The 10 Worst Places To Live In Hawaii For 2020


We used science and data to determine which Aloha State places are the real pits.

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Editor’s Note: This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out we updated this article for 2020. This is our sixth time ranking the worst places to live in Hawaii.

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Naming the worst places to live in Hawaii might sound like a silly thing to do. Hawaii is probably the most exotic and beautiful state in the nation. It's a destination for vacations and honeymoons.

The Hawaiians are fiercely protective of their state, and rule breakers are not tolerated. In fact, while tourism is the biggest job provider and economic backbone of the state, most locals would rather prefer that you stay out.

But is it all good in The Aloha State? Of course not. Just like every other state, Hawaii has its least desirable spots. The purpose of this post is to use science and data to determine which places are the worst you could possibly live in if you make Hawaii your home.

After analyzing 47 of the state's most populous cities (over 5,200 people), we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in the state of Hawaii:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In Hawaii For 2020

  1. Makaha
  2. Waianae
  3. Nanakuli
  4. Hawaiian Paradise Park
  5. Maili
  6. Lahaina
  7. Wailea
  8. Kahului
  9. Wahiawa
  10. Kapaa

What? Where are these places you wonder? And before you get all riled up and say we're picking on small town America, that's not the case.

We understand there's a lot of good in every place.

However, according to data (which doesn't measure things like beauty and 'friendly people'), there are far better options in the state for making a place home. And the worst place to live in Hawaii? That would be Makaha.

Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2020.

If you're looking for something more national, check out the worst cities in America or the worst states in America.

For more Hawaii reading, check out:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In Hawaii For 2020

Makaha, HI

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 8,740
Rank Last Year: 2 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $383,200 (5th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 16.7% (1st worst)
More on Makaha:  Data | Photos

You might have passed through Makaha once and probably throught it seems to be a relatively quiet, clean place.

Here's what science says about why Makaha needs some love: The unemployment rate is nearly 16.7%, residents earn about $52,097 a year, and home prices are just over $383,200. Across the board, those are in the bottom half in the state. Not absolutely horrible, but not desirable, either.

And there simply isn't anything to do in Makaha.

Waianae, HI

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 14,054
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $360,800 (4th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 14.6% (2nd worst)
More on Waianae:  Data | Photos

When you're looking at the worst places you could live in Hawaii, Waianae came in 2nd. Let's see why.

When you're comparing the unemployment rate to the rest of the nation, Hawaii residents are very hard workers. But when comparing the unemployment rate among cities in Hawaii, you can see some really big differences. In Waianae, the number of people out of work is 14.6%

In Hawaii, that's the 2nd highest in the state.

The residents in Waianae have the 3rd lowest incomes in the state. Folks in Waianae average $59,213 a year. Which isn't too shabby in comparison to the other 'lowest' income cities in most other states.

Additionally, the homes are valued at $360,800 on average. That's the 4th lowest in the state.

Nanakuli, HI

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 11,742
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 3)
Median Home Value: $339,300 (3rd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 13.3% (3rd worst)
More on Nanakuli:  Data | Photos

Out of all the places to live in Hawaii, Nanakuli ranks as the 3rd worst -- not something to brag about.

Nanakuli's unemployment rate stands at 13.3%. While the income levels out here are some of the lowest in the state. Residents earn a combined $64,229 a year in salaries. That's not enough to really get ahead in life.

Additionally, the homes are the 3rd cheapest in the entire state at $339,300. Again, some people like the cheap cost of living, but housing is priced on demand, and the fact is, there's not a lot of demand to live way out in Nanakuli. Plus, what do you do for fun here anyway?

Crime is the 24th worst in the state. You have a 1 in 34.0 chance of being robbed here and a 1 in 400 chance of being attacked or raped. Yikes.

Overall SnackAbility

7
/10

Population: 11,479
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $280,100 (1st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 3.9% (22nd worst)
More on Hawaiian Paradise Park:  Data

HPP is right next door to Hawaiian Beaches. It is also not a real 'city'. The population has almost doubled here in the last 15 years. Does that sound appealing?

It's certainly not paradise here when you consider home values ($280,100), and income levels ($56,738). Many people here live at or below the poverty line and the unemployment rate is 3.9%, which is the highest in the state.

Maili, HI

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 10,792
Rank Last Year: 5 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $443,900 (9th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.5% (4th worst)
More on Maili:  Data | Photos

Maili ranks as the 5th worst city on this list.

Maili has the 24th highest crime rate in Hawaii, where residents have a 1 in 34.0 chance of being robbed every year. Homes are the 9th cheapest in the state ($443,900), and the uninsured rate here is far below average as well.

Lahaina, HI

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

7.5
/10

Population: 13,103
Rank Last Year: 13 (Up 7)
Median Home Value: $631,300 (34th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.2% (8th worst)
More on Lahaina:  Data | Photos

you're looking to live in Hawaii, Lahaina might not be the best choice as it places 6th in our ranking of the worst places to live for 2020.

Lahaina doesn't have the worst crime in the state, but it's sure up there. And when you factor in one of the lowest household incomes in the state and a sky high unemployment rate, Lahaina may not be your first choice for a vacation.

Wailea, HI

Overall SnackAbility

7.5
/10

Population: 5,656
Rank Last Year: 12 (Up 5)
Median Home Value: $994,000 (47th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 5.3% (13th worst)
More on Wailea:  Data | Photos

According to science, Wailea is the 7th worst place you can live in Hawaii.

Let's see why. Wailea has the 24th-highest crime rate in the state, surprisingly. In terms of number of crimes per person, Wailea is certainly up there.

Factor in a very low housing cost ($994,000), and the 13th-highest unemployment rate in the state (5.3%), and across the board, Wailea doesn't sound like the best of the best.

Plus, there's simply not a lot to do here (unless you count having a Walmart and a Piggly Wiggly as fun). We're aware that people enjoy outdoor activities, but in terms of pure entertainment, you'd have to drive a ways away.

Kahului, HI

Overall SnackAbility

7.5
/10

Population: 32,312
Rank Last Year: 14 (Up 6)
Median Home Value: $563,500 (22nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 4.5% (17th worst)
More on Kahului:  Data | Photos

When you're looking at science and data, Kahului is the worst place you can live in Hawaii. Let's see why.

The unemployment rate here is 4.5%. The schools are underfunded, and property values are well below the state average. A home costs $563,500, which is a sure sign of lack of demand.

You have a 1 in 34.0 chance of being the victim of some type of property crime here every year. That's not fun, either.

Kahului is a far drive south from Louisville.

Wahiawa, HI

Overall SnackAbility

7
/10

Population: 17,422
Rank Last Year: 8 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $562,700 (21st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 5.4% (12th worst)
More on Wahiawa:  Data | Photos

Wahiawa is a medium sized city just outside Schofield Barracks in the middle of Oahu.

Here, crime is the 10th highest in the state, and income levels and home values are far below the state average. It is known as a drug infested town, where you're more likely to get ripped off than killed. Commenters in forums say it's 'run down' here and kind of 'ghetto.'

Another commenter said it's the armpit of Oahu.

The hookers here might be good entertainment for those stationed nearby. At least they have that.

Kapaa, HI

Overall SnackAbility

7.5
/10

Population: 10,544
Rank Last Year: 7 (Down 3)
Median Home Value: $499,500 (13th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 4.5% (18th worst)
More on Kapaa:  Data | Photos

Kapaa is one of the poorest cities in the state of Hawaii. This city has 4.5% of its residents out of work, and those who have jobs earn under $84,472 a year.

Cities can be charming, but not when they are dangerous. Kapaa has the 24th highest crime rate in Hawaii. While the numbers aren't staggering (Hawaii is a relatively safe place when you compare it to the rest of the country), it's still undesirable when you consider that there are far safer (and more stimulating) places to make your home in the Aloha State.

How we determined the worst places to live in Hawaii for 2020

To figure out how bad a place is to live in, we only needed to know what kinds of things people like and then decide what cities have the least amount of those things.

We don't think it's a stretch to assume that people like the following things:

  • Good education
  • Lots of jobs
  • Low crime
  • Low poverty
  • Nice homes
  • High incomes
  • High population density (Lots of things to do)
  • Short work commutes
  • Health insurance

The data comes from the Census's most recent American Community Survey and from the FBI Uniform Crime Report.

We broke crime down into violent crime and property crime to give violent crime a larger weight -- if you did a simple calculation of all crimes per capita, property crimes are normally 7x more common and really bias that ranking.

Furthermore, only cities with at least 5,000 people were considered -- leaving 47 cities.

We then ranked each city from 1 to 47 for all the criteria with a #1 ranking being the worst for the particular criteria.

Next, we averaged the rankings into one "Worst Place To Live Score".

Finally, we ranked every city on the "Worst Place To Live Score" with the lowest score being the worst city in Hawaii -- Makaha. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in Hawaii. You can download the data here.

This list is a scientific analysis based on real data and is completely unbiased.

Wrapping Up The Worst In Hawaii

If you're looking at areas in Hawaii with the worst economic situations, where there's higher than average crime, and not a lot to do, this is an accurate list.

And in the end, Makaha ranks as the worst city to live in Hawaii for 2020.

If you're curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Hawaii:

  1. Aiea (Pop. 9,439)
  2. Mililani Mauka (Pop. 19,955)
  3. Waikele (Pop. 7,062)

For more Hawaii reading, check out:

Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Hawaii?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Makaha 8,740 16.7% $383,200
2 Waianae 14,054 14.6% $360,800
3 Nanakuli 11,742 13.3% $339,300
4 Hawaiian Paradise Park 11,479 3.9% $280,100
5 Maili 10,792 9.5% $443,900
6 Lahaina 13,103 6.2% $631,300
7 Wailea 5,656 5.3% $994,000
8 Kahului 32,312 4.5% $563,500
9 Wahiawa 17,422 5.4% $562,700
10 Kapaa 10,544 4.5% $499,500

How Is The Area In ?

26 thoughts on “The 10 Worst Places To Live In Hawaii For 2020

  1. I can’t believe how much I love this article. I didn’t even have to read it. It’s all true, but I would go even farther.

    I try not to speak in extremes very often as I don’t find very many opinions I can get behind whole-heartedly. But, Hawai’i as a whole is definitely the very worst place to live or visit; I mean, just don’t even look at pictures of this horrible place online, (blech!), and that is never going to change. You can take that to the bank when you return to the place from whence you came.

    Aloha nō!

  2. That is a very “haole” perspective of looking at our beautiful home. The best advice ever given about Hawaii was by Anthony Bourdaine when he told all who watched his show, “stay away from Hawaii, don’t come here” and I totally agree. Don’t come from your castle and convenience on the mainland and expect the same on an island far away from many of the resources you’re used to. Don’t complain, just go back where you came from. Aloha

  3. An interesting list. I live in one of these places, its comfortable and feels totally safe (except for the imported homeless people from the mainland harassing kids where to score weed) and have lived in a place that is on the BEST list that didn’t feel safe at all. Hawaii is a paradoxical place that is a total mystery to mainlanders- Our standards for good bad places to live would leave any mainlander scratching their heads. But that was a fun read.

    1. Hi Vita. Can you tell me where you live, I am moving to Hawaii and would love your input. I will gladly give you my email so we can collaborate. Thank you.

  4. I used to live in Wahiawa (and yes I have native Hawaiian blood), it was pretty seedy out there. It reminded me of some more rundown mainland cities in a way because of how paved over a lot of it was Meth was a problem for sure. I did see drug addicted hookers. A lot of wannabe gangsters were around but they always respected me and my ways.

    If you were a white military man you probably didn’t exactly love it. Enlisted men would walk over from base to the McDonalds and would have to cross the bridge back and forth. Occasionally kids would hang out there and kick/snatch the food bags from their hands. If the enlisted guy made a fuss about it, some big dudes would emerge to make sure they kept on going.

    A couple weeks after I moved back to the Kapahulu area one of my neighbors was shot and killed because he tried to intervene in a domestic argument outside of our old apartment building.

    I can’t say I missed much about living in Wahiawa.

  5. This whole article is full of crap. I live half of the time in So Cal and the other half in north Hilo and spend a lot of time on Maui. I have always believed that Hawaii is a place where if you give respect you get respect. If you don’t then you will have problem like anywhere else. Hawaii is a beautiful place with mostly wonderful people. It’s so funny how most of the comments show that folks want you to go back from where you came. LOL. They know that the problems on Hawaii came from somewhere else.

  6. Too bad you can’t “grammar check” your header before you post an article. Maybe you could strengthen your credibility.

  7. Yada yada yada .. Do not come at all .. The problems come from those who come and try to change things!! Attitude adjustment .. Hawai’i is a Kingdom! Mainland attitudes should stay on the mainland! Inaccuracies abound! Waihee / Waiehu are mostly Hawaiian Homelands … Properties occupied by Hawaiians! Hawaiian Paradise Park, Hawaiian Beaches / Hawaiian Shores are subdivisions with each having one small store close by. Perceptions are a strange thing! You are obviously on the outside looking in ! Hawai’i is much like a third world country and we like it that way! BTW folks should not try to purchase land here as ALL titles are clouded and in the near future many will come to know Hawai’i was never a part of the USA! It is under military occupation .. Regime change coming soon! Aloha Aina !!!!

    1. Why so many native Hawaiians in the US military? This seems a dishonorable thing to do and disrespectful to Hawaiian ancestors. Am I wrong?

  8. Definitely on the outside looking in. I’ve lived it what some would call the ghetto on the mainland. I currently live in Makaha and love it here. I drive through Nanakuli everyday on my way home. The worst part about living here is the traffic. Is there crime, well that’s a stupid question, where there are people there is crime. If you come here respecting the locals you won’t have much problems. One silly fact you overlooked, poor people don’t steel from poor people, they would rather head to the rich communities for the nice stuff. I feel safe in Makaha been here for many years with my family and we love it. You can still find plenty of Aloha from most people in Hawaii, don’t judge people and live life with Love and Aloha and you will find it is usually returned.

    1. Julie R. No he does not. He sounds like he really lives there and you don’t. Always felt safe in HPP, except from the wild pigs.

  9. You are correct about some things for most likely the wrong reasons. As someone who has lived in Paradise Park for 11 years and apprasied RE all over the big island for 20 years, I will share some personal observations. I apologize in advance if they seem negative, but the truth is what is most important, not “beliefs”. I have lived here for 28 years, and just have no other place left to go to.

    1. The worst thing about HPP is the NOISE! If its not the tourist helicopters usually flying right overhead during the day (for the wealthy, at around $500 a seat) to see the volcano, its the constant sounds from the neighbors gas-motor weed-wackers, chain saws, lawnmowers, bulldozers, construction or constantly barking dogs & crowing roosters everywhere! HPP is reportedly the largest subdivision in acreage in the US that is within 12 miles of a town.

    2. There is VERY little here to get, see, or do on most islands. The traffic into Hilo, the only real town in Hawaii County 12 miles away is very BUSY on the 2-4 lane roads. We would wither away without Amazon, which can still happen at any time if they decide to raise shipping costs. Hilo is so poor in construction quality, good restaurants, and amenities, it could be compared well to any 3rd world town, like in South America.

    3. Nobody spoiled by the mainland’s accessability is likely to appreciate Hawaii, and all costs are much higher. There are not enough jobs despite what we are told, and I seriously doubt the accuracy of all the statistics in this article. Many are on welfare including EBT cards.

    4. The U of HI has recognized that local sea life HAS been contaminated by the Fukushima disaster, but this truth is almost never spoken about here.

    5. The state is “owned” by the deep-state Democrats, and legalized life-saving cannabis will probably never be allowed by vote for the health or well being of most human beings (all with biochemical receptors for it) here.

    Conclusion: Many COULD reasonably compare the vastly remote Hawaiian islands to a prison state in some significantly honest ways! And no, you wouldnt like it here, so forget about moving to Hawaii! Aloooo-fricking-ha!

    And save your vacations for visits to states where they respect the freedom of humanity to choose as much as they respect or tolerate other substances they profit from.

  10. I lived in HPP for 2 years and on the surface, the author has it right. There is a lot of property crime in HPP, good paying jobs are scarce, and other things like – no mail delivery, no trash pick up, slow police response times, dogs running loose on the roads, and unpaved roads.

    However, we loved the people that lived in HPP. The people on the big island are for the most part, kind, loving, and friendly. It wasn’t my favorite place due to the distance to civilization (i.e. restaurants, stores, movie theaters, etc); but you can’t beat the amount of house you can get in HPP vs. Oahu.

  11. Is there a negative attitude by some of the locals toward white people here? Of course, you can get that in any US state. Let’s be honest with ourselves. The white elitists of the US are the reason for that attitude- they have used and abused others for so long and needless to say tricked Hawaiians out of their own land (Mark Zuckerburg is still doing it today). So, while us the common white person who didn’t come from money and aren’t dependents of “the man” may not be at fault- you can’t really take offense to the attitudes of circumstance. There are many natives of Hawaii that are not white that understand us visitors are just here temporarily and thankful for our short stay in their paradise, here to spend our money on their local businesses, and have no ill intentions. You can’t let people’s negativity toward you impact how you view a people as a whole and while others may struggle with that themselves you cannot take it personally. I am on a 30 day vacation in Oahu and staying in Makaha. I am happy I chose this side of the island as it has more of an at home feel versus the crowded city of Honolulu (ironic I say that living in Phoenix). You know what I see on this side of the island? I see town’s being neglected by a government that has plenty of money and resources (just like on the so-called mainland). That’s right. The US neglect in funding the right things is the problem. The US has their priorities ass backwards. Homelessness and drug addiction are worldwide problems and the US is no different, believe that- and imprisoning people for either is not the answer. Bless all of Hawaiians. I hope one day you are able to control your own land and resources without you know who having any say in it. I wish you all nothing but prosperity and good health. Thank you for you being you.

  12. I’m a data scientist. This is not data science. Maybe “date” science (as stated in the first sentence. Didn’t bother editing, even after updating. Weak.), but this is someone irresponsibly cherry-picking data and applying an inaccurate analysis. Rates of employment should be considered in conjunction with age. Basic stuff. This is not worth reading and certainly not factual. Also, who prefers a higher population density. Just terrible and irresponsible.

  13. Don’t let this article discourage you. I have been living in the Waianae area for a bit and have been loving it.

  14. I’ve vacationed in Waianae the past two years.

    I used to escape my endless northern climate winters by vacationing in the Phoenix area but when it came time to retire and escape the majority of winter, I chose to buy a retreat in Waianae, HI.

    There are positives to both places and there are negatives. Waianae is pretty much like a third world country. The people are friendly but poverty is widespread (shame on the state of Hawaii!) Phoenix is much more modern in every way imaginable, from infrastructure to restaurants to entertainment, however, it doesn’t have an ocean and that was a big draw.

    If you’re looking for modern amenities, social interaction with fellow retirees, organized activities and unlimited recreational opportunities, then Hawaii in general and places like Waianae in particular, are probably not for you. If you just want to sit back, take in the views and are not concerned with your social life, then a place like Waianae might be your ticket to paradise.

  15. I’ve been going to the west side for over 40 years . This article is crap. Give aloha and respect and you get it back. I’m guest here in the Hawaiian islands and I never forget that. I have many friends ( locals) on many islands and I still can’t believe that the state of Hawaii doesn’t care for the indigenous people of Hawaii . Most locals aren’t homeless as much as they are house less . I’ve had many run ins with idiots but most where on meth etc and their behavior is obviously modified by the drugs etc.
    I can think back to the early 80’s watching tourists getting robbed on Makaha beach – in the middle of the afternoon. Times have certainly changed though.
    You want to see some $hit holes ? Just head to the mainland and pick any state and just drive around – the Democrats have ruined almost every state they control and Hawaii will be no different.

  16. If this was based on science and data, the “City of Wai’anae” would be described as “ONE” not mentioning the little “Area Towns” as separate places. Science and data would conclude that everyone in “Wai’anae, Makaha, Ma’ili, and Nanakuli” have the SAME zip code of 96792 which is the City of Wai’anae. I have to conclude with…WAI’ANAE IS ONE OF THE WORST PLACES TO LIVE…SO STAY OUT!!! HAHA!!!

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