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Hawaii’s Big Island is famous for its stunning natural landscapes, moderate year-round climate, and aloha spirit. If you’re considering building a home in this island paradise, you’re in for an amazing experience. With proper planning and preparation, you can build your dream home in Hawaii.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Building a house in Hawaii’s Big Island requires researching zoning laws, hiring licensed contractors, obtaining permits, surveying the land, designing the home to withstand natural disasters, and budgeting extra costs for importing materials.

Understanding Zoning Laws and Regulations

When it comes to building your dream home in Hawaii’s Big Island, understanding the zoning laws and regulations is crucial. These laws determine what can and cannot be done with a specific piece of land, ensuring that the area is developed in a safe and controlled manner. Here are some key points to consider:

Research county zoning restrictions

Each county in Hawaii’s Big Island has its own set of zoning restrictions. It is important to thoroughly research the zoning regulations of the county where you plan to build your dream home. This will help you understand what types of structures are permitted, the size and height limitations, setback requirements, and any other specific rules that may apply. You can find this information on the official website of the county’s planning department or by reaching out to them directly.

Look into subdivision requirements

If you are considering purchasing a plot of land within a subdivision, it is essential to understand the subdivision requirements. Subdivisions may have additional restrictions, such as architectural guidelines, mandatory homeowners’ associations, and specific development plans. These requirements vary from one subdivision to another, so make sure to carefully review the subdivision’s bylaws and regulations. This will help ensure that your dream home aligns with the overall vision of the community.

Consider conservation districts

Hawaii’s Big Island is known for its stunning natural beauty and unique ecosystems. As a result, there are certain areas designated as conservation districts, which have additional regulations to protect the environment. If your dream home is located within a conservation district, you may need to obtain special permits or comply with specific building codes to ensure minimal impact on the surrounding environment. It is important to familiarize yourself with these regulations and consult with experts if necessary.

By understanding and complying with zoning laws and regulations, you can navigate the process of building your dream home in Hawaii’s Big Island smoothly. Remember to do thorough research, reach out to the appropriate authorities, and consult with professionals when needed. Building your dream home should be an exciting and rewarding experience, and adhering to zoning laws will help ensure that your vision aligns with the local regulations.

Hiring Reputable, Licensed Contractors

When it comes to building your dream home in Hawaii’s Big Island, one of the most important steps is hiring reputable, licensed contractors. Ensuring that the contractors you hire are qualified and trustworthy can make all the difference in the success of your project. Here are some key steps to take when hiring contractors:

Verify licenses and insurance

Before hiring any contractor, it is crucial to verify their licenses and insurance. This step helps protect you from potential liabilities and ensures that the contractor meets the necessary requirements to carry out the work. You can check the licenses of contractors in Hawaii through the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs website. Additionally, confirming that they have liability insurance and workers’ compensation coverage will give you peace of mind knowing that you are protected in case of any accidents or damages during the construction process.

Check references and reviews

Another important step is to check references and reviews of the contractors you are considering. Request references from past clients and take the time to contact them to inquire about their experience working with the contractor. You can also search online for reviews and testimonials from previous clients. This will give you a good idea of the contractor’s reputation and the quality of their work. Remember, a reputable contractor should have a strong track record and positive feedback from satisfied customers.

Get multiple quotes

Obtaining multiple quotes from different contractors is essential for finding the best fit for your project. It allows you to compare prices, services, and timelines. Remember to provide each contractor with the same set of plans and specifications so that you can make accurate comparisons. Keep in mind that the lowest price may not always be the best option. Consider the contractor’s experience, expertise, and reputation, in addition to the cost. Take the time to evaluate the quotes and ask questions about any discrepancies or variations in pricing.

By following these steps and taking the time to hire reputable, licensed contractors, you will be one step closer to building your dream home in Hawaii’s Big Island. Remember, investing in quality contractors is an investment in the success and satisfaction of your project.

Obtaining Permits

Grading and grubbing permits

Before you begin construction on your dream home in Hawaii’s Big Island, it is essential to obtain the necessary permits. One of the first permits you will need is the grading and grubbing permit. This permit allows you to prepare the building site by clearing vegetation, grading the land, and removing any debris. It ensures that the site is suitable for construction and meets the environmental regulations set by the local authorities.

To obtain the grading and grubbing permit, you will need to submit an application to the appropriate government agency. The application will require detailed information about the project, including the scope of work, site plans, and environmental impact assessment. It is important to provide accurate and complete information to avoid any delays in the permit approval process.

Once you have obtained the grading and grubbing permit, you can proceed with the site preparation activities. It is crucial to follow the permit conditions and any environmental protection measures outlined in the approval. This ensures that you are building your dream home while minimizing any negative impact on the surrounding environment.

Building permits

After completing the site preparation, the next step in building your dream home is obtaining the building permit. This permit is required for the construction of the actual structure and ensures that it complies with the local building codes and regulations.

To obtain the building permit, you will need to submit a detailed set of construction plans to the building department. These plans should include architectural drawings, structural engineering calculations, and specifications for materials and finishes. The building department will review the plans to ensure compliance with safety standards and zoning regulations.

It is essential to work closely with an architect or a licensed contractor during the permit application process. They can help you prepare the necessary documents and navigate the complexities of the building code requirements. By working with professionals, you can ensure that your dream home meets all the necessary standards and regulations.

Electrical, plumbing permits

In addition to the building permit, you will also need to obtain permits for electrical and plumbing work. These permits are necessary to ensure that the installation of electrical systems and plumbing fixtures in your home meets the safety standards and building code requirements.

To obtain the electrical and plumbing permits, you will need to submit detailed plans and specifications to the respective departments. These plans should include the layout of electrical circuits, location of outlets and switches, as well as the plumbing layout and fixture specifications.

It is important to hire licensed electricians and plumbers for this phase of the construction process. They will ensure that the electrical and plumbing systems are installed correctly and meet all the necessary requirements. By obtaining the necessary permits and working with professionals, you can have peace of mind knowing that your dream home is safe and built to code.

Surveying the Land

Before embarking on the journey of building your dream home in Hawaii’s Big Island, it is crucial to conduct a thorough survey of the land. This step is essential to ensure that your construction plans align with the unique characteristics of the property.

Topographic Survey

A topographic survey provides detailed information about the natural and man-made features of the land. It includes the elevation, contours, vegetation, water bodies, and existing structures. This survey is crucial in determining the best location for your home, considering factors such as slope, drainage, and optimal use of the available space. A topographic survey also helps to identify any potential challenges or limitations that may impact the construction process.

Geotechnical Survey

A geotechnical survey assesses the soil and rock conditions on the property. This survey is important to evaluate the stability and load-bearing capacity of the land. By analyzing soil samples and conducting tests, geotechnical engineers can determine the appropriate foundation design for your home. This information is vital to ensure the long-term stability and durability of your dream home.

Flood Zone Determination

Given the island’s proximity to the ocean, it is crucial to determine if the property is located in a flood zone. This information is obtained through a flood zone determination survey. Understanding the flood risk associated with the land is essential for proper planning and construction. It helps in designing appropriate drainage systems, elevating the structure, and obtaining the necessary insurance coverage. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides valuable resources and maps to identify flood zones in Hawaii. Their website,, is a reliable source to gather information and ensure compliance with local regulations.

By conducting these surveys, you can gather valuable information to make informed decisions throughout the construction process. Hiring professional surveyors and engineers specialized in land surveying is highly recommended to ensure accuracy and compliance with local regulations. Remember, a solid foundation built on a thorough survey is the key to building your dream home in Hawaii’s Big Island.

Home Design Considerations

Withstand high winds and seismic activity

When building your dream home in Hawaii’s Big Island, it is important to consider the region’s unique weather conditions, including high winds and seismic activity. To ensure the structural integrity of your home, it is recommended to work with architects and engineers who have experience in designing homes for such conditions. They will be able to incorporate features like reinforced concrete foundations, reinforced walls, and hurricane-resistant windows to withstand strong winds. Additionally, utilizing advanced construction techniques and materials can help increase the earthquake resistance of your home.

Elevate structure above flood level

Another important consideration when designing your dream home in Hawaii’s Big Island is the risk of flooding. The island is susceptible to heavy rainfall and occasional flooding, especially in low-lying areas. To minimize the risk of flood damage, it is advisable to elevate the structure above the flood level. This can be achieved by building on elevated platforms or using stilts to raise the home above the ground. Additionally, incorporating proper drainage systems and waterproofing measures can further protect your home from water damage.

Solar power systems

Hawaii’s Big Island is known for its abundant sunshine, making it an ideal location for harnessing solar energy. Consider incorporating solar power systems into your home design to reduce your reliance on traditional energy sources and lower your electricity bills. Solar panels can be installed on the roof or in the yard, and when coupled with battery storage systems, they can provide a reliable and sustainable source of power. Take advantage of the various state and federal incentives and rebates available for solar installations in Hawaii to make the transition to renewable energy even more affordable.

Outdoor living spaces

With the stunning natural beauty of Hawaii’s Big Island, it would be a shame not to take full advantage of the outdoor spaces. When designing your dream home, consider incorporating outdoor living spaces that allow you to enjoy the island’s pleasant climate and breathtaking views. This could include a spacious lanai or a rooftop deck where you can relax, entertain guests, and take in the surrounding scenery. Incorporating outdoor kitchens, fire pits, and comfortable seating areas can further enhance the outdoor living experience.

Budgeting Extra for Imports

When it comes to building your dream home in Hawaii’s Big Island, budgeting is key. One important aspect to consider is the cost of importing materials. Due to the high cost of living (COL) in Hawaii, construction materials tend to be more expensive compared to mainland prices. This is especially true for imported materials, as they often come with additional fees and transportation costs.

Hawaii has high COL

Hawaii consistently ranks among the highest cost of living states in the United States. This can be attributed to a variety of factors, including the remote location of the islands, limited land availability, and high demand for goods and services. As a result, everything from groceries to housing tends to be pricier in Hawaii compared to the mainland. It is important to keep this in mind when budgeting for your dream home.

Most materials must be shipped in

Another factor to consider when budgeting for your dream home in Hawaii is the fact that most construction materials need to be shipped in. Due to the limited availability of certain resources on the islands, such as timber and certain types of stone, these materials often need to be imported from the mainland or other countries. Importing materials not only adds to the overall cost but also introduces additional logistical challenges.

Factor in added transportation costs

Transporting materials to the Big Island of Hawaii can be a complex and costly process. The distance between the mainland and the island, as well as the need for specialized shipping methods, can result in higher transportation costs. Additionally, factors such as fuel prices and shipping regulations can further impact the final cost. It is important to factor in these added transportation costs when budgeting for your dream home in order to avoid any surprises along the way.

When considering the budget for your dream home in Hawaii’s Big Island, it is crucial to account for the higher cost of living, the need to import materials, and the added transportation costs. By doing so, you can ensure that you have a realistic budget in place and avoid any financial setbacks during the construction process.


Building a home in Hawaii’s Big Island takes careful planning, patience and a sizable budget, but the rewards are well worth it. With stunning ocean views, access to outdoor activities, and the laidback island lifestyle, you’ll be able to enjoy your custom-built tropical oasis for years to come. Just be sure to do your homework first and work with experienced local professionals during the process.

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