If you’ve ever visited Hawaii, you know there’s something intoxicating about the whole experience. Blue waves crashing, insanely beautiful sunsets, floral fragrance in the air and birds chirping overhead all add to the famed “island time”—time slowing down so you can enjoy every moment of your life. You also know during that same vacation at some point, you'll look at the person you’re with or even say to yourself, “I should move here.” And so begins your dream of moving to Hawaii.
You can see it in the faces of all the other vacationers too; they want to be a local. When you speak to the people who live there, they wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. They talk about the ocean like it’s an extension of themselves and you want to be them. Here’s the rub—they already live in Hawaii, so they don’t have to think about actually moving to Hawaii. We’ve researched all things Hawaii and what you should consider before you commit to the move.
Traffic? What are we talking about, traffic? You want to move to the islands to get out of the rat race, not jump back into it. Keep in mind you’re on an island. It doesn’t matter which Hawaiian island you pick, they all come with their versions of white-knuckle traffic. Don’t expect to give up your commute after moving to Hawaii.
The big cities are just that: big cities with significant city traffic. If you’re in a metro area on the mainland and there’s a pileup, you know the 17 different back roads or surface streets you can take to get home. Your options become limited in Hawaii because—well, you’re surrounded by the ocean. You’ll need to breathe in that salty air from behind the wheel for a bit.
Smaller towns, less populated areas, and back roads come with their challenges. Most ways in Hawaii are two lanes—for those of you from big mainland cities that means one lane in each direction. Re-read that if you need to. A lot of those roads dwindle to blind corners, one lane bridges, and partially dirt roads. You’re not in Kansas anymore; you’re in Hawaii and driving can be a challenge.
The Cost of Living
Living costs more in Hawaii, it just does. You have a great job on the mainland you think will translate well to a career in Hawaii? Ok. You'll want to check out a Hawaiian income calculator.
Hawaii has one of the highest income tax rates in the country. If you make $100,000 a year in the continental U.S., you’re going to walk with about $67,000 after state and federal taxes in Hawaii.
Who needs money when you live in paradise? You do. And you need quite a bit of it. Hawaii is often cited as the most expensive place to live in the United States. When considering moving to Hawaii understand that to live “normally”—not in poverty, not high end—you can expect to pay around $2100 for a 900 square foot apartment in Honolulu. Ouch. Utilities will cost about $225 for the same space.
Let’s say you want to live in a more rural area. That’s great, but now you’re out of apartment complexes and will need to rent or buy a house, not any cheaper. You can look for a roommate wanted ads and find a more affordable place to lay your head. If you want your own space, you're going to have to pay up.
Once you settle into a neighborhood, you’ll get to know your neighbors pretty quickly, and there’s an incredible sense of community to be found. In a population that revolves as much as it does in Hawaii, people form fast and long friendships when people decide to stick around.
Food, Gas, and Goods—Oh My!
Moving to Hawaii is a romantic idea but you still need to buy toilet paper, and Hawaii’s TP is one the most expensive in the world. You’ll pay about $4 for four rolls. Gas is the highest in the country too. Why? Everything has to be shipped or flown there. Here are other prices that may give you sticker shock:
When the weather gets bad, consider stocking up. It’s not unusual for an item to be out of stock for weeks.
You’re moving to Hawaii—one of the most perfect places in the world. You'll want to get out of the house and explore. It’s pricey to get out and do a lot of things. The good news is, most of the beaches, hiking, and national parks are free to locals, so pack a lunch and hit the beach. If you want to head out on the town here’s what you can expect to cough up:
If you’re used to heading out once a month to see your favorite bands when they come to town or fun movie premieres in the city, don’t expect a lot of that to happen in the islands. You can play your favorite music and message your friend's photos while you’re relaxing in a hammock. Let them fight the crowds. You also won’t be spending money on fancy clothes because Hawaii is one of the most casual places ever.
All of What Nature Has to Offer
Nature is why you’re considering moving to Hawaii—and it does not disappoint.
You can sit on the beach during whale watching season and lose count of how many whales breach the surface. You can search for and find pods of dolphins frolicking in the sea and watch colorful birds eat out of your hand. The amount of gorgeous land and sea life is breathtaking. The fish alone is worth the price of admission.
With the good comes the creepy. Cockroaches are a way of life in Hawaii, and they FLY. If you have an aversion to lizards, you have to get over that pretty quickly because they are running everywhere. After moving to Hawaii, you’ll grow a thicker skin around mosquitoes, spiders, centipedes and other crawly things. They live there too, and they outnumber you.
Moving to Hawaii for the Beauty
Seriously. There isn’t one negative thing to be said about the beauty of Hawaii—it's endless and everywhere. It’s a rare place where you can see lava, rainbows, waterfalls, and rainforest on the same land mass. Hawaiian sunsets are epic—every single one. When the rain comes in, it’s a healing rain and the kind that makes you want to sing in it. Some natural highlights across the islands are:
Those are just the big hitters. There are waterfalls everywhere, black sand beaches and lava tubes to be seen. Just looking up at the sky at any point in the day is magical enough to go on your Instagram.
The world-famous surfing beaches are another great reason to move to Hawaii. A word of caution: if you’ve never surfed, it’s hard. Like, super hard. Once you get the hang of it, you can take on some big boy waves.
People take weather warnings seriously in Hawaii. Mother nature is beautiful, but she’s also no joke. If there’s a rough water warning, heed it. If the news tells you it’s going to flood, it will. Tsunami warnings happen. Pay attention to your surroundings and posted warnings and you’ll stay safe.
If the island life has been calling you for years and you’re ready to make the jump, do it with your eyes wide open. Moving to Hawaii is more than packing a bag and life handing you fruity drinks for eternity. It’s expensive, the weather can be tricky, and living there requires a mental shift.
Island fever is the phenomenon of feeling claustrophobic by the proximity of the shoreline. A feeling of disconnection from the outside world can happen to send people into a depression. Stay in touch with your friends and your feelings and reach out for help if you need it.
This could be a deal breaker for pet owners. It’s tough to get your pets to Hawaii because it’s a rabies-free state. There’s an extensive and expensive quarantine period that comes with a ton of medical tests for your companion. Once they pass the quarantine, you’ll be hard pressed to find a place that will rent to someone with pets.
If you can afford it, need a complete change of pace or just want to start over in some shorts and flip flops, Hawaii is the place to be. Moving to Hawaii takes some money, a little bit of courage and an adjustment period. We’ve never heard anyone complain once their bags are unpacked, and they’re sipping sangria in their little slice of heaven.