Moving To Hawaii

Moving To Hawaii

Here’s some things you should know if you’re thinking about moving to Hawaii. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition the average rent for a 2 bedroom apartment is $1,509 per month in the state of Hawaii. – This was true in 2009-2010, now in 2012 I don’t think so. Yes, living the Hawaii life is expensive

Based on what I read in the local paper about real estate in Hawaii, rents have dropped some. Not a huge amount, but not the gouging that was going on previously around 05 & 06.

This is an average of the whole state which includes Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Kauai, and the island of Hawaii. To be able to afford that much rent you need to be making about $30 per hour or $60K per year.

Which island should you move to?

It depends on which island you might prefer. Each has it’s own flavor so to speak. Oahu is called the gathering place. They got that right, there’s about 1.2 million of them “gathered” over there. If you like the big city, then you may want to consider moving there if you want the metropolitan Hawaii life.

Oahu kind of reminds me of L.A. with water around it, but it’s a whole lot safer. Besides all the amenities of a big city, Oahu does have some very cool things about it which would make it a nice place to move to, but it is some of most expensive real estate in Hawaii.

Even though the average 2 bedroom rent is $1509 for the whole state you could probably find a pretty cheap apartment down in Waikiki for a lot less than $1500 per month.

Then There Is The Garden Isle

Kauai is small and similar to Kona in someways, but has some of the best beaches in Hawaii. Back in 2009 when the vog was really bad, I was looking at possibly moving there.

It’s really pretty. It’s also really expensive. If I was a serious surfer I’d probably live here because of the great surfing. This is living the Hawaii life style at a very laid back pace.


Has some great beaches like Kauai. But it also has too many people for my taste and it helps to be rich as it’s probably the most expensive real estate in Hawaii, of all the islands to live on.

The Island of Hawaii

The big island is more rural compared to the other islands. And more affordable if you’re moving to Hawaii on a budget.

The further away you get from Oahu the further you get from civilization in some ways. It is the major hub of all the islands.

But if you’re looking for a more laid back way of life by moving to Hawaii, then one of the outer islands is probably the way to go. Read this blog post about living the Kona lifestyle. This is where the best bang for the buck is when it comes to real estate in Hawaii.

Below I’ll share tips for moving to Hawaii. How to ship a car to Hawaii. And other tid bits about living on the island that are important to know about. Like:

Moving to Hawaii

Should you ship your vehicles? Or buy them here?

If you have a truck. I’d consider shipping it to Hawaii because trucks sell for a premium here. If you have an average no frills car. I’d sell it and buy one when you get here. Matson, Pasha and Horizon all ship vehicles from the west coast. Just visit my moving resource page for more info. The cost is around a $1000 for the average vehicle.

Pasha only ships vehicles, Matson ships everything. Horizon I’m not sure about.

And while we are talking about vehicles, if you decide to ship yours, it better be something that is popular here on the island. Why? Because let’s say you own a Ranger Rover, all of the sudden you’ve just been limited to about one shop that works on them here. And forget buying parts for it locally.

But let’s say you’re a Toyota, Nissan, Chevy, Ford, Dodge car or truck owner. No problem. Everybody has parts for those and there is a lot of different shops here that repair it for you.

If you just have to bring your yuppy mobile with you, go ahead, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Shipping Household Stuff

If I was moving to Hawaii again, I’d sell all my stuff on the mainland before moving and just show up with clothes and a tooth brush ready to start my new Hawaii life.

Nice used stuff is cheap to buy here from folks moving back to the mainland. Such as cars furniture and other household items.

There are lots of furnished vacation rentals here that rent for almost the same as unfurnished places so you really don’t need to even buy furniture if you don’t want to. Now that I think about it, it’s a great way to move here short term to see if you even like it.

Matson will rent you various sizes of containers to ship yourstuff to Hawaii if you just can’t part with it.  Listen to the moving to Hawaii podcast episode where I talk more about this. 


In the old days moving a pet to Hawaii required quarantine of the animal for 90 days. And the reason for this is Hawaii is rabies free and the state would like to keep it that way. The state has since removed the requirement for the quarantine if you jump through the hoops correctly. This means if you do the paper work properly you can bring your pet home with you straight from the airport on arrival.

  •  Here are some of the requirements.
  •  Your dog will require 2 rabies shots 90 days apart and you can’t ship fido here till after 90 days has passed since the last rabies shot.
  • Dogs and cats will require micro chips
  • OIE-FAVN rabies blood test.

After the OIE-FAVN blood test you have to wait 120 days before moving your pet to Hawaii if you don’t want to have them in 90 day quarantine after they arrive here. All the rules and forms are available from the state website for complete animal info.

If the paperwork doesn’t scare you that the state requires, you can handle it yourself. But if you would rather turn it over to an expert, you might try this pet relocation service to Hawaii if you don’t want to deal with the paperwork.

Jobs In Hawaii

If you’re thinking about moving to Hawaii and then finding a job. You need to make $50K per year minimum to afford to live here. If you want to eat too that is.

You can live here on less, people do. But when I say 50K, I’m talking living comfortably.

Moving To Hawaii Update Sept. 2012

The job market on the big island seems to have turned the corner in a good kind of way. There are a lot of jobs listed in the local Sunday paper compared to a year ago.

There is a new website with local job listings and more. If I was looking for a job I’d definitely bookmark their site.

I still think starting your own business here is the best strategy if you want to live here long term. Or figure out a way to telecommute to your current job on the mainland. It’s not uncommon for people to hold 2 or 3 jobs here just to make ends meet.

I never said this was easy. As a matter of fact I work harder here than I ever did living on the mainland. The price to stay warm… Above I said you should think about starting your own business, just know that Hawaii requires all employers to provide health insurance for all employees that work over 20 hours per week.


Buying fruit at the local grocery store the first time will be a shocking experience. A bag of grapes, some bananas and a couple of nectarines is almost $20. Shopping for food here is not for the faint of heart.

If you shop at Costco you can save a lot of money on your grocery bills. Another tip is if you shop at Safeway or Sack and Save make sure to join their customer discount programs. You’ll save a lot of money.

If you don’t have your Makai or Safeway card when you go shopping… you’ll pay the tourist rates. Ouch!

The good news is eating out seems to be about the same as most places in California. Go to Costco here and buy their rotisserie chicken. You can’t buy it at the grocery store and cook it yourself for less money.

Housing Costs

You can rent a nice 2 bedroom condo for around $1000 per month give or take $100. Houses rent starting around $1000 and go as high as you care to spend. For something nice you’ll probably pay around $1600 per month. The upside is property taxes are cheap compared to Ca. for example.


If you have children that you can’t afford to put in private school, you might reconsider moving here. The schools here are severely underfunded and right now have the least teaching days annually than any other state in the country.

Medical Care

A lot of doctors have been run out of Hawaii due to the high cost of liability insurance and the low reimbursement from health insurance companies. It’s pretty much a revolving door of specialists moving to Hawaii for a year or two and then moving back to the mainland. Doctors don’t like being poor. I don’t blame them. I don’t care for it either. If you’re seriously injured here, you need to be able to live long enough to be flown to Honolulu as our local hospital is only equipped to stabilize you enough to move you to another hospital on Oahu that has the equipment and expertise to save your life. Remember hearing about Kelsey Grammer having a heart attack here in Kona in 2009? The Kona hospital stabilized him and then he was flown to Honolulu.

Living On An Island

You’ve moved to Hawaii, now what? Some people get totally into the Hawaii life style and adjust well and live happily ever after. And… Some folks get “rock fever” after moving here and have to move back to where they came from. I just take a trip to the mainland for a week and that usually fixes me for 6 to 8 months. It’s good to travel right?

For some people the culture shock of moving to the aloha state is just too much for them and they move back to the mainland. For others, it’s like they’ve found the place they’ve been searching for their whole life.

One of the things I’ve noticed living in perpetual summer is that time passes very fast and there are no markers of the seasons to associate events passing in your life.  Actually there is, but they are so subtle that it takes years before you recognize them.

If you’re still reading at this point you’re probably starting to see that living in paradise does have it’s challenges.

As I write this on an early February morning it’s about 72 degrees with a light balmy breeze. I will say that moving to Hawaii was probably the best thing I ever did. I don’t regret it for a minute.  Mark Twain said something to the effect that Hawaii is great for resting your weary bones… I’d happily agree. If you’re thinking about investing in real estate in Hawaii, I don’t think you can go wrong.


  1. Hello! I have visited Hawaii last year about one month and am planning to move there in January. I just graduated college and make a little over 50,000 a year and have a job where I can transfer to the islands. Do I make enough to get a place on my own? I've been looking into rental properties but I feel for the price I am paying to rent somewhere I might as well buy a studio and I would like to move to Oahu. Do you think this is the better decision?

  2. Aloha Wayne, I have no clue about Oahu since I live in Kona on the island of Hawaii.

  3. Joe just found the site and think its great. Working on he move to”paradise” in the future. What would you bring from the mainland that you can’t get locally? Mahalo Glenn

    • Employees. Otherwise, I can get just about anything from Amazon with free shipping being a Prime member.

      • Joe, What type of employees are in demand that you see

        • Joe Trent says:

          The type that can pass a drug test.

          • Employees that can pass a drug test in what line of work? Kona or Hilo side?

          • Joe Trent says:

            Every line of work. Island wide. Yes, that even includes the cops.

          • My wife and I are teachers in Ohio and are in the process of applying for teaching jobs in Hawaii. We are in our mid-20s and were married 2 years ago. After our honeymoon there we fell in love with the islands, and we HATE the winter here. We just had 5 inches of snow in mid-November, as if we needed reassured we are doing the right thing. There are a ton of hoops to jump through when applying (including a face-to-face interview before you can actually apply for a job, which is pricey at $1500 per plane ticket). We are thinking of moving first, then searching for teaching jobs. What could we do as “in the meantime” jobs with education degrees? I have a Masters and she has a Bachelors degree. We want to have some sort of income locked down before making the move so we don’t end up living in a tent on the beach, although that doesn’t sound so bad right now. Thanks

          • What could we do as “in the meantime” jobs with education degrees? The car rental places are always looking for people with degrees. I wish I had a better answer than that, but I don’t. Sorry.

  4. Aloha Joe,
    My family and I love visiting Hawaii, and do so often; sometimes 3+ times per year. We love the climate of course, but we also love the people, the culture, and the lifestyle. I am a Canadian citizen, but my wife and children are dual Canadian/American citizens. My intention is to buy property in Hawaii for retirement (likely Kauai), but not to live there year-round. I was wondering whether you had any insights (or had suggestions for resources to persue for more info) about part-time rental property ownership, management companies, and so forth, since I suspect this might be a reasonable option for us; that is, buying property for our own use part-time, and having it rented out during the busier season (even Kauai is too busy for us during tourist season). ;)

  5. Yusuf Koroma says:

    Aloha! What would you say are the chances of a single guy in his 20s with no children renting a room in Oahu and finding a job in either the restaurant, hospitality, or touring industries? From what i’ve read on this blog, it seems that the warnings of a high cost of living applies to families and couples with high living standards. For a minimalist like myself, however, who has lived in Iceland and the Faroe Islands (notoriously expensive countries with high taxes) shouldn’t the move to Hawaii be a walk in the park?

  6. Sherry Park-Clifford says:

    Hi Laura, we're in the same boat. Basically we need to win then lottery, and THEN move there…LoL. Even then, there would probably still be obstacles in our way.

  7. Denise smith says:

    Aloha Joe, thank you for this great website. I’m hoping to move to Kauai in the next six months. We are looking for a long term rental to start with. An suggestion for real estate agents that can help me find a place? I’ve been browsing Craigslist for a few years and it seems dodgy. I have two cats and most landlordsdon’t want pets. I have started the rabies process.

  8. Saw your comments about needing employees. I’m 57 and would like to retire to the big island, but need to have a job to tide me over until SS kicks in. I’m a technical writer and English teacher by trade employed for the last 31 years in management in a manufacturing environment. I’ve looked at job sites for over there and haven’t seen an exact fit, but what I’m willing to change occupations. Do you have any idea what opportunities might be available for me? I’m in great health and shape.

    • The local newspaper was just running an ad for someone to check grammar. But with your skills, I’d think more about being an online worker. Like Elance for example.

  9. Hi Joe,
    I'm currently a student studying Accounting in New York, pursuing a CPA license. I know how important it is to save your money when you're young. Would it be unwise to move to Hawaii in my mid 20s, and spend an exorbitant amount money on living expenses when I could be investing and saving money for retirement?
    Thank You,

  10. Aloha Andrew, Become a master at what you do working for the best and learning from them where ever you can find them. In your 30's hang your shingle anywhere you want (Hawaii etc.) and build on from there.

  11. Jesse Janzig says:

    Aloha Joe! Thoroughly enjoyed your website. I spent a few months out on the Big Island back in 2012 and after returning home to the mainland I couldn’t help but feel somewhat anxious. There was this empty feeling I had, this urge to go back to Hawaii. As time went on I made the decision to move out to the Big Island. My girlfriend and I will be flying into Kona mid January of 2015. We’ll be looking at buying some land and setting up a self sustained farm with multiple living quarters. I’m an ASE certified automotive technician with 10+ years on the job experience looking for possible work opportunities. After our arrival to the Big Island I’d like to stop by your shop and meet you and your staff. Mahalo!

    • Aloha Jesse,

      I think Ocean View probably could use a good tech pretty soon. Stop by and I’ll fill you in. If I’m still here. Currently my house is for sale.

  12. Charlie Mirenda says:

    Hey Joe,
    Right now my boyfriend and I are interested in moving to kapolei for a year or so depending on how we like it. I will be a recent nursing graduate and he has the chance to relocate his job from PA to kapolei. We would be moving with a dog in about a year, how much time is needed to prepare for a move like this? Is it hard to find work?

  13. Joe Trent says:

    Aloha Charlie, Start planning now. Bringing a dog is going to be a job in its self. Work is always available for those that want to. Always. The dog is going to be such a chore, I'd investigate using a service like.

  14. Hi Joe… Thinking of Hawaii seriously… I am originally from Jamaica and move to US at 13… I am now 32 and have 4kids ages 10mths, 5, ,6 and 7…searching for more quality to life for kids as I was fortunate enough to experience in Jamaica. Our oldest has Down Syndrome so would like to stay in the US for services for her n keep her in the system. Any insight on therapy services there. She is very high functioning with thankfully no real medical concerns just mostly developmental delays. But would need physical, occupational and speeh for her. We are currently in palm beach Florida but still not seeming to do the trick. I read from your post about the school system so just doing research on it now. How crazy are private school prices? I am a nurse… What island would u think offers the most in terms of health services for her and allowing me to work. Thanks so much.

    • Aloha Aysha,

      It’s funny you should mention speech therapy, one of my customers was just telling me that a speech therapist could make six figures here because the demand is so high. Services like that here are few. Private schools are 20K per year if I recall correctly. While I love Hawaii, it’s still pretty third world in a lot of respects, especially when it comes to education and social services.

  15. Hi Joe,
    I am thinking about moving to kona June 1st with 4 friends. Two of them are planning on going down may 1st and staying with a friend while looking for a place to live. One of them is guaranteed a job while the 4 of us are not. How easy will it be to find jobs and how much money should we each bring to guarantee a place?

  16. Typically full-time jobs are hard to get if you don't already have an offer in place. You can find plenty part-time jobs though, mostly in retail or general labor. Most people have 2 or 3 part time jobs until they are able to transition to full time. As far as money goes I would say bring enough to cover 3-6 months worth of expenses which shouldn't be too bad if you are splitting them 5 ways. You should always have a plan for worst case scenario since getting a job, especially one that pays your bills, is never a certain thing; Many people come over but can't sustain living here because they didn't have a realistic plan and either have to move back to the mainland or become homeless. Good luck : )

  17. What Kiana said.

  18. Hello Joe, I’m thinking of taking a full time job in Oahu possibly by April of 2015, I will be moving my family of five people. I’m working as a Dental hygienist. Do you think a family of five 3 kids (they do not require day care) and two adults can make it financially off my income about $50k annually. I live within normal means I’m not a big spender, and I save when I can. However I’m not cheap either if something is quality and will last me a long time. What’s your thoughts on moving to Hawaii for my type of situation? Thanks for reading

    • Aloha Devon,
      My new rule of thumb is, if you can afford to live in San Diego, you can afford to live in Hawaii. I say this after visiting my son and daughter that live there. If everyone in your family wants to move to Oahu, why not. But it will be tight on 50K. But others are doing it.

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