So you want to live in Honolulu? Here are the dollars and cents to living the aloha dream.

By Stewart Yerton
October 20, 2008
The Fairmont Orchid
Courtesy of The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii

Housing: Shoppers will find quaint Craftsman-style homes in old neighborhoods such as Manoa and Nuuanu, sprawling oceanfront mansions in Kahala, and new luxury condominiums in Waikiki, Kakaako, and Downtown. Fortunately for owners, many single-family properties include separate rental units that can provide income to offset mortgage costs.

Taxes: Hawaii’s taxes inspired Forbes magazine to dub the Aloha State “the People’s Republic of Hawaii.” So don't move to Honolulu if you're looking for a tax haven. Property taxes are just $3.29 per $1,000 of assessed value, with homestead exemptions as high as $120,000 for people over 65. The result: A retiree with a home valued at the median $600,000 would pay about $1,580 annually. But income tax rates start at nearly 7 percent for people earning more than $28,000 and rise above 8 percent for incomes in the high five figures. A general excise tax tacks on as much as 4.5 percent to the cost of all business activities.

Employers: Like most big cities, Honolulu has plentiful jobs in the government, medical, and education sectors, as well as a robust base of professional and business services jobs. But one of the biggest employers is the leisure and hospitality sector. Among Honolulu's largest private employers are Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels, Hawaiian Electric Company Inc., and hospital operator Hawaii Pacific Health.

Incomes: According to the most recent data for the Honolulu metro area, which includes the whole island of Oahu, annual average personal per capita income was $39,653 in 2006, which was almost $3,000 higher than the national average. Recent cost-of-living estimates, provided by the Council for Community and Economic Research, rank Honolulu at 161.7, nearly 62 percent higher than the national average.