If you’re considering a move to the island of Oʻahu, we’d love to help you make an easy transition to your new lifestyle. Below, you’ll find our list of must-know tips before you relocate. By working your way through these questions and answers about Oʻahu, you’ll discover exactly how to make a simple move to the Gathering Place, as Oʻahu 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 Hawaiʻi. Additionally, since Hawaiʻi 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’ll give you the low-down on Oʻahu so you can decide if it’s the right island for you. We’ll cover things like what to bring, how much it costs to move, whether you need a job before arriving, how to bring your pet, how Oʻahu compares to the other Hawaiian Islands, what the cost of living is like, school options for parents, and more.

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

#1: What Are My Options for Moving My Belongings to O’ahu?

People move to Oʻahu in all kinds of ways: with two suitcases and the clothes on their backs, with a 40-foot 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 some extras.
  • The maximalist version: Pack a 20-foot or 40-foot 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 Oʻahu 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 Oʻahu 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 Oʻahu.

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 Oʻahu is pretty much up to you.

#2: How Much Does It Cost to Move to O’ahu?

Now that we’ve laid out the various options for moving to Oʻahu, 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. Your Oʻahu 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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 or online 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 Should I 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 Oʻahu 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 Hawaiʻi.
  • 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 Oʻahu?

Obviously, this one’s going to be a matter of opinion. Some people will tell you that there’s no place better than Mililani or Kāneʻohe—or that you should stick close to Town (a.k.a. Honolulu) as a newcomer. 

One thing you should know about Oʻahu is that living in different neighborhoods will deliver completely different experiences. If you choose a condo in Kakaʻako, your day-to-day life will be far removed from that of someone who lives in Haleʻiwa or Kailua.  

(And while we’re on the topic of Kailua, an insider tip: There’s a Kailua on Oʻahu, 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!)  

Before you start your research on the best places to live on Oʻahu, ask yourself what kind of lifestyle you’re looking for. Then, check out our guides to:

We’ll share info on some of the most popular neighborhoods on Oʻahu and what you can expect in each.

Renting a Home on O’ahu

If you’re new to Oʻahu, consider renting first. This will give you the opportunity to try out a neighborhood before making a long-term commitment. It will also allow you to try out life on Oʻahu and figure out whether Hawaiʻi life is right for you.

Don’t focus too hard on securing a long-term rental before you arrive:

  • Rental scams in Hawaiʻi can, unfortunately, be common, so it’s never a good idea to hand over money for a place sight unseen, unless you’re working with a reputable Oʻahu real estate agent.
  • Some landlords and property managers won’t rent to tenants until they’re actually on Oʻahu. Some want to meet potential tenants in person. Others have been burned in the past by people who say they’re moving to Oʻahu and change their mind at the last minute.

Instead, find temporary accommodations for a couple of weeks so you can start your search once you arrive.

And make sure to ask around! If you have friends or family on Oʻahu, make sure they know you’re looking for a rental. Some of the best spots never get listed on public sites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. Instead, they get passed from person to person.

For more rental tips, make sure to check out our article: 8 Tips for Renting the Perfect Home in Hawaiʻi.

Buying Real Estate O’ahu

If you’re ready to make a permanent move to Hawaiʻi, you may have your eyes set on buying real estate. Two notes on buying a home on Oʻahu if you’re coming from the mainland:

  • Some condo properties you encounter might be leaseholds. Make sure you do your research on this particular legal arrangement, which is less common on the mainland but can still be found in Hawaiʻi.
  • You’ll find two not-so-standard configurations on Oʻahu: the condotel and the ʻohana. Check out our complete guide to Oʻahu real estate for all the details on these two.

Finally, whether you’re renting or buying, having the right Hawaiʻi real estate professional by your side can help you navigate the local property market like a pro. Choose someone who specifically has experience on Oʻahu. They’ll know the island’s neighborhoods, procedures, and property regulations best.

#5: Do I Need a Job Before I Move to Oʻahu?

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 Hawaiʻi is much higher than other states.)  

That said, plenty of people do move to Oʻahu without a job. To focus your search, it pays to understand the industries you’ll find on Oʻahu so you can see 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 Oʻahu, since Honolulu is the seat of the Hawaiʻi 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 Oʻahu.  

O'ahu Job Search Tips

  1. As with landlords, many employers want to meet potential employees in person—and they want to know you’re serious about moving to Hawaiʻi. If you don’t lock down a job before you arrive, don’t feel too discouraged. Hit the ground running on your job search once you arrive.
  2. Doing business on Oʻahu is all about relationships. Once you arrive, talk to your contacts, start making friends, and tell everyone that you’re looking for work. Knowing someone can help you get a foot in the door, as opposed to applying blind to jobs you find online.
  3. Some job applicants swear by putting a local address and an (808) phone number on their resumes. Consider getting a prepaid phone and a number with an (808) area code that you can use during your job search—especially if you’re applying online for jobs.

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

Yes, you can bring your pet when moving to Oʻahu. However, you’ll want to start the process early and complete your paperwork carefully to avoid having to put your pet in quarantine. Hawaiʻi is a rabies-free island, and the Hawaiʻi 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 Hawaiʻi. Check it out to ensure that your best friend will make a stress-free transition to Oʻahu with you.

#7: Will I Need a Car on Oʻahu?

Some people are pleasantly surprised by TheBus, which serves a number of locations on Oʻahu. And, with the addition of Skyline, the Honolulu rail system, even more locations on Oʻahu are accessible by public transit.   

However, if you really want to explore the island, you’ll want your own car. If you’re moving to Oʻahu, you can either:  

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

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 Oʻahu, check out Shipping Your Car to Hawaiʻi: Your Biggest Questions Answered.  

Is It Hard to Drive in O'ahu?

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We wouldn’t say it’s hard to drive on Oʻahu. If anything, you might feel like Oʻahu’s multi-lane highways remind you of mainland driving.

However, there are two big things to watch out for if you’re a new driver on Oʻahu:

  1. Expect traffic. Rush hour in and out of Town can be serious, and it’s not uncommon to find yourself in a stand-still on the H-1 freeway during your commute. If you can avoid commuting in and out of the Honolulu area during the peak morning and evening hours, you’ll save yourself a ton of time.
  1. Drive with aloha. You might not catch a break on the freeway, but on Oʻahu’s smaller streets, it pays to drive with aloha. Let pedestrians cross. Give another driver a break during bumper-to-bumper traffic. In our experience, when it comes to aloha, the more you give, the more you get—especially on Oʻahu’s roadways.

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

In general, Oʻahu runs at the fastest pace of the four major Hawaiian Islands.

(However, that’s not true of all parts of Oʻahu, especially the North Shore. And if you’re moving from the mainland, Oʻahu’s version of “fast” may not feel quick to you!)

Oʻahu offers the best of both worlds: the stunning natural beauty of the Hawaiian Islands, along with the amenities of a mid-sized city. On Oʻahu, you can catch a wave, hike to a waterfall, get your iPhone fixed at the Apple Store, and grab some essentials at Costco—all in the same day. For many Oʻahu residents, that’s a combination worth sticking around for.

If you’re being thorough with your research, you may find yourself considering other islands and 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.”

If you want to get a sense of each of the Hawaiian Islands from the comfort of your home, we’ve got a couple of articles to get you started:

#9 Is It Worth It to Move to O’ahu?

Moving to Oahu

We think so—and we think our Honolulu-based team would agree! Living on Oʻahu is the experience of a lifetime, especially if you appreciate natural beauty. White sand beaches, lush rainforests, towering mountains, awesome waves—Oʻahu has it all.

We will say this, though: Living on Oʻahu isn’t the same as vacationing here. Exploring the island on a leisurely timeline and a vacation budget can feel very different from making a living and running your errands on that same island.

If you’ve only ever vacationed on Oʻahu, come out for a week or two and try out living like a resident. You’ll get a much better sense of whether living on Oʻahu feels “worth it” to you.

#10: How Much Do You Need to Make to Live Comfortably on Oʻahu?

According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, a single adult without children would need to earn $26.90/hour to support themselves on Oʻahu.

Keep in mind that this “living wage…”

  • Does NOT include vacation time. The living wage above is based on working 2,080 hours a year (52 weeks at 40 hours/week).
  • Only covers basic needs like food, healthcare, housing, transportation, civic engagement, broadband, and other necessities. Things like eating out at a restaurant, leisure time, savings, and retirement are not included.

If you want to live comfortably on Oʻahu, you’ll need to aim higher. Some estimates have suggested that it takes as much as $188,160 to be “happy” in Hawaiʻi.

To give you a sense of how your budget might stack up, consider the following Oʻahu expense categories:

Oʻahu Cost of Living Figures

$877,184

Average home value

$1,270 – $2,730

Fair market rent (1 BR)

$211.15

Average household electricity bill

$447

Basic food cost per month (1 adult)

(Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4)

You’ll need to weigh all these costs carefully before deciding whether relocating to Oʻahu is right for you.

#11: What Is the Downside to Living in Hawaiʻi?

The high cost of living is one of the big downsides to living in Hawaiʻi. Many people work more than one job to make ends meet on Oʻahu. Between rent, food, and utilities expenses, it can feel tough to get ahead financially.

Along similar lines, the high cost of home ownership is another downside to living in Hawaiʻi. Oʻahu’s real estate prices can feel out of reach. Some Oʻahu residents are faced with the prospect of moving elsewhere if they ever want to become homeowners.

Ultimately, some Oʻahu residents will tell you that it can be tough to feel like you’ve truly “made it” out here—especially if you have kids. Finances can be precarious. However, with more than 989,000 residents currently living on Oʻahu, that’s nearly a million people making it work.

#12: What Are the Options for Schools on Oʻahu?

If you’re moving to Oʻahu with your family, you’ve got a whole extra set of considerations where your kids are concerned. How you approach your children’s schooling is a personal choice every family has to make for themselves. Knowing your options will give you a good start toward making a final decision for your kids.

Parents have three options for schools on Oʻahu:

Public Schools

WalletHub’s Public School ranking puts Hawaii’s educational system in 35th place, just ahead of Ohio. You can learn more about specific public schools on Oʻahu on the state Department of Education website 

Private Schools

Oʻahu also has a number of private schools to choose from, including Punahou, the school that former President Barack Obama graduated from. You can research your private school options on Oʻahu through the Hawaiʻi Association of Independent Schools. 

Homeschooling

You’ll meet a number of families on Oʻahu that homeschool their kids. If this is an option you’re considering, take a look at the Hawaiʻi state requirements for homeschooling so you’ll be ready to go once you arrive.

#13: What’s the Best Way to Integrate into Life on Oʻahu?

sea turtle

We suggest starting by understanding the history and culture of Hawaiʻi and its indigenous people, the Native Hawaiians. Our article, Respect the Culture: Dos and Don’ts When You’re in Hawaiʻi, will get you started.

Once you’re here, take advantage of the cultural resources on Oʻahu. Visit the Bishop Museum. Tour ʻIolani Palace, the home of Hawaiʻi’s last monarchs. Stop by Native Books and grab a few titles that move you. All of these activities will give you a stronger baseline for understanding the people you’ll meet and the things you’ll experience in Hawaiʻi.

What's the Best Way to Make Friends on Oʻahu?

If you don’t know many people on Oʻahu, it may take some time to make friends. Hawaiʻi can be a transient place. Some residents are hesitant to invest in friendships without knowing whether a recent transplant will stick around.

Our best tip for meeting people? Pick a cause that’s important to you and volunteer. (Google “volunteer opportunities Oʻahu” and you’ll get plenty of results.) Through volunteer work, you’ll quickly meet people who share your values, and they might just turn into friends.

#14: Do You Feel Isolated in Hawaiʻi?

Island fever can feel very real. Common symptoms include:

  • A sense of dissatisfaction with everything around you
  • Feelings of claustrophobia
  • A deep desire to do something—anything—new
  • Frustration or impatience with fellow island residents

If you’ve got a case of island fever, you might find yourself endlessly scrolling through social media in search of travel inspiration, searching for plane tickets in your spare time, calculating and recalculating your travel budget—and more.

On the mainland, it can be easy enough to hop in the car and enjoy a new experience.

While mainland flights can get pricey, interisland flights are cheap and plentiful. Sometimes, all you need is a weekend on a different island to change your perspective. A flight to Maui, Kauaʻi, or the Big Island may be exactly what you need to cure your case of island fever.

Know Before You Go

Once you make the move to Oʻahu, 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 Oʻahu in the first place! With these must-knows under your belt, you’ll be prepared for a bunch of the questions and quirks around Oʻahu life, so you can simply enjoy the ride.

Need some help relocating to Oʻahu? 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.

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