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 3 step guide full of advice and tips for moving to Hawaii. When you’re in the beginning stages of planning your move, start out by deciding which of the islands is right for you. Deciding on an island will help narrow down a lot of your research including the cost of living on which does vary from island to island.
Secondly, we’ll walk you through some of the key consideration points of living in Hawaii including housing, jobs, schools, health insurance, pets, etc. The cost of living in Hawaii is certainly higher than the mainland, but there are ways to stretch your dollar, such as buying fruits and vegetables at farmer’s markets or spending time at the beaches (they are free of course). Assimilating to the culture and living local is the best way to save money.
Once you have decided on an island and have worked through these key consideration points, you can begin to prepare for and plan your move!
Step 1: 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. There are six notable islands making up Hawaii; four main islands which most people reside on and two remote islands that are sparsely populated. Oahu, the most populous, is good for those who like city life and entertainment and don’t mind some traffic and crowds. Maui has a smaller, but still sizable population and is known for its beauty, cultural scene, and artist communities. The Big Island and Kauai have much smaller populations, diverse geography, and lush vegetation. Lanai and Molokai, which have the fewest residents, provide a quieter, more remote life, yet are still only a short flight from the larger islands. Check out a map of Hawaii islands, do some research about what life is like on each island, and take a trip if possible to scout them out before you move.
Moving to Oahu: The Gathering Place
Population (2016): 992,605
Area: 596.7 sq mi
Highest Elevation: 4,003 ft
As the 3rd largest Hawaiian Island, Oahu is home to nearly one million residents and is the most developed of all the islands. Here you will find some very popular destinations including the state’s capital, Honolulu, as well as Waikiki and Pearl Harbor. Due to the amount of development and larger population, Oahu is certainly the island with the most job opportunities. Tourism, government, military, healthcare and construction are just a few popular industries.
With so much development on the island of Oahu, choosing an area to live on the island can be tough. Here is a quick overview 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 high amount of tourist activity and there are lots of things to do with your time. Great restaurants and nightlight, world class shopping and wonderful 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 – Manoa, Punchbowl, Makiki, Kaimuki, Pali, Diamond Head, and Chinatown are all areas located in the heart of Honolulu city; commonly referred to as “Town.” The heart of the city is certainly crowded as one would expect of a large city, but with that comes many things to do — all within close proximity to your new home.
- Living on the Windward Side: Centered around the areas of Kaneohe, Waimanalo, 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.
- West of Pearl Harbor: Including the areas of Ewa (/ɛvə/), Kapolei and Makakilo that provide more of a local vibe; these areas do not see much tourism.
- 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.
- Central Oahu: Comprised of the Wahiawa and Mililani areas, Central Oahu is a great residential area with good schools and typically more cost effective housing options.
- 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 1970s. The commute from this area to town is typically about an hour each way during the weekdays.
- North Shore: Centered around the areas of Haleiwa, Sunset Beach, Pupukea and Waimea, the North Shore is full of breathtaking views and is 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.
Moving to Maui: The Valley Isle
Population (2016): 165,386
Area: 727.2 sq mi
Highest Elevation: 10,023 ft
Maui is the 2nd largest Hawaiian Island which is also referred to as the “Valley Isle.” Named by the large isthmus which separates the northwestern and southeastern 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 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.
As far as activities and entertainment go on the island of Maui, here are just a few things that you can experience:
- Hiking and biking at Haleakala National Park
- Snorkel with sea turtles around the lava arches off the small island of Molokini
- Spot migrating humpback whales in the winter months
- Sample local specialties such as coffee, chocolate and dragon fruit at the local farms and plantations on the island
- Take a drive on the Road to Hana which is one of the most breathtaking drives you may ever experience
Moving to the Big Island, Hawaii
Population (2016): 198,449
Area: 4,028 sq mi
Highest Elevation: 13,803 ft
The largest Hawaiian Island, which is actually 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 relative population, the island feels a lot more like Kauai than it does Oahu or Maui — which are both 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 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 on the eastern side of the island commute to the west coast of the island for work.
In terms of activities and entertainment, the Big Island offers something for everyone. Here are a few of the activities that one can experience:
- Visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Venturing up Mauna Kea, the island’s highest peak, which actually gets snow
- Snorkeling with Manta Rays near Kona
- Rainforest Hikes & Waterfalls in the Hilo area
- Spotting green sea turtles along the Kohala Coast
Moving to Kauai: The Garden Isle
Population (2016): 72,029
Area: 562.3 sq mi
Highest Elevation: 5,243 ft
As the 4th largest Hawaiian Island, or the smallest of the four main islands both in size and population, Kauai has a very 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 made up of tourism, civil related jobs and some military.
In terms of activities and entertainment on the island of Kauai, here are a few of the activities which one can expect:
- Hike to some of the amazing lookout points into the Waimea Canyon, a massive gorge that is often compared to a mini Grand Canyon
- Visit the Koke’e State Park where you can overlook the amazing Napali Coast and the Kalalau Valley
- Spot 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
Living on Molokai or Lanai
With only around 10,000 residents that call Molokai and Lanai home, these two islands are both beautiful, but are nearly barren. Most people will find these two islands far too remote to call home, but if a life of solitude is one that you are seeking, both islands certainly offer a lot of privacy.
Step 2: Plan out your new life in Hawaii
Jobs in Hawaii
Hawaii’s high cost of living means you’ll probably need to find a job, unless you’re a retiree or you are able to work remotely with your current job. Although Hawaii has a relatively low unemployment rate, it can be difficult to find a job, especially outside of Oahu.
Jobs in Hawaii are mostly available in hospitality, tourism, retail, healthcare, construction, and government and military. While Hawaii isn’t usually ideal for entrepreneurs, Honolulu does have an emerging startup scene. You can search for jobs on Real Jobs Hawaii, Hawaii Jobs on Demand, Hawaii.gov, Indeed, Monster, LinkedIn, and Craigslist.
Buying or Renting Homes in Hawaii
It’s no secret that homes are expensive in Hawaii. According to Zillow, the median home value in Hawaii is $617,500 and the median rent price is $2,400. However, prices vary dramatically – in Honolulu the median home value is $672,900 while in Hilo it’s only $310,200. To decide if you should rent or buy, consider which island you’ll be moving to and how long you’re planning to stay. You can also use this buy vs rent calculator to explore your options.
Finding Good Schools in Hawaii
Deciding where to send your kids to school after a move is always difficult. To get started, you can do some research on Hawaii’s statewide public school district website, as well as investigate your options for private schools. You can also visit Great Schools for information on school ratings. If you’re thinking about homeschooling, check out the public school system’s .
Health Insurance in Hawaii
One item to also consider when moving to Hawaii is the cost health insurance as well as the options available on the islands. Because much of the work is tourism related and seasonal in nature, many employers on the island employ a lot of part time or contract based workers which typically would not include the same health insurance benefits as a full time job. However, The Hawaii Prepaid Health Care Act mandates employers to offer coverage to employees working at least 20 hours per week. Be sure to do your research and budget accordingly as your health insurance options may be more limited on the islands in comparison to what’s offered on the mainland.
Bringing Your Pets to Hawaii
Did you know that Hawaii is the only rabies-free state? To keep it that way, there are strict rules and regulations for animals entering Hawaii. If you decide to bring your pets with you when you move, make sure you’re aware of everything you’ll need to do in advance. Click here to learn more about the rules and regulations for bringing your pets into Hawaii.
Shipping Your Cars to Hawaii
Can’t decide whether to bring your car with you? You can ship your car to Hawaii, or sell it before you move and buy another once you get there. If you decide to ship your car, Royal Hawaiian Movers can ship your car or motorcycle to Hawaii with minimal hassle!
Step 3: Pack & Move
Now it’s time to start planning your move! The summer months (May through August) are the busiest for moving. So if you are able, we recommend trying to schedule your move between the off months of September and March. Prices to move in the off months are typically better than the height of the summer months.
You’ll need to select a moving company that can expertly handle overseas moves. Make sure you do your research when selecting a moving company and work with a reputable moving company that is well experienced with moves to Hawaii. For additional tips and advice, check out our comprehensive guide to selecting the best moving company.
Royal Hawaiian Movers has been making moves to Hawaii easy and stress-free for over 35 years. It doesn’t matter which island you’ve chosen as your new home – Royal Hawaiian has trucks and warehouses on all four major islands. We can pack, move, deliver, and unpack your household goods safely, and we have cost-effective storage options in Hawaii. We’ll be with you from the mainland to the island and everywhere in between. Contact us to request a quote today.
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