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Best Places to Retire

Where to Retire If You Love the Outdoors

10 places to swim, hike, ski, fish and soak in the scenery

Honolulu, Hawaii is a nature lovers resort for retirees

If ever there was a place to three-putt. Hawaii makes it hard to decide how to spend a day outdoors. — Pete Ryan/National Geographic images

Honolulu, Hawaii

Want to retire to a warm, beachy locale without sacrificing city conveniences? The city of Honolulu (population 376,000) may be the place for you.

See also: Best places to retire abroad.

Among Honolulu's 138 miles of coastline, Waikiki is most famous, with masses sunbathing, surfing (novice to intermediate), paddling outrigger canoes, swimming and enjoying life. Southeast of the city is Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, a recently restored top snorkeling spot. Honolulu is also good for walking: the neighborhoods are divided by ridges, which keeps them feeling small, and local officials follow the Complete Streets school of urban design. Plant lovers can roam the lush Foster Botanical Garden. Beyond town, Oahu offers numerous state parks. Beyond those: seven other Hawaiian islands to explore.

Honolulu's cost of living is the second highest in the U.S., barely lower than San Francisco's. Hawaii is a great place to be a retired government worker: while most pensions from the private sector are taxable, retired government workers and military personnel can withdraw tax-free. A high proportion of residents are aged 65 or older.

This is a literate metro, ranking 22nd of the 69 largest U.S. cities in a study that looked at the concentration of booksellers, education, Internet activity, public libraries, newspapers and local magazines. This is partly due to the University of Hawaii at Manoa (enrollment 20,000), community colleges in Honolulu, Pearl City and Kaneohe, and the private Hawaii Pacific University.

Honolulu is often ranked as a top green city, with stellar scores in air quality, green design, parks, transportation and water quality. Still, despite heavily used mass transit and high rates of carpooling, walking and bicycling to work, traffic congestion is bad because a lot of roads are twisting, two-lane affairs. 

Honolulu is loaded with high-quality theater and cultural programs, many sponsored by the University of Hawaii. Catch the oldest American symphony orchestra west of the Rocky Mountains or visit museums that house major collections of Asian, Islamic and contemporary art. A lot of culture also harkens back to the kingdom: concerts of traditional and contemporary Hawaiian music, contemporary art that uses symbols from the old days, and a State Art Museum with artifacts and works by Hawaiian artists.

The concentration of doctors and specialists is very high here, and residents are fairly healthy overall. The metro area's rate of violent crime is below the national average (although the rate of property crime is above average).

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