Hawaii's Costco Obsession
When I call Hawaii's love of all things Costco an obsession, I'm not exaggerating. Honolulu's Iwilei location is the busiest Costco in North America (at one point it was the busiest in the world, but I can't find anything recent to confirm that it still is. This much, though, is definitely true). The parking lot is full near constantly, there's normally a line of people waiting outside the doors before it opens at 9:30 am, and don't even get me started on the night before a holiday. But it's not just a random phenomenon. There are definitely reasons Hawaii loves Costco so much, and I've distilled them into the following three:
First, things in Hawaii are EXPENSIVE, and Costco's things are less so. Because Hawaii is a small island chain surrounded by thousands of miles of ocean, it kind of takes a bit of time/effort/money to get things here, so they tend to cost a bit more. For example, according to cost of living comparison website Numbeo, of the cities surveyed, Honolulu has the most expensive milk, bottle of mid-range wine, onions, and chicken breasts (among other things) in the United States. We've got a higher cost of living than New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. Taking all this into consideration, it makes sense to try to shop at wholesale prices as much as possible. Costco's membership gas prices are particularly appreciated.
Second, Costco does a good job catering to local tastes. Not only is it one of the best places to get omiyage (souvenirs) like macadamia nuts and Kona coffee, but the regular aisles are stocked with locally produced products and things that cater to local tastes as well. Our prepared food section includes things like sushi and poi, and there's a whole rack in the clothing section dedicated to Hawaiian business attire (aka aloha shirts). And it's good stuff too. Things people actually want to buy.
Third, Oahu isn't very big, and there are a fair amount of Costcos for such a small area, meaning it's not hard for people to make it there multiple times a week. For instance, it's not unusual for my dad to make a Costco run three times in a week for everything from stocking up on groceries for the week to picking up nothing but a single bag of his favorite salad mix (though he always ends up with a few extra items in his cart somehow).