Last Updated: 9/5/2022
Dreaming of a life with warm breezes, friendly neighbors, and beaches right in your backyard? If so, Hawaii might be the place for you!
To help you in your quest to move to Hawaii from the mainland, we’ve created a basic four-step guide full of advice and tips for moving to Hawaii:
Moving to paradise comes with a lot of moving parts. Our four-step process will help you break it down into manageable pieces so you can make a simple and easy move to Hawaii. Let’s start with the first decision you’ll need to make.
Step 1: Figure Out If Moving to Hawaii Is Right for You
Paradise has its perks—and its quirks. Before you go through all the trouble of uprooting yourself from your current spot, let’s talk about what it’s really like to live in Hawaii. By discovering how much it costs, how difficult it is to relocate, what your life might look like, etc., you’ll have a much better sense of whether Hawaii will be a good fit for you.
Now that you have a sense of what island life is like—and whether moving to Hawaii is right for you—let’s talk about which island you should live on.
Step 2: Choose an Island to Move To
Which island will make the perfect new home for you? While all of Hawaii has beautiful scenery and great weather, some islands might be a better fit for you than others. You’ll find seven inhabited islands in Hawaii: four main islands which most people reside on, two relatively remote islands that are more sparsely populated, and one reserved exclusively for its longtime residents (Niihau).
OahuThe most populous island, good for those who like city life and entertainment and don't mind some traffic and crowds.
MauiThe Valley Isle has a smaller (but still sizable)! population. It's known for its beauty, cultural scene, and artist communities.
The Big IslandThe largest in land area, featuring smaller population spread out over diverse landscapes.
Read more about Hilo or about Kona.
KauaiOn the Garden Isle, you'll find gorgeous beaches, lush vegetation, a slower pace of life, and plenty of local character.
Lanai & MolokaiThese two islands have many fewer residents and provide a quieter, more remote life.
NiihauNo visitors are allowed to this private island, which has been preserved for the native Niihuans.
For more on each island check out our guide to the best Hawaiian island to live on, do some research about what life is like on each one, and take a trip if possible to scout them out before you move. (An in-person visit is the best way to figure out which island is right for you!) We’ll also give you a brief run-down on each below.
Moving to Oahu: The Gathering Place
Population (2020): 1,016,508
Area: 596.7 sq mi
Highest Elevation: 4,003 ft
Although it’s only the third-largest Hawaiian island, Oahu is home to more than one million residents, according to the 2020 census. It’s also the most developed of all the islands. On the Gathering Place, you will find some of Hawaii’s most popular destinations including the state’s capital, Honolulu, as well as Waikiki and Pearl Harbor. Due to the amount of development, Oahu is certainly the island with the greatest number of job opportunities in industries that include tourism, government, military, healthcare, and construction.
When it comes to where to live on Oahu, the island offers a number of options. We put together a quick overview of each of the different areas of the island, to help you decide which is best for you and your family.
- Living in Waikiki: Considered the center of Oahu, Waikiki has a lot of tourist activity, and there are several things to do with your time. Great restaurants and nightlife, world-class shopping, and picturesque beaches will keep you busy. Because of all the tourism in Waikiki, prices for everything are typically a bit more inflated than other areas of the island.
- Living in “Town:” In addition to Waikiki, you’ll find Manoa, Punchbowl, Makiki, Kaimuki, Pali, Diamond Head, and Chinatown in the heart of Honolulu city, an area commonly referred to as “Town.” Town can certainly feel crowded and noisy at times, as one would expect of a large city. However, with that comes all kinds of activities and amenities, all within close proximity to your new home.
- Living on the Windward Side: Centered around the areas of Kaneohe, Waimanalo, and Kailua, the Windward side is home to lush foliage, crystal clear water, and some of the best beaches in Hawaii.
- Living in East Oahu: Comprised of the Hawaii Kai, Kahala, Aina Haina, and Diamond Head areas, East Oahu is more of a residential area containing mostly single-family homes with a bit more land. Here, you can escape the commotion of Honolulu.
- Living West of Pearl Harbor: Including the areas of Ewa (/ɛvə/), Kapolei, and Makakilo, this area delivers more of a local vibe with fewer tourists.
- Living on the Leeward Side: Made up of the Makaha, Nanakuli, and Waianae areas, the leeward side is home to many local island residents and boasts beautiful beaches and coastal areas.
- Living in Central Oahu: Comprised of the Wahiawa and Mililani areas, Central Oahu is a great residential area with good schools. It can also typically offer more cost-effective housing options.
- Living in Pearl City, Pearl Ridge, Aiea, Halawa: With a larger resident population, this area of Oahu sees a dryer climate and contains a lot of older homes from the 1960s and ’70s. The commute from this area to Town is typically about an hour each way during the weekdays.
- Living on the North Shore: Centered around the areas of Haleiwa, Sunset Beach, Pupukea, and Waimea, the North Shore is full of breathtaking views. It’s also home to some of the best waves in the world. If you find that you’ll need to venture to town often, the North Shore may not be the place for you, as commute times into town are often over an hour (and more during rush hour)!
Moving to Maui: The Valley Isle
Population (2020): 164,754
Area: 727.2 sq mi
Highest Elevation: 10,023 ft
Maui, the Valley Isle, is the second-largest Hawaiian Island. Named for the large isthmus which separates the two major volcanic masses on the island, Maui is home to a wide range of beautiful scenery and outdoor activities. Typically, the best places on the island for nightlife and other activities are Wailea and Kihei in the south, Kahului in the central region, and Lahaina in the west. As with all the Hawaiian Islands, tourism is the primary source of jobs on Maui, followed by construction and agriculture.
If you’re curious what kind of activities and entertainment you’ll find on the island of Maui, these will offer you a taste of life on the Valley Isle:
- Hiking and biking at Haleakala National Park.
- Snorkeling with sea turtles around the lava arches off the small island of Molokini.
- Spotting migrating humpback whales in the winter months.
- Sampling local specialties such as coffee, chocolate, pineapple wine, and dragon fruit at the local farms and plantations on the island.
- Taking a drive on the Road to Hana which is one of the most breathtaking (and heart-stopping!) drives you may ever experience.
Maui’s diverse landscape offers you a number of different environments to enjoy, including lush rainforest settings, sunny beachside communities, and cooler rural areas on the slopes of Mt. Haleakala. A couple of areas to consider:
- Living in Kihei : Popular with everyone from tourists to residents to retirees, Kihei is one of Maui’s more lively areas. You’ll also have access to beautiful beach after beautiful beach, with hot and sunny weather to match.
- Living in Wailuku: Centrally located Wailuku offers easy access to much of the island, including Kahului, Maui’s center of commerce. Wailuku sits just minutes from all kinds of conveniences: grocery stores, big box stores, malls, and more. You’ll also find family-friendly housing in the area.
- Living Upcountry: Towns like Pukalani, Makawao, and Kula all sit at higher elevation, as a result, residents enjoy cooler temperatures and breezes. Although you’ll encounter some tourist traffic passing through the area, you’ll find mostly residents Upcountry, which appeals to many.
- Living in Haiku: Located on Maui’s North Shore, Haiku offers you the opportunity to live the quiet life in Maui’s rainforest, a lush area that sees plenty of rain.
- Living in Lahaina: Although some find West Maui isolating, many love Lahaina’s warm, sunny weather—and easy access to its numerous surf breaks. You’ll also find plenty of fun in the historic town’s restaurants and bars.
Moving to the Big Island, Hawaii: The Orchid Isle
Population (2020): 200,629
Area: 4,028 sq mi
Highest Elevation: 13,803 ft
The largest Hawaiian Island, which is twice as big as all other Hawaiian Islands combined, contains the most diverse geography of all the islands. On the west side of the island, the Kona Coast is hot and dry. In the east, Hilo is wet and tropical.
While it is the largest in size, the Big Island is home to only one-fifth of the population of Oahu. With the large geographic area and smaller population, the island feels a lot more like Kauai than it does Oahu or Maui, both of which are more densely populated. Tourism is the primary source of jobs on the Big Island, with agriculture and civil-related jobs coming in second and third. Most of the tourism on the island of Hawaii is located on the western side of the island along the Kona Coast. This can create a lot of traffic during commute times as a lot of residents who live in Hilo commute to Kona for work.
In terms of activities and entertainment, the Big Island offers something for everyone. If you lived on the Big Island, you might find yourself…
- Visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
- Venturing up Mauna Kea, the island’s highest peak at 13,803 ft, which often sports a cap of snow at some point during the winter.
- Snorkeling with Manta Rays near Kona.
- Hiking through the rainforest and checking out waterfalls in the Hilo area.
- Spotting green sea turtles along the Kohala Coast
- If you’re thinking about moving to the Big Island, your first big decision will be where to live. The hot, sunny Kona Coast can feel very different from the windward side of the island where Hilo sits. To get a sense of which area might be right for you, check out these two articles: Living in Kona: An Insider’s Guide to Living on the Leeward Side of The Big Island and Living in Hilo: An Insider’s Guide to Living on the Tropical Eastern Side of The Big Island
Moving to Kauai: The Garden Isle
Population (2020): 73,298
Area: 562.3 sq mi
Highest Elevation: 5,243 ft
As the smallest of the four main islands both in size and population, Kauai has a small-town feel. Most residents of the island live on the coast as the interior of the island is largely made up of impassable terrain. In fact, only about 20% of the island is accessible by foot or road. Jobs on Kauai are primarily related to tourism, but there are also civil-related jobs and some military jobs available.
In terms of activities and entertainment on the island of Kauai, you might expect to spend your days doing some of the following:
- Hiking to some of the amazing lookout points into the Waimea Canyon, a massive gorge that is often called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.
- Visiting the Koke’e State Park where you can overlook the amazing Napali Coast and the Kalalau Valley.
- Spotting the many forms of wildlife at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on the North Shore.
- Hanging out with the thousands of beautiful feral chickens that roam the island freely.
As you research where to live on Kauai, we’ve got a couple of neighborhoods for you to check out:
- Living in Kapaa: Papaa town offers easy access to just about all of Kauai. Plus, there’s plenty to do in the area to keep you busy, including shopping, dining, and Kauai’s scenic bike path.
- Living in Poipu: If you’re a sun worshipper, Poipu may be the right spot for you. Because the weather is so consistently clear and bright, you’ll find plenty of resorts in the area, which means lots of options for shopping and dining.
- Living in Kilaue: If you crave a quieter lifestyle, Kilauea might be worth a look. The town’s position on the North Shore of Kauai also means the possibility of both dramatic ocean and mountain views, depending on your location.
- Living in Lihue: As Kauai’s capital, Lihue is one of Kauai’s busiest areas. However, that also means easy access to plenty of amenities, including restaurants, stores, and the airport.
Living on Molokai, the Friendly Isle, or Lanai, the Pineapple Isle
With around 8,000 and 3,200 residents respectively, Molokai and Lanai offer gorgeous landscapes with very few people on them. Many will find these two islands too remote to call home, but if a life of solitude is one you’re seeking, both islands certainly offer a lot of privacy, as well as a close connection with nature.
Once you’ve decided which island will be your new home, your next step will be to decide what you’d like your Hawaii life to look like. Next, we’ll walk you through a couple of areas to consider.
Step 3: Plan Your New Life in Hawaii
Now that you know a little about what life is like overall in Hawaii—as well as what it might be like on the island you choose—it’s time to get more personal. In other words, it’s time to take a look at what your life might be like in Hawaii. In this section, we’ll talk about the choices you’ll make once you move here that will all contribute to your Hawaii life.
(And if you do decide to ship a car, truck, motorcycle, or SUV to Hawaii, know that we can help you get it done with minimal hassle!)
Once you’ve made the big decisions about where you’ll move and what your life will look like in Hawaii, there’s only one thing left to do: Make the move! Next, we’ll walk you through your moving options so you can transition to Hawaii exactly the way you want to.
Step 4: Pack & Move
Finally, let’s get into the nitty-gritty: how you’re going to get any belongings you want to bring with you to the Aloha State. Below, we’ll walk you through what you need to know to ensure your possessions make a safe and easy transition to Hawaii.
Option #1: Do It Yourself
If you’re a minimalist—or you’re not sure how long you’ll stay in Hawaii—this could be the way to go. Check two suitcases, send a few items ahead with those handy USPS fixed-price Priority Mail boxes, and buy everything else when you get here. The DIY option will be your cheapest upfront. However, you’ll be doing all of the heavy liftings, and if you decide to stay, you may end up needing to buy some significant items in Hawaii.
Option #2: Door-to-Door Service
Choose a professional moving company who will come and pack your house for you, move all of those items to your choice of Hawaiian Islands, and unpack everything at your new home. This will likely be your most expensive option, but it delivers a high level of convenience. If you don’t have a lot of time to make your move, this is your best option.
Option #3: A Hybrid of These Two
Find a moving company that will deliver a container or a lift van to your house. (We’ll get into those details in a minute!) You pack it yourself, then the company delivers it to your new home, where you unpack it yourself. It’s less expensive than door-to-door service, but it does require you to do a lot of the work yourself. However, as opposed to the bare-bones approach of option #1, you won’t have to buy as many items once you’re in Hawaii.
However, before you get your heart set on one of these options, there are a few more things to consider:
~1,170 cubic feet; fits the contents of a two-bedroom apartment*
~2,390 cubic feet; fits the contents of a three-bedroom house*
~170 cubic feet; fits a king-size mattress, box spring and 12 large moving boxes
* Your needs may vary, depending on whether you’re a collector or a minimalist! We’ve had customers in two-bedroom apartments who used 40′ containers and others who fit a whole household into a 20′ container.
Most people are familiar with containers, but we get a lot of questions about lift vans. In short, they’re sturdy wooden crates, kind of like mini-containers, constructed from wood instead of metal. When people don’t have enough to fill a 20′ container, they can instead pack their belongings in a lift van (or two!). Those, in turn, get loaded into a container, which gets put on a ship headed for Hawaii.
So how do you decide which of these three options is right for you? We offered a few capacity recommendations above, but the best way to know for sure is to ask an expert, ideally during an in-home survey. Let’s talk a little more about why these surveys can be so useful for your Hawaii move.
Why In-Home Surveys Can Be Your Best Tool for Calculating Your Move
If you’ve done some research online, you’ve probably seen a few online moving calculators out there. In a world when you now buy a new car online, it might feel delightfully old-fashioned to have someone come to your house to survey your items and provide a moving quote.
That said, in our opinion, an in-home survey will be your easiest path to a reliable, guaranteed price per pound for your move.
Here’s how it works: Your surveyor will come to your house or connect with you virtually (options like these are expanding every day). They’ll take a look at your current home and your belongings, including the things that are difficult to capture in an online quote form, such as:
- How much stuff do you have? (To put it bluntly!) As we mentioned earlier, everyone is different. Your 1-bedroom apartment might be filled to the brim with furniture, art, and décor, while your neighbor might live very simply. Because your move will be priced by weight, you and your neighbor would get two very different quotes.
- Are your things heavy? Are you taking a library of books you’ve collected over the course of 20 years? How about a solid wood antique dining set? These items will affect the price of your move, and your surveyor will take this into account.
- Do you have any fragile items that need special handling? Fine art, pianos, large flat-screen televisions, and other breakable items may need special attention to ensure they arrive safely after their 2,000+ mile ocean journey.
- Are there any access challenges? Several flights of stairs, narrow roads, and other physical features may make it more challenging to execute your move. Your surveyor will take a look at these and include the cost in your quote.
The result? You’ll get a moving quote you can count on so there are no surprises on Moving Day. Your surveyor will also ask about how you want to protect your move. You might think of this as “moving insurance,” although the moving industry has its own terms for this. We’ll walk you through that next.
Can I Get Moving Insurance?
Considering your possessions are going to make a transpacific voyage across more than 2,000 miles of open ocean to reach their final destination (and that doesn’t even take into account any road miles!), it makes sense to think about protecting your move.
By law, every interstate moving company is required to offer you, at minimum, two options:
- Full-Value Protection: In the event that something happens to your possessions during transit, full-value protection covers your items for the cost of full replacement or repair.
- Released Value Protection: Under this option, your moving company is required to reimburse you at up to $0.60 per pound per article for anything that gets damaged or lost.
Want to see how the math works? We’ll show you how to make the calculations to help you decide which route you want to take.
If something does happen to your items in transit, the difference between these two levels of protection is significant. Make sure you understand your options well before making a final decision. And if you have any questions, the surveyor who comes to your house should be able to answer them for you.
Now that we’re narrowing in on some of your biggest moving decisions let’s talk about one of the biggest: How do you choose the right moving company for you?
Selecting the Best Moving Company for Moving to Hawaii
As you do your research, you’ll find several companies who would be happy to help you move to Hawaii. In fact, with all the options available online, it can get a little overwhelming.
First and foremost, you want to make sure you’re working with a reputable moving company. Unfortunately, scams do happen, but there are a couple of things you can do to protect yourself.
- Start by getting quotes from three, independent moving companies. That way, you’ll have a good sense of what the going rate is for a move like yours. Now, if one quote is significantly lower than all the others, you might want to be a little wary—especially if there’s no in-person survey. Sometimes, these lower-priced carriers will tack on a bunch of extra charges on Moving Day. Other, more unscrupulous operators may refuse to release your belongings until you pay some unexpected fees. That’s why it’s important to…
- Do your research. Check the company’s Better Business Bureau rating. Scan their social media properties and look for patterns. See if they hold membership in any professional organizations. You’ll likely get a sense of how that company operates fairly quickly. (And if you want to be really thorough, we’ll show you even more ways to research your moving company.)
- Understand Your Rights. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration oversees moving companies, and there are laws in place to protect your rights. This FMCSA brochure will lay out exactly what you need to know so you understand your rights and responsibilities under the law.
Once you’ve done your planning, preparation, and research, it’s time to make your final decisions. Then, there’s only one thing left to do: Get excited about your upcoming move to Hawaii!
Paradise, Here You Come!
After 35+ years of helping tens of thousands of families move to the Aloha State, we would love to welcome you to Hawaii. There’s so much to enjoy about the island lifestyle, and watching newcomers delight in all that Hawaii has to offer ignites our own appreciation for these islands all over again.
If you need assistance with your move, we’d be happy to help! We have crews and warehouses on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and on both sides of the Big Island—Kona and Hilo. We’d love to help you make a safe, easy, and affordable transition to your new home—and greet you with aloha. Just get in touch with us for a complimentary quote to get started.
Tell us about your move!