Ultimate Guide to Moving to Hawaii from the Mainland

With everything Hawaii has to offer, it’s no surprise that many people dream of making the state their home. Still, moving to “Aloha State” has its challenges due to the high cost of living and the islands’ location.

With this guide, we’ll help you decide whether relocating to Hawaii is right for you. We’ll also help you choose an island and explain step-by-step how you can prepare for your move. 

Here’s what you need to know about moving to Hawaii from the mainland:

Hawaiian culture

Culture shock is expected when moving to any new state. But since Hawaii is separated from the continental United States by 2,471 miles of ocean, some differences in culture can be more pronounced.

First and foremost, respecting Hawaiian culture and learning the correct pronunciation of Hawaiian words is essential for fitting in as a transplant. A friendly smile and a little common courtesy are equally important. Native Hawaiians will expect you to show gratitude for everything by saying “thank you,” or “mahalo.”

Also, keep in mind that the Hawaiian lifestyle is relaxed and slow-paced. Even in the workplace, if you seem to be in a hurry, a coworker may remind you: “You’re on an island; where are you rushing to go?”

Island life

Speaking of being on an island, that claustrophobic feeling some people get when they feel trapped on an island is real. If you’re the type of person who enjoys spontaneously hopping in the car for an hours-long road trip, living in Hawaii may not be for you.

Also, be prepared to make do when stores regularly run out of staple items due to Hawaii being so isolated. Still, the breathtaking tropical beauty, warm weather, and laid-back lifestyle make the inconvenience of living on an island a worthwhile trade-off.

Job market

A large segment of the job market in Hawaii is tourism-related, including retail, and occasionally there are government and construction jobs available. Overall, Hawaii’s job market is limited and competitive, so if you’re looking for work, you may want to start sending out resumes now.

Cost of living

Hawaii has the highest cost of living of any U.S. state; however, this generalization may not affect you if you’re coming from an expensive city. For example, if you’re moving to Honolulu from San Francisco, you’ll be pleased to hear that Honolulu is a little more affordable.

Gas and groceries

Something to consider about living in Hawaii is the high cost of food. Because most of the food is imported, groceries cost a whopping 71% more than they do on the mainland. Other consumer goods are around 28% above mainland prices.

Fortunately, the money you’ll save on heating and air conditioning costs will help offset the high cost of groceries and other necessities. Gas prices in Hawaii are also above the national average, but with relatively short distances to drive, electric cars are increasingly popular there.


Hawaii has a progressive state income tax, meaning your taxes will be higher the more you earn. Unfortunately, Hawaii has one of the most exorbitant state income tax rates—second only to California. The good news for prospective homebuyers is that Hawaii has a surprisingly low property tax rate. In fact, property taxes are five times less in Oahu than they are in California!


If you’re coming from an upscale urban area on the mainland, the cost of renting a home in Hawaii probably won’t phase you. However, purchasing a home is another story unless you’re coming from an expensive city like Seattle, in which case the price of a home in Hawaii may seem like only a modest increase. You can visit Zillow for up-to-the-minute information on the housing market, and if you’re in the process of moving to Hawaii, secure a real estate agent who can give you the best idea of what your budget should be.

Other expenses

Insurance and healthcare costs are also higher than average in Hawaii. In general, you can expect everything else to cost at least 10% to 20% more than you would pay on the mainland.

Choosing an island

One of the first decisions you’ll make when moving to Hawaii is choosing an island. Most newcomers will move to one of the four main islands that have larger populations: Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and finally Hawaii “the Big Island.” 

While all of the islands provide miles of stunning coastline, each has its own unique draw. Here’s a brief overview of the main islands:

Moving to Oahu

The most popular Hawaiian island, Oahu, has a population surpassing one million. This island is home to the state’s capital, Honolulu, the central hub for flights into Hawaii. If you’re coming from a big city, moving to Honolulu will be less of a culture shock than moving to North Shore, which is about an hour commute from Honolulu and has a small-town feel.

People who live “in town,” meaning either in downtown Honolulu, Waikiki, Kaimuki, Pali, University, or even Manoa, are called “townies.” As a townie, you’ll have access to public transportation and other conveniences, making your transition easier. With plenty to do and see within driving distance, being a townie on Oahu provides the perfect mix of city life and idyllic beauty.

Moving to Maui

Maui is larger than Oahu but not as populated, with only about 150,000 residents. If you can find a job or work remotely, you might find your perfect home in Maui. Maui boasts a cool interior, in contrast to the iconic sunny beaches on the island’s west side.

Upcountry Maui has a more rural vibe than destinations like West Maui, Kihei, Wailuku, and Kahului. In Maui, you’ll have a wide variety of options from which to choose, both culturally and geographically. From idyllic waterfalls to daily cliff-jumping ceremonies, Maui has it all.

Moving to Kauai

Arguably the most beautiful island, Kauai offers a laid-back lifestyle, dramatically different from life on Oahu or even Maui. The population of Kauai is just over 73,000, with most of the island’s residents living on the coast. A highway follows the coastline, and the center of the island is largely undeveloped due to impassable terrain.

One of the main attractions in Kauai is Waimea Canyon, known as “the Grand Canyon of Hawaii.” As you hike up the incline, you’ll be joined by a flock of feral chickens, and you’ll be amazed at the agility of the fearless wild goats that bound along the canyon’s steep precipices. Admission is free to this natural wonder.

If you’re coming from a small town, you’ll feel right at home in the town of Lihue, which has a population of around 8,000. Lihue became the island’s center due to the sugar industry and is now home to the airport and everything else you might need, including plenty of shopping.

Moving to Hawaii, aka ‘The Big Island’

Hawaii is the largest island, and if you choose to live there, you’ll need a car. Among the Big Island’s must-see features are its black sand beaches frequented by hawksbill sea turtles and green sea turtles. The Big Island is also the location of the world’s most active volcano, Kilauea. The population of this massive island is well over 200,000.

If you’ve never been to the Big Island, be forewarned that the weather is extreme (think hurricanes), and its noisy coqui frogs and nocturnal bugs might keep you up at night. In addition, crime is a big problem on the island, so, as with any move, be sure to research your prospective neighborhood and visit it after dark.

The best time to move

The best time to move to Hawaii is between March and May, or from August to October, when fewer tourists visit. Because of this, flights, hotel accommodations, and even home rental rates are more affordable during those times. 

Whichever time of year you move, it’s best to get a three-month head start on the planning.

Moving to Hawaii checklist

Once you’ve found a place to live, it’s time to start thinking about the logistics of the move. Even though Hawaii is one of the 50 states, relocating there comes with many of the same challenges you’d face with an international move.[HM1]  Read on for a moving to Hawaii checklist:

1. Decide what to bring

One to three months before the move, it’s time to sort through your belongings and decide what to bring. Packing[HM2]  is time-consuming, so the earlier you start getting organized, the better. Alternatively, a moving crew can do the packing for you, but you still might want to downsize before the movers arrive.

When it comes to clothing, you won’t need as much. People dress more casually in Hawaii, and you won’t need heavy winter outerwear. Although the climate varies by location, most Hawaiians wear a jacket only about two days out of the year.

Some people wrongly assume that they should sell their car and most of their household goods before moving to Hawaii. Keep in mind that, although your vehicles and household goods have likely depreciated in value since your initial purchase, many of those items would still be expensive to replace. Be sure to get a moving quote and consider all of your options before making the drastic decision to start over completely.

Of course, you’ll carry your essential documents with you on the plane and pack some clothing in your luggage, but most people want to bring more than just the bare essentials.

2. Research and hire an overseas moving company

One of the most important decisions you’ll make logistically is hiring a reputable moving company. Many people aren’t aware that even though Hawaii is part of the United States, not all movers can relocate you there. You’ll likely need to work with an experienced overseas or international mover in order to safely move your home to Hawaii. 

Do the necessary research to make sure you’re working with a reputable overseas mover. An easy way to do this is to find out where the company’s main office is located and enter the company name and location on the Better Business Bureau website.

There are a few options for shipping household goods to Hawaii, and an experienced overseas moving company can do an in-person estimate and customize your move to fit your needs. 

The minimalist option is to mail several small boxes individually, but shipping containers are more cost-effective for moving oversized items or a large volume of items. These containers come in two sizes: 20 feet and 40 feet. There’s also a choice between a full container load or a less-than-container load. Experienced movers like Suddath will help determine whether you need a shipping container and, if so, which size and container load option is right for your budget.

Hiring a moving company to handle all the logistics of the move is called door-to-door service. In this scenario, the movers will come to your house, box up your belongings, and load them onto a truck before putting them onto a ship or air freight. Then, they’ll deliver your items to your new home on the other end. This inclusive option will reduce your workload, freeing you up to focus on other aspects of the move.

3. If you have pets, look into pet requirements in Hawaii

Moving to Hawaii with pets can be complicated due to its strict protocols about bringing domesticated animals to the islands. First of all, Hawaii is the only state in the union that’s rabies-free. Second, many exotic pets are prohibited due to Hawaii’s vulnerable ecosystem. Visit the animal quarantine page for specific regulations.

The key to a smooth transition for your pets is to plan in advance. For cats and dogs, gather their immunization records and purchase airline-approved pet carriers. Next, take them to the veterinarian for any additional required vaccinations and to make sure they are healthy enough to travel. The good news is that one of the specialty moving services Suddath offers is pet relocation, and we’d be happy to discuss this service with you during your free consultation.

4. Notify all parties involved

Once you’ve booked your movers and set a date for your big move, it’s time to contact the people and organizations that will be affected by your relocation. 

Here are some common ones to include:

  • Employer
  • Landlord/realtor
  • Utility companies
  • Bank and credit card companies
  • Insurance providers
  • U.S. Postal Service
  • Social Security Administration
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
  • Friends and family

Speaking of the post office, in some parts of Hawaii, particularly on the Big Island, there isn’t home delivery of mail, so in some cases, you’ll need to get on the waiting list for a post office (P.O.) box. The good news is that United Parcel Service (UPS) and FedEx often deliver to areas that don’t have mail service.

5. Prepare for moving day

Confirm your flight a couple of weeks in advance and schedule the movers for at least a day before you leave. It can take all day for the moving crew to wrap and load up your stuff, so you won’t want to cut it too close. When the movers arrive, review your inventory and the fine print of your moving documents before signing them. Explore more moving day headaches to avoid here.

6. Get established in your new state

Any time you change states, you’ll need to transfer your driver’s license over, but when you move to Hawaii, you’ll want to complete this task as soon as possible. In Hawaii, you can get discounts at certain businesses from having a Hawaiian driver’s license.

You’ll also want to set up a Hawaiian bank account if you do some of your banking in person, since your bank probably doesn’t have a local branch in Hawaii. Getting established in a new home can be exhausting, so be sure to take time to relax and enjoy your new surroundings.

Final thoughts

Moving to Hawaii from the mainland is a significant undertaking, but your journey to paradise will be less stressful if you hire the right movers. Suddath is a large moving company with extensive experience in overseas moving and logistics, making us the best choice for shipping your household goods to Hawaii. If you’re considering a move to the Hawaiian islands. Contact us[HM3]  for expert advice and a free moving quote.


What are your best tips for moving to Hawaii from the mainland?

The two best tips we have for someone relocating to Hawaii are to donate or sell any unwanted items and to schedule your move as soon as possible. Downsizing before an overseas move will save you money, and movers get booked fast, especially during peak seasons. Also, shipping is more complicated these days due to ongoing supply chain issues.

Is shipping household goods to Hawaii expensive?

Although it’s not cheap, transporting your belongings to Hawaii from the mainland may be more affordable than you think. With so many choices to make about shipping methods, we encourage you to reach out[HM4]  for a free estimate based on your specific situation.

What are the main expenses for which I should budget when moving to Hawaii?

  • Real estate or property management costs related to your house on the mainland
  • Deposit on a rental property or a down payment on your new home in Hawaii
  • Moving costs for transporting your belongings to your new home
  • Travel costs for you and your family members, including pets
  • Startup fees for utilities and other services
  • Higher cost of living in Hawaii, especially the cost of food