Black sand beach Big Island of Hawaii with clear blue water and lava rock

How to Move to Hawaii: A Complete Guide

Has it been a long-term dream to move away from the humdrum life and head to beautiful Hawaii? Maybe it is, but you’ve told yourself there’s no way you ever could and that moving to an island paradise is something to daydream about but not a reality. While moving to Hawaii is a significant change, you can make a big life decision and achieve your dream if you make the right plans.

Moving to Hawaii involves meticulous planning, decent savings, and securing a job. You need to consider which island to move to, rental vs. buying, and how to integrate. Economic factors are a major consideration, but you can achieve your goal of moving to Hawaii with the proper preparation.

Moving to any new place is always a big decision, often fraught with economic setbacks, and moving to an island like Oahu or Maui will add in extra factors you may not have considered. We’ll walk you through the process of leaving mainland USA and heading to the paradise of Hawaii. If you are careful and well prepared, your move will be exciting rather than nerve-wracking.

The Complete Guide to Move to Hawaii

Any move is a considerable risk, and moving overseas adds to that. You can mitigate some of your chances by doing a lot of research first; that way, you can be well-prepared for what you need to do and the best options for you.

You’ll need to look at where to live, find work, and what kind of accommodation is available. Because moving to a new place is such a big step, it’s good to get a feel for Hawaii before making a huge off-the-cuff decision. Spend a few vacations in Hawaii, get to know the islands, and keep an eye on job listings and rental vacancies for the islands online.

While saving for your move, I’d recommend following local online news. This will help you become immersed in the culture and lifestyle of a particular area and begin your path to acclimatizing yourself to your future home.

Don’t rush the process – Take your time, and make sure you have covered all the necessary details, from finances to future work and how you’ll move your pets! The more time you take and the better your preparation, the easier the move will be.

Which Island in Hawaii to Move To?

Hawaii may be part of the United States, but it will probably be a very different culture and lifestyle than what you are used to. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago of 137 islands, but only seven of the main islands are inhabited, and of those, only six are open to local and tourist access.

Most people moving to the state of Hawaii will be considering the four most inhabited islands: Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, and Kauai. Remember that these islands are part of the most isolated archipelago in the world, and by moving there, you could be putting many thousands of miles between yourself and your friends and family. Each island also has unique microclimates, so consider this when choosing where to move.

See Also: Hawaiian Islands Nicknames Explained


Oahu is the most populated of the isles and provides the most work opportunities. This island is a good family choice if you have school children as it has access to many public and private schools. Real estate is pricey but readily available. The city of Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii and the largest city. In terms of work, it’s the economic hub of the islands.

See Also: Windward Side of Oahu


Known locally as The Big Island, Hawaii is the largest island in the State of Hawaii. Still, it is less densely populated than either Maui or Oahu, making it more desirable if your goal is to live a more rural life. The major work opportunities here are in tourism and agriculture, and the real estate is less expensive than in Oahu.

See Also: Hilo vs. Kona: Where should you stay on the Big Island of Hawaii?


Known for its stunning world-class beaches, Maui has high real estate prices. Maui offers a good blend of island life with all the modern amenities you need, but finding work can be difficult. The largest town is Kahului, and there you will find the most job opportunities – as expected, the largest industry is tourism, though work can be found in retail, healthcare, and business services.


Kauai is a tropical paradise and the most rural of the main four islands. This island will offer a slower pace of life. As with any island, the cost of living and rental prices are steep and will vary depending on where you want to live. Most of the work is in the tourism industry.

The Cost of Living in Hawaii

It is an unfortunate side-effect of island life in one of the most recognizable tourist destinations globally that the cost of living in Hawaii is very high. According to, the cost of living in Honolulu is 88% higher than the national USA average.

Housing is at a premium, and the median house price is $1,046,899, which is more than double the national average. If you were looking to rent a four-bedroom house, average fees range from $2,700 to $6,800, depending on where you are located.

Also, consider the higher utility prices (89% above the average), bus fare and gas prices (35% higher than the national average), and your grocery bills (62% higher than the national average). It quickly becomes apparent that to live decently in Hawaii, you need to bring in a pretty high salary. This Cost of Living Calculator from CNN will give you a good idea of how much you need to earn in order to live in the different cities in Hawaii.

Your total cost of living will depend on the lifestyle you want. If your goal is to spend days on the beach surfing or enjoying nature, it will be less of a money crunch than if you want to live luxuriously, eat out, and wear expensive clothing.

If you can work remotely, remember that this may not be enough to cover the higher cost of living in Hawaii.

How Much Money to Save to Move to Hawaii

Let’s be realistic – the more money you can save, the easier your move to Hawaii will be. Besides the cost of relocating yourself, family, and pets, renting accommodation, shipping goods, and buying new goods when you settle, many unexpected things can pop up and add to your expenses. The more you have saved, the easier it will be to take these knocks when they happen.

A good rule is to have saved up six months’ worth of salary to give you a good cushion. Think not only of the monthly costs of living, and add an extra 10-15% as a protective buffer in case things go wrong.

With that in mind, work out what a month in Hawaii will cost you – rent, monthly groceries, cost of transport, school expenses, utilities, car payments, and your lifestyle needs. If you work out your monthly living budget – a reasonable estimate for a family of four in Hawaii is $8-$10k. Multiply that by six to give you time to find work, and add in a 15% cushion. That realistically could mean needing around $69,000 in savings.

Have a look at potential job opportunities and what you can realistically earn. Finding a job in Hawaii can be difficult, so you need to factor in your savings. Look for positions in Hawaii on online job boards. Keep in mind that companies will take you more seriously if you are already in Hawaii. In some situations, you might need to move there before you get a job to increase your chances of getting an interview. Some companies won’t interview you until they know you are already on the island.

Rent or Buy a Home in Hawaii

Unless you are extremely familiar with the area you are moving to, I would suggest renting first to get an idea of the place before sinking a lot of money into a mortgage. While it might seem like an attractive proposition to have a house of your own in Hawaii, the cost of homes is very high, and if you find you don’t like the area you have chosen, it could be a costly mistake.

The median rental prices will vary depending on which island and where you are, but expect to pay a minimum of $2,500 rent, and to buy a house would set you back at the very least around $300,000.

Moving Pets to Hawaii

If you’re planning on moving with a beloved pet or pets, this will incur additional expenses, and you’ll need to make sure that you follow the Hawaii government guidelines to the letter.

As Hawaii is the only rabies-free state in the US, they have stringent rabies control and quarantine rules. Dogs, cats, and other carnivores will have to go through a quarantine period. If your pet has already met all the requirements for the five days or less quarantine program and is suitably microchipped, the cost of the quarantine is $244 per pet, whereas the 120-day quarantine will cost approximately $1,080 per pet.

All pets entering Hawaii must go through Honolulu for their initial quarantine checks, so you may have to factor in extra travel and shipping costs of your final destination elsewhere.

Shipping Your Belongings to Hawaii

It may seem like good sense to take as little as possible with you and buy what furnishings you need on the island, but remember that new goods can cost more than you would pay on the mainland due to shipping costs. However, you can likely find a fully-furnished place if you are renting.

If you plan to take your car with you, budget the cost of shipping it across, and consider the cost of parking in the area you will be staying in. It may be more cost-effective to use public transportation, or, if you are in a more rural area, consider buying a car on the island.

Consider the climate and your lifestyle when packing your belongings. Hawaii is tropical, and if you’re moving from a state that gets long and cold winters, you won’t need to bring all your winter gear along with you. The less you bring with you, the lower your shipping costs will be.

If you must bring household goods, you can use a moving company, shipping container, or shipping cube. If you don’t have enough to fill an entire container, consider looking into freight forwarding instead.

Generally, the most expensive time to ship is summer, so you can cut down on costs if you can schedule shipping times from September to April. Moving during the off-season (March-May or August-October) can make your trip cheaper and more manageable, as you can avoid the heavy tourist crowds and prices.

Integrate Into Hawaiian Society

Moving to Hawaii is not only a considerable distance but also a culture change. Be prepared to change your expectations on certain things. For example, if you’re used to same-day delivery, accept that this is unlikely to be an option. Stores may not stock everything you’re used to, and the pace of life may be very different.

After the initial thrill of moving – the honeymoon holiday – has worn off, you may find that you miss your friends and family and feel isolated and like an outsider. It takes time to become part of a community and feel at home, but getting involved with local events and being friendly and easy-going will help you get through this (sometimes quite lengthy) settling-in period.

Becoming part of the community is much easier if you join a local group such as a church, a book club, or a hobbyist meet-up.

Living in Hawaii FAQs

If you need to know more about moving to Hawaii, take a look at some frequently asked questions below.

Which is the Largest City in Hawaii?

With around 400,000 people, the largest city is Honolulu, and it has the most job opportunities.

Are Beaches in Hawaii Open to the Public?

No beach in Hawaii is private, so enjoy the stunning sands to your heart’s content. However, some islands, such as Niihau, are only open to the islanders who live there and are protected sites.

What Language Do People Speak in Hawaii?

The official language is English, though many people speak Hawaiian, and Hawaiian is taught in schools.

What Is the Climate Like in Hawaii?

Hawaii is tropical and rarely has cold winters – expect rainy days, and be aware goods will rust faster in the wet, salty air. The tropical weather also encourages insect life, so keep your home clean to deter ants and cockroaches.

Is Transport Expensive in Hawaii?

Gas prices in the State of Hawaii are notoriously high, but the distances between towns are relatively short, though there will be longer journeys between towns on Hawaii island.

What Will Make My Life in Hawaii Easier?

Once you’ve moved, apply for Hawaii State ID to make your day-to-day life easier and update all your necessary insurance and licenses if you are driving.

Local papers will give you a better view of island life and what is important in your community – read your local paper and familiarize yourself with your area by walking or driving around.


Moving to Hawaii is a pretty big step, and though there are people who can throw their clothes in a suitcase and head off to the islands, it helps to do some considerable planning and saving ahead of time. With so many places online, such as Craigslist,, and other community papers and job sites, it’s easier to gather information before you leave. Consider your needs and priorities before choosing where to go, and preferably head over for a few visits first before making your big move.


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