20 Things To Know About Living In Hawaii

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

One of the questions I'm asked most is, "So what's it really like living in Hawaii?" Well before I begin I have to share the disclaimer that I can only speak from my own personal experience. With that said, I've lived on Maui for the past 16 years and moving here was one of the best decisions of my life. 

 But island living isn't for everyone, people frequently come and go for a variety of reasons. I'll share some of those reasons, plus plenty of reasons to love Hawaii and be proud of your island home! 

I attempted to write this post once before but originally wrote it from the perspective of reasons someone might move from Hawaii, since my plan is to move back to the mainland towards the end of the year. But it's equally important to share all the reasons to love living here. So I hope you'll find this post helpful whether you're coming or going from Hawaii.

10 Reasons Someone Might Move From Hawaii

1. High Cost Of Living

It costs a small fortune to survive in Hawaii, we pay more for just about everything, even the basic foods can be pricy. Everything costs more because it has to be shipped from the mainland, other islands or elsewhere. The housing market can be a struggle for many residents. Housing/rent prices continue to rise and it's getting more crowded but the housing supply is not growing. The supply and demand translates to landlords raising rents for even the smallest most basic studios, converted garages and ohanas. Currently we're renting a ~500 sq ft cottage for $1,100 plus utilities and water, translation: over $1500/mo. not including groceries and gas! 

2. Economic Opportunities

Many residents move from Hawaii for career opportunities and higher paying jobs. Hawaii (Maui especially) has a fragile tourist based economy. Although there are many jobs available in hospitality, restaurants, retail and commission based sales here, some careers simply don't exist here. Some are able to move to the islands and continue working for their same employer but this is rare. If you are considering moving to Hawaii, it's best to research job/business opportunities before arriving in the islands. Also consider, the pay here may be less than the mainland, even though we have a higher cost of living. Many people here must work multiple jobs to make ends meet.

3. Education Opportunities

Quite often residents choose to move from Hawaii to the mainland for education opportunities. There are universities, colleges and vocational schools on the islands but the high cost of living combined with tuition makes student life more challenging than mainland campuses.  While some do return to Hawaii after graduating, many stay on the mainland and build their careers.  

4. Island Fever

Like cabin fever, Island fever is a feeling that you are trapped. The isolation of being on a small remote island in the middle of the Pacific with no escape. 

Island Fever can also set in when you desire to have more happening in your life. Hawaii is truly beautiful! But there are a lot of other really beautiful parts of the world as well, spectacular places that leave you in awe! Places that inspire you and make you feel alive! There's a great big world out there and unlimited adventures awaiting. 

If you like being able to jump in your car and go for a drive, go on road trips, go to festivals, spontaneously travel on a whim, go away on a weekend trip, etc... You may be a future candidate for a case of island fever. 

5. Family

More often than not, people will try living out here for a year, or even a few years and end up moving back to the mainland to be near family. We see it pretty often, many of our friends from Maui have moved away to the mainland to be closer to family, kids, grandkids.

6. Vog

Vog (Volcanic Smog) has become my nemesis here. "What the heck is vog exactly?" you ask.

The Hawaiian island chain is formed by volcanoes.  Kilauea, an active volcano since 1983 has been releasing volcanic gases/sulfur dioxide. These volcanic gases are hazardous to everyones health. Although symptoms might not be experienced immediately, sensitivities can develop over prolonged exposure. Some symptoms of vog include: upper respiratory problems, asthma, intense allergies and other health problems. Generally our trade winds blow most of it out to sea, however that isn't always the case.  Sometimes there's not much of a breeze at all and the vog settles like a thick haze over the Big Island, Maui and even Oahu. Vog is especially bad during Kona winds, these SW/SSW winds carry the vog up the island chain. 

Vog never used to affect me much, but over the years I've developed some really intense allergies and upper respiratory irritation on vog days.

7. Weather

Surprising but true, not everyone loves tropical endless summers. Some residents, born and raised in Hawaii move away because they prefer to live in a cooler climate with changing seasons. However, living in the tropics was always a dream of mine and the weather is the main reason I moved to Maui. 

Here are a few pros and cons to consider before moving to the tropics: Intense tropical sun, two seasons summer (hot, humid) and winter (mild to hot, humid with rainstorms). Trade winds are wonderful but some days are dead still. Passing isolated rain showers regularly. High humidity, sweltering hot and sticky at times. Kona winds blowing vog up the island chain. Kona storms, flash floods, hurricane season, tsunami threats.

Even though I love hot climates. I admit the high humidity can drain your energy after awhile. I also miss waking up to a perfectly clear blue sky, as it's rare for us to have cloudless days.

8. Humid Environment

I feel it's necessary to go beyond the weather aspect of humidity and share a bit more. Everything grows in humid tropical environments, including fungus. 

Ever had "haole rot"? It's a fungal skin infection known as Tinea versicolor or Pityriasis versicolor, it makes your skin get white blotchy patches, or for some it's irritated pink/red blotchy patches. I used to swim in the ocean here almost everyday and would get "haole rot" reoccurring all the time. My skin was tan but with whitish oval/circular shape patches all over my upper back, shoulders and arms. It's pretty common in hot humid climates. It's hard to avoid "haole rot" if you love being in the sun and water in the tropics. But my best tip is to always rinse off immediately after being in the ocean. If you already have haole rot, you can try applying an antidandruff shampoo like Selsun Blue to the affected areas or go to your doctor and they'll prescribe an anti-fungal cream, that should clear it up.

Fungus, bacteria, staph infection, black mold, rust... It's all prevalent here in the tropics. If you have oily or acne prone skin (like me), it may worsen due to increased inflammation in the heat and humidity.

9. Touristy/Traffic

The good part is that the tourism industry helps create many of the jobs here. The downside to that is the islands are small and it can get over crowded and congested in a hurry. 

Also some visitors come with an arrogant attitude and rude driving habits. Some ignore "No trespassing" signs and climb over fences and gates, trespassing onto private property searching for a swimming hole they read about in a guidebook. Not recommended. Please be respectful, no matter where you go in the world. 

Traffic on Maui has increased quite a bit in the past few years. I try to avoid going anywhere during rush hour. Oahu residents have it much worse though, apparently Oahu ranks 2nd place for worst traffic in the nation, just behind L.A.

10. Other Things To Know About Living In Hawaii

These are FAQs that I hear often but happen worldwide and aren't typically reasons to move from Hawaii.

Crime- it's everywhere, even in "paradise". We have our share of criminals, property crimes, theft, car break-ins, burglaries, assaults, domestic violence, prostitutes, drug addicts, missing persons, homicides. Don't ever leave anything of value in your car, anywhere. Be aware of your surroundings, take precautions, and don't flash the opportunity in front of them. Most criminals are opportunists.

Drugs-  Similar to other places, Meth is a problem in Hawaii.

Discrimination- it exists everywhere around the world on some level, doesn't it? In my past 16 years here I've only had one minor experience many years ago, in one of my former workplaces. Beyond that I haven't found it to be an issue personally. If you have an easy-going, humble, down-to-earth personality, you should get along just fine here. My husband who is also light skinned has never experienced any problems on Maui. 

I've heard about discrimination on Oahu, but I've never lived there so I can't speak from experience. Regarding public schools, we're child-free ourselves but I've been told that mainland kids in public schools here can go through some rough treatment. It's typically recommended to research private school options, but again I can't speak from personal experience.

10 Reasons To Love Living In Hawaii

1. Weather

Tropical warm weather year-round! Hawaii temperatures are typically around 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit (about 26-30 Celsius) every day. An endless summer, usually accompanied by balmy trade winds. We enjoy an active outdoors lifestyle all year. Our shorts, slippahs and swimwear are everyday wardrobe staples. We have on average 276 days of annual sunshine and 95 days of rain in Kahului. Rainfall varies depending on your island and location (windward/leeward), all that sun and rain can make for lush landscapes. 

2. Outdoor Activities

Hawaii ocean water temperature averages 77 degrees in Winter, 82 degrees in Summer. Hawaii is a world class destination for surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing. Tropical climate allows for year round bodyboarding, skim-boarding, body surfing, swimming, skindiving, snorkeling, scuba diving. Warm tropical water also means no wetsuits! Or if your activity requires one, at least it'll be a thinner wetsuit! 

Jet skiing, parasailing, boating, sailing, sunset ocean cruises, swimming with sea turtles, suntanning on the beaches almost anytime... whale watching during the winter months!
We have a living coral reef ecosystem, approximately 410,000 acres surrounding Hawaii, that has more than 7,000 known marine plants and animals. More than 1,250 of those species are found only in Hawaii! 

Baseball, golf, football, soccer, disk-golf, running, hiking, biking, motorcycle riding, horseback riding... any outdoor activity is uninterrupted by bad weather.  If you're a beach lover or outdoors person, Hawaii is a great place to be!

3. The Simple Island Lifestyle

People here know how to enjoy the simple things in life and are less driven by the pursuit of materialistic things. Designer clothing on Maui means the newest board shorts or bikini. 

Everything happens at a slower pace here. Everyday life in Hawaii is generally relaxed, laid-back, easygoing... Casual dress is standard in the Islands- rubber slippers are worn almost everywhere. Business wear can be an Aloha shirt, chinos and loafers. It's extremely rare to see someone in a suit and tie and if you do, they are probably going to court. 
This may vary depending on the location or island but Maui is pretty down-to earth.

4 Fresh Tropical Fruit

As a vegan, being able to indulge in fresh tropical fruits everyday is a dream. Rambutan, lychee, dragon fruit, cherimoya, starfruit, ice cream bean, guava, lilikoi, longan, pineapple, mangoes, papaya, bananas, jackfruit, figs, avocado, star apple, loquat, soursop, citrus, coconut... Just to name a few! We have several farmers markets where you can buy locally grown produce at a much better value and fresher than grocery stores. 

Coffee lover? Hawaii is the only state that grows coffee! Kona coffee being renowned as some of the very best in the world. Maui also has its some of its own coffee growers and you can even meet the growers and roasters in person at local events.     

5. Tropical Island Scenery

We're surrounded by ocean views, white sandy beaches-rated many times as the best beaches in the world- kissed by ribbons of aquamarine water. There are massive cliffs, volcanic mountains cut by centuries of rainfall. Vivid blue skies, running into green pastures dotted with pine and eucalyptus trees. Palm trees swaying in the breeze, spectacular sunsets. No smog!

6. Friendly People

I love that we can take turns with our neighbors bringing each other produce we've grown -avocados, bananas, lilikoi, starfruit, papaya, etc... We all have something different growing and it's a great way to get to know your neighborhood. I've given potted plants to people and they come back to give me a potted plant they've been growing. People will let you merge in traffic and it's rare to hear car horns. For the most part people are friendly in the islands. We've found it pretty easy to make new friends here. Hawaii is a tight network and helping one another, out of the goodness of your heart is common here. I've always found a positive attitude can make all the difference no matter where you are, especially in Hawaii where you will run into/see the same people all the time. 

7. Culturally Diverse

Speaking of the friendly people, the Hawaiian Islands have a diverse demographic. People and languages from all over the world can be found here: Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Korea, China, Japan, Philippines, Brazil, Micronesia, Samoa, Tonga, Mexico, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK -and people from every state in Union. This fusion of cultures mash into making unique cuisine, music and art forms found only the Islands. Numerous types of musical innovation and talent comes out of Hawaii (the steel guitar was invented in Hawaii)! Hawaii's neighborhoods are as diverse as any metropolitan area, without the overcrowding of cities. 

8. Diverse Ecosystem

Hawaii has every major ecological zone, from hot and humid rainforests to the cold alpine desert. We have white sand beaches, black sand beaches, red sand beaches and even a green sand beach!  Lush rainforests with waterfalls hundreds of feet tall, fed from cold fresh water rivers and streams.  Bamboo forests so dense that the sun is virtually blocked out.  
Dormant and active volcanos. Hawaii is home to the tallest mountains in the world. When measured from the ocean floor, Mauna Kea is a whopping 33,000 ft, that's almost 4,000 ft taller than Mount Everest! It even snows on Haleakala, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa (though no where in Hawaii has ever dropped below zero!)
Rich fertile soils perfect for growing crops. Virtually unlimited fresh water supply from the ample rainfall. 

9. Gardening 

Thought you didn't have a green thumb? Try again! Gardening in Hawaii is fantastic, almost everything grows here year-round! As long as you remember to water it of course. The climate in Hawaii means you can grow your own herb garden, veggie garden, fruit trees, passionfruit vines, flower garden, epiphytes, bromeliads, air plants, orchids, even succulents and cactus (my personal favorites, they're just so gosh darn cute!)

10. Hawaii Lifts Your Spirits

The stunning beauty and climate of these Hawaiian Islands makes you feel such gratitude, peace and happiness. The warm sunshine and blue sky, birds singing, the lingering scent of plumeria trees, the sound of ocean waves with a soft summer breeze. It's good for the soul to find your calming place in the world. 
The pleasant scenery and climate with the friendly, smiling faces and slow pace will help you unwind and think about the things that matter most to you in life.

So whether you're considering moving to or from Hawaii, or just enjoy daydreaming about life on a tropical island... I hope you found this post helpful.

Aloha from Maui and mahalo for visiting my blog today!


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  1. Thank you for sharing...I found it insightful. Would love to visit someday. :-) Enjoy Arizona and I look forward to hearing your thoughts about your experience there sometime. -Rebecca

  2. Thank you for sharing...I found it insightful. Would love to visit someday. :-) Enjoy Arizona and I look forward to hearing your thoughts about your experience there sometime. -Rebecca

  3. This is a lovely post, wish I was lucky enough to be there for even a day! Also I am a massive fan of your DIYs and did a post about it. If you're interested, please give it a read.

    Sheena Sreekeessoon

  4. So happy for you and Michael coming to the mainland. May all you dream come true. Looking forward to seeing your journey. Peace and God bless you both.

  5. So happy for you and Michael coming to the mainland. May all you dream come true. Looking forward to seeing your journey. Peace and God bless you both.

  6. I love this post! We were just in Maui last week and after a year of watching your YouTube videos, we were able to experience so much more. We went to Costco, Maka foods (loved Paia), the swap meet and beaches that you recommended. It was so beautiful. Congrats on moving to Arizona...I'm in Colorado if you ever need any travel tips here, just holler. :) ~Wendy S.

  7. This is a very informativ post, thank you! I'm dreaming of visiting Hawaii for a long time now. And reading your post even makes it "worse" XD
    It's great to get information from people living there. So, again, thank you!

  8. i love the phrase 'child-free' lol.

  9. Hmmmmm very thorough & thought provoking! You know I've struggled with "move or don't move" for a while & you've presented very good food for thought!! Awesome post! Thank you!
    Karey in SD :))

  10. I visited Maui with family a couple years back and follow your crazy-good DIY'S on youtube. I just followed youtube onto your blog for the first time and had to comment...You write really well!!

    Incredibly insightful post - read every word!

  11. Nice article. I really like your blog! Here is nice company that offers cleaning service for houses http://www.mtb.fi/ Check it!

  12. That was a great read. Thank you. I would love to read your take on each of the Hawaiian islands -- how they compare and how they differ in terms of livability, just like you did with Maui. Thank you so much.

  13. I've always wanted to move to Hawaii I'm single but I feel like Im too attached to my city (Miami) we have a lot of diversity here but I always dreamt of just living in Hawaii in flip flops and shorts forever haha, thank you for your article it helps a lot to read articles like yours :)

  14. Hi there!

    I am from Malaysia. Your article reminds me of my sweet childhood memories. I used to live in Langkawi Island, located at the Northern part of Malaysia. Same story; beautiful beaches, friendly people etc. The only difference is that we don't have volcanoes or vog!