The Big Island may be the youngest in the Hawaiian island chain, but it’s still an island with a lot of history—and a lot to offer.
Historians believe that the first human settlers to the Hawaiian Islands made their initial landfall on the Big Island.i Additionally, the Big Island was also the birthplace and childhood home of King Kamehameha, the first to unite the islands, forming the Kingdom of Hawaii. He also established the kingdom’s first seat of government on the Orchid Isle.
Today, the Big Island is well-known for its dramatic and awe-inspiring natural landscapes. As you tour the island, you’ll find cascading waterfalls, verdant tropical rainforests, 13,000-foot mountain peaks, an active volcano, and long stretches of beach featuring white, green, and black sands.
If you’re planning a move to the Kona side of the Big Island, you’re in for a treat—especially if you love the outdoors. Let’s set the scene for your Kona move:
Kona Must-Know #1: Where Exactly Is Kona?
When you hear someone refer to “Kona” or “the Kona Coast,” they’re talking about the western coast of the Big Island. Specifically, “Kona” encompasses two of the Big Island’s nine districts, North Kona and South Kona. Each of the nine districts has its own distinct character and climate. In fact, by some estimates, you can find 10 of the world’s 14 climate zones right on the Big Island.ii
As decide where to establish yourself on the Big Island, make sure you understand the predominant climate of your future neighborhood. You’ll find very different daily weather on the Kona side than you will on the Hilo side of the Big Island, for example.
In fact, that brings us to our next must-know for living on the Kona side of the Big Island.
Kona Must-Know #2: What’s the Weather?
There’s a reason that the Kona coast is dotted by big-name hotels. Whereas the eastern coast of the Big Island—the Hilo side—is known for its wetter weather and lush landscape, the Kona side is hotter, drier, and sunnier. If your idea of a perfect Hawaiian experience includes sunbathing on warm sand with nary a cloud in sight, then the Kona Coast is right for you.
And because you’re in Hawaii, you’ll enjoy pleasant temperatures year-round. To give you a sense of the climate, take a look at the year-round average temperatures in Kailua-Kona:
- Highs of 81-87° F, with hottest temperatures August–September
- Lows of 68-75° F, with coolest temperatures December–February iii
A Note on Kona Weather: When the volcano Kilauea is actively erupting, many Kona residents experience the effects of VOG—volcanic fog. For more on the effects of VOG, check out our article on living in Kona.
In addition to knowing what it’s like to live in Kona, many people also want to know how much it costs to make your home there.
Kona Must-Know #3: How Much Does It Cost to Live?
Here’s the good news: In general, the Big Island has a lower cost of living than Oahu, Maui, and Kauai. As an example, take a look at these U.S. Census median gross rent statistics:
- Hawaii County (Big Island): $1,180
- Maui County: $1,510
- Honolulu County: $1,745
- Kauai County: $1,375iv
Keep in mind that these prices represent the median for the entire island. Living in an apartment with a number of amenities in a busier area, such as a condo in Kailua-Kona, will be pricier. Living in a remote, less-developed area of the Big Island will cost comparably less. (Think: an off-grid cabin in Puna.)
At the end of the day, as any resident will tell you, living in Hawaii can get expensive quickly. Groceries, utilities, gas—it all adds up. Considering that absolutely everything in Hawaii has to be shipped in, you’re looking at a significant cost of living increase from most mainland locations.
But, remember, you’re living in paradise, which leads us to our next must-know.
Kona Must-Know #4: What Is There to Do?
When it comes to attractions and activities in Kona, you’ll find plenty of things to keep you busy. This is especially true if you love getting outside. The island is packed with land and sea adventures, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, snorkeling, surfing, foiling, kiteboarding, scuba diving, four-wheeling, strolling jungle paths, bird watching, stargazing, camping, and more. Basically, the Big Island is an outdoor paradise. If that sounds like your definition of a good time, you’ll love living on the Orchid Isle.
And while you’re exploring the island, keep this next must-know in mind.
Kona Must-Know #5: Drive with Aloha
A lot of people who are moving to Kona want to know what kind of differences to expect from mainland life. Although we could probably write a whole article on this topic, there’s one big one you’ll want to be aware of: Leave your mainland driving habits behind.
This is especially true if you’re moving from a big city or a busy metro area where high speeds, plenty of honking, and jockeying for road position is common. When you move to Kona, you’ll encounter the famously unhurried Hawaiian lifestyle. It’s even more apparent on the Big Island than, say, on busy Oahu. This same laid-back attitude applies to driving. In fact, we encourage you to drive with aloha.
What, exactly, does that mean? Take it easy on the road. Follow the posted speed limits, especially in residential areas where kids play. Stop to let other people go. Let pedestrians cross the street in front of you, especially when in shopping centers. Don’t honk unless you witness a dangerous situation.
In other words, slow down and enjoy the ride. Like the pace of business on the Big Island, the traffic moves at its own speed. Don’t try to change it. Go with the flow. You’ll enjoy your time in Kona significantly more if you can embrace the aloha spirit behind the wheel.
It’s worth noting that your driving experience in Kona is going to depend heavily on where you choose to live and where you work. This brings us to our next must-know.
Kona Must-Know #6: Where’s the Best Place to Live?
The truth is, it all depends on what you want to get out of your Hawaii life. Some people move to Hawaii to enjoy condo life, with plenty of perks and very little maintenance. Others want a family-friendly neighborhood where their kids can play. Still others may simply want a quiet retreat with a killer view.
Like the different districts of the Big Island, each Kona neighborhood has its own character. Check out our article on living in Kona to kick off your research with a few suggested neighborhoods to get you started.
One note on renting: As on the mainland, Craigslist and Facebook can be a good place to start if you’re looking for your rental. However, there are a few scams you’ll want to be aware of that pop up from time to time. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. You’ll also have much better luck looking for a place once you’re actually on island. Never put down money for a place that you haven’t seen in person first. This will help you avoid some of the more common schemes, in which people post fake properties using stolen photos from real estate listings.
Next, when you’re looking for the perfect place for you and your loved ones, you’ll want to make sure all of your loved ones can come with you.
Kona Must-Know #7: Can I Bring My Dog, Cat, or Other Pet?
As a rabies-free destination with a unique ecosystem, Hawaii has several restrictions in place for bringing your pets to the island. However, if you follow our guide to moving your pets to Hawaii—and meet all of the state’s requirements—you may be able to secure direct airport release for your dog, cat, or other pet right here on the Big Island. (No mandatory quarantine!) If you have something more exotic than a dog or a cat, make sure you check the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s list of conditionally-approved species. You’ll find some surprising restrictions on the list. Hedgehogs, hermit crabs, and ferrets are all prohibited from entry into the Hawaiian Islands.
And while we’re on the topic of imports, let’s talk about another type of treasured possession that many people want to bring with them to Kona.
Kona Must-Know #8: Can I Bring My Car?
Absolutely! However, the question you might want to ask rather than “Can I bring my car to Kona?” is “Should I bring my car to Kona?” Shipping your car to Hawaii is an investment in your current vehicle. If it’s still got a lot of life in it, then, by all means, arrange to ship your car to Kona. This is especially true if you’ve got a four-wheel drive vehicle or one with good ground clearance. Off-roading is a popular activity on the Big Island. You’ll find plenty of use for a car that can navigate a steep road dotted with rocks and potholes.
However, if your car only has a year or two left on it, you’re probably better off selling it on the mainland. The same is true if you’re seriously considering an upgrade in the near future. Instead, put the proceeds of the sale toward a new or used vehicle once you get to the Big Island.
Want to know more about shipping your car, truck, or SUV? Check out our complete guide to shipping your vehicle to Hawaii.
All the Considerations for Your Kona Move
For many people, a move to Hawaii is an absolute dream—the opportunity to live in a veritable paradise. If you you’re headed for Kona, you’ll enjoy the warm weather, gorgeous white sand beaches, and sunny days that Hawaii is known for. Plus, with these eight must-knows under your belt, you’ll also be able to make a smooth and easy transition to the Orchid Isle.
Have more questions about moving to Kona? Our Kailua-Kona-based team would be happy to help! Just reach out to us with any questions you have about moving to the Big Island. We can also put together a customized quote, tailored to your move—and your budget.
Tell us about your move!