Prices of food in Hawaii?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created September 06, 2012 at 10:07 PM

So I'm moving to moving to Oahu, Hawaii... and I hear a lot about the prices of food there being outrageous. While I can understand most packaged food manufactured here on the mainland and shipped to Hawaii being expensive, wouldn't most fruit and seafood native to Hawaii be very cheap there?

I would think because of the climate and Hawaii being an island, there are some big advantages to that, and the cost of food could be actually low if you ate the right things. Anyone have any experience living there to give me some insight?

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2 Answers


on September 06, 2012
at 11:22 PM

Hi Mike,

I just moved off of Oahu on Saturday; I can tell you first hand that food cost is definitely more expensive there (the $5/gallon of milk isn't a lie!). In general, the cost of living in Hawaii is just higher than everyone else. While there are some thing that can be found in abudnance (ie pineapples), it was not uncommon to see something like $16/pound for wild alaskan salmon, or $12/pound for grassfed beef. I'm back in Portland, Oregon now and I haven't had much of a chance to do some price comparison on food, but I know that on a regular basis, walking out of the COMMISARY (read: tax free, discounted prices) it wasn't unusual for me to have a $70 bill for some steaks, milk, eggs, and veggies. Now go to somewhere like Whole Foods, and I know plenty of folks who, trying to buy the better quality, felt the hit in their wallet. Those salmon/meat prices earlier were common at the Whole Foods where I lived in Kailua.

While you're thinking makes sense, in general the cost of living in Hawaii is just so much higher that everything seems to be affected. Case in point, I lived in a 1200 square foot 2 bed/2 bath apartment that overlooked Kaneohe Bay when I first got there; my rent was $2400/month plus cable. The 3 bedroom house I just had by the beach was $5800 BEFORE utilities.

I loved it there for the 4 years I was there, just be prepared to shell out a little more for the same stuff you were getting at home!



on September 09, 2012
at 06:08 AM

We lived on the Big Island 20 years ago, and NO, even local produce was not less expensive.. Local eggs cost more than those shipped from the mainland--I never understood that! Some local produce was shipped to the mainland (like pineapples) and then shipped BACK to the local Safeway where it was overripe and very expensive!

Farmers markets were just getting started back then, but I hear they are a good affordable source of local produce. And get to know your neighbors! People who have an abundaance of papaya, guava, breadfruit, etc. are eager to share. Gardens grow fast. We saved a bunch one summer when birds "planted" a cherry tomato plant in our yard. Our neighbor had 40 fighting cocks and a few hens--eggs came from there. Meat will be costly, even if there are beef cattle on the Big Island. You can shop sales for fish at local markets--be adventurous and eat what's inexpensive--ask how to prepare things and don't fear raw fish. Neighbors also fished and would sometimes share the bounty.

I did home health there, and once was scared out of my wits by a tied up wild boar my patient's family caught--it was going to be dinner that night. I'm not suggesting hunting, but that's how some resourceful people subsist there! And they forage for things like fiddlehead ferns, tiny shellfish (opihi) and sea vegetables, too.

We had a tight budget. We made what we could from scratch, and mainland family sent coupons which didn't get published in the local paper. In those days we ate some packaged foods and it helped with paper goods and cleaning supplies, too.

The cost of living in paradise is steep!

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