Planning a Move to Hawaii
September 2020 Update: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, regulations for entry into Hawaii have changed. Because moving is considered essential business, you can still enter Hawaii, but you may be required to quarantine when you arrive. Learn more about current travel programs and guidance.
There’s a never-ending list of reasons to move to Hawaii. Beautiful sights, tropical weather, unique things to do and amazing culture, just to name a few. Relocating to Hawaii will provide you and your family with a change of pace, whether you’re moving for work, school or just a new adventure. Use this guide to explore everything you need to know when planning a move to the islands:
- What life in Hawaii is like
- Traveling between the islands
- Local weather
- Choosing an island
- How to move there
- Hawaii moving costs
- Military moves
- Tips for moving to Hawaii
If you currently live in Hawaii and are looking to move back to the mainland, check out this info on moving out of Hawaii.
Living in Hawaii
Life in The Aloha State is different than anywhere you’ve been in the Lower 48. For starters, it’s an island, which comes with a unique set of challenges. The tropical location means different weather and environments. Hawaii is a smaller state, between New Jersey and Connecticut in terms of land size (6,422 square miles), but it’s made up of eight main islands — each with its own personality. Here are some main things to consider about living in Hawaii:
Cost of Living
Hawaii is known for a high cost of living, with some sources stating that it’s more than 60% higher than the national average. For comparison, New York City is 120% higher than the national average. Of course, it depends on the city, with Hilo having a cheaper cost of living than more metropolitan Honolulu. The higher costs come from a variety of things: the scarcity of real estate, the cost of importing goods and the difficulty in generating utilities.
Working in Hawaii
The Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism did a comparison of wages in Hawaii with the rest of the U.S. They reported the median family income for 2017 to be $72,133, which was higher than the national average of $59,039. The biggest industries in Hawaii are government, hospitality, transportation and utilities, food service, education and health, and business services. To find jobs before moving, look at online job boards, check local news classifieds and the Department of Human Resources Development page.
Where you live will determine the educational options. Many areas have both public and private options for school-aged kids, and homeschooling is always an option as well. Hawaii has one of the highest rates of private school attendance, so if you desire a private education, consider location when searching for a house. For higher education, there are community colleges, universities and graduate schools. Some of the more well-known universities are the University of Hawaii (with 8 campuses across the islands), Brigham Young University and Hawaii Pacific University.
Buying things in Hawaii can be a one-of-a-kind experience. There are department stores and name brands like you’ll find in traditional shopping centers across the United States, but you may have to travel to one of the bigger cities like Honolulu, Hilo or Kahului. Most communities have some sort of grocery store and clothing stores, so items are easily obtainable, but the selection may be limited. Prices for everything from clothing to food will likely be higher than what you’re used to on the mainland since most everything has to be shipped in.
Best things about Hawaii
If you ask locals what their favorite parts of Hawaiian life are, you might hear one of these things:
- Food. Hawaii is known for some traditional foods like ahi tuna poke (a raw salmon salad), lomi lomi salmon (tomato and salmon salad), kalua pork (slow cooked pork, traditionally cooked underground) and poi (a taro paste). You’ll also quickly learn that the locals love SPAM, a canned meat that’s so popular stores often have a purchase limit.
- Outdoors. Whether you like to hike, surf, swim, fish, or just lay in a hammock, the abundant sunshine and temperate weather make it easy to be outside year-round.
- Culture. Hawaii has its own dance, cuisine, music and festivals that create a unique culture. It honoring a real heritage with hula dance, luaus and traditions like gifting a flower lei. Hawaiians celebrate holidays you may not be familiar with, such as Girls’ Day and Chinese New Year.
- The remoteness. There are plenty of wide open spaces in Hawaii. You can find peace and quiet in a secluded beach, on an empty mountain trail or by seeing the stars in an endless sky.
- The Hawaiian language. After moving to Hawaii, you’ll inevitably pick up the local language. You’ll hear it on local TV, at the coffee shop and read it on signs and menus across town. Hawaiian takes into account many local things, including having over 200 words for rain! Pidgin is the local slang, which many speak as well.
The weather deserves its own discussion because it’s so different. Minor temperature changes throughout the year lead to really only two seasons: Summer (May to October) and Winter (November to April), marked more by wind and precipitation than temperature changes. In fact, the temperatures are so consistent that average highs from month to month go from 79 in January to 82 in July.
Precipitation totals vary based on location — some areas are rainforests while others are deserts. It does occasionally snow on the highest points of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island, or on Haleakala on Maui.
Significant weather events, like hurricanes, tropical storms or volcano eruptions, do occasionally happen, so it’s important to have an emergency plan in place.
Explore the islands
Hawaii is an archipelago made of 137 small islands (called islets), atolls (coral reefs) and eight major islands. Kahoolawe is the only major island that’s uninhabited. The other islands have their own personality and selling points for those wanting to move to Hawaii. Take a more in-depth look at what each Hawaiian island offers.
Also referred to as the Big Island for its size of 4,028 square miles, Hawaii offers a mix of communities and more remote areas. Stick to the city areas for amenities like home postal service and trash pickup, or venture to the quieter areas for a different lifestyle. Explore local sights like Maunaloa Volcanoes, Kau Desert, Puna Fern Forest, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Kealakekua Bay.
The Valley Isle is known for lush flora. It’s the second-largest island at 727 square miles and is known for a mix of tourism and smaller communities. Maui is home to mountain ranges including Haleakala, the largest dormant volcano crater in the world. It even snows on top of the mountain, so you don’t have to forgo winter wonderlands after moving.
As the most-populated island and home to the state capital, Honolulu, Oahu is known as The Gathering Place. Because it’s most visited by tourists, it’s the most commercialized and developed. However, that growth doesn’t mean losing the Hawaiian beauty. There are still gorgeous sights, rainforest areas and beaches to explore.
Known as the Garden Isle, Kauai’s signature is the beautiful waterfalls tucked into gorgeous greenery. It’s the fourth largest island at 562 miles and is not as densely populated as Maui. Find adventure hiking Kalalau Trail, a 22-mile roundtrip quest offering breathtaking vistas, secluded beaches and amazing views.
Best known for agriculture and ranching, Molokai is known as The Friendly Isle. It’s a quieter destination with no traffic lights and very little traffic. The island showcases local culture with ancient fishponds made of lava rock walls and the Ka Hula Piko, a celebration of the birth of Hula.
The smallest of the openly inhabited islands at just 140 square miles, Lanai is a haven for tranquility. It used to be a pineapple plantation, giving it the nickname of the Pineapple Isle, but is now a charming smaller community. You’ll find some tourists at the local resorts, but it will mostly feel like there’s an outdoor paradise at your fingertips. Explore back roads for off-the-beaten-path sights or relax on a serene beach.
This one is pretty much out of the running for moving to Hawaii — it’s privately owned by the Robinsons (descendants of the title-holding Sinclair family), and it’s only accessible by native Hiihauans, hence the nickname of The Forbidden Isle.
Traveling between islands
To get from one island to another, most people take one of the dozens of daily flights, both from the larger and smaller airports. Every island has flight service, and the carriers vary by location. Direct flights are priced affordably, and flight times are just 20-50 minutes. There are also ferry services to Molokai and Lanai from Maui. During the winter months, a ferry ride could not only get you to destination, but also provide breathtaking views of humpback whales that breed in the shallow waters of the Auau Channel.
How to move to Hawaii
Once you’ve decided on an island to call home, it’s time to start planning the move. Moving to Hawaii is different from a move across town or even to a new state — it involves shipping your belongings across the ocean. And there are a few extra regulations to keep in mind regarding things like pets and plants. Take a look at how the entire process works from start to finish.
Hawaii moving options
Since you can’t drive a rental truck to Hawaii, you’re going to have to find a moving company to help. Some traditional full-service movers offer coverage in Hawaii, but prices can quickly climb since they do all the work.
Most people opt for a self-moving option, like U-Pack®. With U-Pack, you do the packing and loading, but U-Pack handles all the transportation. For moves to Hawaii, we use U-Pack ReloCubes, which are 6’ x 7’ x 8’ metal moving containers. You can use one or several, depending on the size of the home. They are available for door delivery in Oahu and Hawaii and for unloading at the service center in Maui and Kauai.The process (for both equipment types) works like this:
- We bring the equipment to your home
- You have up to three business days to load
- We pick up the loaded equipment and transport it to California
- The shipping containers set sail out of California twice a week
- Shipments arrive in Honolulu about a week after they arrive in California
- Your belongings travel from Honolulu to the final destination, or unload at the service center in Honolulu
- The entire transit time averages just 10-14 business days
You can add services like storage or moving crews if needed. Storage is available at origin, in California or at the service center in Honolulu. And while U-Pack doesn’t provide loading or unloading help, we do refer customers to experienced help and can assist you with booking labor.
How much does it cost to move to Hawaii?
The details of your shipment will determine moving costs. Get an online quote in just a few clicks — tell us where you’re moving to/from, how much you’re moving and when you’re moving. Once we know those details, a consultant will double check everything and send you a quote via email within one business day. (Most U-Pack quotes are instant, but going to Hawaii involves more complex transportation and require a consultant to look over them first). If you prefer to speak with someone, call us at 800-413-4799.
Read more about Hawaii moving costs.
If you’re shipping less than would fit into one ReloCube, a parcel service is probably the best bet. Just remember that over the course of traveling the long distance to Hawaii, your belongings will be handled a lot, so pack them well.
Shipping a car, motorcycle or scooter
U-Pack is able to ship motorcycles, ATVs, scooters and lawn mowers (as long as they’re used and the fluids are drained). However, U-Pack doesn’t ship vehicles. We recommend Mr. Car Shipper®. Contact them at 877-528-9627 for a quote.
Moving pets and plants
There are laws in place regarding the importation of animals and plants to Hawaii. You can’t ship either in a U-Pack container, so arrange to take them with you. Learn more about the procedures surrounding moving pets to Hawaii, and follow the guidelines from the State of Hawaii Plant Industry Division to move plants.
Hawaii has at least one base from every military branch, with a total of 11 bases in the state. Over 36,000 active military members are currently living in Hawaii. If you’ve gotten PCS orders to one of the stations here, learn more about the specifics of making a military move to Hawaii.
Tips and advice for a Hawaii move
These tips will make moving to Hawaii a little easier:
- Downsize unwanted items. For a move with such a huge scope as one crossing the ocean to Hawaii, it’s important that you don’t waste space in the moving container on things you won’t need or want. Whether that’s excess furniture, unwanted clothing or toys your kids have outgrown, if you don’t need it, don’t take it.
- Buy sports equipment before you come. With the exception of surfboards, which are plentiful and priced well on the island, bring warm weather clothing and sporting equipment with you. Hiking and camping equipment can be expensive to buy here so you may be better off to bring it.
- Be aware of the time difference. As you make phone calls to local Hawaii places to inquire about homes or jobs, be mindful of the time difference. Hawaii is in Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time (HST), and they don’t observe Daylight Savings Time. When DST is in effect, there’s a 6-hour difference from Eastern Standard Time to HST, and when it’s not in effect, there’s a 5-hour difference.
Have questions about moving to Hawaii?
More articles you might like...