If you could live anywhere in Hawaii, where would you live?

Based the population in Hawaii from the United States Census Bureau dated July 1, 2019, the following are the top eight largest cities in Hawaii – along with a review of what makes them so appealing.

By REAL. Updated Jul 04, 2024. | Living in Hawaii | 5 min. read
  1. HonoluluJump
  2. Hawaii KaiJump
  3. HiloJump
  4. Pearl CityJump
  5. WaipahuJump
  6. KailuaJump
  7. KaneoheJump
  8. KahuluiJump


Estimated Population: 345,064
Estimated Population: 345,064

“I live in a brand-new apartment building in Ward Village. I love the convenience. I work at my downtown office, go for a surf at Kewalo’s, and then hit the bar for pau hana with friends after,” says one Honolulu resident.

Many people choose Honolulu as the best place to live. In fact, Honolulu is the largest city in Hawaii and the eleventh largest city in the United States. The city of Honolulu includes many neighborhoods, like Downtown, Kakaako, Ward, Waikiki, Kaimuki, Manoa, and more. Like any big city, Honolulu is hopping with many things to do: bike along King Street; shop at the largest outdoor mall in the United States, Ala Moana Mall; eat a range of food from Japanese to Ethiopian; take a hike in the mountains, or surf at one of the popular Waikiki waves.

Hawaii Kai / East Honolulu

Estimated Population: 47,770
Estimated Population: 47,770

“My family and I love the safe atmosphere and great schools in Hawaii Kai. We love taking the boat to the ocean through the marina. Hawaii Kai is my quintessential Hawaii city,” a Hawaii Kai resident says.

Located ten miles east Honolulu, Hawaii Kai is a master-planned community – transformed from wetlands to beautiful homes and harbors in the 1960s. A variety of people call Hawaii Kai home from young families to empty nesters, waterfront apartment owners to mountaintop estate holders. Hawaii Kai is one of Oahu’s wealthiest zip codes and boasts numerous retail and dining options along with top public schools. Despite the rapid residential and commercial development, preservation of the land has become a priority, with pristine landscapes like Sandy Beach and Hanauma Bay remaining for Hawaii Kai residents to enjoy.

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Estimated Population: 46,284
Estimated Population: 46,284

“My family has lived in Hilo for years. We love the rains, the aloha spirit, and the convenience to the Hilo airport. I will raise my family in Hilo like I was raised here,” says a Hilo resident.

Located on Hawaii Island, also know as the Big Island, Hilo is a city that encompasses a larger geographical area. The quaint old Hawaii vibe remains in downtown Hilo with mom-and-pop shops and new environmentally friendly cafes. People who live in Hilo can find better deals on larger homes and properties while also enjoying the coffee shops, parks, and famous mochi. Hilo also hosts a University of Hawaii campus and the annual Merrie Monarch Festival, a renowned international hula show.

Pearl City

Estimated Population: 46,129
Estimated Population: 46,129

“When my wife and I were stationed at Pearl Harbor, we didn’t want to live on base but instead wanted to invest in a house in Hawaii. We chose Pearl City for its convenient location and great neighborhood amenities,” says a Pearl City resident.

Near Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, Pearl City house about 50 percent civilians and 50 percent military members. This convenient city is closely knit and has everything a family would want – beautiful parks, splendid shopping, better public schools, and a rich history. It is only a 25-minute drive to Downtown Honolulu, depending on traffic, and the Honolulu Rail is expected to offer another transportation option with a rail stop at Pearl City.


Estimated Population: 40,427
Estimated Population: 40,427

“Waipahu High School has been great for my kids. We love having all the aunties and uncles nearby, and when we want to go to town, we easily can get in the car on H1,” says a Waipahu resident.

This former sugarcane plantation town has easy access to the H-1 freeway and soon-to-be-completed Honolulu Rail Stops– the West Loch Station and the Waipahu Transit Center Station. Residents of Waipahu enjoy a short commute to major places on Oahu, including Kapolei, Pearl Harbor, the windward side, or downtown Honolulu. Also, a variety of living options – designer homes, townhouses, condominiums – with moderate prices for Oahu are available.


Estimated Population: 36,662
Estimated Population: 36,662

“I love strolling Kailua beach in the evenings and taking my SUP out to the Mokes. Kailua has transformed since I have lived here the past five years. We have so many great places to eat and shop now!” says a Kailua resident.

Kailua is a relaxed, close-knit community on the Windward side of Oahu. World-famous fine white sand beaches and majestic mountain views enable Kailua residents to enjoy its natural beauty and outdoor activities. Kailua also boasts a variety of shops, schools, and restaurants, including Target and Whole Foods, along with farmers’ markets and community events, like the annual “I Love Kailua” town party.


Estimated Population: 33,739
Estimated Population: 33,739

Kaneohe is by far the best city in Hawaii. It still has the old Hawaii feel with the amazing Ko’olau mountains and the convenience of the Likelike Highway and the H-3. I grew up here and don’t want to live anywhere else,” says a Kaneohe resident.

Kāneʻohe is the most populated town on the windward side of Oahu, but the enclave surrounded by mountains and sea emulates the intimate local Hawaiian lifestyle. Residents fish, snorkel, scuba dive, kayak to Coconut Island, or boat to the famous sandbar at Kāneʻohe Bay. Marine Corps Base Hawaii is located on the Mokapu Peninsula, making Kāneʻohe a great neighborhood for military members as well. And with Windward Community College, Ho‘omaluhia Botanical Garden, a mall, parks, a variety of schools, and more, the picturesque Kāneʻohe community has all the amenities to live comfortably while enjoying the cool trade winds and lush landscapes.


Estimated Population: 32,312
Estimated Population: 32,312

“I love living in town. It is easy because my family can go to Costco, go to the mall, get lunch, see the doctor, or hop on the plane to Oahu. It’s a great place to escape the tourists and raise a family,” says a Kahului resident.

Located on the island of Maui and with its own airport, harbor, shopping centers, and more, Kahului is a place many Maui residents call home. It was once populated by plantation worlds and branded as a “Dream City” to be able to own your own home. Typically not a tourist destination but rather a city for the locals, Kahului has the Maui Arts and Cultural Center, the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum, the Kahana Beach County Park, and several department stores in the Queen Kaahumanu Center.

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