Skyline of Hawaii and Waikiki beach

10 Things to Know About Living in Honolulu

Are you thinking about moving to Honolulu? Home to some of the best beaches and outdoor recreation in the world, Hawaii’s capital city offers residents beautiful views, incredible weather, and so much more. Sound like your dream home? Take a look at these ten things to know about living in Honolulu!

A Thriving Job Market

Aerial view of Honolulu at sunset. Photo by Instagram user @churavis
Photo via @churavis

It’s no secret that Honolulu is one of the top U.S. tourist destinations. In fact, Oahu, the island the city calls home, attracts nearly 9 million people annually. So what does that have to do with Honolulu jobs? Everything, actually! To accommodate that sort of tourist volume, the tourism industry is booming and accounts for the largest sector in Honolulu’s job market. It’s also a large part of the reason why the city’s unemployment rate is one of the lowest of any in the U.S., holding steady around 2.6%. While tourism provides the most job opportunities, healthcare is another large employer in Honolulu, thanks to organizations like Altres Medical. Another key player in the local job market, of course, is the U.S. Department of Defense, as the city is home to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Paradise Comes with a High Cost of Living

White high-rise condo in Honolulu. Photo by Instagram user @jaimemoniz4real_estate
Photo via @jaimemoniz4real_estate

Living in Honolulu is an amazing experience, but it also comes with a hefty price tag. The cost of living is incredibly high—82% higher than the national average, to be exact. In addition, Honolulu’s housing costs are 171% higher than the national average with the median home price at $601,500 and median monthly rent at $1,357. In other words, it’s right up there with cities like San Francisco and NYC. But if you ask many Honolulu locals, they’ll tell you it’s worth it to live near the beach and have gorgeous weather year-round!

Immerse Yourself in the Culture

Young girl going the hula on the beach. Photo by Instagram user @aloha_avenue
Photo via @aloha_avenue

From maintaining the beautiful Iolani Palace that was home to the last reigning Hawaiian kings and queens to hosting luaus across the island that feature traditional Hawaiian dishes and performances, residents of Honolulu truly embrace their home’s native culture. Be sure to get better acquainted with the hula and Hawaiian Pidgin before moving to Honolulu! You’ve undoubtedly heard of the hula, but it’s so much more than just a dance—it’s about passing on stories of Hawaiian culture and making spiritual connections. And Pidgin? It’s a unique language spoken by locals that blends Hawaiian, Japanese, Filipino, Chinese, and Portuguese into words and phrases like “howzit” and “aurite.”

Hit the Beach

Aerial view of the beach and ocean in Waikiki. Photo by Instagram user @skiesandtides
Photo via @skiesandtides

Where are the best beaches in Honolulu? Head to the gorgeous two-mile Waikiki Beach, where you’ll find some of the best year-round swimming and surfing that Hawaii has to offer. Venture a little farther south to Diamond Head Beach Park, which was formed by a volcanic eruption and has spectacular views of the Diamond Head State Monument. Another must-see is Hanauma Beach, a local favorite for snorkeling that was created by a collapsed volcano crater, where you’ll see many types of fish in calm waters. Looking for beaches in Honolulu that are good for kids? Make your way to Mother’s Beach, which offers calm swimming, beautiful white sand, and easy access off of Kamehameha Highway.

Surf’s Up!

Guy surfing waves at Ehukai Beach. Photo by Instagram user @davidpariasphoto
Photo via @davidpariasphoto

You can’t talk about Honolulu without surfing entering the conversation! That’s because surfers gather from around the globe to ride the waves at some Honolulu’s top surf spots. Just starting out? Head to Diamond Head, where the gentle waves will help ease you into both paddling and standing up for the first time. Or check out Sandy Beach, a great surfing spot for anyone easy surfing and bodyboarding. More experienced with surfing? Visit Ala Moana Bowls, where the waves can crest around 12 feet. There’s also the world-famous Banzai Pipeline at Ehukai Beach Park along the North Shore, which is known for its barreling waves. Even if you don’t want to surf here, you can watch professional surfers from around the world come to compete in international surfing competitions!

Spend the Day at Pearl Harbor

All white USS Arizona Memorial building hovering on water. Photo by Instagram user @dcarlo7
Photo via @dcarlo7

Honolulu’s Pearl Harbor was the site of the infamous 1941 Japanese attack on the U.S. during WWII. Make the trip north to check out the harbor’s historical monuments and learn more about U.S. military presence on the island. Visit the USS Arizona Memorial, where you can stand over the sunken battleship and see tributes to its crew. Explore the enormous Battleship Missouri, the last warship of its kind to be built, or take a tour of the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park. And don’t forget to stop into the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum to view WWII-era airplanes, vintage aircraft, and interactive displays.

The Museums & Gardens Don’t Disappoint

Giant black and white head exhibit at the Hawaii State Art Museum. Photo by Instagram user @micnmylove
Photo via @micnmylove

Some of Honolulu’s best attractions are its museums! Located in the heart of Downtown Honolulu is the Hawaii State Art Museum. Called HiSam by locals, this museum showcases modern and conceptual artwork from young local artists, as well as from well-known national artists. There’s also the Honolulu Museum of Art, the largest of its kind in Hawaii featuring Asian, European, and American collections. Looking for history and science? Visit the Bishop Museum, where you can see shows at the planetarium, explore the science adventure center, or discover the history of ancient Hawaii. Want to get in some culture outdoors? Head to Foster Botanical Garden, a 14-acre garden in Downtown Honolulu that was founded in the 1850s and still has some of the original trees from that time.

Get Acquainted with the Plate Lunch

Plate full of of chicken cutlets and and macaroni salad from Rainbow Drive In. Photo by Instagram user @rainbowdrivein
Photo via @rainbowdrivein

There are many foods that you’ll hear Hawaiians raving about, but one of the most widely talked about  on the island is the delicious, belly-filling plate lunch. Originated in the 1880s and influenced by Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, and Korean cuisine, this dish is normally comprised of a number of different proteins like pork, chicken, or fish with macaroni salad and rice. The best part is that a plate lunch can be found everywhere, from roadside stands to hole-in-the-wall restaurants, with each venue putting their own spin on this classic dish! Experience your first plate lunch at the iconic Rainbow Drive-In, a beloved spot of Former President Barack Obama.

Prepare Your Taste Buds

Plate of tropical fruit and eggs benedict from Dukes Waikiki. Photo by Instagram user @dukeswaikiki
Photo via @dukeswaikiki

Where are the best places to eat in Honolulu? All around you! Check out Musubi Cafe Iyasume, a small Japanese spot known for their Spam Musubi. Want to experience luau fare indoors? Stop in at Helena’s Hawaiian Food, and try the Pipikaula Style Short Ribs, Kalua Pig, or Lomi Salmon. Looking for an awesome date night spot? Alan Hong’s is of the top restaurants in Honolulu for locally-caught pink snapper and beef medallions. In the mood for breakfast food? Beachfront restaurant Duke’s Waikiki has made-to-order omelets and banana pancakes that will have you coming back time and time again—maybe even for lunch or dinner! What about dessert? Uncle Clay’s House of Aloha will be your new go-to dessert spot for shaved ice smothered in artisanal fruit syrups and homemade Hawaiian ice cream.

Did Someone Say Cocktails?

Cocktail being poured into a glass. Photo by Instagram user @artofpoison
Photo via @artofpoison

Want to hit Honolulu hot spots at night? Try WorkPlay, a craft coffee and cocktail bar that serves small plates and coffee in the morning before transforming into a live music venue with cocktails at night. If you’re looking for a local watering hole, Honolulu Tavern is a great place where you’ll feel right at home with happy hour specials and a pool room in the back. Experience one of the best bars in Honolulu at Bar Leather Apron, a craft cocktail joint that takes classic cocktails to new different level with unique spins—like the Japan Old Fashioned or the Garden Negroni. Or pop into tiki bar Skull & Crown Trading Co with some friends and sip on one of their delicious tropical drinks like the Dole Whip Rum Float!

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10 Things to Know About Living in Honolulu

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