10 Things to Know Before Moving to Hawaii

Are You Considering a Move To Hawaii?


For years, you’ve dreamt about the wonders of the Aloha State. The island’s beaches, cliffs, and trees have called to you—and now you want to take action. If you’ve decided to transform your fantasy of moving to Hawaii into a reality, there are a multitude of things to keep in mind as you prepare for your new life

Hawaii’s six islands offer a richer history than most places in the United States. In your relocation, you’ll be exposed first-hand to the rich heritage of Hawaii’s evolving culture. Influenced by Polynesia, Japan, the United States, and more. In your vision of life in the state of Hawaii, you probably picture days of dancing, learning new traditions and languages, and dining on culinary delicacies.

While all of this may be true, there’s some day-to-day information about life in Hawaii you should understand. First, you should accept that life in Hawaii isn’t a fantastical paradise. Like moving anywhere else, you can expect a variety of routines between all the fun. Here are 10 things to think about before you say “aloha” to your new life.

10 Things To Help You Prepare For a Success Move to Hawaii


1. Choose The Right Location (For You)

Maybe you’ve been to Hawaii several times and have found that special town you dream of calling home, but if you haven’t—this is important!

If your plans aren’t set, and you have a choice of where you’ll make your move to Hawaii, the #1 thing you can do is choose the proper location. Each island is unique and certain geographic locations will resonate with you more strongly than others.

Island Hopping Is Easy and Encouraged.

Because of its small geographic size, moving between the main islands of Hawaii is easy and common. Most flights between major islands take between 20 and 50 minutes, and prices have been historically low since Southwest began flying inter-island.

If you’re new to the region and have island fever, you should make it a goal to see as much of your beautiful state as you can. The main six islands include Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui, and the “Big Island,” Hawaii. 

Each of the islands has its charms, so you can adventure around until you find somewhere you really belong. For famed nightlife, shopping, and dining, you may find your niche in the island of Oahu’s renowned south shore city of Honolulu. If you prefer a Hawaiian island with more geographic history, your intrigue may be piqued by the Island of Kauai considered the “Garden Isle” of the state due to its lush tropical rainforest. Advanced adventurers may be pulled to the cliffs of Molokai and the infamous Palaau State Park. Those looking for a mix of mainland amenities and island life may be drawn to Maui.

The state is full of possibilities for every personality type. It may take a little digging to find your niche, but the exploration is worth it. Once you’ve made a list of potential locations, narrow it further by considering prices of rent or real estate. Nalula provides a simple way to see average prices of cities and find deals on property for sale. For the wealthy, this home search of Kahala, home to the rich and famous, has a median price of $2.3m. For the budget-minded, Puna on the Big Island has some of the more affordable property in the state with a median price home price of $260k.

Check out our Best places to live on each island categorized by budget:

Cost is an important factor that we’ll discuss further in item #8 below.

2. Plate Lunch Is Where It’s At

Plate lunch is the quintessential local meal, and for good reason. Plate lunches are generally affordable, delicious, and filling. Plate lunch is a combination of the southern United States concept of “meat and threes,” where diners select the main meat dish and three sides. It also has roots in the Japanese bento box, which is a single-portion lunch that features rice as the main attraction. 

The Hawaiian twist of these concepts, the plate lunch, is a classic meal that features popular pan-Asian entrees such as beef teriyaki, chicken katsu, meat jun, or shoyu pork. The options are virtually endless, but the staples of a solid plate lunch include a hearty portion of white rice, a side of macaroni salad, and a protein-based entree. 

In addition to being totally delicious, the history of the plate lunch is fascinating. The ideas come from a long line of plantation workers with various cultural backgrounds. The exchange of ideas and tastes led to what we now know as plate lunch.

3. Surfing Ain’t Easy

Your first time out to surf (or your second, or your third) may not be so Instagram-worthy. Don’t let it discourage you. Surfing is one of the most complex and unpredictable sports in the world—in addition to your skill, you must also adapt to a variety of factors including winds, the tide, water levels, and crowding at the beach.

Beginners to Intermediates should surf near lifeguard towers. This is for your own safety. The Pacific ocean is more powerful in Hawaii than California because we don’t have a continental shelf to slow down the waves. Also, consider taking surf lessons to learn safety and proper etiquette.

So, if you’re a foreigner to the Pacific and you want to learn how to surf, you’ll have to work at it and practice to see results. Most people you see shredding the tide started to practice when they were kids. 

4. Every Day Is Casual Day

Picture the American tourist couple in all their glory: a round, sunburnt man in a floral-printed button-down. A woman on his arm with a floor-length maxi dress and a red hibiscus behind her ear. 

The good news is you won’t have to spend money on winter clothes!

Now, let that go. Most Kama’aina (local residents) dress quite casually to assist with the active, outdoorsy demands of island life. Most Hawaii clothing is simple, easy to move around in, and relaxed. If you are visiting to check out some areas before you make the big move, don’t feel like clothing is going to be a big first impression. The important thing on the Hawaiian island is that you are comfortable and ready to move. 

5. Traffic Can Be Heart-Rending

Before you think life in Hawaii is a montage of playtime and outdoor activities, know that there are day-to-day downfalls of city life that apply there as well as anywhere else. Traffic in Hawaii is especially bad—so bad, in fact, it prevents many people from enjoying long stays there. The commute from your house to your kid’s high school to your place of work may be unruly. 

If a long commute isn’t your thing, it’s something to consider. Many native Hawaiians prefer to live in a walking or biking distance from their workplace, but because of living costs, it isn’t always so simple. When you hunker down to prepare where you are going to operate, this is a big thing to consider. 

6. Nature Is Powerful, for Better and for Worse

While Hawaii’s natural landscape is marvelous and mesmerizing, there are additional safety precautions to take while living there. With an abundance of exploration opportunities, safety is critical. Even if residents feel comfortable with where they live, they should be sure to follow rules and regulations for their own health. 

One of the most important things, of course, is to always wear reef-safe sunscreen with a generous SPF. This doesn’t just apply to individuals with fair skin—everyone should take precautions to promote happy, healthy skin. Secondly, for hikes and swims, it’s important to understand your own limitations as well as educate yourself on any potential challenges. There are many dangerous areas in Hawaii, and one slip could lead to a preventable trip to the hospital. 

7. Moving Your Best Friend Can Take Time

For safety reasons, another thing to think about is the measures Hawaii takes against moved pets. Dogs especially can face an unpredictable amount of time in pet quarantine before they are released back to you. The island does this to keep its people safe, and animals can bring new diseases along with them. The process of obtaining a health certificate for your animal can be grueling, so if you want a dog but don’t yet have one, you may consider waiting to adopt your new friend until you get to your new home. 

8. Groceries Go Fast

Because most shipments to Hawaii come from the mainland United States, sometimes grocery stock can be limited. Household goods such as paper products, cleaning supplies, soaps, and toothpastes can be limited as well as canned groceries. Sometimes finding what you’re looking for can feel like a godsend, and the limited stock of necessities can make prices for even average items skyrocket. 

9. The Lifestyle Can Be Pricey

If you do a quick Nalula search of properties in Honolulu, you’ll notice the average price of a home is $1,000,000. Housing costs in Hawaii are high. From pricey condos to overblown mortgages, juggling finances in Hawaii can be a difficult task. Even temporary-dwellers can be faced with big rent numbers that are difficult to manage. Compared to other Pacific territories such as Guam, the lifestyle of Hawaii can seem egregiously expensive. 

One thing to consider is that the cost of living is reflected in wages there, so what may seem out of control may actually be manageable. There are other loopholes as well, including choosing public schools over private schools, and living in lower-cost neighborhoods than more expensive areas such as Diamondhead

Some beautiful, cost-effective places to live on the islands are Ewa, Oahu; Wailuku, Maui; Waimea, Kauai; and Hilo, Big Island. While affordable property tax may seem few and far between, there are ways to make finances work in Hawaii if you have the effort and drive, just like any other expensive city. 

10. It’s a Science Hub

Science nerds, rejoice. There are tons of scientific-educational opportunities and attractions in Hawaii. To complement the state’s natural wonders, there are several noteworthy places to visit including the Hawaii Science and Technology Museum, the Bishop Museum and Planetarium, the Brewseum, and the Waikiki Aquarium

Hawaii has a lot to offer science-lovers, from its planetariums to ocean wildlife to rainforest habitats to interesting geography. If you are moving there for the long term, you may be able to find a job opportunity in the science field. 

11. Bonus Tip: Life Is Short—Just Do It!

The best way to know if the Hawaii lifestyle will suit your way of life is to try it out. Life goes fast, so why not follow your dream? Before you dial the moving company, spend some time visiting the islands to get to know your new life better. While moving across the ocean can seem like a rash next step, it is doable, and you want to be sure you are prepared. 

Hawaii has a lot of joy to offer. If the above points sound like a life you’d thrive in, take a risk, get settled, and give thanks to the Aloha State.