Save money on your next flight

Skyscanner is the world’s leading flight search engine, helping you find the cheapest flights to destinations all over the world.

With its sunny beaches, lush rainforests, and vibrant culture, moving to Hawaii is a dream for many. If you’ve ever considered making this paradise your new home, you probably have questions about what island life is really like.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Living in Hawaii takes some adjustment but offers incredible natural beauty, outdoor activities, and a relaxing lifestyle if you can afford the high cost of living.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know before relocating to Hawaii, from choosing an island to jobs, housing, lifestyle considerations, and tips from locals.

Deciding Which Hawaiian Island is Best For You


Oahu is the most popular Hawaiian island for visitors due to the state capital and largest city Honolulu located here. It offers a vibrant urban city experience combined with amazing natural sights. Famous Waikiki Beach draws crowds wanting to experience the turquoise blue waters.

Subsequently, Oahu tends to attract more tourism. For those seeking less crowded island adventures, the North Shore has fantastic surfing spots like Pipeline and Sunset Beach that only experts frequent.

Additionally, outdoor lovers will find exhilarating hikes with stunning ridge line views like the Diamond Head crater rim trail.


Many consider Maui the best island in Hawaii thanks to its incredible diversity. It contains fantastic beaches, the towering Haleakala volcano, lush rainforests like the Road to Hana, and charming small towns.

particularly, the consistently sunny weather in resort areas like Wailea and Kaanapali makes Maui an excellent choice for relaxation. Clearly, the island caters well to adventurers and leisure travelers alike.

For example, visitors can spend a day snorkeling with sea turtles off the island’s southern shores before watching an authentic hula dance performance at Old Lahaina Luau that evening. It’s truly one-of-a-kind!


Kauai rightly earns the nickname “The Garden Island” for its exceptionally green, tropical landscapes. Specifically, over 90 movies and TV shows like Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean have filmed here.

Surely, the island’s dramatic cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and sculpted mountains look like movie sets! Furthermore, Kauai contains the wettest spot on Earth, Mount Waialeale, averaging over 450 inches of rain per year.

Subsequently, this tropical moisture sustains Kauai’s lush flora across 90% of its land area. For nature lovers and adventure seekers, hiking or kayaking along the spectacular Napali Coast is an absolute must. Without question, Kauai offers unrivaled outdoor experiences among the islands.

Big Island of Hawaii

Appropriately called Hawaii’s “Big Island”, this island contains 11 out of the world’s 13 climate zones making it extremely ecologically diverse. Moreover, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park protects the Mauna Loa and Kilauea volcanos, considered two of Earth’s most active, affording incredible sights like lava flows meet ocean displays.

Accordingly, Big Island appeals greatly to nature and geology enthusiasts. But make no mistake, there are stunning beaches here too like Hapuna widely considered one of Hawaii’s finest. For travelers longing to witness volcanic terrain up close or longing for an authentic Hawaii experience away from bustling tourism, Big Island is likely the best fit.

Island Best For
Oahu Urban city life, famous Waikiki Beach, beginner and pro surfers
Maui Beaches, eco-adventures, historic towns, something for everyone
Kauai Dramatic natural scenery, lush “Garden Island” landscape
Big Island Volcano terrain, ecology diversity, authentic Hawaii away from crowds

Finding a Place to Live in Hawaii

Popular Neighborhoods

Some of the most popular neighborhoods in Hawaii to live in are Waikiki, Kailua, Hawaii Kai, Kaneohe, and Mililani. Waikiki is a vibrant tourist hub located on the south shore of Oahu. It features high-rise hotels and condos, stunning beaches, great shopping and dining, and convenient public transportation.

Kailua is a more laidback beach town on the windward coast of Oahu, with charming boutiques and restaurants. Hawaii Kai offers beautiful ocean views and a marina on the southeast shore of Oahu. Kaneohe on the windward side is appreciated for its quiet suburban feel and proximity to both beaches and mountains.

Mililani on central Oahu is an affordable planned community with new homes, parks, and shopping centers.

Renting vs. Buying Property

The decision to rent or buy a home in Hawaii depends on factors like budget, lifestyle needs, and plans to stay long-term. Renting provides more flexibility if you may not stay more than 2-3 years. Rentals tend to be easier to find and often cost less per month than mortgage payments.

However, buying a home allows you to invest in your own property. The median listing price for a home in Hawaii is around $899,000 (according to Zillow), but condos can be found for under $500k. With interest rates still relatively low, buying can make more financial sense if planning to live in Hawaii long-term.

Affordable Housing Options

For those seeking affordable housing in Hawaii, good options exist:

  • Opt for a condo instead of a single-family home
  • Consider outskirts neighborhoods like Ewa Beach and Kapolei which offer new homes at lower prices
  • Look for income-restricted affordable housing through programs like HUD and Hawaii Housing Finance
  • Rent an ohana unit, a smaller second living space on a single-family lot

Finding an affordable place to live in paradise takes some persistence, but creative solutions do exist in Hawaii for every budget!

Getting a Job and Making Ends Meet

Hawaii’s Job Market

Hawaii’s job market is dominated by industries like tourism, healthcare, defense, and agriculture. The unemployment rate is around 2.5% as of late 2022, indicating a tight labor market where jobs are plentiful.

The tourism industry employs about 20% of Hawaii’s workforce. Hotels, restaurants, tours, cruises, and activities are always looking to hire waiters, housekeepers, drivers, guides, and more. Healthcare jobs are also quite abundant as Hawaii faces a growing aging population needing care.

For those with specialized skills, jobs in defense (with the military bases), engineering, tech, and sciences are available too. And Hawaii’s year-round growing season supports agriculture and related processing jobs.

High Cost of Living Considerations

Hawaii is infamously expensive, with Honolulu ranked as the 3rd most expensive US city as of 2022. Housing, utilities, groceries, dining out, gas, and other basics all cost more compared to the mainland US due to import costs.

For instance, a gallon of milk in Hawaii costs $5-6 versus $3-4 on the mainland. And monthly rents average around $1,800 for a studio and $2,500 for a one-bedroom in Honolulu. So those moving to Hawaii should account for a 30-50% higher overall cost of living.

The good news is Hawaii residents earn about 10% higher incomes on average to help offset the increased prices. But it still takes careful budgeting and lifestyle adjustments to comfortably afford living in paradise.

Building Your Professional Network

As a small, remote state, personal connections are very valuable for finding jobs and advancing careers in Hawaii. Many open positions are filled by internal referrals before ever getting posted.

So getting involved with industry associations, chambers of commerce, nonprofit boards, community organizations, and social groups is a great way to meet people and learn about unadvertised opportunities.

Hawaii’s culture emphasizes ohana, or family, so forming genuine bonds and relationships is the key. Offer help without expecting anything in return and contribute to the community. In time, your professional network will blossom to support your career aspirations.

Adjusting to Island Living

Outdoor Lifestyle

One of the best parts of living in Hawaii is the emphasis on an outdoor lifestyle. Locals embrace being outside and there are endless options for outdoor activities like hiking, surfing, paddle boarding, and snorkeling.

Hawaii has beautiful weather year-round, with average highs ranging from 80°F in the winter to 88°F in the summer (according to current records on Current Results). Taking advantage of the tropical climate by spending time outdoors is key to adjusting to island living.

On the islands, you’ll find residents wearing flip flops rather than closed-toe shoes. Lightweight, breathable clothing is standard. And locals know to always have sun protection like hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen on hand.

Being prepared to be outside will help make adjustment to Hawaii’s casual outdoor lifestyle smoother.

Hawaiian Culture and Customs

The uniquely Hawaiian culture is an essential part of daily island living. Traditions, customs, values, language, arts, history, and beliefs all shape Hawaii’s distinctive cultural identity. Taking the time to learn about and understand Hawaiian culture will ease your transition.

For instance, locals use “‘ohana” to refer to extended families. Acts of generosity and sharing food with others known as “kokua” are integral. And there is deep respect for elders known as “kupuna”. Learning commonly used Hawaiian words and familiarizing yourself with long-held Hawaiian values shows appreciation for the islands’ heritage.

You’ll also discover arts like hula dances tell stories of the land and people. Annual cultural events honor history and offer immersive ways to embrace Hawaiian traditions. And you’ll likely receive a fragrant, vibrant flower lei welcome at special gatherings.

Making Friends and Meeting People

While island locals tend to value family and established social circles, living in Hawaii also fosters open, friendly communities. Voluntourism opportunities allow you to give back while expanding your network.

Over 72,000 volunteers donated time across Hawaii last year, according to state records on Greeting neighbors, shopping at local markets instead of chains, and attending cultural events offer more chances to meet welcoming residents.

Outdoor activities like surfing, hiking in nature preserves, and potluck barbecues at the beach bring locals together to mingle. And Hawaii’s acclaimed “aloha spirit” creates an open, gracious atmosphere perfect for striking up conversations with new people.

Allowing relationships and friendships to develop naturally over common interests, pastimes, and community gatherings will enrich your island experience.

Tips from Locals on Making Hawaii Home

Best Beaches and Hiking Trails

When deciding where to settle down in Hawaii, proximity to breathtaking beaches and scenic hiking trails should be a top consideration. Locals recommend checking out Hanauma Bay on Oahu, known for its gentle waves, vibrant marine life, and picturesque setting.

For a more adventurous beach day, head over to the North Shore and marvel at the epic waves during surf season. Visiting any of the islands? Don’t miss out on snorkeling at Waianapanapa State Park on Maui, ranked as one of the most beautiful beaches in the U.S.

As for hiking, tackle the famous Diamond Head trail on Oahu to take in 360 degree views of Waikīkī and the Pacific Ocean below. Test your endurance climbing up Maui’s harrowing Haleakalā volcano or opt for a peaceful wilderness trek through Waimea Canyon on Kauai, nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”

Wherever your outdoor adventures take you, Hawaii’s natural splendor will leave you breathless.

Hidden Gems Tourists Don’t Know About

Though Hawaii sees over 10 million visitors per year, there are still some hidden gems around the islands that fly under the typical tourist’s radar. For instance, on Hawaii Island, few make the trek up to Pololū Valley on the North Kohala Coast featuring a secluded black sand beach flanked by lush green cliffs.

On Kauai, bypass crowded Hanalei and head to the Keʻe Beach boardwalk instead for unparalleled views of Napali Coast without the crowds.

As for Oahu, insider tip: meander through quaint neighborhoods like Kaimuki brimming with mom and pop shops or take an impromptu detour down unmarked roads in rural Waimanalo. You never know what hidden beach parks, fruit stands, or hole-in-the-wall restaurants you may chance upon!

Finally, Maui locals know to skip overrun Twin Falls and enjoy twice the beauty at Pālikea Falls in the West Maui Mountains instead. The enclosed waterfall flows into an enticing swimming hole perfect for whiling away an afternoon.

Insider Advice on Thriving in Hawaii

Deciding to make Hawaii your new home? Listen to advice from the locals. First, they recommend finding a place to live in an area reflecting the lifestyle you hope to lead rather than what tourists would choose. Want to surf epic waves? Consider Haleiwa or Pupukea on Oahu’s famed North Shore.

Prefer a slower pace surrounded by nature? Look into rural towns on the Big Island or charming Kapaʻa on Kauai.

Also, brace for island fever every now and then where one might temporarily feel bored or trapped. Locals suggest getting involved with community events, volunteering, learning traditional practices like lei-making or hula, or exploring a different island to regain perspective.

Finally, be patient adapting to Hawaii’s culture where everything moves at a slower pace. But rest assured – with aloha spirit and an open mind, Hawaii will soon feel like home.


While island fever can set in for some transplants, most who relocate to Hawaii find the slower pace of life rejuvenating. With prudent financial planning for the high costs, building community connections, and embracing the local lifestyle, you’ll be on your way to thriving in paradise.

Hawaii offers incredible natural wonders, welcoming culture, and endless opportunities for adventure. We hope this guide gave you a helpful overview on what it takes to live in Hawaii. Let the aloha spirit call you home to these beautiful islands.

Sharing is caring!

Similar Posts