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With its beautiful beaches, relaxed atmosphere, and unique island culture, Hawaii is considered a dream destination to live and work by many. But figuring out how to land a job there can seem daunting.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Research the industries that are big in Hawaii like tourism, healthcare, the military, agriculture, and renewable energy. Leverage any connections you have. Be flexible with the type of work.

And highlight any Hawaii or island living experience on your resume.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to get a job in paradise, from popular industries to hire and ways to stand out as an ideal candidate.

Industries and Jobs in High Demand

Tourism and Hospitality

As an island state, Hawaii’s economy relies heavily on tourism and hospitality. Over 9 million visitors come to Hawaii each year, supporting over 200,000 tourism-related jobs. Popular positions include hotel staff, tour guides, chefs, servers, housekeepers, drivers, travel agents, and more.

The industry took a hit during the pandemic but is rebounding quickly as travelers return.


Healthcare is another major industry in Hawaii employing over 50,000 people. With an aging population and incoming tourists, demand remains high for nurses, physicians, technicians, home health aides, and administrative staff.

Shortages exist for certain specialties like primary care and mental health. Telehealth roles are also growing in popularity.

Military and Defense

The military drives around $8 billion into Hawaii’s economy annually. Major bases host over 42,000 active duty personnel with thousands more civilians and contractors. Key roles support operations, maintenance, construction, healthcare, administration, and more.

Defense contractors also have extensive operations on the islands.

Agriculture and Fishing

Although no longer Hawaii’s primary industry, agriculture and fishing still play vital roles. Around 7,000 farms produce fruits, vegetables, livestock, flowers, coffee, macadamia nuts, and more, aided by the tropical climate.

Commercial fishing brings in highly-prized tuna, mahi mahi, octopus, and shellfish. Related positions include crop growers and farm laborers, boat crew, processors, transporters, and aquaculture workers.

Renewable Energy

With abundant wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and ocean resources, Hawaii aims to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2045. The state estimates over 15,000 new energy jobs will be created in the coming years for solar installers, wind turbine technicians, project developers, construction laborers, engineers, researchers, and business roles as investments pour in.

Tips for Standing Out in the Hawaii Job Market

Emphasize Any Hawaii Experience

If you have any past experience living or working in Hawaii, be sure to highlight this prominently on your resume and cover letter. Many employers in Hawaii prefer candidates who are already familiar with the islands.

Mention specific places you have lived or worked and any cultural experience you have. This shows you likely understand aspects of Hawaiian culture like the importance of ohana (family) that are valued in workplaces.

Demonstrate Cultural Alignment

Understanding and aligning with Hawaiian culture is key for fitting into many Hawaii work environments. Do some research beforehand on Hawaiian values and customs. Explain how you plan to embrace concepts like kuleana (responsibility) and aloha spirit in your work.

Highlight any experiences you have with Hawaiian culture such as visits to luaus, learning Hawaiian words, or reading books/watching movies about Hawaii history.

Be Open-Minded and Adventurous

Many jobs in Hawaii cater to tourists and involve lots of social interaction. Personality goes a long way. Show your adventurous and outgoing side by highlighting past travel experiences and group activities. Use words like “flexible”, “adaptable” and “easygoing” to describe yourself.

Talk about how excited you are to learn about and participate in Hawaiian traditions from surfing to hula dancing.

Consider Temporary or Seasonal Work

Instead of only looking for year-round permanent jobs, broaden your search to temporary and seasonal roles as well. Hawaii’s economy thrives on tourism which fluctuates at different times of year. There are more opportunities during peak visitor seasons like summer and major holidays.

Mention you are willing to start with island-hopping short-term jobs to get your foot in the door while building local connections.

Leverage Local Connections

Getting referred for jobs by people you know on the islands can greatly boost your chances. Reach out to any existing contacts you have in Hawaii including friends, former colleagues, alumni from Hawaiian schools/colleges, etc.

Consider connecting with Hawaii-based professional associations as another networking channel. Referrals from locals carry a lot of weight and convey that others already consider you aligned with the culture.

Top Companies and Places to Find Hawaii Jobs

Major Hawaii Employers to Target

When looking for a job in Hawaii, it’s smart to target some of the major employers in the state. According to the State of Hawaii’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, some of the largest private sector employers include:

  • Hawaiian Airlines – Hawaii’s largest airline is always looking to fill various positions from flight attendants to mechanics.
  • The Queen’s Health Systems – This network of hospitals and clinics hires nurses, doctors, technicians, and administrative positions.
  • Starwood Hotels & Resorts – With many popular resorts in Hawaii, Starwood has openings ranging from housekeepers to managers.
  • Outrigger Hotels and Resorts – Similar to Starwood, this hotel chain has properties across the islands and regularly posts openings.
  • Matson Navigation Company – Matson ships transport goods between Hawaii and the mainland, so they need crew members with maritime experience.

Other major employers in Hawaii worth looking into are Hawaiian Electric Industries, Times Supermarkets, Hawaii Medical Service Association, First Hawaiian Bank, and Hawaii Pacific Health. Since tourism and healthcare are mainstays of Hawaii’s economy, those industries tend to have the most openings.

Best Job Boards and Resources

In addition to targeting specific companies, utilizing the top job search websites and resources can boost your chances of landing an awesome gig. Here are some great options:

  • HireNet Hawaii – This site, sponsored by the state government, lists thousands of jobs across all islands and industries.
  • Monster – The well-known job board has a useful Hawaii section you can search through.
  • SimplyHired – Browse entry-level jobs to executive roles on this site with handy filtering tools.
  • Craigslist Hawaii – Each island has a Craigslist site listing local classified ads and job postings.
  • Pacific Business News – Hawaii’s leading B2B publication lists openings at major companies.
  • Newspaper classifieds – Check the “help wanted” sections of Hawaii’s major newspapers.

Additionally, don’t forget to use your personal and professional connections to spread the word that you’re seeking a position in Hawaii. Sometimes opportunities arise through networking that aren’t formally advertised, so tap into your contacts.

With persistence and a positive attitude, you’ll be kicking back at a luau celebrating your new Hawaii job in no time!

Preparing for the Move to Hawaii

Have Realistic Expectations About Hawaii Living

Moving to Hawaii may sound like a dream come true, but it’s important to have realistic expectations about island living. The leisurely beach lifestyle portrayed in movies and TV shows doesn’t always match reality. Hawaii has a relatively slow pace of life, but making ends meet can be a challenge.

High costs, limited job opportunities, distance from family on the mainland, and island fever are common issues for new residents. Going in with eyes wide open will help you make the mental adjustment.

Factor in the High Cost of Living

Everything in Hawaii costs more – often a lot more. Housing, utilities, groceries, gas – expect to pay 20-80% over mainland prices. For example, a gallon of milk averages $6 in Hawaii vs $3 on the mainland.

And good luck finding an affordable rental – Honolulu rents are among the highest in the nation.

Making big money may not stretch as far either. Hawaii has a high state income tax that maxes out at 11% for top earners. Plus imported goods get hit with shipping and customs fees. Brace yourself and your wallet!

Prepare for Island Logistics and Isolation

Hawaii’s islands are remote, separated by the Pacific Ocean from each other and the mainland US. This means goods, resources, and people don’t flow freely between locations like on the mainland.

Island logistics take effort, planning and usually money. Want that special item from another island or the mainland? It may take days or weeks to ship and cost a premium. And leaving Hawaii can mean a 5+ hour flight to California or further.

This separation can also contribute to island fever over time. Friends, family, cultural opportunities are far away. Some handle the isolation just fine while others start to feel trapped or deprived after the initial honeymoon phase wears off.


While securing a job in an island paradise has definite appeal, successfully getting hired in Hawaii’s unique job market requires effort and strategic positioning.

By understanding the booming industries, highlighting your cultural fit and Hawaii experience, tapping into local connections, and embracing the island lifestyle, you can make your dreams of living and working in Hawaii come true.

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