The Big Island of Hawaii is the most unique island in the Hawaiian Archipelago. The largest, and youngest of the islands, it is made up of five main volcanoes, Hualalai, the Kohala Mountains, Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Kilauea. Big Island residents and visitors alike insist that “Big Island is the best Island” for many reasons. Although we may be a little biased, we couldn’t agree more. Here are some of the top reasons why the Big Island of Hawaii is the best Hawaiian Island to live on and why it’s smart to invest in Big Island property ASAP.
1. Affordable Land and Real Estate
Big Island has the lowest median single family home price and condo price compared to other islands. Big Island’s single family median home price was $400K at the end of 2019, compared to Oahu, at $835K, or Maui at $719K. Land prices follow a similar trend, with median vacant land sales at $32K on the Big Island. While it is more affordable, the trend has been that prices are rising steadily on the Big Island, creating a sense of urgency for buyers who are thinking of investing. Now is a good time to buy a home or land, before prices catch up to the more expensive listings on neighbor islands.
Due to the active Kilauea volcano and other factors, prices for homes and land vary greatly across the island, depending on the district. North Kona and South Kohala, home to luxury homes and resorts, have some of the most expensive real estate on the island, while Puna and Kalapana area, where the 2018 eruption occurred, and Ocean View, the site of previous volcanic eruptions, has some of the cheapest and riskiest property. North Kohala, Waimea, and the Hamakua Coast are considered the safest areas when it comes to threat of lava flow, as Mauna Kea volcano and the Kohala Mountains are no longer active. The USGS has more information and a map of lava flow zones.
2. Plenty of Space
The largest Hawaiian island, the appropriately named ‘Big Island’ has a total land area of 4,028 square miles and a population of just over 200,000 people. For comparison, the city of Honolulu on the island of Oahu has a population of over 300,000 people crammed into just 68 square miles. The city of Los Angeles, at 469 square miles, is home to a million people. If you like wide open spaces, no traffic, and sweet solitude, the Big Island is your cup of tea. You’ll fit in perfectly if you check your mainland mentality at the door and relax into the slower, gentler pace of small town life here.
Realistically speaking, there are areas that are more crowded than others around the major population centers of Kona and Hilo. However, a short drive out of town takes you right into beautiful, pristine country. Remote, rural feeling districts like the Hamakua Coast are still very accessible to major population centers like nearby Hilo – giving island life a feeling of being in the middle of nowhere, yet right around the corner.
3. Diverse Climates and Landscapes
White sand, black sand, green sand, golden sand, salt and pepper sand – the Big Island has it all! The Big Island has the most diverse array of beaches to choose from, including spectacular black sand beaches formed by lava flows and green sand from the mineral olivine. The island has a wide array of climate zones and landscapes, from snow capped Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa in winter time, to sun drenched beaches on the Kona coast. The Hilo and Hamakua districts are home to lush jungle, stunning waterfalls and rolling green ranch lands that continue into Kohala. A spectacular landscape of calderas, lava flows, and endemic Ohia trees can be seen in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Temperatures hover around a pleasant 70 – 80 degrees year round. If it gets too hot for you, you can always retreat to a higher elevation. A 10 minute drive up “Mauka” (mountain direction) or “Makai” (ocean direction) can often make the difference of 10 degrees.
4. Fascinating Living History and Culture
The Big Island is known for its rich Hawaiian culture and history. It is home to numerous significant historical sites, including the Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, Hulihe’e Palace, ancient battle sites, settlements, sacred heiaus, and 175 miles of historical trails along the Ala Kahakai Trail.
There are many Hawaiian cultural events around the island. Every year, the city of Hilo hosts the Merrie Monarch Festival in honor of King David Kalākaua who inspired the perpetuation of Hawaiian traditions, native language and arts – particularly hula. The week-long festival features an internationally acclaimed hula competition and an invitational Hawaiian arts fair that draws people from around the Pacific and the world.
Traditional Hawaiian culture compliments a melting pot of other cultural traditions that date back to Hawaii’s early sugarcane and ranching era. Immigrants from Japan, China, the Philippines, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Portugal came to work and brought their own diverse ways of life with them – including delicious cuisines. Around holidays like New Years, special ceremonies and foods are shared like Japanese Mochi pounding. Akiko’s, a bed and breakfast on the Big Island’s Hamakua Coast, has been hosting an annual mochi pounding ceremony since 1997 which has grown to over 700 participants!
5. Ideal for Sustainable Building/Living
The Big Island is relatively undeveloped compared to neighbor islands, with much more space. Combined with cheaper vacant land prices, these factors make the island ideal for sustainable building and off-grid living initiatives. Sustainable living features prominently in the County of Hawaii’s General Plan – a policy document for the long range comprehensive development of the island of Hawaii for the next 30-40 years.
Many individuals are embarking on the off-grid lifestyle in districts around the island, or simply choosing to build their own home with modern energy efficiencies and design. The Big Island’s east side, which gets the most rainfall, is particularly ideal for those that want to grow their own food and live energy independent – sourcing water from catchment and using solar power or other renewable energy sources for electricity. In our next blog, we’ll take a deeper dive into the Big Island’s best districts for sustainable living.
What’s your favorite thing about the Big Island? Are you considering moving here and/or dream of building your own sustainable home in Hawaii? We’d love to hear from you.