If you’re considering a move to the island of Oahu, chances are you’re looking for tips. We’d love to help you make an easy transition to your new lifestyle. Below, you’ll find our list of 8 things you need to know before you relocate. By working your way through these questions and answers, you’ll discover exactly how to make a simple move to the Gathering Place, as Oahu is also known.

“Coming to Hawai’i is like going from black and white to color.”

That’s how author John Richard Stephenson put it, and we wholeheartedly agree: There’s a unique color and rhythm to life in Hawaii. Additionally, Hawaii is made up of six distinct inhabited islands, you’ll find that the particular shade and beat vary from island to island and even neighborhood to neighborhood. Below, we cover things like what to bring, how much it costs to move, whether you need a job before arriving, how to bring your pet, and how Oahu compares to the other Hawaiian Islands. 

Let’s get started with the question that will kick off your journey: 

#1: What Are My Options for Moving My Belongings to Oahu? 

People move to Oahu in all kinds of ways: with two suitcases and the clothes on their backs, with a 40′ container packed full of everything they own, and every variation in between. The great news is that you can easily customize your move to fit your goals. 

Your options will include: 

  • The minimalist version: Check two suitcases packed with the essentials, and send a few USPS  Priority Mail boxes with a few extras. 
  • The maximalist version: Pack a container with the contents of your house or apartment and ship it via ocean freight. YOU might also want to ship your car, truck, or SUV to Oahu as well. 
  • The “in between” version: Use sturdy wooden crates called “lift vans” to pack a limited number of your household items. These get loaded into a container and sent to Oahu via ocean freight. If you have less than a full container but more than fits in your suitcases, this option can be an affordable alternative for moving to Oahu

You’ll also need to decide whether you’ll: 

  • Do a DIY move and arrange everything yourself.
  • Hire a moving company to handle all the logistics, including the packing, which is often called a door-to-door move.
  • Choose a hybrid solution, such as hiring a moving company to drop off a container, which you’ll load and unload, while they handle all the other logistics.

So, as you can see, the “how” of moving to Oahu is pretty much up to you. 

#2: How Much Does It Cost? 

Now that we’ve laid out the various options for moving to Oahu, it’s easy to see why it’s tough to give a fast answer to this question. If you’re making a minimalist move, the answer can be pretty simple. Just add up the cost of your plane ticket, checked baggage, and any boxes you decide to ship. However, if you decide to ship a container or a lift van your cost gets a little more complex. Ultimately, your Oahu move will be priced on three big factors: 

  1. Where you’re located – The farther you are from a port, the more expensive it will be to ship your belongings. 
  2. The weight of your shipment – Your move will ultimately be priced by weight, so the more you want to take with you, the more expensive it will be. 
  3. Whether you’re shipping any specialty items – Things like art, musical instruments, oversized pieces, or fragile items will need extra care in handling, which can cost more. 

The best way to know for sure? Request a complimentary consultation from a professional moving company. An in-person survey with an expert will get you the most accurate quote for your move. Here’s why.  There’s also a fairly simple strategy for reducing the cost of your move, one we suggest to all of our customers. It all starts with asking yourself this next question… 

#3: What Should I Bring and What To Leave Behind? 

Your personal possessions are, by their very nature, personal. Everyone has their own idea of what’s “essential” and what’s not. Although we can’t tell you exactly what to bring and what not to bring, we can tell you this: It’s always a good idea to downsize before you move. That way, you won’t end up paying to move a bunch of stuff that you’ll never use. 

Depending on where you’re living now, moving to Oahu can represent a pretty big lifestyle change. As a result, there are a few things you might not need once you relocate. A couple of pointers for you to consider: 

  • Resort casual is as fancy as you’ll get most of the time on Oahu. High heels, suits, and other formal wear will probably languish in your closet. 
  • Those skis, snowboards, or other winter gear? You’re better off renting at your vacation destination, rather than hauling it to Hawaii. 
  • Your library of books? Because of their weight, they’ll be expensive to move, so take a hard look at your collection before you decide to take it all with you. 

Now that you’ve got some idea of both the “how” and the “how much,” let’s talk about the “where.” 

#4: What’s the Best Place to Live on Oahu? 

Obviously, this one’s going to be a matter of opinion. But one thing you should know about Oahu is that living in different neighborhoods will deliver completely different experiences. If you choose a condo in Kakaako, your day-to-day life will be far removed from that of someone who lives in Haleiwa or Kailua. 

 (And while we’re on the topic of Kailua, an insider tip: There’s a Kailua on Oahu, a Kailua-Kona on the Big Island, and even an area of Maui referred to as Kailua. Confusing them can cause some big problems, so just be aware!) 

One final note: Some condo properties you encounter might be leaseholds. Make sure you do your research on this particular legal arrangement, which is less common in the U.S. but can still be found in Hawaii. 

#5: Do I Need a Job Before I Move? 

When you move to a new location, there are a lot of details to lock down. Having one of them in place—such as your job—can make your transition a lot simpler. (And so can having a stable source of income, especially since the cost of living in Hawaii is much higher than other states.) 

That said, plenty of people do move to Oahu without a job. To focus your search, it pays to understand the industries you’ll find on Oahu so you can understand where your skills might fit in. These include:  

  • Leisure and hospitality, including hotels, restaurants, bars, and other businesses that support tourism 
  • Trade, transportation, and utilities, which also includes retail shops, many of which also cater to tourists 
  • Federal, state, and local government, which is especially prevalent on Oahu, since Honolulu is the seat of the Hawaii state government 
  • Educational and health services 
  • Professional and business services

If you have experience in one of these fields, you’ll find it much easier to find a job once you arrive on Oahu. 

#6: Can I Move to Oahu with My Dog or Cat? 

Yes, you can bring your pet when moving to Oahu. However, you’ll want to start the process early and complete your paperwork carefully to avoid having to quarantine. Hawaii is a rabies-free island, and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture aims to keep it that way by maintaining strict protocols to protect the state’s fragile ecosystem. We’ve packaged everything you need to know into our Complete Guide to Moving Your Dogs, Cats, and Other Pets to Hawaii. Check it out to ensure that your best friend will make a stress-free transition to Oahu with you. 

#7: Will I Need a Car? 

While some people are pleasantly surprised by TheBus, which serves both the City and County of Honolulu. However, if you really want to explore the island, you’ll want your own car.  If you’re moving to Oahu, you can either: 

  • Ship your car here via ocean freight, or  
  • Sell your car on the mainland and buy one when you get to Oahu. 

There are a few factors that feed into this decision. The bottom line? If you don’t plan to keep your car for at least a few more years, you’re better off selling it and buying here on island. To learn more about bringing your car out to Oahu, check out Shipping Your Car to Hawaii: Your Biggest Questions Answered.  

#8: What’s Oahu Like Compared to the Other Hawaiian Islands? 

In general, Oahu runs at the fastest pace of the four major Hawaiian islands. However, that’s not true of all parts of Oahu. And if you’re moving from the mainland, Oahu’s version of “fast” may not feel quick to you! If you’re being thorough with your research, you may find yourself wondering, “What’s the best Hawaiian island to live on?”  Our answer? It’s the one that fits you right. And the best way to know is to go. If you can, head to the island that resonates most with you and spend a week or two living like a local. Drive around during rush hour, shop for groceries, look for a job, etc. That will truly tell you what an island is “like.” 

However, if you want to get a sense of each of the Hawaiian islands, check out our article: What’s the Best Island to Live on, and Why? 

Know Before You Go 

Once you make the move to Oahu, we think you’ll agree that it’s the kind of place that marches to the beat of its own drum. That’s all part of its unique charm—and it’s probably part of why you want to move to Oahu in the first place! With these eight must-knows under your belt, you’ll be prepared for a bunch of the questions and quirks around Oahu life, so you can simply enjoy the ride. 

Need some help relocating to Oahu? We’ve got a warehouse and a crew right in Honolulu (down the street from the legendary Mitch’s Sushi!), and we’d be happy to help you make the move. Get started by requesting a complimentary quote from one of our experts. 

Tell us about your move!