The 10 Worst Places To Live In Hawaii For 2021

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 2021. This is our seventh time ranking the worst places to live in Hawaii.

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 51 of the state's most populous cities (over 5,000 people), we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in the state of Hawaii:

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 Hawaiian Ocean View.

Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2021.

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 2021

Hawaiian Ocean View, HI

Source: Wikipedia
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,011
Rank Last Year: -
Median Home Value: $135,000 (worst)
Unemployment Rate: 22.7% (worst)
More on Hawaiian Ocean View:  Data | Photos

What could be wrong with a Hawaiian ocean view? Sounds ideal, doesn't it. But the town Hawaiian Ocean View still ends up on this list.

Well, to be fair, the name isn't false advertising. The town really is located along the ocean, on the southern tip of the Island of Hawai'i. Unfortunately, great views and beach access (at places like Pohue Bay Beach) can only go so far.

The economy in the area is horrendous. The unemployment rate comes in at 22.7% and the poverty rate sits at the truly frightening level of 55.2%. Meanwhile, the cost of living remains high and the town exists far from an urban area. It will take a drive of nearly an hour and 45 minutes to reach Hilo.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,320
Rank Last Year: -
Median Home Value: $181,900 (2nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 18.5% (2nd worst)
More on Hawaiian Beaches:  Data | Photos

Hawaiian Beaches is a CDP located on the eastern side of the Island of Hawaii.

Here, you can find the absolute cheapest homes of anywhere in Hawaii. There's a reason homes sell for an average of $190,000. It means no one wants to live here. Homes are priced by demand.

Income levels here are $34,000, and nearly 1 in 5 people in Hawaii Beaches lives below the poverty line. Plus, the unemployment rate is 5.7%, which is really high for Hawaii.

Waianae, HI

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Population: 13,609
Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $375,100 (6th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 13.5% (3rd worst)
More on Waianae:  Data | Photos

You know you're in trouble when your town gets known for its homeless. Well, that's the case with Waianae. The area houses the Pu'uhonua o Waianae, the state's largest homeless camp (one big enough and well-established enough to have its own Facebook page ).

And you know what? It all makes sense. After all, Waianae faces a 13.5% unemployment rate and a 24.4% poverty rate. At the same time, the median home price sits at $375,100, a big ask when the median income comes in at $62,172. It ranks as the 3rd worst place to live in Hawaii for 2021.

But, this being Hawaii, there is an upside. This town on the western shore of O'ahu sits along the water, with access to many beaches, including Pokai Bay Beach.

Makaha, HI

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Population: 8,404
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 3)
Median Home Value: $404,900 (8th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 12.7% (4th worst)
More on Makaha:  Data | Photos

Here's another seaside community located on the western shore of O'ahu. Again, the town suffers no lack of sun and ocean breezes. Check out Aki's Beach if you're ever there on vacation.

Day-to-day life comes with its challenges, though. Once again, poverty and affordability present the biggest problems. Nearly a third of the 8,404 residents live below the poverty line. Education suffers in this financial environment, with the town's elementary school receiving a 2/10 rating on Greatschools.

Meanwhile, the cost of living sits 50% above the national average. This comes with a median home price of $404,900, a figure that compares to median income of $50,992.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 11,202
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $303,300 (3rd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 3.6% (28th worst)
More on Hawaiian Paradise Park:  Data

Hawaiian Paradise Park ranks as the 5th worst place to live in Hawaii for 2021, let's take a look at why. Communities in Hawaii often come with names that promise idyllic living conditions. In reality, many of these fall short of their lofty monikers. Add Hawaiian Paradise Park to the list of disappointments.

Located on the eastern shore of the Island of Hawai'i, the town has the usual complement of gorgeous ocean landscapes (well, usual for Hawaii, that is). Just head to Shipman Beach to see what we mean.

Unlike many of the entries on this list, Hawaiian Paradise Park doesn't have a massive poverty problem. However, affordability remains an issue. The cost of living tops the national average by 40% and the median home price hovers at $303,300. At the same time, isolation makes simple activities, like a commute to work, more difficult.

Nanakuli, HI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 11,461
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 3)
Median Home Value: $370,600 (5th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 11.9% (5th worst)
More on Nanakuli:  Data | Photos

The western coast of O'ahu consists of a string of communities with similar profiles. Gorgeous beaches? Check. Expensive living conditions? Check. High unemployment and elevated poverty levels? Check and check.

Nanakuli fits this pattern perfectly. Located about 40 minutes outside of Honolulu, the community features beautiful oceanside attractions, like Zablan Beach. However, that comes with a cost of living 50% above the national average and a median home value of $370,600.

You also get a spotty economy, as the tourist trade doesn't provide enough employment for everyone in town. As a result, the community faces a 11.9% unemployment rate and a 15.3% poverty level.

Maili, HI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 11,437
Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 2)
Median Home Value: $464,900 (10th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 8.7% (6th worst)
More on Maili:  Data | Photos

Let's see if you've been paying attention to this list so far. We're going to give you a little info about Maili and see if you can guess the rest.

The town sits along the western shore of O'ahu, about 40 minutes away from Honolulu . Can you figure out how it ended up on this list?

That's right: you get enchanting scenery and excellent access to waves and sand, at places like Māʻili Beach Park. But you also face the typical tradeoff. Just like the surrounding communities (many of which make this list as well), Maili comes with a tough commute, an extremely high cost of living, and a high poverty rate, in this case hovering at 18.1%.

Lahaina, HI

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 12,776
Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 2)
Median Home Value: $686,800 (39th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 5.5% (15th worst)
More on Lahaina:  Data | Photos

Lahaina is located on the eastern shore of Maui, within sight of the Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Pretty good spot, huh? The community has other benefits as well. It features a solid economy, with a 5.5% unemployment rate and a $75,850 median income. At the same time, it has good housing, solid schools, and excellent amenities (including whales!).

So how did it end up on this list? Well, the price tag for all these advantages starts to add up. The cost of living tracks at 75% above the national average. This includes a median home value of $686,800.

Waipahu, HI

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 39,469
Rank Last Year: 11 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $626,600 (32nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 4.3% (20th worst)
More on Waipahu:  Data | Photos

Located about 15 minutes from the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, Waipahu sits along the harbor's West and Middle Lochs. If you like golf, this is the place for you. Several courses dot the local landscape.

A great place for retired executives. Maybe not an ideal location for working families. The commute is difficult and the local schools are spotty. In addition, the town sports an intimidating cost of living. Expenses in the region top the U.S. norm by 75%, while the median home value comes in above $500,000. It ranks as the 9th worst place to live in Hawaii for 2021.

Wahiawa, HI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 17,122
Rank Last Year: 9 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $590,900 (23rd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 4.5% (19th 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.

How we determined the worst places to live in Hawaii for 2021

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 51 cities.

We then ranked each city from 1 to 51 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 -- Hawaiian Ocean View. 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, Hawaiian Ocean View ranks as the worst city to live in Hawaii for 2021.

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

  1. East Honolulu (Pop. 47,540)
  2. Mililani Mauka (Pop. 20,090)
  3. Waikele (Pop. 7,442)

For more Hawaii reading, check out:

Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Hawaii?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Hawaiian Ocean View 5,011 22.7% $135,000
2 Hawaiian Beaches 5,320 18.5% $181,900
3 Waianae 13,609 13.5% $375,100
4 Makaha 8,404 12.7% $404,900
5 Hawaiian Paradise Park 11,202 3.6% $303,300
6 Nanakuli 11,461 11.9% $370,600
7 Maili 11,437 8.7% $464,900
8 Lahaina 12,776 5.5% $686,800
9 Waipahu 39,469 4.3% $626,600
10 Wahiawa 17,122 4.5% $590,900

How Is The Area In ?

31 thoughts on “The 10 Worst Places To Live In Hawaii For 2021

  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.

    1. Most of the issues here are Not from somewhere else. With property crime rates Much Higher than the national average, it’s accurate to say you cannot leave your pets alone here for a minute. That’s pretty sad. Check out Big Island Thieves page on Fb for example. The animal welfare here is Non-existent by mainland standards. And yes it is Very Pretty by the coastline but There is a very dark side to paradise once you actually live here. Many people live in Un-permitted dwellings without The basic utilities. And obviously the “go-home” sentiment runs deep.

  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!!!

  17. The things they used to rate towns like jobs, entertainment, home prices, ect reflect a modern material judgement. When I moved to Hilo 50 years ago I fell in love with its authenticity and feeling that I was able to time travel to what used to be. Part of this includes meeting the locals and getting along with them. It takes time, I especially like the Hawaiians, what a beautiful good hearted race. Just remember a stink eye can get you a puff lip, no one likes to be treated with disdain. A smile and kind eye, its nice.

  18. Wow. This was a bit of an eye opener/sad coming to understand that so much mainland crap is spewed at an island community.
    My wife and I are in the process of job interviews on Oahu and wanted to see what’s what with neighborhoods. Came across this article which at first I found helpful. But then when I read “very low housing cost ($994,000)” I realized that this is just some self absorbed douche that doesn’t really understand how MOST people live.
    We aren’t wealthy, we aren’t going to exotic places to stare and take selfies with people of other cultures to make ourselves feel better about out meaningless lives, but this article sure painted that picture of the author. Maybe because our backgrounds in anthro have conditioned us to take people and places for who and what they are and not try to be the white saviors, so many seem to try to do.
    We’ll be headed to Oahu in a month or so, and we’ll look around for ourselves. Talk to some people, eat in the local non-touristy spots, and with any luck, we’ll be neighbors with some great people in a few months.

  19. Did not go far enough – for me ALOHA means – A Load of Horrible A…., lived on Kauai many years and Big Island. If you live there you find the people are not friendly and want everyone to leave and go out of their way to let you know that. Married to Hawaiian, so prejudiced. Lots of crime, police harrasment etc.,

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