17 Things to Know Before Moving to Hawaii
Hawaii is a popular destination for expats the world over, with nearly one in five Hawaiian residents born outside of the US’s 50th state.
But if you’re thinking of moving to the Islands of Aloha, there are a few things you should know before you pack your bags.
Here are our best tips for anyone who’s thinking of moving to Hawaii.
Even Hawaii's busy cities boast picturesque beaches
1. Nature is abundant
From turtles, chameleons, and tropical birds, through to sharks, seals, and dolphins, Hawaii is home to extraordinary creatures.
The more dangerous animals can affect activities, with sharks in particular being something you have to plan around if you’re going for a swim.
Plan accordingly, show nature the respect it deserves and Hawaii will reward you in spades.
2. Property is expensive
There are some who think it’d be easy enough to pick up a small, inexpensive place by or near the beach. Those people would be wrong — Hawaii’s property market is very lucrative.
The average asking price for a home in Hawaii is an eye-watering $901,000 (£752,00). Even at this price, you’d be lucky to find something larger than a basic condo in the more popular areas.
You can find small properties around the $700,000 (£584,248) mark in less developed areas, such as Ewa Beach, but the trade-off is limited amenities.
3. Prepare for sudden rain
One minute you’re relaxing in seemingly infinite sunshine — next, you’re sitting drenched as what feels like a year’s worth of rain appears from nowhere.
It’s more common than you’d think too, though don’t worry because the sun usually starts shining again in 10 minutes or less. Just a small tip: avoid getting the umbrella out, because it’ll make you look like a tourist.
4. Healthcare in Hawaii is good…until it’s bad
On the surface, Hawaii’s healthcare seems to stand out from the rest of the US — the Hawaii Prepaid Health Care Act was the first of its kind when it came into effect in 1974.
It gives residents who work for more than 20 hours per week a guaranteed form of health insurance.
The reality, however, is that Hawaii has among the fewest hospital beds per person in the US, and some of the longest waiting times too.
That makes it risky to rely on public healthcare, especially if you or someone in your family needs urgent treatment.
Because of this, we’ve created a list of our recommended healthcare providers. Here, you can choose and request quotes from the supplier that best suits your needs.
5. Moving with your pets can be difficult
Hawaii is very protective of its ecosystem, to the extent that the government does as much as it can to stop non-native species, invasive plants, and pets carrying potential diseases from damaging it.
This means moving with your four-legged (or more) friend is a difficult experience, to say the least.
Expect the whole process to be expensive and for your pet/s to endure a lengthy quarantine — up to 120 days depending on whether they meet the ‘5 Days or Less’ programme.
Areas of outstanding natural beauty are the norm in Hawaii
6. Learn to live with cockroaches
There’s no two ways about it — cockroaches love Hawaii. The worst part? Most of them fly too, so you’ll be hard pressed to avoid the critters even if you keep your home spotless.
Because of this, squeamish people might have a tough time adapting to life in Hawaii.
7. Community is everything to locals and expats alike
Unless you choose a very remote corner of Hawaii, you’ll find islanders have a strong sense of community. This is despite the fact much of the population can be transient.
Making friends is easy and even if you’re quite reserved, the infectious smiles and desire to help others will soon catch on.
8. The cost of living is very high
Hawaii is the most expensive state to live in the US, according to the World Population Review. In fact, some studies suggest you’d need a salary of $122,000 (£101,000) to live comfortably here.
You need to make sure you transfer enough of your pounds to US dollars when you move to Hawaii to get by in the early months. That’s why we’ve partnered with Wise (formerly TransferWise).
Wise has great options for sending low cost, fast international payments — and Wise accounts also offer easy ways to hold, send, spend, and receive dozens of foreign currencies.
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Lei flower chains are a big part of traditional Hawaiian culture
9. Traffic can be terrible
You’d think life on a tropical island would free you from the pitfalls of heavy traffic, but not so in Hawaii.
This is especially true in cities, which can quickly become clogged with cars because most people avoid public transportation.
Even rural areas can see bad traffic, which isn’t helped by most roads only having two lanes.
10. It’s easy to island hop
Sometimes you want a change in scenery, even if that change means swapping one form of paradise for another!
Thankfully it’s very simple to hop from island to island in Hawaii, with plenty of affordable flights available every day.
Ferries are less common — only a handful of routes run between the islands each day. Flights often cost less than $50 (£41), so it makes much more sense to catch a plane than a boat.
11. Adjusting to the culture can take time
Hawaii’s remote position in the Pacific Ocean has meant it’s been able to keep much of its original culture intact — unlike many parts of the US.
This is a culture of taking things slower, appreciating the beauty in nature, and connecting to family and friends whenever you can.
For some, this sudden change of pace can be daunting, especially when you’re used to promptness and punctuality! Learn to sit back and let Hawaiian life come at you on its own terms — we promise it’ll all make sense eventually.
12. Rust is a widespread problem
A combination of salty, humid air and frequent rain means almost every islander has to deal with rust.
Don’t be surprised if within a year your new bike has rusted beyond use, your car has started to fall apart, or the hinges on your front door have started creaking — it’s just part and parcel of living in Hawaii.
Hawaii is home to stunning wildlife, such as the endangered green sea turtle
13. It’s not easy to find work
Many people who move to Hawaii depart within a few years.
Employers are understandably sceptical about hiring expats for this reason, so it’s important to have work secured before you relocate.
Many people, especially post-pandemic, can now work remotely. If you can manage this, there are few places on earth quite as beautiful to do it than in Hawaii.
14. Deliveries take a while
Hawaii is remote, and we mean really remote — the nearest landmass is the coast of California, which is a staggering 2,390 miles away.
After that, it’s all the way over to Japan as the second-closest landmass. And it’s only a short hop of 3,850 miles — or eight-and-a-half hours on a plane.
So with that in mind, don’t expect deliveries to arrive quickly. Orders from outside the country will take anywhere from one to five weeks to get to you.
15. Drop the suit and tie
Casual dress is the norm in Hawaii, regardless of the situation. It might seem like a cliché, but people actually do wear Hawaiian shirts for almost every occasion.
Even in office environments, suits and ties are practically unheard of. It’s the same for shoes as well, with most choosing to wear a pair of comfortable flip-flops (otherwise called slippers or “slippahs” in Hawaii).
Don’t forget — it’s considered rude not to remove your footwear when you enter someone’s home. Speaking of rudeness…
16. Never refuse to wear lei flowers
Hawaiians love to offer people traditional lei flower chains for all sorts of different reasons — they’re even given to tourists stepping off the plane.
Lei flowers form an important part of Hawaiian culture, and it’s seen as an insult to take one off in front of the person that gave it to you, or to outright refuse it.
You should also aim to return the lei to the land if possible, preferably as near to where the flowers were picked as you can. Some locals still take this old custom seriously.
17. Hawaii grows by 42 acres every year
Home to some of the world’s biggest volcanoes, Hawaii is no stranger to eruptions. Some of these, notably from the Kīlauea volcano, add to the country’s landmass every year.
As lava spills out and meets the ocean, it cools and solidifies to become just another part of Hawaii. It’s a process that’s happened for thousands of years — there are villages, towns, and even entire cities built on the remnants of volcanic eruptions.
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