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Here's how much to budget for groceries for just one week in Hawaii


Anyone who has even seen pictures of Hawaii knows exactly why tourists from all over the world flock to the islands and why many people in the other 49 states dream of one day calling Hawaii home. But life in paradise isn't cheap.

According to Forbes, Hawaii is the most expensive state in America, with an average annual cost of living of $55,491. Aloha State residents also have the lowest disposable income – the average of them has just $5,929 left per year after their expenses are paid.

Spending on lodging, transportation, and other major expenses are all excessive in Hawaii – but the high food prices don't help either.

Food costs more in Hawaii than in any other state, according to data from Zippia and several other sources. So if you're planning on moving there — or just renting an Airbnb for a seven-day visit — here's what you should plan on budgeting for food per week.

The high cost of importing almost everything you eat

While Hawaii is known for its abundance of exotic fish, tropical fruits, locally grown coffee — and, of course, SPAM — most of the products in its supermarkets travel thousands of miles to get there.

“If you don't source products or foods that are native to the islands, you generally pay a premium,” said Jennifer Kirby, fiduciary financial advisor and managing partner of Talisman Wealth Advisors. “Most food and staples are imported from elsewhere.”

Food becomes expensive when it crosses an ocean

According to the state's Economic Development and Tourism Planning Division, Hawaii — 2,506 miles from the U.S. mainland — imports 85 to 90 percent of its food, with predictable results.

“When I was in Kauai in March, groceries were on average easily 30% more expensive than most places in the U.S., with the exception of cities with very high prices like San Francisco, Los Angeles or New York,” Kirby said.

According to Real Hawaii, groceries there cost 32.7% more than average, which almost exactly confirms Kirby's experience.

The author of the blog “Tangled Up in Food” provided additional anecdotal evidence that paints a real picture of what hungry Hawaiians are dealing with, describing the sticker shock she experienced in Hawaii's grocery stores in 2023 compared to those in her native Minnesota:

  • A gallon of milk was $7.69 at Foodland in Kihei, compared to $3.99 at their Minnesota Super Target.
  • A bag of baby carrots costs $2.99 ​​compared to $1.29 at home.
  • Branded breakfast cereals were $5.59 to $8.29 per package instead of $3.99 to $7.19.
  • A package of Quaker Oats sold for $9.49 instead of $5.99.

So how much does it cost to eat in Hawaii for a week?

The Zippia analysis, which ranked Hawaii as the most expensive state for groceries, said the average person there spends $556.76 a month at the supermarket, or $139.25 a week. That's about 11% more than No. 2 Vermont, where the average resident pays $497.41 per month.

However, the Zippia study focused on Honolulu, which is expensive even by Hawaiian standards — but even that might be a low number. According to Move.org, the average Honolulu resident pays $638.57 per month for groceries — about $160 per week — over $200 more than the national average of $415.53 per month.

According to the data, you should budget about $139 to $160 per week for groceries in Honolulu on Oahu, and while costs tend to be higher in the capital, you shouldn't expect much relief on the other islands.

  • According to the Hawaii Vacation Guide, food prices on Maui are 68% higher than on the mainland.
  • According to AreaVibes, groceries cost 57% more than the national average in both Hilo on the Big Island and Waimea on Kauai.
  • Lanai City on Lanai is comparatively affordable, with AreaVibes stating that average grocery prices are “only” 17% higher than the national average.
  • According to AreaVibes, residents of Kualapuu on Molokai also pay 17% more than average.

Whether you're visiting or moving to Hawaii, shop wisely

With the lowest food prices being 17% higher than the national average, it is important to strategize at the supermarket when visiting the islands. According to the Hawaii Vacation Guide, the following grocery stores offer the lowest prices, in this order:

  • Costco
  • Walmart
  • Goal
  • Island food depot
  • Safeway

The most expensive places to buy food are:

  • Times Market
  • Foodland
  • ABC Stores

HiEstates, a local real estate company, says it's more important to shop around in Hawaii than elsewhere because some stores have lower prices on some things but higher prices on others. The company also calls major store memberships “a must” and recommends signing up for the rewards program of every store you visit. Military members should stick with NEX (Navy Exchange), which offers excellent discounts to military members and veterans. Finally, the company recommends purchasing fresh, local produce at farmers markets and visiting specialty stores in different areas.

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