Discover the Poorest Town in Hawaii

Written by Stephanie Harper
Published: October 17, 2023
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When you think of a place like Hawaii, glorious vacation homes and beautiful sunsets likely come to mind. The gold sand beaches and sparkling ocean waves create the perfect ambiance for a getaway that can relieve just about anyone from of all their stresses. Unfortunately, you won’t exactly find such blissful conditions across every single inch of Hawaii. There is one town, in particular, that is considered poorer than all the rest. Before booking your next vacation, keep these details in mind as you decide which parts of Hawaii you want to spend the bulk of your time.

For clarity, Maunaloa is located on the island of Moloka’i. It is not part of the Big Island, also known as Hawaii Island. Here’s what you should know about Maunaloa, Hawaii, and how it compares to other parts.

Maunaloa is the Poorest Town in Hawaii

rainbow at sunrise overlooking Maunaloa volcano in Hawaii

Rainbow over Maunaloa.

©Phillip B. Espinasse/

Maunaloa is one town in Hawaii that’s been labeled the poorest due to how many people are living in poverty. According to Data USA, Maunaloa has a poverty rate of 49.2, as of 2020. 68.5% of the residents there are currently living in poverty as it stands today. The median household income in Hawaii is a steady $88,005, while the average household income is an impressive $113,310. In Maunaloa, things are a little different. Their median household income is $35,208. the difference between median household incomes comes out to a whopping $52,797! Zillow says the average home in Hawaii costs $840,928, but a home in Maunaloa averages at $229,200. The cost discrepancy is obviously quite vast. The animals and insects you’d spot around Maunaloa are similar to the ones you’d come across in other parts of Hawaii. This includes carnivorous caterpillars, dragonflies, crickets, and sea turtles.

In Addition to Being the Poorest, Maunaloa is the Largest Active Volcano in the World

Red Orange vibrant Molten Lava flowing onto grey lavafield and glossy rocky land near hawaiian volcano with vog on background

Active volcano in Maunaloa.

©Willyam Bradberry/

Visitors have every right to be a bit wary before visiting a place like Maunaloa. Go Hawaii says it’s the largest active volcano in the world, located 37 miles southwest of Hilo. This is a part of Hawaii that extends higher than 13,000 feet above sea level, but it doesn’t end there. It rises another 42,000 feet under the surface of the ocean. Dating back to 1843, Maunaloa has erupted 33 times! We all know that volcanoes in Hawaii can go off whenever they want, but this particular volcano is far more active than any of its “competitors.” Since it’s always ready to rumble, scientists have to keep an eye on it 24 hours, seven days a week. One of the best ways to keep locals and visitors safe is to track Maunaloa for seismic activity, keep an eye on the gradual release of volcanic gases, and watch out anything else that might cause danger. Any hikers who are curious to explore Maunaloa must first obtain a permit before their visit for their own safety.

How Many People Actually Live in Maunaloa?

Tourist admiring breathtaking view of Mauna Loa volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. The largest subaerial volcano in both mass and volume, Mauna Loa has been considered the largest volcano on Earth.

Person hiking in Maunaloa.


You won’t meet a lot of people in Hawaii who can claim Maunaloa as their own. As of 2020, Maunaloa has 317 residents. Interestingly, the median age of people living there is 25.6. This means we’ve got a lot of young adults in the area, but there aren’t too many elders and there are definitely not a lot of young children. In comparison, Honolulu is the most populated city in Hawaii with 337,088 people living there. What a contrast! While Honolulus is thought of as the fastest growing city in Hawaii, Maunaloa simply hasn’t been graced with as much luck.

Way to Donate to the Poorest Town in Hawaii

charity, donation and volunteering concept - close up of male volunteer's hands holding box with food over group of people at distribution or refugee assistance center

Man carrying donation box.

©Ground Picture/

There are tons of ways people can donate money to the poorest town in Hawaii – which happens to be Maunaloa. One of those ways would be donating to the World Food Program. Their entire goal is to fight back against the food crisis around the globe. Their website explains that donating as much $75 can be life-changing in terms of providing a family with an emergency box full of food. The Salvation Army is another wonderful place to donate. Some donations go toward helping Hawaiian people who are struggling with financial disparity. Food insecurity is incredibly scary to deal with, but the Salvation Army goes out of their way to solve this problem. The Institute for Human Services Wish List is another place to donate, since folks living in impoverished areas of Hawaii will be able to benefit. Some of the items people can donate aside from money include food items, men and women’s clothing, toiletries, holiday gifts, and home goods. Although Maunaloa is considered the poorest town in Hawaii, there are still plenty of opportunities for people living in other places to provide their help and services.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Phillip B. Espinasse/

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About the Author

Stephanie Harper is a professional writer who graduated from Cal State Northridge with her English degree. She loves writing about animals, travel, and other lifestyle topics.

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