Making a home in the Aloha State
Not only is Hawaii the newest state (admitted to the union on August 21, 1959), but it’s also the only U.S. state located outside North America. The Hawaiian Islands are approximately 2,000 miles away from the mainland, so moving there isn’t as simple as hopping into the car and going for a drive. There are many things to consider when moving to the “Paradise in the Pacific,” like the cost of living and adapting to a different culture and climate.
Let’s explore some facts about the 50th state and what it takes to move there so you can enjoy the Hawaiian sunrises and sunsets as soon as possible.
Where should you live in Hawaii?
The state is comprised of 137 volcanic islands that form the 8 main land masses. Six of the main islands are inhabitable: Hawaii (The Big Island), Kauai, Lanai, Maui, Molokai and Oahu. Niihau is privately owned and only open to descendants of the Sinclair family and their guests or government officials, including U.S. Navy personnel. Kahoolawe, a former bombing test site during World War II, is now an uninhabited sanctuary and nature preserve used only for native Hawaiian spiritual rituals.
Where you live might be determined by a job, especially if you’re a member of the military relocating with PCS orders to Hawaii. But if you have a choice between the islands, it’s good to know a little about each one.
Hawaii (The Big Island)
The largest of the Hawaiian Islands shares its name with the state, so it's often referred to as the Big Island or the Island of Hawaii to avoid confusion. The population was just over 200,000 in the 2020 U.S. Census, making it the second-most populous in the state. It’s home to 4 active volcanoes and another just off the coast submerged in the water.
The largest town and county seat is Hilo, where almost one-quarter of the residents live. On the west coast is the Kailua-Kona community, known for its gorgeous beaches. Tourism and coffee are the largest industries on the Big Island.
Look for these attractions:
- Akaka Falls
- Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Pacific Tsunami Museum
- Panaewa Rainforest Zoo
Kauai is the second-oldest Hawaiian Island (geologically) and the fourth largest. Its nickname is “the Garden Isle” because farming is big there due to the fertile soil. Crops include avocados, bananas, coffee, guavas, mangos, papayas, pineapples and sugarcane.
The population was just over 73,000 in the 2020 U.S. Census, and the largest communities are Kapaa, Lihue, Wailua Homesteads, Kalaheo and Hanamaulu. Popular attractions on Kauai include:
- Alakai Wilderness Area
- Haena State Park
- Kokee State Park
- Nounou Mountain (Sleeping Giant)
- Spouting Horn
Known as the Pineapple Isle because of its history as a pineapple plantation, Lanai is mostly owned by Larry Ellison of the Oracle Technology company. The state or private homeowners control the remaining 2% of the land. With a population of just under 3,400, the island has only one major settlement in Lanai City.
While there is some tourism on the island with two resort hotels, the lack of shopping and other attractions makes Lanai less popular than the larger Hawaiian Islands. However, if you want a slow-paced lifestyle surrounded by natural beauty, Lanai might be the right place to live.
Maui is the second-largest Hawaiian Island in land mass and has the third-highest population, around 168,000 residents. The financial and commercial hub of Maui is the community of Kahului, which has about 28,000 people. It has one active volcano.
Tourism is the most popular business, with over 3 million visitors making their way to Maui each year. Agriculture, astrophysics, health care, information technology and retail are also top industries.
Here are some places to explore:
- Haleakala Crater
- Hookipa Beach Park
- Maui Ocean Center
- Napili Beach
- Waianapanapa State Park
This small island of around 7,300 residents is known as the Friendly Isle. Its economy is centered around cattle ranching and farming (pineapple and sugarcane).
Tourism isn’t the main focus of Molokai. Still, there are several unstaffed parks to visit, including George Murphy Beach Park, Halawa Beach Park, Kakahaia National Wildlife Refuge, Kiowea Beach Park, Molokai Forest Reserve, Palaau State Park, Papohaku Beach Park and Pelekunu Preserve.
Home to the state capital of Honolulu, Oahu is the third-largest Hawaiian Island and the most populous, with 1.02 million residents. That’s around 70% of the entire population of the state!
Oahu is the most popular tourist destination, so it’s the most developed, with multiple amenities and attractions. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of natural Hawaiian beauty to enjoy with beaches and rainforests.
Tourists enjoy these attractions and more:
- Bishop Museum
- Honolulu Museum of Art
- Iolani Palace
- Pearl Harbor National Memorial
- Waikiki Beach
Things you should know before moving to Hawaii
Living in a tropical paradise certainly has its perks, but it is a bit different than living in the lower 48 states.
While weather conditions can vary by location, overall, the tropical climate in Hawaii is warm with sporadic rain showers. Typical year-round temperatures average between lows of 65 and highs of 85 degrees.
Due to its location and weather conditions, Hawaii can be affected by tropical storms, wildfires and volcano eruptions, so having an emergency plan is essential. There are 6 active volcanoes in the state, located on or near the Big Island and Maui.
Hawaiian culture is rooted deep in traditions unique to the state. Respecting the language, rituals and values is essential for fitting in with the communities.
Native Hawaiians won’t expect you to be fluent in the language, but learning a few words can go a long way in showing respect for their heritage. Here are some to start with:
- Aloha: hello, goodbye, love, compassion
- Hale: house
- Kai: sea or ocean
- Kapu: forbidden or sacred
- Kokua: help or assistance
- Mahalo: thank you
- Malama: to care for or preserve
- Mana: spiritual energy
- ‘Ohana: family
- Pono: righteousness or balance
Sacred land and rituals
Hawaiian natives consider the land sacred, and disturbing natural sites or littering disrespects nature. Many rituals, like hula (a traditional dance) and the Makahiki Festival, which celebrates the harvest, also honor the land and history of the islands.
Like other places with significant cultural history, the Hawaiian Islands have their fair share of ghost stories and paranormal legends.
- Iolani Palace: this former royal residence in Honolulu is said to be haunted by spirits of Hawaiian monarchs.
- The Night Marchers of Kauai and Oahu: Each island has its legend of ghostly night marchers in procession along the trails.
- The Legend of Pele: The goddess of fire is a prominent figure in Hawaiian mythology. Legends say Pele lives in the Halemaumau Crater on the Big Island and that taking volcanic rocks from her home can bring bad luck.
Part of the fundamental culture of Hawaii is embracing the spirit of love, compassion and peace. Kindness, unity and harmony with people and nature are key elements of that spirit.
Shopping and cost of living
Shopping is different in Hawaii due to its isolated location. Overnight shipping from the mainland is virtually nonexistent, so you’ll want to prepare for longer wait times to get items from outside the state.
The cost of living in Hawaii is high compared to most states, especially in the housing market. And because many goods must be flown or shipped in, overall prices for groceries, fuel and home goods are higher than on the mainland.
Due to the islands' topography, driving between two communities in Hawaii can take longer than you expect. Roads can be winding to get around natural elements. Public transportation is available in the larger communities of Hilo, Honolulu and Kona, but it’s uncommon in other parts of Hawaii.
You can hop on regional flights or ferries to get from one Hawaiian Island to the other since you can’t drive between them, but traveling to the mainland takes a bit more planning. The shortest flights from Hawaii to the mainland (California) take 5-6 hours.
The tourism job market is healthy, but opportunities in other sectors might be limited depending on where you live. Honolulu has a healthy job market compared to other similarly sized cities, and the unemployment rate is only slightly higher than the national average. With the rise of remote work during the past few years, many people have chosen to telecommute from Hawaii to enjoy the tropical location.
Note: If you’re considering remote work, be aware of the time difference. Hawaii is in Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time (HST), and they don’t observe Daylight Saving Time. When DST is in effect, there’s a 6-hour difference from Eastern Standard Time (EST) to HST; when it’s not, there’s a 5-hour difference.
Most areas of Hawaii have public, private and homeschool options for kids. If you have children, you’ll want to consider the local schools when buying or renting a home. For adult learners, community colleges and universities are located across the state, including the University of Hawaii (8 campuses), Brigham Young University and Hawaii Pacific University.
How to move to Hawaii from the mainland
You’ll need to hire a moving company because you can’t drive a rental truck to Hawaii. Often, the best value is a DIY service like U-Pack® where you handle the moving labor, and we take care of shipping your things overseas in one or more of our ReloCube® moving containers, depending on the size of your home.
They are available for door delivery in Oahu and Hawaii (the Big Island) and for unloading at the service centers in Maui and Kauai. Here’s how the process works:
- We deliver 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 (sailings happen 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 9-16 business days
You can add services like storage or moving labor if needed. Storage is available at origin, in California or at the service center in Honolulu. U-Pack doesn’t provide loading or unloading help, but we can refer you to experienced local moving crews.
Need to ship a car, motorcycle or scooter to Hawaii?
U-Pack can ship motorcycles, scooters, ATVs and lawnmowers inside the ReloCube (as long as the fuel is drained), but our equipment is not designed for cars.
For vehicle shipping, we recommend Mr. Car Shipper®, and you can contact them directly for a quote by calling 877-528-9627.
Moving with pets or houseplants?
Hawaii has laws regarding importing animals and plants to the state. Moving pets to Hawaii takes some planning since they’ll need to travel on the plane with you and have proper health certificates.
Live plants are not allowed in U-Pack containers, so you should follow the State of Hawaii Plant Industry Division guidelines to move vegetation.
How much does it cost to move?
Hawaii moving costs can be pricier than moves within the continental U.S. You can save money by using a budget-friendly service like U-Pack and downsizing belongings before the move to decrease the shipment size.
You can request a U-Pack quote online and provide your email address so we can get back to you with a price once we’ve double-checked all the details. Most U-Pack quotes are instant but moves to Hawaii are more complex and require a moving consultant’s review.
How can we help?
Let us know in the comments if you have questions about moving to Hawaii with U-Pack.
Need to move to the mainland? U-Pack can help with moves from Hawaii.
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