Perfect golden beaches, balmy breezes, and lush greenery. You step out of your grass hut on the beach, meander to the shore and cast a net for a fish. Then you laze in a hammock under a palm tree. This is a mainlander’s view of the idyllic life in Hawaii. Real life in Hawaii is another matter. Like any other place, it has unique challenges.
The state of Hawaii is made up of 8 islands, Oahu (Honolulu is there-it’s also the “big city” of the state), Big Island (also called the Island of Hawaii), Lanai, Molokai, Kauai, Maui, Niihau and Kahoolawe. Niihau and Kahoolawe are prohibited to outsiders, so you will be moving to one of the other islands. Islands NOT Oahu are called “neighbor islands”. They are vastly different from one another, and all are isolated from the mainland of America by an expanse of Pacific Ocean. This is the first thing to consider. You will be far from family in the Lower 48 states.
You will probably be healthier once you move to Hawaii. The farmers markets have inexpensive fruits and vegetables in season. And you definitely will be eating less junk food, processed food, and meat-they are definitely more expensive. However, if you need a doctor, the general practitioner could be as far as an hour away. Specialists work mostly on Oahu, so care for a serious illness could require a few airplane flights.
Housing is a surprise. Homes comparable to those in the Midwestern US are to 2/3 more expensive. They are more basic, and probably do not have air conditioning or heat. In general, it’s not needed-just open or close the windows. Water and sewer may be very different. Some places have community wells and sewage treatment. But many others have catchments (for rainwater) and private sewage tanks. And do not expect a closed garage; a carport is more likely.
Even if you do buy the thatched hut on the beach, the beach does not belong to you. All beaches on Hawaii are public. Consider this a pro and con. You will not own a sandy shore, but neither does the movie star up the road. If you rent a small apartment in town, a gorgeous beach is just a short car ride, or walk, away.
You will need money for the necessities of life. It is best to take your job with you via a transfer, or telecommute. There are jobs in the tourism industry but they generally do not pay well. Most locals have 2 or more jobs.
Thankfully you won’t need much money for entertainment. The beaches and ocean are open 24/7. You can fish, surf, swim, kayak, do yoga, or just relax there. The parks system is nice with many activities. The libraries are good. Plus there are often outdoor free activities like movies, festivals, and concerts, sponsored by local communities.
The small communities that make up each island are the essence of Hawaii. Your ability to “make it” on the island depends on how you and the community get along. Relax and smile, relax and smile. The groceries will get rung up just as fast if you are pleasant, rather than if you pout. The members of the communities remember kindness. Conversely, snobbishness, possessiveness and impatience go a long way to keeping you and outsider for a long time. No other place I have been has been so appreciative of friendliness.
Hawaii is a place like no other. Living there can be a dream come true, if you keep your eyes open to the realities of life in this close-knit, isolated island chain.