Moving to Hawaii: Your Guide to The Islands

Hawaii beach with a boat.by Caitlyn Champ, Intern writer for Executive Auto Shippers

Often considered the most beautiful place in the United States, Hawaii is the newest state to join the US. Consisting of 8 islands total (7 inhabited, and 1 not) Hawaii has a total population of 1,450,000 people. This makes it the 40th most populated state, but the 13th most densely populated. Known for its warm climate, stunning beaches and laid-back vibe Hawaii is perfect for surfers, snowbirds, scientists, or anyone in between. If living in paradise seems perfect to you, check out our guide to moving to Hawaii.

Moving to Hawaii: Where to Live?

With 7 options to choose from, picking an island is one of the most important decisions to make after you’ve decided to make a move from the mainland. Of course, your job will dictate some of this choice, but for those of you who get free reign to choose here is a little more information on all of the different islands to help better inform your decision.

  1.  Moving to Maui: With jobs primarily in tourism and construction this island is home to 152,062 people. The major tourism towns on this island being Kahului and Haiku, you can make a creative living in and around these areas as hundreds of people flock to the coast to see the gorgeous ocean views. Maui is not known for its nightlife, fording quieter more comfortable evenings with a few friends rather than raging nightclubs.
  2.  Moving to Big Island: Found as primarily a place for the older generation looking to retire into warm climates, Hawaii’s big island is around 13% of its total population. Being one of the cleanest islands, Hawai’i is a wonder to look at with wonderful beaches and the largest volcano in the chain. Hawai’i is not the place to move if you’re a young entrepreneur or looking for the night life scene; but for those who want a quiet and relaxing place to call home, the big island could be perfect for you.
  3.  Moving to Oahu: This is the most developed island out of Hawaii’s 8, and is also home to the capital of Honolulu. It’s important to consider when moving to Honolulu that with more development comes more tourism and more crowds. On the flip side, there are also more jobs, roads, services, and things to do. The naval base Pearl Harbor is also stationed on Oahu, which has a deep history going back to WWII and beyond. Be wary though, while this populated island has its perks, some of its drawbacks are astounding, like the always crowded grocery stores and the ever limited supply and selection of food.

These three main islands are where most of Hawaii’s population lives, with the other four being of low population and even lower development. It can be extremely difficult to live on Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, or Niihau due to the climate, lack of resources or emergency services, and the vast expanse of land between inhabitants. These islands are not for the faint of heart, and shouldn’t be moved to lightly; a good understanding of farming, gathering, and hunting is necessary for survival on any of Hawaii’s lesser-populated islands.

How To Get Around

Whether you’re going around on your own island or traveling between islands, travel is very straightforward in Hawaii. Due to the high density of tourists, one of the easiest ways to get around the islands is by car, so don’t forget to ship your car to Hawaii. If that’s not an option for you, the bigger islands and cities (Oahu, Big Island, Maui, and Kaui) offer a bus service that has over 100 routes spanning the islands getting you where you need to go. There are also services such as Lyft and Uber available in the more populated areas, but note these are not permitted to take you to or from the airport, so if that’s what you need you’ll have to take a taxi.

For traveling between islands, the best way to do it is by airplane, with lots of flights going every day it’s never hard to find an open seat. As this is a smaller market, there are lots of different airlines entering and exiting the scene in Hawaii, so prices are always fluctuating. Some days they might be $50, while others they could be as high as $200, making advanced planning necessary to get the best deals.

Hawaiian Culture

Hawaian dancer on the beach at sunset.From dancing to language, Hawaii has it’s own diverse and unique culture. Ever since the Polynesian’s first inhabited Hawaii 1,500 years ago, the island has taken on its own way of doing things. While some Hawaiian’s are Christian, rather surprisingly 51% of Hawaiian’s say they are unaffiliated with any religion, choosing just to appreciate the islands and what they can provide for the people instead. After the United States Missionaries came over, the Hula dance was resurrected as a way to worship the King of Hawaii and its diverse cultural background. This is a change from what most people know the Hula dance to be (just a fun novelty dance move). It’s actually deeply religious and is known to show a high amount of respect for whoever it’s danced for.

Traditional Hawaiian foods are largely Polynesian since they brought over most of the edible plants which now are farmed across all the islands. The most traditional dish of Poi is made from Taro and is a staple in the Hawaiian diet. Other popular dishes are Poke, Kalua Pig, Lau-lau, and Haupia.

Hawaii was commercialized starting in 1930 and continuing into today. Seen by mainlanders as just a beautiful place to visit, the islands are sacred to the people who inhabit them and should be treated with respect and care. Corporations have made an abundance of money off of Hawaiian cultural traditions, such as the Luau, which is now westernized to the point of unrecognition by those who are native to the islands. This makes it crucial to be respectful of the native islanders and never to overstep your boundaries when it comes to cultural traditions.

Moving To Hawaii With Pets

Making a move is difficult, but making a move with a pet can be even more difficult, let alone with the strict regulations that Hawaii has. When deciding to move to Hawaii, it’s important to look up the rules they have on importing pets right away so you can be sure your pet is allowed to come. Importing an animal that is not allowed can lead to up to 3 years in jail and a $500,000 fine. All animals coming into Hawaii must have had two rabies shots 30 days apart at least 90 days before arriving on the island; you must also have a microchip implanted before the administration of the rabies blood test. The next step is booking your pets travel plans, note there are many airlines that transport pets so be sure to check what their regulations and rules are regarding crate size and other information.

It’s important to remember that these rules and regulations are subject to change at any time, so frequently checking the D.O.A. website is crucial before making the journey.

Important Things To Note

When living on an island things are more expensive, because everything you need must be shipped to the islands. This can make the price of a gallon of milk as high as $10, and leave you with a $200 grocery bill in no time at all.

Hawaii is near the bottom of the pack when it comes to public education, and has the biggest number of private schools per capita than any other state. This can be an unexpected expense if you want to ensure your children get a quality education in Hawaii.

Due to having to import so many things on to the island, Hawaii has a smaller variety of foods to eat. There is a high volume of Asain and sea-food style restaurants, but after that, the islands are severely lacking. Making a pizza will have to fall into your own hands if you plan on moving to Hawaii.

It can be very difficult to find the time (and money) to go back to the mainland to visit family. It’s not as easy as getting in the car and driving to grandmas. So make sure you’re aware of the limited face to face family interaction you’ll get after your move to Hawaii.

Insider Tips

Recently I had a friend move to the island of Oahu, Hawaii and then move back to the mainland after a year. She said it was one of the best years of her life for a lot of reasons, and she has no regrets about trying it out. Here is some advice from her to consider when moving to Hawaii.

  1. Try poke
  2. If you’re moving to Hawaii, rent is very expensive! Living with a roommate is a must.
  3. Some of the locals aren’t nice to mainlanders because they’re worried their beautiful home will be destroyed by too much migration to the islands, so be aware of what you’re doing and always be respectful.
  4. If you’re in or around Oahu, you have to try Matsumoto’s shaved ice and then go to Mokule’ia beach

Hawaii is a gorgeous place full of beautiful beaches and a wonderful culture. Moving to Hawaii is a dream come true for many American’s, but proper preparation is essential for a smooth transition.