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Moving to Hawaii and Finding a Job…

Hawaii, where the grass is so much greener!

Hawaii, where the grass is so much greener!

I have a series of articles about moving to Hawaii so I’m always getting comments from people that are ready to make the jump from the mainland, or even from overseas to Hawaii and want advice on how to best go about moving to the Hawaiian islands. This article will cover some of the essentials about moving to and finding a job in Hawaii on one of the islands.

Moving to Hawaii requires a reality check on 2 issues that none of us escape…

1. Cost of living in Hawaii is probably much more expensive than where you live now.

2. Jobs are not that available. I’m talking about good jobs, jobs you want, jobs that you can find maybe in any other state in the nation. Jobs from which you can pick and choose.

The first point I’ll cover in other articles – Hawaii cost of living. It’s atrocious. It’s expected. You’re living in easily the most beautiful place in the USA – so, you’ll pay for it. How could you expect otherwise?

The second reality check involves JOBS. Job availability especially.

Someone wrote me recently and said she and her husband were thinking of moving to Maui. They didn’t have jobs yet. I thought – this deserves a whole post.

Finding a job on Oahu might be quite difficult if you’re looking for something specific. When I moved back in 2002 I knew I wanted a job working in the internet marketing area since that was my specialty. I knew I wanted to make $50K minimum, but hopefully $70K. I was willing to wait a year or so before making it to $70K. The online business world was going very strong at that point and I didn’t have trouble within 2 weeks of lining up a great position with a up-and-coming dotcom that was actually a front for a massive spam operation. Legal spam that is… permission-based email.

The jobs available in Hawaii are, of course, mostly based on tourism. I think the second biggest area might be for construction and manual labor. At least that’s how I see it. The available jobs are most often in these two areas. If you can work in either of those two industries you probably won’t have any trouble at all finding a job on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

That’s just Oahu. Oahu has over 1 million residents and there is some variety in the tourism area. You could even start your own unique tour business – but, that’s another post as well. Oahu is not that difficult to find jobs on – and, you’ll probably be fine if that’s where you want to live.

Now, on to the other islands…

I’ve spent a year plus on Maui – working as a Marketing Manager for a resort firm there. Maui is heavenly – it was a perfect match for me. Many people that visit Maui think the same thing. Maui is high on the list of those wanting to move to Hawaii – but few of you will have the resources you need in order to make it there.

In my case I started on Oahu and found what I thought might be the perfect job on Maui. It’s much easier to start on Oahu and transition to another island from there. Much easier because you are now “in Hawaii” and can interview for positions on other islands. As you probably know it’s very difficult to secure a position in Hawaii without first already living in Hawaii. A necessary catch-22 for most businesses looking to hire full-time staff. They want to meet you first. Go figure…

If you’re coming straight to one of the smaller (in population) islands – Big Island, Kauai, Maui, or god forbid Lanai or Molokai you’ll want to have your ducks order. Ducks meaning duckies. Cash savings. You’ll want to have a lot of reserves because the reality of moving to one of the smaller Hawaiian islands without a job is that you’re going to spend a lot of your cash reserves just on basic living expenses until you find a job.

Finding a job on Maui – if I just arrived there – would be quite difficult. I can do a hundred different jobs related to internet marketing – but, it’s quite possible that when I arrived – nobody is hiring.

If you have job skills in an area that doesn’t relate to tourism or construction or something that relates directly to positions needed in Hawaii – in Maui, or one of the other islands besides Oahu – you might have a REALLY tough time of finding a job.

Kauai would be worse than Maui. Molokai and Lanai would be virtually impossible.

Big Island – I’m not sure. There are two populations centers but in 2010 there were only 185,000 residents on Big Island.  Cost of living is cheaper than Oahu or Maui, but still – the number of job openings must be pretty weak. Especially during this time of economic flatline.

I’d welcome comments about Big Island and whether someone could fly from the mainland, set up an apartment and find a job quickly – in the tourism industry – or other industry. How easy would it be? Know anyone that did it?

So, to wrap it up I would say this about moving to Hawaii and finding a job…

Moving to Hawaii is a great idea. It might be the best idea you ever had. Moving to Hawaii is difficult and the expenses you’ll face, and the difficulty you may have in landing a job, are things you need to take into prolonged consideration. If it were me I would try desperately to find a couple of companies that are hiring for what I do before I moved. That way at least there’s a chance I could have a job quickly and not use all my savings as I ran all over the islands to find a job.

I’d not recommend moving directly to any other island except Oahu unless you have a serious stash of cash and you don’t mind blowing it.

Resources I would use to find jobs in Hawaii while still on the mainland:


I just created my best article ever about the subject here – 

How to Find a Job in Hawaii (click)


Want to Move to Hawaii?

Our newest book, “Moving to Hawaii – the Good, Bad, and Ugly” is available at Amazon and has been updated for 2014. Get it by clicking the book cover on the right side column –>

Best of Luck!


Learn more about Moving to, Living in, and Working in Hawaii:

Photo credit: NJScott, Flickr.com user – creative commons license.

About the author: Moving to Hawaii was one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done. I strongly encourage you to consider it if you’re in the financial position to do so. Living in Hawaii has a fair bit of both positive and negative experiences. Read some of the articles here and try to get a feel for whether you might thrive in the islands. Best of luck and life to you! Aloha!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Billy Funk

    Hello Vern,
    I purchased a home on the big island in 2012. I knew I would have a tough time finding a job because I’ve become too specialized. So for now I visit Hawaii 4 weeks each year and I am slowly getting rid of all my stuff on the mainland. I think the best solution will be to start my own business provided I can convince my wife to support me while I get it going. She is a nurse so I’m hoping when we are ready, she will have better luck at finding a job.

    • Helen Lima

      Hi Billy,

      I have the same ambition to move to Maui. I have never found a place more beautiful, EVER.

      I was wondering?? If you and your wife were to move to Maui,
      what type of business would you be looking into?

      Looking for something that would be a great business as well as making a decent living.
      Are you and your wife pet people? I see that the market for pet food and pet supplies is very limited. hmmmmm……
      Are you looking for a partner or ?

      All I know is that I will live in Maui, one way or the other! :)
      Wow, your wife is a nurse?? AWESOME! They have a Kaiser Permanente there.
      Anyway, just looking for people who share the same dream…

      Thanks so much,

  • Amos Carine

    Can you name a few companies that give tours through a park, or other jobs that involve being outside and making reduced pay?
    Best regards,
    Your youtube book overview was useful!

  • Chad

    I use to live in the big island for five years when I was young but now I want to still move back there but it will be hard to find a good job there. I don’t have to worry about where i live because I have my dad living there but when I move I don’t know what job will be open? The economy is very tough right now. Is there any chance to find a good job in Hawaii?
    Great advice

    • I think there is always a chance, but at the moment, it is probably not a great chance. You’ll have a tough time, just plan for that if you decide to go. Jobs are tough all over, and nobody owes you a job because you grew up on the Big Island. If you have any friends or relatives there now, it might be worth getting back in touch with them to see if they know anyone that wants a roommate for a while so you can check it out and see what the situation is. Does it make sense to move right now? That’s the big question. Good luck! Aloha!

  • Island girl

    I am going to start a new chapter in my life and very interested in moving to Hawaii. I would first like to get a job in place before I finally make my move. Is there any suggestions for a single mom of 4.

    • I don’t think…, no, I know, you cannot get a job before you move to the Hawaiian Islands. Almost nobody does it. If you have amazing skills in some area, someone might hire you out of pure desperation to find someone that can do the job. But, if your skills are not in great demand, you’ll never get a job before you arrive. A single mom of 4 had better have $50,000 in savings and a good bailout plan if moving to Hawaii falls through. Please think it through before you decide to move. Aloha!

  • johnny Davis

    thanking about moving to the big islands some one please let us know what the big island is all about i’m in constuction please e-mail me at J_2davis@yahoo.com i have a house lined up .

  • Would like my life in Hawaii and live and jobs

    • Yeah, wouldn’t we all Colin… wouldn’t we all…

  • my email id is prasannakumar_37@yahoo.com

    hope to seee posible answers so that i can know it

  • help on topic :

    i am from india, my girlfriend from philipines now relocated to hawaii, she is just turned 18. but as she is also not citizen of usa too still, i want to relocate to hawaii so that i cant loose her in life can somebody help me the ways how i can make this a success and live happily with her.

    can somebody have answers and help in this subject.

    • I haven’t the slightest idea what it takes for someone from India to move to Hawaii. Sorry!

  • Candace

    We are planning on moving to Oahu, thanks for the info. I was glad to see what you said about construction, thats the kind of job we need:.)

  • Maria B

    Hey! It’s almost like winning the lottery! Thanks for writing such a nice article in response to my post! :-)

    Put it this way – we have 2 toddlers. No way, no how, would we move to Hawaii without savings, at least one job lined up (for one of us parents), and a place to rent. We dream about moving to Hawaii and find a large portion of our free time surfing the net looking at everything Hawaii! We are learning a lot and will make a 10 or so day trip there prior to moving. Actually, our plan is to move there and NOT work for a couple months and just enjoy life and get to know the area. We will be moving debt free and I am the queen of weekly specials, roadside produce stands, and craigslist for home furnishings! We know not to blow money on silly things like going out to eat, spending $40 at the movie theatre, paying for parking when there is a free lot a block away, or spending excess on clothes and other meaningless items.

    We are from Ohio – lived there our whole lives. In 2007, I had been working from home for about 2 years and the company told me those days of emailing from my living room were over. However, I was offered a position in the office. Which just so happened to be in San Diego, California. I had always dreamed of moving to Cali, so we figured, aw what the heck? I cannot tell you how many people said.. oh the cost of living! the traffic! the hot weather! you name it.. we heard it. And guess what? We are just fine. Even better off than before we moved here! We established ourselves as a family unit and paid off well over $10k in debt. We live in a very nice 2br/2ba condo in a town just north of San Diego. Its great, just not our forever home. We are well aware of the expenses in Hawaii. I am also aware that the grocery stores have sales, just like they do here. And if ground meat is too expensive one week, and chicken is only $1.19 per pound – then the bird it is! I mean do you really think we need burgers again? I think not. What I am trying to say (which might spark another article idea for you!) is that if we are smart as Americans, we can live anywhere we want. We just need to be smart about the way we live and the choices we make. I Googled Maui grocery stores and just like the mainland stores, they post their weekly special flyer on their website. The prices were just about the same as they were here in California. We are used to high prices and nearly 9% sales tax. It’s California – we pay for everything. We call it the ‘weather tax.’ I am assuming its about the same in Hawaii.

    Anyways, I am rambling on and not asking any questions. Sorry about that! I am still wondering.. where is a good place to look for homes for rent – particularly in Maui?

    Another thing.. when I finish my Master’s it will be in Speech Pathology. All schools need them, and I am hoping that a school or nursing home in Maui is hiring as well. The pay is great. I will try to get hired at a company called EBS Healthcare (who employs my best friend and cousin) as they are a contractor and place SPs in places all over the country 0 including Hawaii.