islands have different geographical features, but they also have different amenities, local governing bodies, histories, cultures, and costs of living. Discover all seven inhabitable Hawaiian Islands before deciding which island fits your lifestyle.

A map of the Hawaiian Islands. Which island should you live on?

Why move to Oahu?

Home to nearly one million people, Oahu has many neighborhoods, majestic landscapes, and nearly all the amenities of a city on the Mainland U.S.A. Oahu has the world-famous North Shore with its legendary surfing sports as well as Hanauma Bay, Diamond Head, military installations, and the main campus of the University of Hawaii.

The number of Single-family home sales on Oahu are the highest of all the islands, and the housing market is incredibly competitive. With thousands of condominiums available, there are lower-cost housing options for those entering the housing market. If you want to experience paradise with the expected amenities, Oahu might be the island for you.

The island of Oahu.

Homes for Sale on Oahu

OPEN: 04/14, 2pm - 5pm
*Rare opportunity for Preferred  "08" Unit in the Ewa Tower! Renovated kitchen, flooring, vanity,  new washer/dryer.  *Enclosed Lanai for extra den/office -maximizing living space with Spectacular Pacific Ocean , Beach, Marina/, and Sunset Views!   *Enjoy resort amenities, BBQ, Pool, Whirlpool, Tennis Court, Recreation Room, and more! *Balance of Assessment for Re-piping of approximately $18,000 to be credited to Buyer from Seller at closing through Escrow. *Other fees: Reserves $265.50/month *First OPEN HOUSE SUNDAY APRIL 14, 2024, 2-5PM
Condo in yacht harbor towers
$675,000 | 1 bd, 1 ba | 824 sqft
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OPEN: 04/14, 2pm - 5pm
Modern Metro Marvel! Your urban haven awaits at 801 South in Kakaako with expansive breathtaking views of Honolulu’s city skyline, mountains, and ocean views from this beautiful corner-end unit with large wrap around L-shaped lanai. Enjoy the natural light that brightens this spacious 2-bedroom / 2-bath unit in “B” building with split A/C throughout, luxury vinyl plank flooring installed in 2022, W/D in hallway closet, equipped with fire sprinklers, and double pane windows. Built in 2017 and pet friendly, you’ll appreciate the low maintenance fees and modern conveniences with 24-hour security, secured entry, guest parking, EV charging station, on-site management, bike and surf board storage, designated car wash area, trash chute, port cochere off South Street for convenient pick-up/drop off and a recreation room! The city is your oyster, conveniently located near Downtown, SALT, Ward Village, and Ala Moana Center, where you can embrace all the excitement and fun of city living!
Condo in 801 south st
$810,000 | 2 bd, 2 ba | 876 sqft
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Fun Facts

History

Like the other islands, Oahu is believed to have been first settled by Tahitians around 300 CE, although the exact dates are unknown. In 1795, Kamehameha I conquered Oahu after the bloody battle of Nuuanu, uniting the Hawaiian Islands.

In 1845, the royal capital moved from Lahaina, on Maui, to Honolulu, which remains the state capital. Iolani Palace was built, which is still the only palace in the United States. With Captain Cook’s arrival in the Hawaiian Islands and an increase in sugar and pineapple plantations, the monarchy was increasingly dominated by foreign interests. Queen Liliuokalani was overthrown in 1893, and the island chain was annexed in 1898 by the United States.

Another pivotal historical event that occurred on Oahu was the invasion on Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces during World War II.

A couple walking along Waikiki Beach with a perfect view of Diamond Head.
A couple walking along Waikiki Beach with a perfect view of Diamond Head.

The Weather

If you define excellent weather as sunny and warm, then Oahu has your ideal weather conditions. Honolulu and Waikiki average around 80 degrees year-round with only 20 to 40 inches of rainfall. Along the Waianae coast, there is less rain, and temperatures can be a little higher. On the windward side or East coast, it tends to rain more; however, one minute it may be raining and the next minute there may be an astounding rainbow.

The Infrastructure

The County of Honolulu governs the island of Oahu. While traffic on Oahu is considered one of the worst in the United States, the island boasts a robust infrastructure. The Bus offers service around the island, and the Skyline (Honolulu's Rail System) promises to offer convenient transportation from the West side of the island to “town” or Honolulu. Water, sewage, and trash pick up are offered in every area of Oahu, with only some of the most remote locations having cesspools. Parks are plentiful on Oahu, including dog parks, bike paths, and botanical gardens.

Safety and Security

Like the other islands, Oahu is also considered a safe place in comparison to other cities on the Mainland. According to the Honolulu Police Department's Annual Report in 2022, there was an overall 14.3% decrease in crime compared to 2021. In fact, 2022 marked the lowest reported crime rates in the past five years. Robbery, burglary, and theft saw a decline in 2022, however, there was a slight uptick in traffic fatalities. Overall, residents of Oahu can feel safe walking most streets at night, but they should be vigilant in certain areas and neighborhoods and always take precautions to secure belongings.

Why move to Maui?

The second largest and third most-populated island, Maui was once home to sugar cane and pineapple plantations but has now evolved into an ever-developing tourist-attracting island with a lot to do and beautiful beaches and scenery. The housing market on Maui was hot in 2022, but has recently cooled off – with little inventory and single-family homes priced higher than Oahu.

The island of Maui.

Maui

Homes for sale on Maui below 900k

OPEN: 04/16, 1pm - 4pm
Welcome to your dream two-story townhome in South Kihei! This hidden gem residence offers a perfect blend of comfort, convenience, and coastal living. Nestled in a tranquil 10-unit complex on a quiet cul-de-sac, this townhome is just a short stroll away from the inviting sands of Charlie Young Beach and the vibrant atmosphere of South Kihei's Cove. This 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom townhome is thoughtfully designed with a spacious two-story floor plan. The primary bedroom boasts its own walk-in closet and private lanai, providing a personal retreat within the home. Enjoy the luxury of your own garage, providing secure parking and additional storage space for your convenience. Step into your large fenced outdoor lanai, perfect for entertaining or simply relaxing in the sunshine. The pet-friendly environment makes it an ideal space for your furry companions. A unique touch to the home is the charming spiral staircase that leads to the upstairs bedrooms and second bathroom, adding character to the living space. Upstairs, revel in the beauty of vaulted beam ceilings, creating an open and airy atmosphere that enhances the overall sense of space and style. Embrace the convenience of 3 split A/C systems, ensuring your comfort in every season. Take advantage of the shared pool within the complex, offering a refreshing retreat just steps away from your front door. Plus, benefit from low maintenance fees that make life just a little easier. With a prime location, this townhome is within walking distance to renowned Charlie Young Beach, South Kihei's Cove, as well as an array of restaurants and shopping options. Whether you're lounging by the pool, taking a short walk to the beach, or enjoying the privacy of your own lanai, this townhome offers the ideal Maui lifestyle. Don't miss the opportunity to call this place home!
Home in awihi townhouse
$830,000 | 2 bd, 2 ba | 938 sqft
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OPEN: 04/16, 10am - 2pm
Nestled in the heart of Maui's picturesque South Kihei region, this stunning condominium presents an unparalleled opportunity to experience the essence of island living. Located in the esteemed Kihei Akahi community, across from Kamaole Beach II, C409 offers a perfect blend of modern comfort and tropical charm, making it an ideal retreat for both full-time residents and vacationers alike.  Step inside this meticulously maintained unit and be greeted on the lanai by views of the Pacific Ocean and the lush landscapes that characterize Maui's South Shore. With 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, and 655 square feet of thoughtfully designed living space, this condo embodies both sophistication and relaxation. The interior features a tastefully appointed open-concept layout, with a murphy bed to maximize the space. The fully equipped kitchen was remodeled in 2023 and the bathroom was upgraded with tile in 2018.   As you venture outside onto the private lanai, be prepared to be swept away by the gentle trade winds and mesmerizing sunsets that paint the sky in hues of orange and pink. Whether you're enjoying your morning coffee or hosting a sunset cocktail party, this outdoor oasis is sure to become your favorite spot to unwind and soak in the beauty of Maui's natural splendor.  Kihei Akahi offers an array of resort-style amenities, including two swimming pools, tennis courts, barbecue areas, and beautifully manicured gardens. With direct access to one of Maui's most beloved beaches, Kamaole Beach II, you'll have endless opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, and basking in the sun's warm embrace.  Conveniently located within a short distance to shops, restaurants, and entertainment options, Kihei Akahi C409 provides the perfect blend of tranquility and convenience. Whether you're seeking a permanent residence, a vacation getaway, or an investment opportunity, this exceptional property offers the ultimate Hawaiian lifestyle experience.  Don't miss your chance to make Kihei Akahi C409 your own piece of paradise. Schedule a showing today and let us help you turn your Maui dreams into reality!
Home in kihei akahi
$860,000 | 1 bd, 1 ba | 655 sqft
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Fun Facts

History

Polynesians from Tahiti and the Marquesas islands first arrived on Maui perhaps around 400 A.D., although there is no definitive date. The Polynesian settlers followed a kupu system, like that on most of the islands, and became farmers and fishermen.

In the early years, there were three kingdoms on Maui: Lahaina, Hana, and Wailuku. Many wars and conquests occurred over the years, with one of the final battles being Kamehameha the Great conquering Maui in 1795 to unite the islands.

After English explorers mapped the Hawaiian Islands, sharing the news of the rich lands of Hawaii with the world, Maui became home to whalers and Christian missionaries. Later sugar plantations consumed life on Maui for nearly a century, with the last Alexander & Baldwin 36,000-acre sugar plantation closing in 2016.

The Weather

The weather on Maui varies across the island due to its proximity to coastline, varying elevations, and differing trade winds through the valleys and slopes.

Central Maui, with the towns of Kahului and Wailuku, tend to have warm, steady temperatures throughout the year with dry breezes; sometimes Central Maui is also muggy with rainfall. The leeward side, which includes Kihei, Wailea, Makena, Lahaina, Kaanapali, and Kapalua, is typically dryer with a higher daytime temperature – up to 92 degrees – and the least amount of rainfall. The windward side with Paia, Haiku, Keanae, Hana, and Kipahulu, has heavier rainfall and northeast trade winds. Upcountry Maui includes Makawao, Pukalani, Kula, and the main mountain, Haleakala. With elevations from 1700 to 4500 feet, the temperatures are milder (70s to low 80s) during the day and chillier at night.

A sunset on a Maui beach.

The Infrastructure

Governed by Maui County, which also governs the less-populated islands of Lanai and Molokai, Maui’s infrastructure was originally funded by the sugar and pineapple plantations. The federal government helped to build the county’s infrastructure from 1959 to the mid-1970s, and since the state and county has been in control, Maui residents have continued to desire infrastructure improvements.

While Maui has wastewater, water, roadways, public transit, parks, solid waste, and police and fire infrastructure, much of it was put in place many years ago. The water infrastructure is in poor to fair condition and many of the roadways need repair. The Maui Bus system is operated by a private company, Roberts Hawaii, and has limited commuter service. Maui in Phase 3 of constructing and expanding the Central Maui Landfill.

It's also important to note that Maui is in the process of planning how to rebuild Lahaina after its deadly wildfires.

Safety and Security

You may be wondering, is Maui safe? The island welcomes nearly 3 million visitors each year, and it is generally safe for both tourists and residents. Not surprisingly, the ocean environment poses a risk – especially on Maui which has one of the largest waves in the world, Peahi or Jaws. People on Maui should be aware of rogue waves as well as strong currents. The trails, waterfalls, and vast landscapes of Maui are breathtaking, but also pose a risk, as people have been known to become lost. Violent crimes are not common on Maui, but like the other islands, petty theft does occur at times.

Why move to the Big Island (island of Hawaii)?

Hawaii Island, known most commonly among locals as the Big Island, is the largest geographical island in Hawaii – and in the United States. It is the southeastern-most island and also the newest island with an active volcano that continues to add more land mass to make the Big Island even bigger. Prospective buyers will find that the Big Island has lower home prices with much more land available. However, the varying weather and lack of infrastructure in some areas could be a challenge for the non-adventurous home buyer.

The Big Island of Hawaii.

Homes for sale on Big Island

A shot of the road from the deck on Mauna Kea volcano.
A shot of the road from the deck on Mauna Kea volcano.

Fun Facts

History

Stories say legendary Polynesian navigator, Hawaiiloa, first discovered Hawaii Island, and this is where the island’s name originates. Other stories say the island is named after the realm of gods and goddesses, Hawaiki.

Near the end of the eighteenth century, Captain James Cook, an English explorer sailed to Hawaii Island and called them the “Sandwich Islands.” After sharing of his “discovery” of the Hawaiian Islands with compatriots, he was later killed on the Big Island at Kealakekua Bay.

The Big Island was the home of Kamehameha the Great, who united most of the Hawaiian Islands in 1795 after several years of war. He renamed the island chain after his native island, Hawaii.

The Weather

The Big Island has eleven of the world’s thirteen sub-climates, meaning if you want wet, dry, hot, or cold – even snow – you can find it.

Kailua-Kona side is hot, as vog (volcanic emissions of sulfur dioxide and other volcanic gases) from the active volcano, Kīlauea, absorbs the sun’s rays. Also, Kīlauea continues to erupt, causing some housing, which often is priced right, to be at risk of lava flows. The leeward side is hot and dry, sometimes with droughts and even wildfires. If you have respiratory problems, it is not recommended to live on the leeward side of the Big Island.

The highlands and eastern side, where Hilo is located, experience a lot of rain – and mold. This side also has a history of hurricanes and tropical storms.

The Infrastructure

Hawaii County is the governing body of the Big Island. There is an excellent bus system that runs across the entire island and the roads are maintained fairly well. The historic town of Hilo as well as the popular tourist town of Kona have parks, bike paths, and convenient downtown areas with many shops.

Traffic during rush hour is a problem on the 10-mile stretch between Keaau and Pahoa in the Puna District, often worsened with construction delays. Also, except in the main towns of Hilo and Kailua-Kona, the majority of the Big Island relies on private rainwater catchment systems for water, meaning if there is not rain, you may not have running water.

Some other infrastructure cons are there are no rubbish pickup or home mail delivery in certain areas. This means you will have to take trips to the dump and the post office if you live in a rural area.

Safety and Security

The Big Island is fairly safe, with little room for criminals to hide. Few major violent crimes, like murder or armed robbery, occur. The aloha spirit is present on the Big Island, with neighbors watching out for each other through Neighborhood Watch programs. However, the Big Island does have a drug and petty theft problem. House robberies are fairly common in South Hilo, the Puna District, and the Hamakua Coast as well as auto theft.

Why move to Kauai?

The oldest island in the Hawaiian chain, Kauai is known for its lush landscapes, sharp mountains on Na Pali Coast and cascading waterfalls. Quaint, country towns add to the laid-back vide of this less-populated smaller island. Real estate on Kauai is competitive with single-family home prices comparable to Maui or Oahu and not much supply. If you want to live the old Hawaii lifestyle, full of aloha and tranquility, Kauai might be the island for you.

The island of Kauai.

Homes for sale on Kauai

OPEN: 04/16, 4pm - 6pm
This sweet furnished 4-Bedroom  home in the Apopo Hale complex is nestled in a  quiet and convenient neighborhood  that is close to everything that downtown Kapa?a has to offer. <br>The spacious layout is perfect for comfortable, convenient living and is move in ready. <br><br>The fully fenced in back yard gives this home a private feel and is good for a family pet.  The outdoor living space includes two furnished seating areas, and the yard is beautifully landscaped with vegetable, herbs and flowers for you to enjoy.   There is a storage shed in the back yard.   Yard maintenance is provided by the Association.  <br><br>This home features all new microwave, gas stove and range, garbage disposal, washer,  lighting fixtures in kitchen, bathroom and hallway, as well  7 new deluxe high efficiency ceiling fans with remotes throughout the home.<br><br>The primary bedroom includes  a completely remodeled bathroom. The plumbing was recently upgraded as was the electric, including all new outlets and switchplates throughout the entire house. <br> <br>Features:<br>•    New roof in 2016<br>•    Gas stove, dryer and hot water <br>•    2 assigned parking spaces<br>•    Hardwood bamboo flooring<br>•    All Interior walls recently painted<br>•    Additional cleared land in lower back yard
Home in apopo hale
$895,000 | 4 bd, 2 ba | 1,188 sqft
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Fun Facts

History

As the oldest island, Kauai has a unique history. The first settlers of the island are believed to be Marquesans and other Polynesians who arrived around 500 A.D., traversing the vast Pacific Ocean with the stars and trade winds. The early settlers lived off the land, growing taro, yams, and bananas, and enjoying the plentiful fresh water.

With the arrival of Westerns in the late 1700s, Kauai became a common stop for sea voyagers and missionaries. Kamehameha the Great had difficulty conquering Kauai, and its neighboring island, Niihau, due to rebellion and disease outbreaks. But in 1810, Kamehameha and the King of Kauai, Kaumualii, came to a peaceful agreement, with Kauai joining the Hawaiian Kingdom with Kaumualii as its governor.

Sugar plantations were plentiful on Kauai starting in the late 1800s due to Kauai’s rich, flat lands. In the early 1900s, pineapple found its way to Kapa‘a, along with people from all over the world – Japan, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Spain, Germany, China, and the Philippines – coming to work on the plantations. Sugar and pineapple dominated the island for nearly 100 years.

The Weather

Kauai’s climate is generally humid and stable year-round, with temperatures averaging 78 degrees in Lihue in February and 85 degrees in August. In Kauai’s mountain ranges, like the Kokee State Park, which has Hawaii’s “Grand Canyon,” temperatures are chilly – with a record low of 29 degrees. Kauai tends to get more rain and has had historical flooding and hurricanes which have wreaked havoc on homes and hotels. Annual rain fall varies from about 50 inches annually on the windward shore to less than 20 inches on the leeward side of the island.

There is nothing quite like Kalalau Valley.
There is nothing quite like Kalalau Valley.

The Infrastructure

Kauai County governs the island of Kauai as well as “The Forbidden Isle” off its shore, Niihau. Infrastructure has remained the same on Kauai for the past decades, despite an increase in tourism. Two-way roads, one-way bridges, small parking lots, and a small public transportation system – the Kauai Bus – make getting around Kauai a challenge. But Kauai is a small island, so there is not far to travel.

The island’s drainage system leaves much to be desired, as there is no Drainage Master Plan for Kauai, which has resulted in some flooding and the lost of homes in the past decade. The water systems were initially constructed by sugar plantations and later expanded by the County. Wastewater systems are available in Waimea, Hanapepe, Lihue, Wailua, and Kapaa, but public wastewater systems are not available in many areas like Princeville, Kekaha, or Kokee. In fact, there are private systems operating in Puhi, Princeville, and Poipu.

Safety and Security

With its small population and geographic area, Kauai is one of the safest islands. Minimal crime exists on Kauai besides petty theft. However, the surf and one-way bridges create a hazard, so always be vigilant when swimming or driving on Kauais narrow roads. Remote waterfalls and hiking trails should not be accessed if you are not prepared or know the area, as explorers have been lost in the lush landscapes of Kauai in the past.

Why move to Lanai?

Coming in as the sixth largest inhabited Hawaiian Island in geographical size, Lanai is 18 miles at its longest width. Only 2% of the island is owned by the state of Hawaii or privately residents, while the other 98 percent is owned by the founder and chairman of the Oracle Corporation, Larry Ellison. Lana‘i is the island to live on if you are looking for a smaller community with plenty of dirt roads, picturesque beaches, and old Hawaii pineapple plantation charm. However, you will have to have some luck in being able to purchase one of the few homes for sale on Lanai!

The island of Lanai.

Lanai

Homes for sale on Lanai

Fun Facts

History

According to local Hawaiian legend, Lanai was once ruled by the god of nightmares for thousands of years. The god of nightmares’ rule ended when a teenage chief from Maui killed the nightmare god. He then lit a fire to signal that people from Maui could finally come to the island to inhabit it.

When Native Hawaiians inhabited Lanai, they established fish ponds and taro farms, and the people of Lanai enjoyed relatively calm years until King Kamehameha I took control, slaughtering many of Lanai’s former residents.

In the early 1800s, a farmer from China, Wong Tse Chun, used some of Lanai’s lands for sugar-growing. In the mid-1800s, a group of members from the Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints were granted a lease in the ahupua‘a of Palawai on Lanai. In 1963, Walter M. Gibson bought this land for $3000 and put it in his name, using it for ranching and then later for sugarcane farming, which brought hundreds of people from Japan to Lanai.

In 1922, James Dole bought the island and developed it as the world’s largest pineapple plantation, bringing workers from around the word.

In 1959, when Hawaii became a state, Lanai became a part of the County of Maui. With the changing international economy and outsourcing leading to cheaper ways to produce pineapple, the Dole Food Company’s plantation dwindled, with plantation operations closing by 1992.

In June 2012, Larry Ellison purchased Castle & Cooke’s 98 percent share of Lanai for $300 million. He remodeled a former hotel to create the luxurious Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay, which opened in April 2016. He has also built a new water filtration system and reopened a public pool in Lanai City, in addition to refurbishing and reopening the historic plantation movie theater. Ellison has started hydroponic farming on Lanai and has more plans to create a sustainable Lanai community.

An amazing sunrise over Manele Bay on Lanai.
An amazing sunrise over Manele Bay on Lanai.

The Weather

Lanai has generally pleasant and dry weather year-round. The island only receives about 37 inches of rainfall per year, and temperatures range from 70 to 85 degrees, with higher elevated places, like Lanai City, averaging around 72 degrees in the warmer months. Coastal places, like Manele Bay, are usually about 10 degrees higher, so you can drop the jacket and enjoy the beaches more comfortably.

The Infrastructure

With no traffic lights, one public school that goes from grades kindergarten to grade 12, and one hospital. The island is much smaller geographically and population-wise when comparing to the other Hawaiian Islands.

To move to Lanai, there is an airport and a ferry from Maui. As for traveling on the island, you will need a four-by-four vehicle to get to most places. The is no public transportation system, but some hotels offer car or van services.

While Lanai does not have much development at the moment, Larry Ellison proposed a plan to diversify the economy and add more jobs and residents in September 2019. Plans include the approved Miki Basin Industrial Park, a 200-acre industrial park near the Lanai Airport as well as adding 546 acres to triple the size of Lanai City – with visions for a university, more housing, film studios, and a tennis academy.

Safety and Security

Lanai is an extremely safe place to live. With only 3,000+ residents and mostly luxury tourism, it is difficult for crime to exist on Lanai. Lanai does have a police station, which is a part of the Maui County Police Department.

Why move to Molokai?

Among the Hawaiian Islands, Molokai is known as the Friendly Isle, and those who live there would consider it the best island to live on by far. With many longtime families and few visitors living on remote Molokai, it is one of the most secluded Hawaiian Islands. Long flat fields to jaw dropping sea cliffs on the “back side” to winding roads and small shops make Molokai a beautiful place to call home. Most residents live off of the land, growing produce in the rich soils, fishing, and hunting for deer. You can check out homes for sale on Molokai here.

The island of Molokai.

Molokai

Homes for sale on Molokai

Fun Facts

History

It is said that Polynesian settlers from Marquesas, Tahiti, and other Pacific islands inhabited Molokai around 650 AD, which new migrations taking place in 700 AD. The neighboring islands of Maui and Oahu did not interact much with the residents of Molokai in these early years, causing decades of peace.

In the 18th century, internal conflicts over fertile fishing groups occurred, causing chiefs from Oahu to take control of Molokai. When the king of Maui conquered Oahu, Maui also came under rule of the Maui. Shortly thereafter, King Kamehameha the Great united the Hawaiian Islands, including Molokai. King Kamehameha V had a vacation home on Kaunakakai beach and a country estate with cattle, coconut groves, and deer breeding grounds.

The first Europeans to step onto Molokai in 1786 were led by Captain George Dixon. Christian missionaries visited Molokai in the 1800s, with the first permanent missionary established in Kalua‘aha in 1832. Kalaupapa was a famous small town isolated by tall cliffs on Molokai for people suffering from Hansen’s disease or leprosy. In 1873, Father Damien deVeuster arrived at Kalaupapa, leaving a lasting legacy of caring for leprosy victims in Kalaupapa.

Molokai had the Meyer Sugar Mill for almost 30 years, run by Rudolph Meye from Germany who also produced wheat, potatoes, coffee, and corn for export and partnered with King Kamehameha V to supervise Molokai ranch lands and the Kalaupapa Leper Settlement.

The Weather

Molokai has desirable weather year-round. Temperature average about 75 degrees and rarely go above 85. During the winter season, which is usually December to March, evening temperatures drop to the 60s and there are often a few rainy days. Spring, summer, and fall have warm days with cool trade winds in the evenings. Without the trade winds, the heat and humidity can intense.

A single road on Molokai.

The Infrastructure

Molokai has a small Molokai General Hospital which operates 24/7 as well as a Community Health Center and Family Health Center. Molokai has four public elementary schools as well as a public middle and high school. There is a charter school and one private school on the island.

Governed by the County of Maui, Molokai has county and state parks and protected areas, including Palaau State Park, Molokai Forest Reserve, Halawa Beach Park, and the Kalaupapa National Historical Park with restricted access.

The island has one two-lane highway going from east to west and a small bus system. There is also a small outdoor airport with mainly 8-seater planes arriving daily from the neighboring Hawaiian Islands.

Safety and Security

Molokai is small, and everyone knows everyone. If you are visiting Molokai, people will notice. While the unemployment rate historically has been high on Molokai with most people living off the land or working part-time jobs, there is relatively low crime or theft. People who live on Molokai or visit Molokai can sleep soundly at night knowing their neighbors are friendly and crime is low.

Why move to Niihau?

Niihau is the island that you need an invitation from the Robinson family in order to visit, hence the nickname, “The Forbidden Isle.” Since Niihau is known to have stunning, unspoiled beaches and abundant wildlife, it may be enticing to try to buy real estate there. However, there is no real estate to buy on Niihau, and it is nearly impossible to even visit Niihau.

The island of Niihau.

Niihau

Fun Facts

Residents of Niihau speak the Hawaiian language almost exclusively.

No one knows exactly how many people live on Niihau, as the Robinson family does not have to report population numbers.

Former Niihau residents say there are a lot of rules, including no alcohol or guns, men not having long hair or earrings, and everyone attending church on Sundays. Breaking the rules might mean an eviction from the island by the Robinson family.

History

Niihau was once ruled by Hawaiian ali‘i or chiefs, with a variety of battles and marriages marking its history and establishing its many rulers. Despite many attempts, Kamehameha was never fully successful in conquering Niihau by force. In 1810, Kamehameha gathered many fighters, and rather than fighting, the Niihau ruler, Kaumauli‘i, surrendered. And after Kamehameha died, his widow, Ka‘ahumanu, married Kaumauli‘i, further solidifying Niihau’s presence in the unified Kingdom of Hawaii.

In 1864, Elizabeth McHutchison Sinclair purchased Niihau from King Kamehameha V for $10,000 in gold. The king made the family promise that they protect the island and its residents from outside influences – and many generations later, descendants of the Sinclair family have upheld that promise to today. Brothers Bruce and Keith Robinson currently manage Niihau.

Drone shot of Niihau - wikipedia.org
Drone shot of Niihau - wikipedia.org

The Weather

Niihau is drier than other islands with less trade wind rainfall due to its low elevation and location next to rainy Kauai. Historical droughts on Niihau have been recorded several times. Temperatures average 70 to 80 degrees year-round.

The Infrastructure

In general, Niihau has no roads, cars, stores, restaurants, Internet, electricity, or indoor plumbing. Permanent residents use traditional Hawaiian hunting and fishing methods, as were done for hundreds of years and have been passed down by their ancestors.

For employment, residents collect rare small, red shells and make them into expensive leis, and other people are employed by the Robinson ranch, where they earn salaries and free housing.

Safety and Security

Since access to Niihau is limited to invitation only, and everyone that lives there is basically family, there is no documented crime.

So what's the best Hawaiian Island to live on?

Each of the Hawaiian Islands is unique – offering a range of weather, amenities, and differing culture. If you want lush landscapes and a laid-back old Hawaii lifestyle, Kauai may be right for you. If amenities, urban life, and spectacular surf are your preferences, you may like Oahu. If you like rural living but also might enjoy some amenities and tourists along with beautiful landscapes, Maui may be your place. And if you want wide-open spaces and have an adventurous spirit, you may prefer the Big Island.

If you want a friendly, rural place and to try sustainable living, Molokai might be your island. However, if you want to experience the old pineapple plantation vibe and hope for more sustainable living initiatives from Larry Ellison, you might enjoy living on Lanai. If you want to immerse in Hawaiian culture and escape the outside world, Niihau might be right for you – but by invitation only.

Whichever island you choose to live on, the beauty of Hawaii and aloha spirit will dwell.

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Oahu

Oahu is Hawaii's most populated island a.k.a. "The Gathering Place."

Maui

Maui is best known for its outdoor adventures and active lifestyle.

Hawaii

Black sand beaches, active volcanoes, and a lot of driving.

Kauai

"The Garden Isle" is best known for it's natural outdoor beauty.

Molokai

The 5th largest and 5th most populated island in Hawaii.

Lanai

Lanai is known for untouched beauty, hunting, and off-roading.