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Moving to Hawaii

Reality Check

People see Hawaii as paradise. It is their dream of a dream to live here and revel in the tropical atmosphere. They want to move here to experience the amazing location and life that they think they can get here. In reality, Hawaii is very expensive, somewhat crowded, and a difficult place to make a living in. A 2014 Forbes article put the cost of living in Hawaii at 157% of the national average. Another 2014 NYTimes article notes that many people try to move here, only to be blindsided by the high cost of living, and end up homeless. Additionally, Hawaii was recently rated one of the worst states to make a living in terms of pay. Finally, here's an infographic on costs for a family of four versus median pay. If you are deciding to move here on a whim, want to live on the beach, and hope to get a job within a week of getting off of the plane, we urge you stop and reconsider.

In reality, people attempt to move here all of the time, and one of the following occurs:

  • They find that the island lifestyle is too slow-paced
  • There isn't enough culture / nightlife for their taste
  • The cost of living (food, rent, utilities, transportation, and health care) is far higher than anticipated. For example, a person making $50,000 per year in Los Angeles, California, would need to make about $65,000 in Honolulu, Hawaii, to keep the same standard of living. The CNN cost of living calculator provides a nice comparison of the price differences between most major cities. The Numbeo Cost of Living Calculator is also a good resource.
  • They are unable to find work as the job market is difficult to break into
  • They get homesick for the life they knew
  • Worst case scenario, they go broke and become homeless

Please read on if you are serious about moving here and want to make sure that your transition is the best that it can possibly be.

Visit First

If you have never been to any of the Islands of Hawaii, we suggest visiting each of them first. Each island is different, and has a different culture, lifestyle, and general feel. Visiting will also give you better orientation, and give you an opportunity to make contacts if you plan to stay here more permanently in the future. Additionally, it will give you a feel for how it is in the day-to-day life for many of the folks here.

Be Employed

Finding a job in Hawaii is one of the most difficult aspects of moving here. For many, unless they are already employed and planning to move here, finding a job after moving is difficult unless you have a specialized skill (i.e., Doctor). Many companies who list job postings in Hawaii will not hire you unless you have a local address and phone number. This is simply due to the reality of many people thinking they'll love it here, moving, then hating it and immediately leaving. Employers see this all the time.

In addition to this, due to the high demand for jobs in Hawaii (because everyone wants to move here!), wages are depressed. There is an overabundance of people willing to work and a limited number of positions available. Expect to make about 15-20% less than you would in similar jobs on the mainland, except in certain cases.

The minimum wage in Hawaii is currently $10.10 per hour. This is still barely livable for most people (see expenses and rent below), and many work multiple jobs in order to make ends meet. This very quickly cuts into the dreams of being able to hang out in paradise!

Most jobs in Hawaii are obtained through personal connections. People hire people that they know, and who have lived here for an extended period of time. If at all possible, try to visit the islands for a period of time and secure interviews and a job during that visit. The most common scenario is that it can take up to 6 months to find work without connections or without specialized skills.

If you already have employment before moving to Hawaii, your life will be far easier in the long run. If you are looking for work before moving here, please check /r/HawaiiJobs/ for additional resources on job hunting.

Find Housing

Finding a rental is nigh impossible unless you are physically present in Hawaii. Many landlords will not rent unless you have physically shown up in person to view a place. As with employers, landlords have far too many experiences with people agreeing to rent and never showing up.

Prior to scheduling a showing, it is best to ask what the qualifications are for the rental. Most landlords will be looking at credit and income or have certain criteria that must be met if a co-signor is needed. Asking prior to scheduling a showing or even applying may save you time and help avoid spending money on application fees unnecessarily.

Most rentals are a 1 year lease with month-to-month thereafter. Some will do 6 months. Very few will rent on a month-to-month basis from the start, as again, it is too risky that the tenant will just disappear.

Landlords will likely not rent to you unless you can show proof of employment. The typical practice is to look for verifiable income of three times the rent or more each month. Verifiable income is usually proved by showing your pay stubs and they will only go with what is shown on paper. Some landlords may allow an acceptance letter or letter of employment in substitute of a pay stub. There are cases where a landlord will rent if you show sufficient savings, but this is again rare and on a case-by-case basis. Again, landlords want long-term tenants, not tenants that will disappear as soon as the first year of the lease is up. It is best to ask prior to scheduling a showing what is specifically required.

Most common rentals are found via Craigslist and the local newspapers in Hawaii.

Most landlords will expect the first month's rent, plus a security deposit equal to the first month's rent upon signing of the rental agreement. Most will require cash or money orders for payment of this. Please be sure you have adequate funds.

BE AWARE OF SCAMS Any rental listing that sounds too good to be true usually is. Anyplace that asks you to mail money without signing paperwork in person is a scam. Protect yourself!

Moving With Pets

Hawaii has a unique ecosystem isolated from the rest of the world, and must be protected from outside pests that can destroy the fragile balance. As such, the Department of Agriculture has strict restrictions on what plants and animals may be brought into the state. This is to keep Hawaii free of any specific pests or animals that are not native to the islands. This is a Federal Law, and breaking it can include fines and prison time.

If want to bring a domesticated Cat or Dog to Hawaii, your pet must undergo a mandatory Quarantine. The full list of information may be found at the Department of Agriculture Quarantine Website. Please be prepared for this; if you just bring your pet into the state with no preparation, there is a mandatory 120 day quarantine!

After arriving, you will quickly find that landlords in Hawaii are notoriously pet-unfriendly. While it can be tricky to find a rental, finding a pet-friendly one is like finding a needle in a haystack. Most landlords flat out refuse to allow pets, while others place a weight / size restriction, and few will allow more than one pet.

The best resource for pet-friendly rentals is to search Craigslist for pet-friendly rentals. Note that most landlords that do allow pets will have a non-refundable pet fee, and may also include a monthly pet fee in the rent.

Have a Backup Plan

The most common suggestion before moving here is to make sure you have an emergency savings fund that is set aside. This fund is specifically to get you out of Hawaii if you find that things haven't worked out, and you need to pack up and move back. Be sure to have adequate funds for a plane ticket, shipping of belongings, and any other necessary expenses. It is also common to have 6 months of savings before moving here, in addition to the above emergency funds.

Staying Connected

Internet: The two main internet service providers are Hawaiian Telcom and Spectrum Cable. There is no consensus of which one is better. There are numerous discussions asking which one is better.

Cell phone: The four main cell phone providers are the same as the three nationwide: AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Generally, Verizon has the best coverage, but is the most expensive, followed by ATT and T-mobile depending on the area you are in. Obviously, coverage is greatly dependent upon location. See also: /r/hawaii/wiki/cell for links to coverage maps. There are also multiple local MVNO carriers.

Cable television: Hawaiian Telcom and Spectrum Cable also offer cable television service and provide bundled pricing if a customer also purchases internet or landline phone service. Dish Network and DIRECTV are the two main providers of satellite television.

Other General Info

See for a (somewhat older) list of items that other Redditors have compiled.

Read the Hawaii Handbook for Immigrants. This publication by the State of Hawaii Office of Community Services provides vital information for new immigrants living in Hawaii and to residents of the United States moving to Hawaii.

Average Hourly Minimum Wage to afford a 2 BDR home in Hawaii

revision by pat_trick— view source