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15 Things to Know About Moving to Hawaii


Are you ready to embrace the spirit of Aloha and move to Hawaii? It’s a common ambition, especially among those who have been to the Aloha State and have seen how beautiful it is. But before you quit your job and buy your ticket, we invite you to take a look at our list of the 15 things you should know before moving to Hawaii.

1. The Cost of Living is High

The cost of living in Hawaii is high. That goes for housing costs, but it also applies to the food on grocery store shelves. Everything that has to be shipped or flown to the islands will cost more. Hawaii is also a high-tax state. In fact, Hawaii’s income tax rates are among the highest in the country. The state also has an estate tax. So while it can be a wonderful place to live, you should expect that your budget will climb when you move here.

2. Hawaii is Surrounded By Wildlife

15 Things to Know About Moving to Hawaii

If you’re a nature-lover, you’ll feel right at home in Hawaii. Birds, whales, turtles and tropical fish are all present in the Aloha State. Plus, you can get out on the water or into the mountains to look for wildlife. But you might not need to go out of your way to see Hawaii wildlife.  You might have birds you’ve never seen before on the trees in your backyard, or drive past turtles on your way to work. So, there is plenty to do and see if you love the outdoors.

3. Traffic Can Be Brutal

If you think moving to Hawaii will provide an escape from traffic, think again. Traffic in Hawaii can be quite heavy, both in busy urban Honolulu and in less densely populated parts of the state. Two-lane roads are common in Hawaii and can easily become filled with cars because there are so many people trying to get from place to place for the amount of space available. There are public buses, but most people get around in their own vehicles.

4. The Sunset Will Blow Your Mind

Hawaii sunsets are a daily source of entertainment on the islands. Expect your Instagram to fill up with beautiful sunsets that will make your mainland-dwelling friends desperate to visit you. So many people come to vacation every year on the islands to experience these sunsets and you would get to see them every day for free.

5. Surfing is Harder Than it Looks

15 Things to Know About Moving to Hawaii

You might be tempted to take up surfing after moving to Hawaii. More power to you, but surfing is much harder than it looks. In Hawaii, surfing spots can be jealously guarded by locals looking for the right wave to ride. If you’re a novice, you might ruffle some feathers if you show up in prime surfing real estate and get in the way of more seasoned surfers. You should first learn the ropes before trying to find the best spots.

6. Nature Gives and Nature Takes

In Hawaii, you’ll get the benefit of a beautiful setting, amazing sunsets, rainbows and hot weather. But there are also volcanoes that ooze lava, and occasionally erupt. There are also sharks and biting insects that can be pesky and require preparation, depending on your activity. It’s all manageable, but it’s wise to adopt healthy amounts of respect for Mother Nature after moving to Hawaii. That means heeding warnings if swimming conditions are unsafe, and not building your house in a lava flow or on an eroding cliff.

7. The Dress Code is Almost Always Casual

15 Things to Know About Moving to Hawaii

As in other warm climates, the dress code in Hawaii is casual. You probably won’t get much use out of a necktie or a formal gown. Even official business is often conducted in Hawaiian shirts. It’s a diverse state, but Hawaiians are one in their preference for comfortable clothing.

8. Moving With Pets is Tough

The government of Hawaii carefully guards the state’s ecosystem against outside threats like invasive plant species, non-native animals, and pets carrying diseases. If you’re planning on moving to Hawaii with your pet, prepare for a lengthy, and potentially costly, quarantine and screening process. While your pet might be worth it, you should still be prepared for what it means ahead of time.

9. Get Ready For Cockroaches

No matter how clean your house or apartment is, you might have a run-in with a cockroach. It’s just one of the facts of life in Hawaii, and in the Aloha State, the cockroaches can fly. If you’re particularly squeamish about roaches, snakes, spiders and mosquitoes, moving to Hawaii might require a mindset change. You should definitely read up on this beforehand and learn directly from long-time residents on how to deal with this type of problem.

10. Island-hopping is Easy.

Whichever Hawaiian island you choose to call home, you’ll be able to hop to the others quickly and easily. After moving to Hawaii it’s a good idea to explore all the islands. You can ask your new neighbors, co-workers and friends for their tips on finding cheap tickets and on when to visit each island. You may not want to go to some tourist-driven areas of the island during certain times of the year, but it’s always easy to go if you desire.

11.  It’s All About Plate Lunch in Hawaii

15 Things to Know About Moving to Hawaii

Plate lunch is a classic staple of Hawaiian cuisine. It generally involves meat, rice and a side, which is often macaroni and cheese. Plate lunch is cheap and ubiquitous and reflects the mixture of Native Hawaiian and East Asian culinary influences. After a morning of surfing or swimming, plate lunch hits the spot without breaking the bank. This is just one example of how Hawaiian cuisine can be a welcomed result of moving to the islands.

12. Community is Important in Hawaii

Residents of Hawaii tend to know their neighbors and have a strong sense of community. Though the population can be transient as people cycle in and out of island living, making friends is easy. If you tend to be more on the aloof side, you might find that moving to Hawaii cures you of your natural reserve. Family and neighbors like to help take care of each other, and typically feel a sense of obligation to do so.

13. Hawaii is a Science Hub

15 Things to Know About Moving to Hawaii

Hawaii plays a key role in the nation’s scientific research, especially its climate and astronomy research. The Mauna Kea Observatories take advantage of prime conditions for astronomical sightings atop the Mauna Kea mountain. However, the research installation provoked controversy because it sits atop a mountain that has sacred religious value to some Native Hawaiians. The Mauna Loa Observatory is an atmospheric research facility that is central to U.S. climate research.

14. Moving to Hawaii Can Be Expensive

We’ve mentioned that living in Hawaii is expensive, but it’s worth noting that just getting yourself and your stuff to Hawaii can be expensive, too. You’ll have to get flights for yourself and the people you’re moving with. You might also have the extra expense of moving a pet, which as we mentioned above can be costly and time-consuming. Plus, you’ll have to move your belongings by shipping container or air rather than just renting a moving truck, as you might for another move across the rest of the country.

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15. Locals Get Discounts

Once you’re settled in Hawaii and you have a local driver’s license, remember to whip it out for discounts. Being a documented Hawaii resident has perks in the form of lower prices and discounts in many restaurants and shopping districts. These are known as kama’aina discounts, from the Hawaiian word for local. Until you get the feel for when to do this you can just ask every time you go to pay for something.

Bottom Line

Moving to Hawaii is expensive but it can be a very rewarding place to live. The weather, outdoors life, and sunsets can be remarkable every single day. However, your taxes, housing, and overall cost of living is almost certain to increase if you’re moving from most other parts of the country. It’s important to be prepared before making the leap so you know what your budget should look like.

Tips for Moving to Hawaii

  • A financial advisor can help you navigate big life changes like a move to determine what your budget should look like. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • If you are moving to a new city, it’s a good idea to understand how the change will impact your budget. SmartAsset’s Hawaii paycheck calculator can help you determine how living in the Aloha State will impact your take-home pay.

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