10 Simple Tips for Moving to Hawaii

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Aloha! Are you planning a move to Hawaii? Below, you’ll find helpful tips and tricks to make the most of your adventure. Learn more about Hawaiian culture, discover what kind of discounts you can expect as a “kama’aina” and get the lowdown on what it takes to ship your belongings (including your car) to The Islands. Whether you’re going for an extended vacation or you’re shipping off for good, these tips will help you get in the island state of mind.

1. Pick the right island

The Hawaiian Islands are comprised of six major islands, each offering a unique experience. Find out what makes these islands special to decide which one is best for your lifestyle and preferences:

  • Hawaiʻi: Affectionately known as The Big Island, Hawai’i spans just over 4,000 square miles. As its nickname suggests, it is the biggest of the Hawaiian islands (almost twice the size of all the other islands combined!) and provides opportunities for nature lovers and those seeking a laid-back lifestyle.
  • Maui: Maui offers a mix of relaxation and adventure, with activities ranging from snorkeling at Molokini Crater to driving the scenic Hana highway. Maui’s welcoming communities and diverse culinary scene make for a balanced island life.
  • Oʻahu: Oʻahu is the most populated island in Hawaii, complete with a thriving arts and culture scene, diverse dining options and world-class shopping. Visitors and residents alike enjoy attractions like Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor and the epic North Shore.
  • Kauaʻi: Often called the “Garden Isle,” Kauaʻi boasts valleys, waterfalls and coastal cliffs. Mount Waiʻaleʻale and the Na Pali Coastline are accessible by hiking, boat tours or helicopter rides. Kauaʻi’s slower pace of life, natural beauty and tight-knit communities make it an ideal destination for tranquility and outdoor adventure.
  • Molokaʻi: Molokaʻi’s landscapes include the world’s tallest sea cliffs, and a high percentage of Native Hawaiians in the island’s population keep its rural, traditional lifestyle thriving. Moloka’i’s strong sense of community and tradition creates a peaceful, neighborly environment.
  • Lānaʻi: Once known as the “Pineapple Isle” due to its sprawling pineapple plantations, Lānaʻi has developed into an indulgent retreat with luxury resorts and championship golf courses. Despite its small size, the island is packed with rugged coastlines, immaculate beaches and lush forests. If you’re seeking a private, high-end lifestyle, Lānaʻi could be right for you.

2. Read up on Hawaii’s culture 

Hawaiian culture is built on a rich history, blending a wide range of ethnic influences and unique traditions with an emphasis on kindness and responsibility to future generations. It’s important to be knowledgeable and mindful of the Island culture before visiting or becoming a resident.

One of the biggest factors in the Hawaiian way of life, of course, is the weather. It’s warm in Hawaii all year round, with daytime highs ranging from 78F in the colder months to 88F in the hotter months. Tropical storms don’t affect the islands much. Most hurricane activity occurs between July and September, however, the Islands themselves rarely experience significant effects.

While the weather is certainly one of the biggest attractions, it’s the atmosphere that makes people want to stay. Look forward to a slower, calmer way of life, be open to learning new things and don’t shy away from befriending the locals.

3. Understand the Hawaiian cost of living

With Hawaii’s high cost of living comes its famously high quality of life. It’s no secret that living just about anywhere in Hawaii won’t get you as much as it would elsewhere in the United States—but that’s only if you’re thinking in terms of square footage or distance to the nearest shopping center. With a change of perspective, the Aloha State has plenty of perks that can’t be found anywhere else. 

In Hawaii, you’ll be immersed in an entirely different lifestyle from the mainland; one that emphasizes family, nature and relaxation. Combine that with stunning views of rainforests, mountains and beaches, plus a balmy, year-round tropical climate, and you’ll start to see how the cost of living in such a place can start to seem like a steal! 

Go into the Hawaiian housing market with the expectation that you’ll be downsizing your living space or reducing your spending habits (or both). Whether you plan to buy or rent, living accommodations in Hawaii can appear costly and modest compared to what you’ll find in most places on the mainland.

4. Set a budget

Wherever you’re moving from in the continental U.S., chances are you’ll be paying more for housing, utilities, goods and services in Hawaii. Since most things will need to be imported to your island home, they’ll also come with a higher price tag. This is where setting (and sticking to) a budget is crucial. 

Shopping online is a mixed bag. Amazon has warehouses servicing Hawaii and many locals take advantage of them. Smaller online retailers may not ship to Hawaii, and if they do, your orders will likely come with a hefty shipping fee. 

Wholesalers like Costco and Sam’s Club have locations in Hawaii, offering cheaper food and household necessities if you’re willing and able to buy in bulk. Apart from these big box stores, your best bet is to shop locally for as many things as you can. As a Hawaii resident, you’ll often get special Kama’aina discounts from local retailers—more on that further down below.  

Be sure to factor fuel and other auto-related costs into your budget. Hawaii provides public transportation on some islands (Maui, Kauai, Oahu and The Big Island) as well as rideshare services like Uber and Lyft in some areas. However, these options are limited so you’ll mostly need to rely on your own transportation. The good news is that there are no toll roads!

Despite Hawaiians having a slightly higher average salary, the state’s cost of living is about 80% higher than the national average. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun though. Cut back on spending where you can, spend wisely where you have to and prioritize all the low-cost attractions that make Hawaii such a special place. From hiking, biking and swimming, to museums, Hula shows or just kicking back on the beach, the options are endless.

5. Secure your employment (if you need to)

It’s not uncommon to have a remote job or be transferred to a local office when you move to a different state. However, if you’re in the market for a new job it’s important to consider the work landscape ahead of time.

Hawaii’s economy runs on tourism, with the hospitality and tourism industries providing more than 200,000 jobs to residents. With approximately 9 million people visiting Hawaii every year, tourism is one of the most constant and consistently profitable industries in the state. 

Other industries like manufacturing, landscaping, property management, defense, fishing and agriculture also offer plentiful opportunities for job seekers in Hawaii. Explore the major industries on each island to find one that works for you. You can get a jump on the job search by consulting with local hiring agencies and recruiters or browsing online career sites like HireNet Hawaii or Real Jobs Hawaii

6. Pack up your belongings and get ready to move

Packing up all your possessions is an overwhelming prospect for many movers. What do you keep? What do you leave behind? Should you hire a professional mover? These are questions you should prepare to tackle soon so you can enjoy a smooth transition to your new home. 

6 Steps for Moving Out of State for the First Time

During a big move, it’s easy to overlook some of the smaller details. From what to pack and how to pack it, to finalizing leases and contracts, there’s a lot to keep in mind. Follow these steps to stay organized and prepared for your move to Hawaii. 

Do You Tip Moving Companies? And Other Moving FAQs

If there are any moving-related questions you’re too embarrassed to ask, worry not—we have the answers. From practical tips to packing your essential belongings to answers about insurance and tipping etiquette, this simple guide will have you feeling confident to make your move.

7. Ship your car

Unless you’re planning on buying a new car when you get to Hawaii, you’ll have to arrange shipment for your vehicle (as far as we know, driving it there still isn’t an option). Shipping your car from the mainland to The Islands might seem like a complicated task, but with a professional auto transporter, it’s a breeze. 

For most shipments to Hawaii, your vehicle will be picked up by a fully licensed auto carrier and driven to a port. At the port, your vehicle will be rolled onto a vessel and set sail to Hawaii. When it arrives, it will be unloaded and safely waiting for you to pick it up at a local port. 

The average cost to ship a car to Hawaii is approximately $1,000 to $3,000 depending on the vehicle’s size and where it’s being shipped from. Transit times, prices and shipping requirements may be different depending on what port you ship from, so make sure to do your research ahead of time. Learn more about common Hawaii shipping routes:

8. Book a one-way flight

You’re about to officially make the leap: booking a one-way flight to your new home. Like any flight or travel reservation, the further in advance you book, the better. Try to figure out your dates and book your flight as soon as you can. Flights from the West Coast will typically be cheaper than ones from other parts of the country.

If you have the time, you might consider driving to an airport on the West Coast for your flight to Hawaii. Not only will you save on airfare and enjoy a shorter flight, but you’ll also be able to drop your vehicle off at one of the West Coast’s many car shipping ports. Some of the most popular ports that ship cars to Hawaii are located in Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland. 

9. Get your Hawaii ID for Kama’aina deals

Kama’aina directly translates to “child of the land” and commonly refers to Hawaiian residents. Many businesses in Hawaii offer special Kama’aina discounts on restaurants, shopping, hotels, activities, excursions and more. The offers are typically extended to anyone with a Hawaii driver’s license or state ID, so you’ll want to get registered as soon as possible.

Since Hawaii does not have a statewide DMV, you’ll have to register in your city or county. 

10. Enjoy the island life!

Our last tip is an easy one: kick back and relax! If you’ve completed everything else on this list, it’s time to enjoy the payoff of all your hard work. 

It’s tough to be hobbyless when you’re living like a true Hawaiian local. You can hike the breathtaking terrain, take a Hula lesson, learn how to surf or get adventurous and take up motorcycle camping

Between all the free and low-cost activities scattered across the Hawaiian islands, to the thrifty Kama’aina discounts making fun and relaxation even more accessible, it’s not hard to soak up the sun in style. 

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