5 things to consider before moving to Hawaii

Moving to a tropical paradise with white sandy beaches, palm trees, and crystal clear blue water may sound alluring as a tourist visiting for a few days, but peel back some of the layers and there’s more to living in Hawaii than a permanent vacation. 

People relocate to new places for many reasons, whether it be for an employment opportunity, decreased cost of living or as simple as a change of scenery. If you are thinking about moving to get away from the chaos of the mainland, you may want to do some research about daily life and what to expect living there before moving over the Pacific. Here are five things to consider before making the decision to relocate to Hawaii.

Everything is imported

One might assume that living in a tropical paradise provides the local residents with an abundance of foods to eat and is available everywhere around the islands.  Surprisingly, this is not always the case. Hawaii’s agricultural needs are almost entirely dependent on food imports from the mainland and international sources. Hawaii’s biggest imports are beef, vegetables, fruit, and milk. 
Hawaii is the most expensive place to buy groceries in the nation, especially because products are shipped from the mainland. According to a 2019 report by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, Hawaii’s groceries are incredibly steep. The study used a national index of 100 and Hawaii ranked at 160.8, while comparatively California ranked at 117.9, Washington at 108.1 and Oregon at 114.7.

For example, a gallon of whole milk on Oahu can be $8.99 – the cheapest at Costco for $4.99 a gallon. Broccoli is at $3.79 a pound, bulk carrots at $1.59 a pound. And yes, while buying local is encouraged, the cost of Hawaii grown mangos are at about $6.99 a pound. Four rolls of toilet paper will be about $6.


If you’ve lived in cities like New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco, you might be prepared to deal with traffic in Honolulu, HI.  According to the 2019 TomTom Traffic Index, Honolulu ranks 9th on the list of the country’s most traffic-congested cities.  There are many ways to navigate around this issue though.  Honolulu is very congested if you are coming INTO town in the morning OUT of town in the afternoon. If you are going TO the North Shore from Waikiki you'll experience congestion getting to the freeway, but once you are away from Downtown and Pearl Harbor, traffic frees up considerably.


Hawaii thrives off the tourism industry and has an influx of visitors from all over the world throughout the year. Hawaii is a great place to meet other people, but like many of the visitors that come to the islands, they are there only for short duration of time. Getting used to that and overcoming this may be a challenge for some. According to Hawaii.gov, the average stay of the largest market in terms of visitors stayed an average of 9.28 days.  If you like change, then this might not be a bad thing. 


The job market in Hawaii tends to revolve around specific industries. These industries include tourism, healthcare, agricultural and the services industries. For example, if you specialize in accounting, those jobs are limited and competition for them is high.  Making sure that you have employment prior to moving is highly recommended if you’re in a specialty field. Researching the job outlook in your field will also help.  Finding decent employment these days is difficult no matter where you live, don’t let this deter you.

High Cost of Living

There are several factors that contribute to the high cost of living for the residents of the Hawaiian Islands. The combination of fuel prices, transportation, and real estate are the foundation of the higher cost of living in Hawaii.  

You can expect to pay as much as 30% more for items you find in Hawaii than you would if you purchased them on the mainland.   The median price of a single-family home on Oahu rose 13% in September 2020, compared to the same month a year ago, to hit a new all-time record of $880,000 while the median price of a condominium last month was unchanged at $430,000, according to a report by Honolulu real estate firm Locations. 

An example of a budget for a family of 4 living in a Single Family Home:
  • Mortgage - $2,900 per month
  • Groceries - $800 to $1,000 per month 
  • Electricity - $190 per month 
  • Transportation - $380 per month 
  • Dining out - $500 per month 
  • Property Taxes - $2,350 per year

Hawaii also has strict zoning restrictions that do not allow homes to be built in certain parts of the islands, in hopes to limit our footprint on the environment.  Consider living outside of the busiest parts of the island since housing will be cheaper like other metropolitan cities.


Ready for some good news? 

Hawaii’s average property tax rate is 0.35 percent, one of the lowest rates in the nation. Income tax rates range from 1.4 percent to 11 percent.
For retirees, Hawaii can be fairly appealing as the state exempts Social Security retirement benefits and public pension income from state taxes. It fully taxes income from private pensions and retirement savings accounts.
These are a few areas that should be considered when relocating to Hawaii. Consider factors that are most important to you and researching them will help you decide if a move to Hawaii is actually something you could manage and enjoy doing.