The thought of moving to Hawaii can be lustful and seductive like a new lover.  Thoughts of the Hawaiian Islands can conjure images of beach, bathing suits, gorgeous sites and a weather paradise.  The body and mind start to heal and feel relaxed, especially if you’re coming from a cold environment to start with. 

All of that being said, there are a lot of differences between “going to Hawaii” and “moving to Hawaii”.  Whether you’re moving for business or to a final retirement dreamland, you need to get in the right frame of mind and know what to expect.

Living in Hawaii

Before and During your Move to Hawaii (Checklist)

1.  Remind everyone that you’re moving not visiting Hawaii.  This isn’t a Vacation

If you’re moving alone than this might be a little easier to accomplish.  Maybe not.  If you’re moving to Hawaii with a family, though, it’s best to put everyone in this mind set before you arrive on the Islands.  Hawaii is expensive.  Hawaii is “small”, even the “big island” is only 75 miles wide. 

  • Tip:  There will be plenty of time to see everything. 
  • Tip:  Don’t spend money like a tourist.
  • As a matter of fact, learn the touristy places, visit them once to get it out of your system and try not to go back to often.

2.  Learn to go a little lighter and smaller on everything. 

Everything in Hawaii is a lot smaller.  And more expensive.  Real estate is a valuable commodity.  Native Hawaiians are trying their hardest to keep “the country” as “the country” and as well they should…it’s beautiful land that should be preserved. 

  • Down-size your household even if you’re on a generous budget.  You’ll find living quarters to be smaller.
  • If you MUST come to the islands with a car try to make that car as compact as your needs will allow.  Parking is hard to come by and expensive.  Gas is very expensive.  (Averaging $4 per gallon on Oahu as of this writing.)
  • Food is more expensive.  $6 gallons of milk and an average entrée at even chain restaurants can go for around $20.

3.  Chill out.Turtle Ko Olina lagoonCredit: Best of Oahu

This was a very hard thing for me to do.  I’m from the northeast where everything is a little bit quicker and more intense.  Island living isn’t like that and it’s not the place to come if you can’t control your patience threshold.  Chill, brah’!

4,  Read about Hawaiian history.

I’m not saying that you should come to the Islands as an expert, but do at least a little reading on Hawaiian history.  Most people who visit the islands (Americans, especially) are vaguely familiar with the World War II incident of Pearl Harbor.  It will do you a lot of good if you come with at least a minor understanding of the history of the Hawaiian Islands and the people.    

5.  See all of Hawaii.  There is so much more than Waikiki.

This goes back to my “keep the tourist in you to a minimum”.  I’m not saying that you should not go out and see everything that you can on all of the islands.  I recommend it highly, as a matter of fact.  What this is about is learning that there is so much more to the islands than Waikiki (expensive, tourist trap) and every service that offers paradise in a three-hour tour of snorkeling or kayaking.  In fact, snorkeling off of Hawaiian beaches can easily be done with the purchase of some decent snorkeling gear and a little reading about safety and locale without spending big bucks for a serviced “tour” and lessons. 

6.  It’s our Country, but it’s their Island.  Respect that. 

Yes, if you’re a citizen of the United States, then Hawaii is part of your country.  Don’t get it twisted, though.  The native Hawaiians are a proud people and very possessive of their land and keeping its natural state and beauty intact.  You need to understand that and that they have every right to feel that way.  The people are friendly and love to share the beauty of their homeland with everyone.   Just make sure that you respect the land, wildlife and the people.

7.  Get a good smartphone with a good camera.  Navigation and Google are big.

Ko Olina Lagoons SunsetCredit: Gretchen Vaughan via iPhone

These are just some basic needs that will keep you with the times and for your convenience.  The need for awkward paper maps and expensive cameras are no longer needed, especially with new “water proof” smart phone technology.  Get a good smartphone with at least Google Navigation and  a good camera.  You’ll soon find out how convenient they really are.

8.  Realize where you are.  Yes, the U.S. , but still so far away from the mainland.

This was one thing that I needed to get the family to understand.  Yes, this is the United States, but you are FAR away from the mainland.  Sure, the West Coast isn’t TOO far away but it’s still a good little plane ride.  If you’re from the east coast like we are, then make sure the kids understand that traveling back and forth to relatives and friends and the holidays may not be a viable possibility anymore.

9.  Learn to swim and teach/know water safety.

And last but not least:  You’re on an island.  You’re surrounded by water.  Much of the islands’ beauty will require that you’re at least a little comfortable with being in or on the ocean.  Some attractions and sights will require that you’re a strong swimmer.  Learn to swim and learn water safety.  It will greatly increase your enjoyment of the Hawaiian Islands and give you peace of mind while doing so.

Additional Reading

Moving To Hawaii: A Step-By-Step Guide
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(price as of Jun 14, 2014)