Hawaii – Retirement Paradise, If You Can Afford It

by Bill Ness on February 1, 2012

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A dream Hawaiian retirement complete with gorgeous sandy beaches and tropical delights can be possible with careful financial planning.

Many active adults dream of retiring to Hawaii’s tropical paradise. This chain of islands offers a gorgeous getaway with warm weather year-round and enough activities to last a lifetime. Though Hawaii is rich in its own island culture, the fact that it’s part of the United States makes it easy to enjoy an extreme change of scenery without actually moving out of the country.

Surrounded by the sparking water of the vast Pacific Ocean, and graced with distinctive tropical vegetation, Hawaii feels a bit like another world. This fantastic destination features warm, yet mild weather with year-round daytime temperatures ranging within the 70s and 80s. Yet Hawaii’s geography offers much wider extremes. There are sandy beaches, active volcanoes, snow-capped mountains, lush rainforests and volcanic deserts.

As a world famous vacation spot, many parts of Hawaii certainly cater toward tourists. Yet visitors and locals alike are sure to love exploring the state’s natural wonders with outdoor activities like hiking, biking, boating, snorkeling, diving and even skiing. They can also begin to feel at home while discovering the charm of historic small towns like Hawi, Holualoa and Kailua-Kona.

Hawaii may offer a paradise retirement destination, but paradise comes at a cost. Many active adults scratch Hawaii off their lists simply because it is too expensive. Yet those who research the islands may discover that careful planning can put this dream retirement within reach.

Hawaii’s cost of living is high. This is particularly true when it comes to buying groceries and other goods that have to be shipped from the mainland. However, there are ways to cut costs. Hawaii does have warehouse shopping centers like Costco and Sam’s Club which offer fairly good deals. You can also save money by buying produce at local markets or even starting your own garden.

Housing is also expensive in Hawaii, yet some residential areas are more affordable than others. Many retirees in Hawaii choose to settle in the mountainous city of Hilo. Though this is one of the rainier parts of Hawaii, Hilo homes may be more affordable with a median home price of $255,000. Similarly priced homes can also be found in Waimalu, which is a small town located less than 10 miles from Honolulu.

Retirees with larger budgets often find their dream homes in areas like Wahiawa, Waipahu or Kanehoe. The median home price in both Wahiawa and Waipahu is $350,000. Wahaiwa is located near Honolulu and Waipahu lies just outside of Pearl Harbor. Both of these towns offer low-crime rates and tropical weather year-round. The temperatures are a bit cooler in Kanehoe, which is set on the Kanehoe Bay near a Marine Corps base. Homes are more expensive in Kanehoe as well, with a median price of around $475,000.

Though Hawaii’s cost of living is high, the tax laws are often favorable for retirees. Social security benefits, out-of-state government pensions and many other pensions are exempt. There are also Homestead exemptions (which vary by area) for retirees over a certain age. Retirees should also keep in mind that Hawaii recently reenacted an estate and transfer tax which applies to estates worth more than $3.6 million.

The distance to Hawaii may be another factor which puts this island destination out of reach. Traveling back and forth to the mainland is very expensive and time consuming, as the nearest California coast is about 2,400 miles away. Many retirees who love the Hawaiian lifestyle decide that they simply don’t want to live that far away from their family and friends.

A Hawaiian retirement might not be ideal for everyone, but those who can afford it may find paradise when relocating to these tropical islands.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

carole February 9, 2012 at 7:21 pm

We would like information on retirement 55+ adult active communities in Hawaii…if there are any. Reading thie above article makes it sound as if there are wonderful places there and we would like to know more about them. Price range,, however, would be in the 200-300…does that present a problem???

Hopefully there will be something in Paradise for us. Thanks. Carole

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studephan June 14, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Hawaii on budget? It’s true, it exists and it all occurs on Oahu’s overlooked Waianae Coast, the island’s dry side, where sunshine, low-cost properties and uncrowded beaches make this one of Hawaii’s best bets for affordable paradise living. Makaha and Waianae are located on Oahu’s leeward side, about an hour, or so, from Honolulu and Waikiki (depending on traffic) and are the greater Honolulu area’s last remaining rural communities. Two-and-a-half years ago we relocated from the gloomy, gray and rainy Pacific Northwest to Makaha Valley Towers, resettling across the ocean in a move we have not regretted. At the Towers we have found affordable, Hawaii-on-a-budget-style living, all wrapped up in a tropical-resort-like setting. The 24-hour, seven-days-a-week security personnel give the property a safe, secure, gated-community feel, the office staff is helpful and the maintenance crew keep the property immaculate and in top-rate shape. The property also hosts an all-tiled, large swimming pool, kept at a constant 82 degrees. The Towers are located just one mile from world-famous Makaha surfing beach and close to several of the other best beaches on Oahu. Being on the island’s dry side, Waianae and Makaha are the “Palm Springs” of Honolulu, with plenty of sunshine and not much rain. The area affords a “desert island” sort of feel with constant daytime temperatures in the mid-80s and plenty of blue skies to match the blue Pacific waters lapping upon Waianae’s shores. Hawaii on a budget can require compromise, a reduction in your dwelling’s square footage perhaps, or leaving your car on the mainland and getting around by bus, and probably a change in diet, and for sure some culture shock. However, if tropical sunshine and warm Pacific beaches are your life-long dreams, then the Waianae Coast is the affordable place to be!

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