A Guide to Moving to: Hawaii

(Grab your scuba gear, we’re gonna dive deep on this one.)

Are you 90% gung-ho on moving to Hawaii, but you’re still looking for that extra 10% nudge? Well, you're in luck. We’ve gone on a deep dive through the internet, tourist brochures and a few places we’d rather not share to bring this guide to all things Hawaii to you. 

No matter where you choose to move to in Hawaii, make sure you're covered with an affordable home insurance policy.

In this handy guide, we'll cover some of the biggest factors worth knowing for those thinking of moving here, and even throw in a few tasty tidbits of fun on the side. Check it out, soak it all up, and hopefully you’ll have your mind totally made up. Whichever direction that is.

Hawaii in a Nutshell

As fun as it already is to say "Hawaii" (which is often pronounced “ha-why-ee” or “huh-vai-ee”), the state's also got a few nicknames to spice it up even more. The first is The Islands of Aloha or The Aloha State, referring to the "Aloha spirit", or "mutual regard and affection that extends warmth and caring with no obligation to be returned," according to statesymbolsusa.org.

This attitude is applied towards everyone, because each person is "important to every other for our collective existence." So basically, everyone loves and appreciates one another. Hawaii's also called Paradise of the Pacific, for some pretty obvious reasons. 

In fact, about 1,426,393 people have currently found their vision of paradise here, but the state actually lost a few people—1,145 in fact—in 2017. The population's been declining by about 0.08% over the past couple of years, and they're thinking this trend will continue for a couple more—more pineapples for you, though.

But still, even though Hawaii's only 40th in the nation in terms of overall population, its super-tiny size brings it up to 13th in terms of density. In other words, there are plenty of people packed onto those tiny tropical islands.

Hawaii's been named the "least-stressed state" and consistently ranks among the happiest states in the country. But what is it, exactly, that makes people here love it, and life, so much? It’s probably the beaches.

But what do Hawaiians do when they're not soaking up the sun and getting sand in their flip-flops? Let's take a dive into the local job scene to find out.

Job Market

Look, not everyone's going to become an instantly successful hula dancer the minute they step off the plane. Luckily the state has a super-inspiring low unemployment rate of just 2.1%, which is one of the lowest in the nation. Their minimum wage isn't too shabby either, at $10.10/hour. Keep in mind that, according to locals, you'll take about a 20% pay cut in this state, compared to your salary in a similar position on the mainland.

That's all well and good, but what kind of jobs are Hawaiians into? The current fastest-growing professions in the state are home health aid, computer systems analyst, physical therapist, software developer, massage therapist, marketer, social worker, counselor and nurse. But if you really wanna rake in the big bucks, the highest-paid Hawaiian gigs include: surgeon, veterinarian, nurse anesthetist, judge, pediatrician, CEO and dentist. 

Obviously there's a demand for all kinds of different workers in Hawaii, so that's good. But what about when the sun sets over the Pacific, and everyone starts to fight all that insane traffic to get home? Where do these people live when they're not working?

Housing

Whether a droopy hammock between two palm trees is all you need, or you want an oceanfront cottage, you shouldn’t have trouble finding your dream house in Hawaii. Well, unless price is a concern… 

The current median home value in the state is $615,000, a 6.4% increase over the past year. Homes are currently listed on the market for an average of $625,000, and are closing for about $546,800. But if renting a house is more your style, you can do so for about $2,300/month. Like we said, expensive. Real estate prices in Hawaii are THE highest in the nation. So if you move here, bring an extra bag of cash or two. 

If you're itchin' to get your hands on a brand-new place you should have no trouble with that here. There's a fair amount of new development underway on each of the major islands at the moment. On Kauai, you'll find it around Kapa'a. On Maui, it's around Kahului. The Big Island, or Hawai'i, has new development underway around Kailua. But by far the most new construction is happening around Honolulu, on Oahu.

But if apartments are more your thing, you’ve got options. If you've got your heart set on moving to the state's capital, Honolulu, you can expect to pay an average of $1,846/month for a one-bedroom. In Kalaeloa, Kapolei and Iroquois Point you’ll be paying even more, between $2,135/month and $2,363/month. So take a deep breath before scouting out your turf, it may take a bit of time to find the right place on the right budget.

No matter which island you decide to call your home, getting into a strong social group is your next step. So, what are Hawaiians like? What’s their game? Well, let's hear it straight from them, next.

Culture and Natives

Hawaii's population is so diverse that everyone is considered to be in the minority. It doesn't matter, though, because the way of life of Hawaiians is all about mutual respect and appreciation. Locals will offer their friendship and assistance, as long as you're not a jerk. So just be sure to be respectful of the culture and the land when you're here, and you'll have no problem. 

Locals speak a combination of English/Hawaiian and Pidgin/Creole languages, and say things like "brah"—but they'd prefer it if you didn't attempt their native slang on your own. Just be patient, and let them teach you over time, or you may embarrass yourself. Also, patience is a good trait to learn, since EVERYTHING is much slower in Hawaii.

The pace of life here involves walking, talking and driving much slower than on the mainland. People here are laid back, they rock flip-flops (which they call "slippahs") non-stop, and don't feel the need to dress up. Things also take way longer to ship here, so politely decline any offer from someone to send you something perishable from the mainland. It’ll just be a waste. 

Some natives hold onto resentment towards mainlanders just because of the history of how Hawaii's territory was acquired by the union. All the more reason to be on your most respectful behavior while you're here. Hawaiians get seriously irked by selfish and disrespectful tourists who crowd their already-small land even further, polluting it with their noise and trash.

If you move here, keep in mind that road trips are pretty much non-existent. To get between islands, you need to fly, ferry or float. And when it’s dinner time, locals say you pretty much need to love Asian cuisine, cause their other food choices apparently ain't the greatest. That is, except for SPAM, which is right on top of, or all mixed into, nearly everything here. 

Paradise of the Pacific Trivia

Alrighty, it’s time for some Hawaiian trivia, rapid-fire style. Hawaii is the only state in the country with a tropical rain forest. The state's also the only one made up entirely of islands—and 132 of them, at that. It's home to the largest volcano on Earth, Mauna Loa. Hawaii's one of only two states to grow coffee for the whole country, and was the 50th state admitted to the union, in 1959. Hawaii runs on its own time zone, Hawaiian Standard Time, and doesn't participate in that mainland nonsense known as Daylight Savings Time. 

Did you ever see that Brady Bunch episode where Peter and Bobby steal an ancient Tiki idol and then the whole family's cursed for the rest of their trip? Ugh, way to go Bradys. Well, it was based on real Hawaiian folklore—it's said that taking lava rocks from any beach is a serious no-no, and those who do will experience bad luck. So don't do it.

You also need to be on the lookout for kapu sites, which are sacred sites that were ancient burial grounds or meeting places for royalty. Don't step on land marked off with signage or take/leave anything in these areas. Always respect the land, unless you want to wake up to a giant tarantula crawling on your face, or wipe out on your surfboard. 

Speaking of surfing, Hawaii's its birthplace. Not to mention the hula (the dance, not the hoop), the ukulele and former US president Barack Obama. Aside from The Brady Bunch, Hawaii's had more than its share of fame projected on the big screen, in such shows/films as GodzillaHawaii Five-OLost and 50 First Dates. Who could really blame anyone for wanting to film in this paradise?

Can't-Miss Hawaii Fun + Activities

No matter whether you're looking to find a competitive SPAM eating contest or you want to relive Greg Brady’s famous wipe-out, Hawaii's literally overflowing with fun stuff for you to do.

Here are just a few of the state's coolest attractions:

  • Punalu'u Black Sand Beach: Why stick to all those boring and predictable white sand beaches when you can head to Pahala (on the Big Island) and see an entirely black shoreline? The beach is made up of pieces of lava, called "basalt," that came from underwater lava streams just offshore. This type of beach is extremely rare, not to mention gorgeous. It's also home to endangered species like the hawksbill turtle and the Hawaiian monk seal.
  • Lanai Cat Sanctuary: On the tiny island of Lanai, you'll find a different type of resort, the "Fur Seasons," which is a sanctuary for the island's feral cats. There are around 500 felines currently residing here—achoo. The sanctuary opened in 2009 in order to rescue the island's overpopulated cats from being hunted. Known lovingly as "Hawaiian lions," the kitties are all up for adoption, should you fall in love with a four-legged critter during your visit.
  • Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park: In Captain Cook, on the Big Island’s Bay of Honaunau, you'll find ancient holy grounds said to have granted amnesty to all who entered, long, long ago. Legend says that lawbreakers who'd been sentenced to death could just set foot onto the ground here and their slate was instantly wiped clean, and all was forgiven. Today you might not find that same courtesy, but you can enjoy a re-creation of traditional Hawaiian village life. It's also a great place for snorkeling, and a popular resting place for some more adorable sea turtles and spinner dolphins. 
  • Valley of the Temples Memorial Park: In Kaneohe on the island of Oahu, this authentic replica of an Asian temple and garden offers a "slice of authentic Buddhist serenity." The park was constructed in the 1960s and is reminiscent of the 11th century Japanese Buddhist Phoenix Temple. Inside, you'll find a giant gold Buddha statue and a serene, "blissfully quiet" atmosphere. There's also a gorgeous cemetery on the adjacent hills. The temple and grounds were featured in several episodes of Lost to portray actual Asian locations.
  • Chinatown Honolulu: Hungry for some tasty food AND culture? Head to Chinatown Honolulu, on Oahu. You'll be entertained for days here - between the shopping, art galleries, boutique shops, restaurants and nightlife hotspots. Hawaii's got great Asian cuisine in general, but this is the place you'll find some of the absolute best. Get those taste buds watering.

Pros and Cons of the Aloha Life

So brah, we could go on and on about all the sweet things to see/do in Hawaii, but wouldn't you rather hear it all straight from the mouths of REAL Hawaiians? We'll pass the conch to them…

Pros (as voted by actual Hawaiians):

  • Nature's beauty: Everyone knows Hawaii is beautiful. People get married and have their honeymoons here for a reason. Rich people who want that slowed-down chill life retire here for that same reason. They film movies and shows here just to brag about their beauty. Hawaii's gorgeous, and it's not shy about flaunting it. 
  • Slower pace of life: You've learned that Hawaiians like to slow down and enjoy the finer details in life. Living here for a while will force you to adapt to a relaxed pace (or to flee back to the mainland, screaming). You may not like it at first, but it sounds like the secret sauce works. After all, they were voted least-stressed and happiest state in the nation.
  • Rich culture: Locals point out that Hawaii is the state that's the least like any other in the country. Heavily influenced by Asian culture, the ways of life and attitudes here may require more adjustment than any other state. It's worth it, though.

Cons (also from the mouths of Hawaiians):

  • Nation's worst traffic: Or, y'know, the second-worst after L.A.'s, depending on who you talk to. With only a single highway, if there's ever a bad accident, the entire road system is shut down until it's resolved. According to locals, there's also no such thing as "rush hour" or "peak traffic times" - it's just ALWAYS traffic-o-clock, here.
  • Ridiculous cost of living: Hawaii's expensive. Shocker. But locals assert that in order to live on what $75,000 would buy you on the mainland, you'd need to make basically double that—so $75,000 two, carry the zero, equals $150,000, to have that same lifestyle here. So unless you're looking to seriously declutter your life, prepare to look into much higher-paying work.
  • Island fever: Once you've landed in Hawaii, you've landed in Hawaii. There's no packing up your car to drive to another state if you've had enough. You're stuck. "Island fever" is a real phenomenon that affects many who move from the mainland to Hawaii, and causes many to flee the state after only a few years—or less.

Weird Laws

Now onto a much lighter, somewhat silly segment of our little guide. We tripped and fell over a few seriously outdated and wacky Hawaiian laws, and felt the need to share them with you. You just might get a kick out of 'em.

  • Only one alcoholic drink may be in front of a person at any time. Pace yourself, champ. Even drinking is taken more slowly in Hawaii. 
  • It's illegal to leave home without knowing where you're going. Maybe they're trying to spare you, because should you get into that traffic jam and realize you're not sure where you're headed, you're gonna have a heck of a time turning around.
  • Twins can't legally work for the same company. They're just trying to spare everyone some confusion. 
  • It's illegal to annoy birds while visiting a state park. All part of not being a jerk. The law says nothing about those same birds annoying you.
  • Billboards are outlawed. No obstructed highway views for you, thanks to this one.

Aloha, Hawaii!

There it is, our insider's guide to all things Hawaii, brought to you with an honorary lei (and not one of those fake plastic ones, either). We won't act like we've touched on all your areas of concern (hello, we've got volcanoes to explore), but here's hoping that you're closer to making your decision. Just make sure you're covered with an affordable home insurance policy.

It's up to you now to decide if you want to move to Hawaii. If dodging active lava flows, eating Asian cuisine, attempting Pidgin and hanging with felines at the cat sanctuary is your bag, then it looks like your mind’s made up. Aloha.

NOTE: if you decide Hawaii isn't right for you, we've covered all the other states, too, to help you find YOUR oasis. If Pacific paradise isn't your thing, have you thought about Minnesota?

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