A move to Hawaii is a big one, signaling big changes ahead. Even though Hawaii is a state, you’ll find that the culture on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island will likely be pretty different from where you’re living now. Plus, the logistics of living on an island will take a little getting used to.

After moving tens of thousands of families and individuals to Hawaii, we’ve compiled a list of the most important things you need to know before making the leap. With this list in hand, you’ll get a good sense of what to expect once you arrive, as well as whether Hawaii is the right destination for you.

#1: Yes, Hawaii Is That Gorgeous

If you think Hawaii’s majestic natural beauty may have been overstated, think again. Between waterfalls, rainbows, rainforests, turquoise water, vibrant coral reefs, whale sightings, volcanoes, and beaches of white, green, red, and black sand, there’s always something just around the corner in Hawaii to take your breath away.

Living in paradise has its quirks, but the scale and splendor of Hawaii’s natural landscapes keep people firmly rooted. If you’ve never gazed at the Na Pali cliffs of Kauai, marveled at Akaka Falls on the Big Island, strolled Lanikai Beach on Oahu, or beheld Haleakala Crater on Maui, you’re in for a treat.

#2: Hawaii Is Also Expensive

Paradise comes with a lot of perks, but it also comes at a cost. When you look at a list of the most expensive states in the U.S., Hawaii is almost always at the top of the list.

But how expensive is it, really? The Cost of Living Index from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC) boils it all down into pretty simple terms. The index sets the nationwide average at 100. 29 states fall below that average. Hawaii
clocks in at 189.9, the most expensive state by more than 30 index points.

MERIC Cost of Living Index

  • 100 – U.S. Average
  • 189.9 – Hawaii
  • 154.5 – District of Columbia
  • 147.9 – Massachusetts

The MERIC data also reveals the major driver behind this high number: the cost of housing. The Hawaii housing index is 312.8, more than three times the national average.

For many of Hawaii’s residents, though, the “paradise tax” is more than worth it for the privilege of living in the Aloha State. If you’re considering a move, it’s a smart idea to plan out your budget to make sure the math works in your favor.

#3: Each Island Is Different—Choose Carefully!

The state of Hawaii encompasses 137 islands total, seven of which are inhabited. Most people live on one of the four major islands: Oahu, Maui, Kauai, or Hawaii (most commonly known as the Big Island).

If you haven’t spent a lot of time in Hawaii, you might not realize how different each island can be. The vibe on laid-back Kauai can feel very different from busier Oahu. The same is true of Maui or the Big Island: Each has its own character.

What’s the best way to know which island is right for you? Make a visit! Otherwise, you risk ending up on an island that’s too quiet or too developed for your taste. In our experience, matching your preferences with the right island makes all the difference.

#4: Leave Time for Island Hopping

Those making that once-in-a-lifetime vacation to Hawaii often agonize about which islands to visit and how many they can squeeze into a single trip.

When you move to Hawaii, you won’t have to face that difficult decision. Instead, you’ll have a plethora of short and cheap(ish) interisland flights to allow you to explore the archipelago at your pace. Between Hawaiian Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Mokulele Airlines, you’ll have a rare opportunity to get to know all of Hawaii’s islands—and traverse each to your heart’s content.

#5: You Won’t Need Those Fancy Shoes Much, If At All

It might sound like a funny recommendation from a moving company, but we stand by it: You’re better off downsizing and selling as much as you can before you move to Hawaii.

In our experience, you just won’t need as many of your possessions as you think. Take your formal clothing, for example—suits, dresses, and dress shoes. You might end up pulling those out once or twice a year, if that. Flip-flops (usually called “slippers” out here) are ubiquitous, and most people do business in aloha shirts, not suits.

If you truly want to embrace the lifestyle here in Hawaii, leave your fancy clothes and shoes behind.

Want More Tips on What to Leave Behind?

Get our list of what to bring and what to sell before you move to Hawaii.

#6: Moving Pets Is a Challenge

If you’re moving to Hawaii with a pet, you might already be dreading the long plane ride your pet will have to endure. Well, that’s only half the story.

As a rabies-free destination, Hawaii has very strict pet import laws to make sure the islands stay that way. That means testing, paperwork, and careful compliance with import procedures on your part to import your pet to Hawaii. If you don’t get everything right, your cat or dog may have to spend time in a quarantine facility, which is no fun for everyone involved.

You’ll find all the details on the Hawaii Animal Industry Division website. Your vet can also assist with lining up the correct vaccinations and testing. If all goes as planned, your pet may be released directly to you at the airport once you arrive, even if you’re moving to one of the neighbor islands: Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island.

One final note: It can be challenging to find pet-friendly housing in Hawaii. Many landlords have chosen to keep their properties pet-free. If you’re moving with a dog or a cat, do your research before you arrive to make sure you feel confident finding a place to live.

#7: It’s an Incredible Spot for Water Sports

Snorkeling? Yep. Scuba diving? Absolutely. Surfing? Of course. Kayaking, canoeing, foiling, windsurfing, kitesurfing, spearfishing, freediving? Check, check, and check.

In other words, if you love being in the water, you’ll find many kindred spirits here in Hawaii. Certain islands are better for certain activities, of course. Those who love wind-powered sports like windsurfing and wing foiling love the consistent gusts blowing through Maui’s valley, for example. However, you’ll find enthusiasts for most every type of watersport all over Hawaii.

In short, if you love being in, around, under, and above the water, Hawaii is the place for you.

#8: The Hawaiian Culture Has a Lot to Offer

For some, Hawaii’s status as a U.S. state can make it easy to forget that there was an entire civilization here in these islands prior to European arrival—that of the native Hawaiians. You’ll still find the threads of their culture in Hawaii today, especially if you take the time to look for authentic experiences driven by native Hawaiians practicing the traditions of their ancestors.

The more attention you offer to the culture, history, practices, and traditions of native Hawaiians, the deeper and more meaningful your experience will be in Hawaii. Attend a hula show. Spend a day at the Bishop Museum in Oahu. Take a lei-making class with a Hawaiian cultural practitioner. Stop into a slack-key show. You’ll learn plenty about the rich and meaningful traditions of the native Hawaiians and what they can reveal to us.

#9: Living in Hawaii Is Different Than Vacationing Here

A number of people move to Hawaii after a memorable vacation. If this is your situation, a word of caution: Living in Hawaii is not like being on vacation. Instead of cruising the islands all day looking for your next adventure, you’ll have to deal with the realities of life: running errands, going food shopping, cooking your own dinner, paying rent, scheduling doctor’s appointments, etc., etc.

(Of course, we encourage you to keep adventuring once you move here; just know that you’ll have to live in the real world in between those adventures!)

If you’re able to come to Hawaii for a week or two and try out life as a resident, we encourage you to do so! Snag a condo with a kitchen, go grocery shopping, look for housing, visit the post office—do all the things you do at home, and see how you feel about doing them in Hawaii. It might suit you just fine. If that’s the case, you’ll feel all the more confident about moving to Hawaii.

#10: Everything Moves at Its Own Pace

Finally, if you take our advice above, you’ll quickly discover this last must-know for yourself.

Yes, Hawaii is the 50th state. But don’t come here thinking that things work the same as they do on the mainland. Hawaii operates a little differently—and each island operates in its own way, too.

Sure, life can be a bit slower out here. But it’s also a friendly place where the line may not move quickly because people are actually exchanging smiles and pleasantries with the cashier.

The more you embrace the way Hawaii is—as opposed to how you expect it to be—the happier you’ll be in the Aloha State.

Ready to Make the Move?

Now that you’ve got our must-knows under your belt, are you excited to take the leap? We’d be happy to help you make a safe, easy, and affordable move to Hawaii. Just reach out to one of our experts for a complimentary quote to get started.

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