The Best Places for Young Families in Hawaii
Home shopping for the first time is exciting, but it can also be stressful, especially for young families just starting out. Will you find a home in your price range? Will you qualify for a mortgage? Will your neighborhood be kid-friendly?
Like most young families, you’ll probably have a long wishlist for finding that ideal home. Most likely it will also include a place with encouraging job prospects, good schools, decent commutes and, yes, plenty of things to do when downtime finally comes around.
Hawaii is known for its beauty and a famed “aloha spirit” that makes for a relaxed, friendlier way of life. The state also has plenty of variety to be found on a string of major islands, which include Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the island of Hawaii. Overall, living here is expensive, but Hawaii still offers a number of options that might work for young families. Here’s a list of possibilities, as compiled by researchers at LendingTree.
- Honaunau-Napoopoo is the best place to raise a family in Hawaii, with a final score of 76.3.
- Waikapu and Hanamaulu take the second and third spots, with final scores of 75.0 and 69.5, respectively.
- On the other end of the list, we found Holualoa to be the most challenging place for young families in Hawaii, with a final score of 41.6.
- Makaha and Hawaiian Beaches finished out the bottom three towns on our list, with final scores of 42.2 and 42.4, respectively.
The top 10 cities to live in Hawaii
No. 1: Honaunau-Napoopoo
With its sunny climate, vibrant water life and historical landmarks, the South Kona coast on the island of Hawaii has been a visitor draw for years, so it’s no surprise the top-ranked place for young families is here, too. This small community has the highest household income for any place we surveyed, but it also has the near-lowest median housing cost ($820 per month). That could be because the community has a mix of wealthy and low-income families, with 38% of all owner-occupied households paying less than $500 per month in housing costs, according to Census data. Schools appear excellent here, as do job prospects, although the commute time averages 32 minutes. Families can learn about early Hawaiian life at nearby Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. One caveat to moving here: Only about a quarter of households have children.
No. 2: Waikapu
Families with children make up more than 55% of all households in Waikapu, the highest percentage for a top 10 place. This small community in central Maui is about five miles from Kahului, the island’s business center and home to its main airport. Housing costs are very high, a median of $1,903 per month, but so are household incomes. Almost 82% of families with children own homes, so affordability may be less of an issue here than in other places on this list. Waikapu residents have a relatively short commute of 22.1 minutes. Nearby attractions include the popular Maui Tropical Plantation, a working farm that showcases island produce.
No. 3: Hanamaulu
On the eastern side of Kauai, Hanamaulu is a few minutes from Lihue, the island’s government and commercial hub. With a median housing cost of $1,221, it’s one of the least expensive places in our rankings overall, although household income is less, too. Still, some 45% of households have children, and almost 62% of those own homes. Job prospects are especially promising in this area, most likely because Hanamaulu is also near Wailua-Kapaa, which is the most populated area of the island. Families living here can access two nearby beach parks and a score of natural preserves, such as Wailua Falls to the north.
No. 4: Laie
On Oahu’s northeastern shore, Laie is home to both an estimated 6,168 residents and Brigham Young University–Hawaii. Young families who decide to move here will be in good company; more than 53% of households have children, and almost 46% of those that do own homes. Families also won’t have any shortage of things to do; nearby attractions include the Polynesian Cultural Center, Laie Point State Wayside Park and Oahu’s laid-back North Shore. Laie residents have a 21-minute commute on average, the shortest in our top 10 rankings — perhaps due to the sizable presence of the university.
No. 5: Waihee-Waiehu
Waihee-Waiehu is on the coast of Maui’s lush western peninsula but, like No. 2-ranked Waikapu, offers quick access to stores and other commercial services in Kahului. Families with children make up 40% of total households and have a median income of $76,042. About 77% of those households own their homes and pay a median of $1,659 per month, so it’s more affordable than Waikapu. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, is 4.3% for 25- to 44-year-olds. Attractions of interest to families include camping in nearby West Maui Forest Reserve.
No. 6: Pukalani
Pukalani sits in the center of Maui in the upcountry region that’s a mix of rural, agricultural and residential areas on the slopes of Haleakala volcano. With no beaches, Pukalani likely draws fewer tourists than other cities in our ranks, but unemployment is low, 1.7%. Pukalani has both higher household incomes and lower housing costs than fifth-ranked Waihee-Waiehu, also on Maui, but only about 32% of households have children. Still, about 64% of those families own homes, and schools appear to be excellent.
No. 7: Waimanalo Beach
With a median housing cost of $1,007 per month, Waimanalo Beach in southeastern Oahu is the second-least expensive place on our list. Household income, meanwhile, is high, which may explain why this community has the highest homeownership rate, an exceptional 94.5%. In the end, three measures pushed Waimanalo into the No. 7 slot: a relatively high unemployment rate for 25- to 44-year-olds (5.7%), a high percentage of older teens not enrolled or graduated from high school (5.5%) and the longest commute time for a top-ranked community, 36.2 minutes. The lengthy travel time suggest many residents commute to Honolulu, about a 14-mile drive away.
No. 8: Mililani Mauka
With an estimated 20,393 residents, Mililani Mauka in central Oahu is the largest of our top 10 places in Hawaii. Families with children make up 42.3% of the households in this suburban area that’s part of the larger, Mililani master-planned community. Household income is high here, and the median housing cost of $2,357 per month is the highest for a top 10. Still, some 80% of families with children own homes. With proximity to both Schofield Barracks and Wheeler Army Air Field, Mililani Mauka is home to many military families.
No. 9: Aiea
About 10 miles from downtown Honolulu, Aiea is another central Oahu city that has both a high homeownership rate among households with children (63.2%) and a high median household income of $116,563. About 36% of households in Aiea have children, a number that’s still solid but on the lower end of the top 10 list. Families here have access to one of Hawaii’s most popular historical attractions, Pearl Harbor, the Keaiwa Heiau State Recreation Area and Aloha Stadium.
No. 10: Keaau
On the island of Hawaii, the small community of Keaau is about eight miles from the city of Hilo in an area known for lush rainforests and waterfalls. Household income here is high relative to housing costs, a median of $1,158 per month, so it’s not surprising that 71.3% of families with children own a home. Before considering a move here, families should note that the unemployment rate among 25- to 44-year-olds is high at 9.5%. Still, for adventure seekers, there is plenty to do: Keaau is about 20 miles from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to two of the world’s most restless volcanoes.
Understanding the rankings
We chose seven indicators to rank cities and towns with above 2,299 people in Hawaii for how good they are for young families. These indicators were then scored to create an overall ranking of the best places for young families. The seven indicators we used were:
- Median family income: Money isn’t everything, but a place with high family incomes suggests a place with good job opportunities and a community with more resources.
- Median monthly housing costs for all households: For families already dealing with new child care expenses, reasonably affordable housing is important.
- Homeownership rate of families with children: This indicates where homeownership is both more common and — perhaps just as important for a family looking to buy — more practical.
- Unemployment rate of 25- to 44-year-olds: This indicates where the job market is healthy and suggests a higher quality of life locally. We focused on 25- to 44-year-olds in particular to capture the most common ages for parents of young families.
- Percentage of 16- to 19-year-olds not enrolled or graduated from high school: To estimate high school graduation rates and, therefore, school quality, we calculated the percentage of older teenagers who were not in high school yet had no high school degree. This number is not the actual high school dropout rate, but is well-correlated.
- Average commute time: Shorter commutes mean less stressed workers who have more time to spend with their families.
- Percentage of households that have children: A community with more children means that other families have already decided it’s attractive. It also usually means more educational and recreational activities suitable for children and their parents and that residents are concerned about policies that benefit families with kids.
Analysts used data from the 2017 5-Year American Community Survey by the U.S. Census. Each of the seven metrics was given a value according to its relative location between the highest and lowest values. The values were then summed and divided by seven for an equal weighting. The analysis was limited to Census-designated places with populations of at least 2,299.