5 Big Things to Consider When Preparing for Your Big Move to Hawaii

What I Wish I knew before Moving to Hawaii

Hawaii is among the most popular vacation destinations in the United States thanks to its stunning landscapes and warm weather. With everything from rich culture to world-class beaches, renowned golf courses and more, many people who visit Hawaii dream of living the island life on a permanent basis themselves.

As someone who has personally made the big move across the Pacific Ocean, I appreciate so many different things about life in the Aloha state.  The weather, the adventure, beautiful views at every turn, the friendly people, the amazing food, beaches, surfing, hiking, diving, and, well you get the picture, there's a lot to like! However, relocating to Hawaii is a major event that requires plenty of planning and prep work. 

Hawaii is also the most expensive state to live in the United States.  A few years ago I wrote an article about my experience moving to Maui and after speaking to so many people about these things, I wanted to write about the things I wish I knew before moving here. So here we go!

1. How To Pronounce Everything

The number one thing I wished I had known before moving to Hawaii was how to pronounce everything! One of the great things about Hawaii is the beautiful language and the beautiful words used to describe many things from plants and fruits to fish, town names, street names, geographical areas, and more.  At first glance, many of the longer names look very difficult to pronounce, such as the state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapua'a, however, with some fundamentals and practice you can unlock the code to not sound like a tourist.

In the Hawaiian language, there are only seven consonants. H-K-L-M-N-P-W. Typically, these are all pronounced in the same way that you are accustomed to pronouncing them. Where things get a little tricky are the vowels. Each of the 5 vowels has one distinct pronunciation 

  • A is always the soft 'ah' sound, not a hard 'A' sound. 
  • E is always an 'eh' sound, not an 'eee' sound.
  • I is actually the 'eee' sound.
  • O is always an 'oh' sound and never an 'ah' sound.
  • U is always a hard 'u' sound and not an 'uh' sound.

Hopefully, I didn't make that too confusing there! Once you have the single pronunciation of each vowel, it's important to remember that every letter will be pronounced separately. One of the most commonly mispronounced places on Maui has to be Ka'anapali. The word Ka'anapali, meaning rolling cliffs or divided hill, has what's called an 'Okina' in its name. That's the character after Ka and before anapali. The Okina means to take a glottal stop in the pronunciation, which is simply a slight pause. So, taking the glottal stop(pause) and pronouncing each letter properly, we get Kah-Ah-Nuh-Pah-Lee. Don't worry, you'll get the hang of it eventually!

2. What To Bring to Hawaii Versus What To Leave Behind

Hawaii Moving

Moving to a new home in Hawaii from the mainland can be expensive, and the cost to ship all of your belongings to your new home on Oahu, Maui, or another island could make your eyes water. The good news is that many of your belongings may not need to make the trip. For example, there is no need for a full winter wardrobe when you live on the island. Hawaii’s warm, humid weather conditions are ideal for long afternoons at the beach. 

However, because some materials are conducive to mold growth in humid environments like Hawaii, you may not want to bring your grandmother’s antique dining table or your leather sofa with you. You also should only move what you will have space for in your new house or condo. Anything else should be sold, donated, or gifted to a friend or family member. Less is more in Hawaii.

Make Plans for Your Car

You will undoubtedly do plenty of driving while living in Hawaii, including making your daily commute to work or exploring every nook and cranny of your new island home. Rather than trying to sell your old car before moving and buying a new car on the island, consider shipping your vehicle using a transport service.

Generally, it may be more cost-effective to ship your vehicle or buy from the mainland if you are moving from San Francisco or another location on the West Coast. However, if you are moving from the East Coast, the cost may be more prohibitive. When you are shipping your household belongings and car to Hawaii, pay attention to shipping times. The last thing that you want to do is pay for an expensive rental car and sleep on an air mattress for weeks on end while waiting for your items to arrive.

3. It's Best To Start You're Job Search Before Moving

Job Search in Hawaii

Unless you’re moving to Hawaii to retire or specifically for a job you havee lined up, I recommend starting your job search before you even arrive on the island. When many people move to Hawaii, they assume that it will be relatively easy to find a job. However, job opportunities can be limited, and finding a job may require far more time and effort than you think.

Consider that the most populous island is Oahu, and it’s home to fewer than a million residents. The Big Island has a population of 187,000, and Maui only has 145,000 residents. Tourism is the primary industry in Hawaii, and other major industries are retail, food services, manufacturing, and agriculture.

4. Finding Quality Housing In Hawaii Can Be a Challenge

If you're firmly committed and ready to purchase and have not already started working with a real estate agent, this is the time to do so. If you're going to be renting, I suggest Facebook marketplace and Hotpads.com as alternatives to Craigslist which has gotten sketchier. Regardless of the type of home in Hawaii that you are searching for, be aware that inventory is relatively limited. The homes and condos that are put on the market often remain for a few weeks or less. This is particularly true for properties that are priced well and are in an ideal location.

If you plan to live in a hotel or Airbnb for a few weeks while you look around, make your reservation well in advance. Your real estate agent can help you learn about popular residential areas. You can also take advantage of your agent’s contacts with title companies, appraisers, and others throughout your purchase.

Maui Properties For Sale

5. The Hawaii Life Can Be Expensive

Saving Money in Hawaii and Maui

You may have already heard that Hawaii has a high cost of living, and you hopefully have already taken a hard look at your budget. However, while it is the most expensive state to live in the country, there are great ways to stretch your dollar while enjoying life in Hawaii. If you are not already accustomed to looking for deals and shopping sales, you may be pleasantly surprised at how quickly the savings can add up.

Keep in mind that most things on the island have to be shipped across the ocean, so things like food and gas can cost a small fortune. Purchasing a more fuel-efficient vehicle, becoming a Costco member, and growing your own foods are only a few of the many ways that you can reduce your living expenses.

Online Shopping Is More Expensive in Hawaii and Slower

While taking advantage of Amazon Prime is incredibly popular on the mainland, it is a slightly different experience in Hawaii. While still popular, folks in Hawaii can expect their Amazon Prime packages to arrive in a week or two rather than a day or two. Other online retailers also have lengthy shipping times and may have extraordinary shipping fees. Other conveniences like Door Dash, Uber, etc will also cost a little more and take a little longer. 

Some retailers will not ship to Hawaii at all. Because of freight costs, many retailers won't ship extremely heavy items directly to your door and most Hawaii residents prefer to simply head to the store to pick up what they need. A good thing about this aspect of island life is that you may be less inclined to make impulse purchases online.

Not All Major Banks Have Local Branches

Many aspects of banking today can be completed online, by phone, or through your bank’s mobile app. However, there are times when you simply must visit a local branch in person. Be aware that national banks like Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo do not have local branches in Hawaii.

Many people who relocate to Hawaii choose to set up a new account at the Bank of Hawaii or another local bank. If you prefer to keep your account at a major bank, ensure that your bank offers all of the remote services that you need.

Final Thoughts

While there are some important things to keep in mind before moving to Hawaii, few things compare to living the island life. I moved to Maui back in 2010 and haven’t looked back since.

As someone who works in the real estate industry and has done the big move personally, I know finding a beautiful place to call home is an important step in your transition to living in Hawaii. As an experienced, local real estate agent in Maui, I would be happy to help you buy that perfect home or condo to help you live your very best island life. 

Get In Touch!

Evan Harlow Maui

Evan Harlow is a Realtor on Maui who has the expertise, experience, and work ethic to help you achieve all of your real estate buying or selling goals. We promise exceptional service and support from the beginning of the process through closing and beyond.

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Posted by Evan Harlow R(S) 82003 on


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