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Moving to Hawaii

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Before your move we recommend the following books: (click on the pictures to order)

vacation rentals and long-term accommodations on the Big Island of
Hawaii The Big Island Revealed
by Andrew Doughty and Harriett Friedman

vacation rentals and long-term accomodations on the Big Island of
Affordable Paradise
by H. Skip Thomsen

Living and Retiring in Hawaii
Living and Retiring in Hawaii
by James Smith & Diane Smith

So You Want to Live in Hawaii
So You Want To Live in Hawaii
by Toni Polancy

Moving to Hawaii
Moving to Hawaii
by Michele Meyer

Mango Bay Hawaii Rentals
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Moving to the Big Island of Hawaii
Tips and Suggestions on Making the Big Move

Vivienne and I (along with our two dogs Wally and Molly) made the move to the Big Island on August 27th, 2003. It was the culmination of not only a dream come true, but also much hard work and planning to make our move as smooth as possible. By writing down our experiences on this page we hope we can help other people as they get ready to make the big move. Please send us email if you have any questions about moving to Hawaii and we'll post our answer here for the benefit of everyone. Mahalo! Oh, and if you find this information helpful, please click on some of our Google advertisers to help support our site.

First Things First -- Finding Your Dream Home
If you're planning to move someplace, naturally you should find a place to live first. Generally there are two ways to go about it. One way is demonstrated by a family we hosted in one of our vacation rentals. They bought one-way tickets from their home in Chicago and stayed with us for six months while they found a house to buy. The other way is our own approach to finding our dream home. We planned a 10 day vacation/house buying adventure in April, 2003. We searched the local MLS listings and found about 10 homes we wanted to look at during our visit. We contacted a local Real Estate agent, told her what we were looking for and gave her the MLS numbers we wanted to look at. It's important to tell the agent you're working with what you are looking for in a home because they might show you something that you missed online. That's what happened to us. The house we ended up buying was found by our agent. It wasn't on our list because it was 4 square feet smaller than the criteria we were searching on in the MLS listings. A good agent is imperative!

By the way, an update on the family that stayed with us for 6 months: They purchased a new construction home that was set to be completed on July 5th, 2005. As of December 27th their home still hasn't been completed. Update: They moved into their new home Spring of 2006

Finding a Good Real Estate Agent
If possible use a Real Estate agent referred by someone you trust. Your agent will be your eyes and ears in the buying process, especially important if you still live off-island. We used Denise Nakanishi and we recommend her highly. Mention our name and she will send you a relocation pak if you are thinking of moving to the Big Island.

The seller has accepted your offer, now what do you do?
Here is where good planning becomes critical. First of all, what is your time-line for moving to Hawaii? For us, our home closed escrow in early July but we didn't make the move until late August. We could have moved in July but decided to wait until August because that was when our dogs were allowed into the State. Knowing your move date affects all your other planning so make sure you have a good idea when that will be.

If you have pets and you want to bring them with you, you have to deal with Hawaii's Animal Quarantine Laws. Of all the things we had to do to get ready for our move, dealing with the quarantine regulations was the biggest headache. I'll get more into this subject below.

On one of our first visits to Hawaii we received this advice from someone who had just moved there: "Sell everything you have before your move because you always bring too much." Let me echo that advice. You can buy everything you'll need here so there's no need to ship all your belongings. Before we moved we got rid of 95% of all that we had. The biggest thing we shipped was our car, but we did that only because it was less than two years old. The rest I shipped Parcel Post in 35 boxes. Remember that Parcel Post is the cheapest way, but also takes the longest. About 4-6 weeks. So what I did was first rent a PO Box at the Airport Branch Post Office (808) 933-3019. Give them a call and they will send you an application for a PO Box. The Keaau branch was closer to our new home but they didn't have any boxes available.

Once we were assigned a PO Box, I started shipping boxes to my new address. The Post Office will hold onto your packages for several weeks, so don't start mailing your boxes more than 2 months before your move. I would ship 2 or 3 boxes at a time so it was easier for me to manage getting them to the post office by myself. When we arrived I made sure to rent a van because I knew I had a lot of boxes waiting for me at the Post Office.

Shipping Your Car
When we shipped our car in 2003 there was only Matson and it cost us $995 to ship to Hilo from Long Beach. Recently a new car shipper, Pasha, started servicing the islands and the cost has gone down slightly to $899. We shipped a minivan but we found out we couldn't stuff the interior with boxes because of the liability issue. You can track your car's progress across the ocean via Matson's web site. I don't know if online tracking is available on Pasha. It took about 3 weeks for the car to arrive. It was hard to get an accurate arrival date because they say your car might not get on the next ship out, depending upon how many other cars are being shipped, both from the mainland, and also from Honolulu. It was a happy day indeed when our car arrived. A company you may want to check out is American Auto Movers, especially if you don't live near the west coast. Another alternative is A1 Auto Transport.

Bringing Rover on Over - Hawaii's Pet Quarantine Laws
Give yourself at least 6 months to comply with Hawaii's strict quarantine laws. Up until June of 2003 Hawaii had a 30 day quarantine of all pets entering the state. Legislation was passed allowing what they call airport release - if all of Rover's paperwork is in place you can take your pet home with you from the airport. If not your pet has to stay at least 30 days in a certified kennel for rabies observation. I've blocked out from my mind most of the requirements so I can't tell you exactly what you need to do. Full information is available here.

Questions from some of our readers...

Update - January 19, 2013

"Hi there, or Aloha,

My name is Deborah, I think I have questions you mite not have had before. It's a different situation then yours as far as moving there to paradise. I visited there once for only 3 days at Waikiki, and that was enough for me. I have been wanting to move there for many years before I had ever been there, I thought it was a fantasy to ever go or live there. I'm very determined to live there, and I will live there. It's just taking care of the obstacles, that's going to take more then the average person who wants to move there. I'm a 50 yr old about to be empty nester, I have 3 grown kids. My youngest is about to finish high school and go into the Air Force. They know because of my health issues, the islands are the best climate for me. My doctor agrees strongly, it would be a way to get off my meds that are slowly killing me. So my biggest dilemma, is good old Money ! I'm on state disability here in Ca. So I have a lot of work ahead of me. I want to be able to buy not rent, and it seems there's a lot of kinds of assistance for disabled, low income etc. for some things. My goal is to move there within the next year, if not sooner. I need to find out about how to qualify for the home buying assistance programs there, through the HUD or section 8 programs. So I'm not sure if you have any info or know anyone with that kind of info ? It's a little harder doing the research from another state, but I will find a way. Before I go on any further, I didn't want to bombard you with all my info if you don't know anything about these type programs ? So please drop me a letter when you have a min, and let me know if there's any help you or someone you know can tell me where to start with this kind of situation. I love your page with all your info, I have it booked marked. So I can keep using it for references, and to get ahold of you.

I truly am forever greatfull for any help or leads you can direct me to help me to live a happy life like you."
--Deborah W.

Aloha Deborah,

I'm not familiar with the different public assistance programs in Hawaii, so I did some research and have included some links that should at least get you headed in the right direction.

Section 8 and Assisted Living
(I'm not sure if you want to live in Honolulu or an outer island. Honolulu is like any big city, while the Big Island is more rural and has a reputation as "The Healing Island". I've included links to both.)

Aging and Disability Resources

Family Programs

Here is a link for the Big Island assistance:

Good luck!

"School. We are planning a move to the Big Island in a couple years (I am a big planner...making sure that we have all our ducks in a row.). My big concern is schools. I know there are some decent private schools on the Big Island but what about public schools? From my research there is one good public school on the Hilo side and one on the Kona side in a district just inland and south of Kona. Am I wrong about this? Should I forget the Hawaii public schools and focus on private?

Any help as we get our lives together for this move would be appreciate.

Oh, our boys are six years old, FYI."
--Bart B.

Aloha Bart,

We don't have kids so this advice comes from information we have gathered from things we've read, and feedback from friends who do have kids in the public school system. The Hawaii public school system rates very low nationally. There have been stories written that local employers complain that kids who graduate aren't adequately equipped in the basics to be good employees. There may be some challenges with initial acceptance by the local kids of a student from the mainland. There is bullying, although I don't know how it is compared with other school districts.

If I had kids, and knowing what what I've heard, I would either home-school them or put them in private school. Two that I have heard good things about are Malamalama Waldorf School and St. Joseph School. Here are some good links to websites on private schools in Hawaii:

Here is a resource on Hawaii public schools:

Update - February 12, 2012

"Hi I wanted to ask you a few questions and would appreciate any feedback you have. I am a 25 year old single mom and my dream is to live in Hawaii (Hilo in particular). I want to move by the end of the year, and I am currently saving up enough to move, get a place, and have transportation money to get my son from daycare and to find a job. I want to have enough money for a cushion until I can get these things taken care of. I know it may sound hard and I do not know anyone from the island but I want to live there, that is all I can say. What should be my steps when moving there? How much should I save? And what is the best part of the island to live without having to gouge out my pockets for a place. I looked up some places and they were not too bad. So basically it will just be my son and I moving. I don't know where to start."
--Savannah P.

Hi Savanah,

With your spirit and desire to live in Hawaii, I am sure that one day it will happen.

The most challenging part of your scenario will be finding a job. Hawaii is very tourist dependent. While Hilo is less dependent on tourism, because of the economy, jobs are hard to come by. I would recommend that you apply for jobs before you make your move, that way if you are hired, you will have a better idea where to live so that you are close to work. There will be more jobs on Oahu, but the cost of living is much higher.

If you plan to save up money to live on while you look for a job, estimate $600/month for rent (although you should look at the local papers to get an idea how much rent is:< /a>) $100/month utilities, $300/month food. If you live in Hilo, you can get around by bus. So if you live frugally you could probably get by on $1000/month, just for the basics.

When you're ready to move, contact a property manager at a real estate office to help you find a place to live. They can help you get settled and make you rtransition much easier. My property manager is Tammy Medeiros at Orchid Isle Property Rentals:, and she is really nice.

It will be tough making the move and not knowing anyone. You won't have that support network of family and friends when you get there, so join a church or a canoe club and try to establish friendships as soon as you can. Maybe take some classes at the community college.

My last piece of advice is to take more money than you think you will need, because everything moves much slower in Hawaii (and costs more). Also, checkout the PunaWeb forum: They are happy to answer your questions, too.

Good luck!

Update - June 23, 2008
For all of our friends who have stayed with us at our vacation rentals and haven't heard yet, Vivienne and I are now in Denver, Colorado. I will be attending the University of Denver in the Fall, so we've relocated to Denver temporarily. We have turned our vacation rentals into long-term accommodations and turned over the daily management to Tammy at Prudential Orchid Isle Property Management (808.935.5422). Running our vacation rentals has been an incredible experience, and we have enjoyed visiting with everyone who has stayed with us. If you are interested in a long-term rental, please check this site for availability.

Update - March 13, 2007
We recently had a single professional woman arrange to stay in the Canoe House for a month. She had taken a job in Pahoa and had only arrived on the Big Island two weeks previously and was staying at another vacation rental. When she came to look at our rental she complained that the first place she stayed at wasn't described accurately on the web, and the house was infested with fleas! Our rental wasn't available for another week but she agreed to rent it at that time.

A day before she was supposed to move-in, she calls us from Massachusetts to cancel her reservations because she had moved back home. She was unhappy with her new job and her car was hit by a drunk driver and she couldn't take it anymore!

The point I want to make with this story is it is very crucial to have some sort of support network in place when you do something big like move to an island in the middle of the Pacific. We were there. When we moved we didn't have any friends or family here to help us. I imagine if this woman had stayed with us from her initial arrival to the Big Island, we could have acted as her support network and perhaps reassured her, been her friend and given her the support she needed. Her experience probably would have been totally different and she would still be living her dream in Hawaii.

"My husband and I have been thinking about moving to Hawaii. We live in Delaware and every winter I get to hate it more and more. We are 20 minutes from Philly and a couple of hours we're in NY, but the thing is we have no desire to go there. We are 2 hours from the Atlantic Ocean, but we drive 8 hours to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, because the over development in the lower DE counties have caused traffic nigthmares and major pollution to the waterways, not to mention the air. Right now we are renting a house, and we do want to buy, but if we buy here, we'll never leave. We also have two boys ages 8 and 11, so schools and a good community with kids is important to us. I guess I'm wondering if we can realistically attempt this move being here and not having any connections in HI?"
--Carla A.

Don't let the fact you don't know anyone in Hawaii prevent you from making your move. We moved here without knowing a soul, and we know other people who have done the same thing, so it is possible. Part of the reason we moved here was the quality of life, and it sounds like that may be an issue for you, too.

I know of a family that moved here, bought some land, and set up a tent to live while they made money to build a house. That's one extreme. A decent house on some land might be around $275,000. East Hawaii certainly has the most affordable housing in the islands. Unemployment is at 2.8%. If you or your husband have a business or would like to start one, you couldn't find a better place to relocate.

I know families that either home school their kids, send their kids to private school, or send their kids to public schools. The advantages of each are probably the same no matter where you live.

If you haven't been to Hawaii before I would recommend a trip to see if this place is for you. Things move much slower in Hawaii. The cost of living is higher. We don't have the variety of stores available here that you will find in Honolulu.

Everything has it's advantages and disadvantages. You need to carefully weigh the impact moving here will have on your lives. If the good outweighs the bad, then your shouldn't hesitate in moving here. It's a great place to live.

"Thank you so much for all of the great information. My main concern is my two little Chihuahua's. If I have all of their paperwork when we arrive in Honolulu, they will be directly released from the airport, avoiding the quarantine process all together? Then after the dogs have direct release from Honolulu, they are free to fly to The Big Island? Thank you so much for your time."
-- Ashley M.

When you arrive in Honolulu your pets will be taken to the quarantine area at the airport where their paperwork will be looked at and, as I recall, they will examine your pet's ears for mites. This is where you would pick them up. They should be available for release about 30 minutes after your plane lands. Once they are released they are free to travel anywhere in the Islands. You will need to check-in your pets again for the inter-island flight. I've heard you can use a carry-on kennel for small dogs and keep them on your lap during the flight. Check with Hawaiian or Aloha for more details.

"Hi! My name's Chelsea and my boyfriend David and I have recently been thinking about moving to Hawaii. Your website has been quite helpful; it's nice to know there are people out there willing to help people like us out!

My main concern about moving to Hawaii is finding a place to rent/live. Also, I understand that the cost of living is higher on the islands than it is here, in Oregon, but I don't really have a frame of reference. We would be living as modestly as possible, at least while we get settled. I guess my main questions for you would be: how much money do you think would be appropriate to have saved up before we move and how hard is it to find a rental. I think we would be looking at Oahu, since there's more business there... but I don't really know! I just really want to live in Hawaii! Thanks for your time."

We know how you feel about just wanting to live in Hawaii. Vivienne and I first visited Maui about 10 years ago and as we were leaving Vivienne said she wanted to live here some day. We visited each island and tried to imagine actually living there. We finally ended up on the Big Island near Hilo primarily because it was most affordable. Fortunately we also fell in love with the place so we've been very happy here.

Each island is different. I don't know which islands you've visited but before you make the big move you should visit each island and see which feels the best for you. It's true Oahu has the most jobs, but it is also the most expensive, housing-wise, both buying and renting. And I hear they have wicked rush hour traffic. Visit the online versions of the local papers and check out Houses to Rent and the Help Wanted sections. Oahu has The Star Bulletin. Locally we have the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

It probably wouldn't be very hard to find a rental. My main concern would be employment. If you or your boyfriend could find a job before you move out, that would be ideal. Check the Help Wanted ads and start sending out your resumes.

Good luck!

"Why did you choose the Big Island?"

The East side of the Big Island was the least touristy of all the islands we visited. Since we don't have any world-class beaches here, all the tourists flock to the Kailua-Kona area. That means we have the best of both worlds -- we live in a small community with that "small town" feel, yet we are only 2 hours away from all those beautiful beaches, and without all the traffic and congestion that a tourist area brings with it. Prices are still fair at the Farmers Market -- papayas are 7 for a dollar, pineapples are $2.50, $1 for a bunch of bannanas. Real estate is a still a bargain here, too. Hilo is what I imagine Hawaii was like 50 years ago.

Ever since we've moved here, we have always felt welcomed. The Aloha spirit is alive and well here.

"My Fiance`e and I are moving to Hawaii in about 1 year and a half. We are coming to visit in a few months to see what island we want to live on and wondered if there was something we could do to help us see the different islands and compare them before we move. Is there a tour trip or anything like that available? Also if we want to find a job before we actually move there where would we look? If you have any info you can send me or websites I can visit I would really appreciate it. Thanks for your time!"
-- Kristi F

I don't know of any tour groups that visit each island, but that's something you can easily arrange yourself. That's what we did before we moved here. Financially we found the East side of the Big Island to be the most affordable in terms of housing. You may want to look at housing costs to help you determine where to look. A Google search for MLS listings for each island should give you a place to start. Housing sales are a bit slow right now so you could probably get a good deal.

The most jobs are on Oahu, but you can check the job listings for our area in our local paper: Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

"We want to stay in Hilo at the beginning of our vacation (February) in one of your rental homes. Maybe you can recommend something for us in Kona for the last part of our vacation (10 days total). Thank you,"
-- Jeff and Kathy D

For your visit to Kona, it depends on your budget. We prefer the Kohala Coast. It's where all the nice beaches are and it's about 45 minutes from Kailua Kona. Our favorite hotel is the Mauna Kea. It's an older hotel but it feels like old Hawaii, and the beach is to die for. I think we paid a couple hundred a night. Kailua Kona is more touristy, but we like the Outrigger Keauhou Beach Resort, which is on the edge of Kailua Kona so it's easier to avoid traffic. It'll run you about half of what the Mauna Kea would.

February is a great time to come. It's our rainy season but don't let that stop you. The temps will be comfortable.

Here is a great article from Pacific Business News about the labour shortage on the Big Island. Great news if you plan to move here.

A great way to make friends and become a part of the community is to join an outrigger canoe club. We're members of Kamehameha Canoe Club, and we're always looking for new paddlers. It's a lot of fun and a great way to get in shape. No experience necessary.

If anyone has other questions you would like answered, please send us an email and we'll answer it here.

Darrell & Vivienne Houghton

Darrell & Vivienne Houghton