Hawaii County population: 200,000 and growing

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Shoppers maneuver through a cramped aisle Thursday at Walmart in Hilo.

  • Nearly all of the seating is claimed Thursday at the McDonalds inside the Hilo Walmart. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)

Hawaii County reached a new milestone last year when its population broke 200,000, according to U.S. Census estimates.

As of July 1, there were 200,381 residing on the isle, up from 198,681 in 2016.


The county also topped the charts when it comes to annual growth, according to figures released Thursday. From 2010 through 2017, the county, aided by migration, saw an average annual increase of 1.1 percent. Kauai and Maui counties tied for second at 1 percent.

However, not every part of the state is getting more crowded. In fact, the Census estimates Hawaii’s total population, which includes military personnel, dropped by 1,145 — or three people per day — from the year before to 1,427,538.

Eugene Tian, state economist, said that’s the first population drop since 1998.

The reason?

People fleeing Oahu for the mainland.

Between 2010 and 2017, the City and County of Honolulu saw more people moving elsewhere than moving in.

Tian said that’s been a trend for several years because of the high cost of living. But, in the past, migration from other countries offset that.

During those seven years, Oahu recorded a net loss of 6,853 people each year on average because of domestic migration. The average annual net increase from international migration was 5,773.

Other states to see a population loss between July 1, 2016, and July 1, 2017, were West Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Illinois, North Dakota, Wyoming and Alaska.

The migration trend for Hawaii County, on the other hand, is going in the opposite direction.

From 2010 through 2017, the island saw a net average annual increase of 753 people through domestic migration — the highest in the state. International migration added 635 people on average each year.

Tian said Hawaii Island is more attractive for people looking to relocate because of its lower cost of living, at least when compared with Oahu.

“I think for the long term the Big Island will be growing faster” than the rest of the state, he said.

The population has shifted slightly away from Oahu — which saw its population peak at 993,716 in 2015 — through the years. In 2000, 72.3 percent of people in Hawaii lived in the City and County of Honolulu. Today, that number is 69.3 percent.

As of July 1, 2017, Oahu’s population was 988,650, according to the Census estimates.

Since 2000, Hawaii County’s share of the population increased from 12.3 percent to 14 percent, a trend other neighbor island counties have followed.

The population estimates are based on tax returns and birth and death records, Tian said.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.



State: 1,427,538

City and County of Honolulu: 988,650

Hawaii County: 200,381

Maui County: 166,348

Kauai County: 72,159


(Annual average from 2010-17)

City and County of Honolulu: 13,394 births; 7,599 deaths

Hawaii County: 2,412 births; 1,645 deaths

Maui County: 1,977 births; 1,164 deaths

Kauai County: 878 births; 573 deaths


(Annual average from 2010-17)

City and County of Honolulu: -6,853 domestic; 5,773 international

Hawaii County: 753 domestic; 635 international

Maui County: 55 domestic; 752 international

Kauai County: 32 domestic; 377 international

  1. 4whatitsworth March 23, 2018 8:29 am

    So a state with High Taxes and an ineffective government is loosing population what a surprise? The best example of the craziness is that Oahu’s population is going down so they are taxing us to build a rail system that now even fewer people will ride, what a load of crap.

    As for our local politicians the current growth rate for the county of Hawaii is less that 1% at .085 (1,700 people) and many of those new people are homeless. The size of the government burden is growing much faster than .085 + Inflation and you don’t see a problem? Please stop the insanity.

  2. Bill Bugbee March 23, 2018 8:35 am

    It would be helpful if WHT would do some in depth investigative reporting that would to help community understand where the 2,000 plus new residents over the past year have settled on Big Island. Are there economic and/or social patterns supporting this population growth in Hawai’i County versus the other islands? Which areas in the County are mostly being affected by population growth, be it more traffic, infrastructure stresses, available housing and retail, etc. Does this new population count include the growing on-island homeless population? Do the growth patterns we’re now experiencing match the County’s own growth management and planning processes, and the list goes on.

    Repeating the press release numbers is fine for a 50,000 ft view, but the devil is in the details when it comes to serving the local reporting needs of the West Hawai’i community.

    1. 4whatitsworth March 24, 2018 6:26 am

      I would like to see some additional information as well however a much bigger issue is that the math in this article is misleading. If our island were a state we would be experiencing a growth rate similar to Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Search for Hawaii County_Pop_Fact_2017.

      Quote from WHT “As of July 1, there were 200,381 residing on the isle, up from 198,681 in 2016” (200,381-198,681=1.700). “From 2010 through 2017, the county, aided by migration, saw an average annual increase of 1.1 percent.” this may be true for 2010 to 2017 but 1,700 people is a growth rate of much less than 1.1 percent it is actually only +/- .856%. In other words we are experiencing a significant decline in the historical rate of growth and actually just posted the lowest growth rate in 20 years. For now the visitor industry and vacation rentals masks this fact. Once the visitors are taxed out of existence we will see the same trend there.

  3. Gaston Belanger March 23, 2018 9:14 am

    Big Island is becoming the small island, after living here 40 years I sold my HPP property first of the year because of the over population infrastructure problems, give it a few more years and you will be Taxed into debt just to flush your toilet and dump your trash as you wait in bumper to bumper in unending road construction projects that the County/State never gets right the first time. Pahoa to Hilo, what an lol joke.

    Hawaii’s Top Ten FUBAR’s

    10. Vog
    9. DLNR
    8. Traffic
    7. Fire ants
    6. High prices
    5. Bad drivers
    4. Barking Dogs
    3. None stop lava
    2. Overpopulation
    1. Drug addict thieves

    1. NevahHappen March 23, 2018 6:49 pm

      #10 and #3 you deal with or leave. The rest are somewhat controllable.

      Hawaii government issues (most of the rest) are out of control until the people lose their plantation mentality and think for themselves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiwarriorworld@staradvertiser.com.