Discover the Unexpected Poorest Town in Hawaii – You Won’t Believe the Conditions!

Hawaii, a volcanic archipelago synonymous with breathtaking beaches, lush rainforests, and a vibrant tourist scene, paints a captivating picture of tropical paradise. Yet, beneath the glistening surface lies a hidden reality – the existence of Maunaloa, a town grappling with stark economic disparity. While the state boasts impressive median household incomes and high property values, Maunaloa stands as a stark counterpoint, facing chronic poverty with a significantly different story to tell.

Sources – a-z-animals

Maunaloa: A Snapshot of Struggle

Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, Maunaloa claims the unfortunate title of the poorest town in the state. With a poverty rate of 49.2% as of 2020, nearly half of its residents struggle to make ends meet. This translates to 68.5% living below the poverty line, a figure almost ten times higher than the national average. This means many families in Maunaloa face significant challenges in affording basic necessities like food, housing, and healthcare.

The Widening Gap: Incomes and Costs Tell a Different Story

The gulf between Maunaloa and the rest of Hawaii becomes evident when examining income and housing costs. The state’s median household income sits at a comfortable $88,005, a far cry from Maunaloa’s $35,208. This staggering difference of $52,797 paints a picture of income disparity, highlighting the financial struggles faced by Maunaloa residents.

Housing affordability adds another layer to the challenge. While the average home in Hawaii commands a hefty $840,928, Maunaloa offers a stark contrast with an average price tag of $229,200. Though lower, this figure can still be daunting for families grappling with low incomes. This affordability gap restricts housing options, often forcing residents into substandard and overcrowded units.


Beyond Numbers: The Human Cost of Poverty

The statistics only scratch the surface of Maunaloa’s reality. Poverty’s impact goes beyond financial limitations, affecting various aspects of life. Limited access to quality healthcare can lead to untreated illnesses and exacerbate existing health problems. Educational opportunities might be constrained, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. Food insecurity can be a daily struggle, impacting the health and well-being of families.

Glimmers of Hope: Resilience and Community Action

Despite the challenges, Maunaloa’s residents persevere. A strong sense of community spirit fuels initiatives aimed at tackling poverty and its consequences. Local organizations work tirelessly to provide food assistance, educational programs, and job training opportunities. Community gardens offer access to fresh produce, promoting both health and self-sufficiency.

Moreover, cultural traditions remain a source of strength and resilience. The vibrant Native Hawaiian culture, with its emphasis on ‘ohana (family) and community support, provides a vital bedrock for residents facing hardship.

Moving Forward: Recognizing and Addressing the Disparity

Maunaloa’s story serves as a stark reminder that paradise holds hidden pockets of struggle. Recognizing this disparity and understanding its root causes are crucial steps towards addressing the issue. Investing in Maunaloa’s infrastructure, creating sustainable livelihoods, and expanding access to education and healthcare are essential if the town is to break free from the cycle of poverty.

Furthermore, supporting local initiatives and empowering community leaders can pave the way for positive change. By fostering collaboration and promoting local solutions, we can work towards a future where Maunaloa, though different from the rest of Hawaii, can still thrive and offer its residents a life of opportunity and prosperity.


Q: What factors contribute to Maunaloa’s high poverty rate?

A: Lack of diversified job opportunities, limited access to education and training, historical disenfranchisement of Native Hawaiians, and high housing costs relative to income are some contributing factors.

Q: How does the cost of living in Maunaloa compare to other parts of Hawaii?

A: Maunaloa’s housing costs are lower than the state average, but the income disparity makes even these prices challenging for many residents. Other essentials like food and transportation can also be relatively expensive due to limited options and dependence on imports.

Q: Are there any government programs or assistance available to residents in Maunaloa?

A: Yes, there are federal and state programs that offer assistance with food, housing, healthcare, and education. Local organizations also provide additional support services. However, accessing these programs can be challenging due to limited resources and bureaucratic hurdles.

Q: How does the local community in Maunaloa address the challenges of poverty?

A: A strong sense of community spirit drives various initiatives focused on food assistance, educational programs, job training, and cultural preservation. Community gardens, youth programs, and elder care efforts are examples of local ways to address immediate needs and build long-term resilience.

Q: What role does the Native Hawaiian culture play in Maunaloa?

A: The traditional values of ‘ohana (family), kalohe (kindness), and pono (righteousness) provide a sense of identity, support, and guidance for many residents. Cultural practices and ceremonies offer strength and hope amidst hardships.

Q: What are some potential solutions to address poverty in Maunaloa?

A: Investing in infrastructure development, creating sustainable job opportunities in green energy, agriculture, or tourism, and improving access to quality education and healthcare are crucial steps. Supporting local businesses, promoting community-driven solutions, and advocating for policy changes that address systemic inequalities are also essential.

Q: Can Maunaloa ever escape the cycle of poverty?

A: With concerted efforts from the community, local government, and state-level initiatives, combined with sustained support and investment, Maunaloa can overcome the challenges of poverty and build a brighter future for its residents. However, it requires a long-term commitment and a recognition of the unique needs and strengths of the community.


Maunaloa’s story is not just about statistics; it’s about the lives and struggles of real people living within the Hawaiian paradise. By acknowledging the disparity, supporting local efforts, and promoting sustainable solutions, we can help rewrite the narrative and ensure that even in the most unexpected corners of paradise, hope and opportunity can flourish.


The information presented in this article is based on publicly available data and sources. While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, the author cannot guarantee the completeness or absolute correctness of the information provided.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice or a substitute for consulting with qualified sources.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency, organization, or individual.

K.D. Crowe
K.D. Crowe
Articles: 141

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