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The Best Towns in Hawaii for Young Families

hawaii state

by on August 27, 2013

Young families in Hawaii settle down here for more than just the great weather. As NerdWallet analyzed cities and towns across the state, we asked the following questions:

  1. Does the town have good public schools? We measured schools’ academic performance with ratings from GreatSchools. This non-profit compares a given school’s standardized test scores to the state average to obtain a rating on a 1 to 10 scale (10 representing the highest score). Higher ratings led to a higher overall score.
  2. Can you afford to live there? We looked at both average home values in each town and ongoing monthly home costs, including mortgage payments, real estate taxes, insurance costs, utilities, fuel and other bills. Lower costs led to a higher overall score.
  3. Is the town growing and prospering? We assessed a town’s economy by looking at average household income and income growth over the last decade. Higher income and greater growth led to a higher overall score.

Check out our cost of living calculator here as well as our mortgage rates calculator for more information.

The Best Towns for Young Families

1. Mililani Town

Mililani Town is one half of the greater Mililani area, just outside Honolulu and at the center of the area’s commercial development. The schools here are outstanding, too, and one, Mililani High, is home to some of the best faculty around. One of the high school’s history teachers, Cynthia Tong, was named Teacher of the Year by the National History Day organization just last year.

2. Laie

Laie is home to a bustling LDS community, and Brigham Young maintains a campus here. Education for the community’s youth is great before higher education, too. The elementary school in particular has been noted for its excellence. Laie Elementary maintains an Every Day Math program, which requires weekly assessments of students’ progress and needs.

3. Kailua

Centuries ago, Kailua was the home of kings because of its good weather and seaside location. Today, people come here for the same reason as well as a burgeoning arts community, which supports galleries, a symphony orchestra and classes and workshops for adults and kids alike.

4. Ewa Villages

Ewa Villages has made great strides in the last several years. The community was recognized by the Honolulu Civil Beat for making remarkable improvement in its level of education; in just ten years, the number of residents 25 years and older claiming a high school diploma rose by more than 30%, to 86.4% of the population.

5. Ewa by Gentry

The Ewa District of Honolulu managed to make this list three times, including the aforementioned Ewa Villages, Ewa Beach and this master planned community, Ewa by Gentry. Thomas H. Gentry, the housing and business developer who helped build this community, has left his mark on the town. A community center bears his name, and a scholarship in his honor gives high school seniors an opportunity to make their education more affordable.

6. Pearl City 

Pearl City is just west of the capital of Honolulu, and it offers great opportunities for education to younger families. Momilani Elementary, for example, has earned a Blue Ribbon Award on three separate occasions, both on the state and national levels.

7. Wailuku

A beautiful destination on the island of Maui, Wailuku is now a more residential community. Wailuku and its neighbor, Kahului, comprise the commercial and industrial center of the island, which makes many residents’ commute quick and easy. On the weekends, the town offers great hiking opportunities, chances to see the local baseball team, Na Koa Ikaika Maui or fun afternoons at the Maui Bowling Center.

8. Ewa Beach

Ewa Beach is the third community in the greater Ewa area to make the list. This small coastal town distinguishes itself for its strong commitment to community. Take for example the Ewa Beach Community Fund, which supports area organizations with FLEX Grants so they can work to improve after-school programs for kids and support the elderly.

9. Kapaa 

As much of Hawaii has struggled, Kapaa has done exceedingly well. Like the rest of the state, this city’s economic health lies on the tourism industry, and it has done a great job of recouping after a dip in visitors with the recession. This year, Kapaa and the rest of the Kauai have led the state in this resurgence and in stabilizing the economy for young families.

10. Haiku

Haiku is a small community on the island of Maui. It has made its name in part for great education. Haiku Elementary has been recognized by the state for its continuing excellence in language arts and math, with improving performance ever year. The community has lush green space and is only a short distance from some of the best surfing spots on the island at Jaws and Peahi.

Rank City Nearest big city GreatSchools rating Median home value Monthly owner costs Median household income Growth,’99-’11 Overall score for young families
1 Mililani Town Honolulu 9 $553,500 $2,346 $93,161 27.5% 64.3
2 Laie Honolulu 9 $694,700 $2,784 $74,375 46.2% 62.5
3 Kailua (Hawaii County) Kona 7 $440,500 $1,892 $60,744 48.6% 62.2
4 Ewa Villages Honolulu 7 $423,200 $1,805 $68,214 32.6% 59.6
5 Ewa by Gentry Honolulu 7 $429,600 $2,578 $83,954 36.6% 57.4
6 Pearl City Honolulu 7 $572,100 $2,213 $84,029 35.5% 56.6
7 Wailuku Kahului 6 $512,900 $2,532 $72,011 58.0% 55.8
8 Ewa Beach Honolulu 7 $406,400 $2,163 $69,299 21.4% 55.3
9 Kapaa 5 $507,000 $2,186 $64,922 64.6% 54.2
10 Haiku Kahului 8 $753,600 $2,303 $58,878 29.7% 54.2

Methodology

The overall score for each city was derived from the following measures:

  1. GreatSchools city rating. GreatSchools city ratings are calculated by averaging the weighted overall rating for each school in the city (weighted by the number of students enrolled at the school)
  2. Median home value from the U.S. Census (2011 ACS, data set DP04, half-weighted)
  3. Monthly homeowner costs from the U.S. Census (2011 ACS, data set DP04, half-weighted)
  4. Median household income from the U.S. Census (2011 ACS, data set DP03, half-weighted)
  5. Income change between 1999 and 2011 from the U.S. Census (data sets P053 and DP03, half-weighted)

53 Hawaii cities and towns designated as places by the U.S. Census were included in this analysis. Only places with a population greater than 5,000 were considered.

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