12 Reasons You Should NOT Move to Hawaii!

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12 Reasons You Should NOT Move to Hawaii! 2017-10-13T17:59:14+00:00

12 Reasons You May NOT Want to Move to Hawaii

Here’s where we try to talk you out of paradise by telling you some major reasons you should not move to Hawaii. Typically, nearly everything we write about the islands is through a positive lens – we talk about the amazing, the awesome, the glowing aspects of living life in the Hawaiian Islands.


If you read fifty or so articles on our site, are you going to have an overly optimistic view of what life in Hawaii is all about and be surprised when you arrive and it isn’t like you expected?


Reason #1 you should not move to Hawaii: There’s a good chance you’ll be living at what feels like poverty

living at poverty levels is another reason to not move to Hawaii

Hawaii has a huge homeless problem

The “middle class” in Hawaii lives at what their mainland counterparts would consider poverty levels.  Many family work several jobs, live paycheck to paycheck, have substandard (by mainland comparison) housing conditions, very little expendable income and at any moment are living on the financial edge.

Put it simply, in Hawaii as of 2017 you need to be earning at least $150k a year to have what on the mainland can be had for $75k/yr. And if you have a larger family, you’ll need more and possibly a lot more income.

If you’re going to live in Hawaii, you need to be prepared to live a lifestyle of comparative poverty.  If you can stay here for the long term you can work your way up, but on day one be prepared to live a vastly downgraded lifestyle. Unless you’re already a multi-millionaire.

Reason #2 you should not move to Hawaii: One of the worst places to start a business

On various rankings, Hawaii nearly always comes at the bottom of the list in terms of starting a business. If you’ve dreamed owning a business, Hawaii is going to make it many, many times harder for you to succeed. It’s not impossible though as Hawaii has thousands of successful small family businesses.

It’s just that you will have a much, much harder time starting and running a business here than almost anywhere else.  If the business is in a regulated industry, you’ll have to deal with very long streams of red tape.  And once you get past that, you’ll need to build trust and respect in the community to get customers and that becomes a big catch-22:  You need customers to build trust and respect but you need trust and respect to get customers.

Reason #3 you should not move to Hawaii: Near the bottom in public education

Hawaii has one of the largest capacity (per-capita) of private schools in the nation and that’s because parents try to avoid Hawaii’s public schools if they can.  Hawaii’s public school system usually sits near the bottom of various national rankings.  In 2017 WalletHub ranked Hawaii #39 overall and #43 for “Quality”.

The problem with private schools is that due to high demand, it’s expensive.  In 2017 you can expect to pay around $15k/year per student.  If you have two children, you’re talking $30k/yr and that’s after taxes so about $45k-$50k/yr of your gross income will go to paying for private school.

So combine this with the $150k income to start and you’re up to $200k/yr in gross income. And we haven’t even talked about buying a house yet.

Reason #4 you should not move to Hawaii: Pay is below national averages despite much higher cost of living.

Because everyone wants to live here and is willing to work for less (admittedly this is just our guess and not a data research-backed conclusion), the result is that jobs here pay much less than their mainland counterparts. Expect a 20% cut in pay or more from what you’re making on the mainland.

So you really end up taking a double-hit: first you get hurt due to a much higher cost of living than nearly any other city and then you get whacked with a pay cut.

Many people from big mainland cities say that Honolulu’s cost of living is similar to where they live which is true, but when those people compare what they will be paid to do the same job in Honolulu they are understandably shocked by the pay cut.

Hawaii has the high costs of big mainland cities with pay scales of small isolated towns and that’s a double whammy that’s hard to swallow.

Reason #5 you should not move to Hawaii: First time home ownership nearly impossible

would you pay over a million for rainbows? some will but but many see it as another reason not to move to Hawaii

This was the view I was greeted by in the morning as I came out the door to head to work in Paia, Maui from our home in Honokowai (Kahana). Copyright Apornpradab Buasi.

In 2017 the median price of a single family home on Oahu was $712,000 and for a condo it was $415,000.  Do the math.  Unless you can put down $142,000 and carry a $570k mortgage for a home (and that’s a “median” home) or come up with $83,000 and carry a  $332k mortgage for a condo, fuggetaboutit.

So either you have to make a really high income with very little expenses or you have to already have a home that you can sell that has sufficient equity.

As a result of these sky-high prices, most middle class folks in Hawaii must rent and those rents go up every year due to ever-climbing real estate prices.

Reason #6 you should not move to Hawaii: Traffic is really bad

bad traffic is anothe reason not to move to Hawaii

Yes, even our Sunday morning drives are packed in!

Various national reports show Hawaii’s traffic as some of the nation’s worst.  We know of friends that moved to LA from Honolulu and they think Honolulu is worse.  The freeways look like parking lots during rush hours that can stretch a normally 30 minute commute into a two hour crawl. Every workday. On some parts of Oahu people have to get up at 5am to get to work by 8am. No lie.

What’s really bad about the traffic is that it’s extremely peaky.  If your travel time can flex from 30 minutes to 2 hours, what time do you leave the house to get into town by 10am?  Who knows?  This forces you to leave early and then you might arrive really early, on-time, or late.  This wastes a lot of time and makes one want to avoid driving whenever possible.

But wait, there’s more.  Here’s the real kicker:  because our mostly mountainous islands have few highways, most locations on the island are only accessible from a single highway.  When we get the occasional big highway accident, the entire island chokes on traffic. There have been some horror stories of people taking 8 hours to get home.  It doesn’t happen often but it does happen.

If you don’t like sitting in traffic, you’ll either need to live really close to where you work which typically means much higher housing costs or work near where you live which typically means much lower paying jobs.

Reason #7 you should not move to Hawaii: Fewer choices, less competition, poorer service, higher prices

Because of Hawaii’s disincentives, there is less competition for anything in our small, closed market.    Less competition is almost always bad for consumers and here it applies to much more than just high prices.  Companies just don’t have to try as hard to win your business, creating for many a “take it or leave it” approach. This lack of competition also permeates our politics: Hawaii is a single party state, featuring the lowest voter turnout in the nation.

This all contributes to an attitude of apathy for many.  For a while there was a popular bumper sticker “Ainokea!” (pronounced eye-no-kay-ah) which is local slang for “I no care”.

You would think our conditions would be ripe for change and consumer revolt, but in Hawaii our Aloha Spirit culture creates a shrug-and-bear-it type of attitude.

Reason #8 you should not move to Hawaii: You may not recover from the culture shock

If you’re caucasian (locally called “Haole” [How-lee]) and raised with traditional American / Western values you are almost guaranteed to be in for a huge culture shock.  While Hawaii is one of the United States of America, it’s about as far away from the USA culturally as is it geographically.   Consider this: Hawaii’s Statehood holiday (i.e. “celebrating” the day Hawaii became a state) is never celebrated (or even recognized!)  by elected officials at any level and is almost always met with protests by those who believe Hawaii was illegally overthrown and illegally annexed by the United States.

Once you get over the passive/aggressive anti-American attitude, you’ll then have to acclimate to a social culture which is founded on a beautiful Hawaiian value system of Aloha, acceptance, and ‘ohana (family) that combines with a strong Asian influence that brings with it an interesting mix of duty, honor, and extremely “click-ish” (not mouse clicks, but human) circle social circles.

Once you get past that, you’ll have to be forever comfortable that you’re the “low man on the totem pole” in terms of racial minorities. All in Hawaii are minorities but there is a pecking order.  Hawaiians are on the top of the heap, followed by other Polynesians, then Asians, and finally the Haoles.

In summary, if you can handle an anti-American closed society embracing pan-Pacific cultural values where haoles are the on the bottom of the social pecking order, you’ll do fine.  Most mainland haoles never get past this.  Those that do have have learned to embrace its benefits (the Aloha Spirit, the non-materialistic values, the beauty of racial diversity, and the Japanese “Samurai” code of honor) while not letting the downside bother them.

Reason #9 you should not move to Hawaii: You’ll always be an outsider

It doesn’t matter how well you’ve integrated with Hawaii’s culture; you’ll always be the “mainlander” and if you’re haole, even more so.  It won’t matter if you married “local”, have been Hanai’d (“ha-nigh”) by a local family (to Hanai is to adopt one into a family), had mixed-race children, have done countless good works for Hawaii and have lived here for most of your life. Too bad so sad you’re still a mainland haole.

Unlike the US mainland where you’re either  a New Yorker, Chicagoan, Californian, Georgian or whatevers, in Hawaii you will never be more than a Hawaii resident. The only people that will call you “Hawaiian” are those that are absolutely clueless.

What does this mean, really?  It means you will have to completely let go of your Western self and completely embrace your new Hawaiian islander self.  You must be like Lt. John Dunbar who comes in as an American soldier to a remote output and “turns injun”, becoming “Dances with Wolves” in an Native American Indian tribe and long longer speaks English or identifies by his American name.  If you can be Dances with Wolves, you’ll do fine. If you insist on remaining Lt. John Dunbar, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll need to leave.

Reason #10 you should not move to Hawaii: Everything is really expensive

If it costs money, it will cost a lot more than you’re used to paying.  Nothing here is cheap. Even locally produced goods cost a ton more.  One interview with a local cattle rancher revealed that it’s cheaper to ship calves from Hawaii to the mainland, raise them there, then ship them back for the slaughterhouse than it is to raise them on Hawaiian lands.

If you can’t buy it in the stores, you’ll have to ship it. Amazon’s free shipping has been a godsend for Hawaii (and you’ll love that Amazon Prime membership!) but not everything is on Amazon (at least yet) so for any special order items you’ll have to wait a long time and pay a whole lot of shipping costs. And even on Amazon, there are many items that only ship to the “Continental United States” which means Hawaii is out of luck.

Why are things so expensive here? It’s not because everything has to be shipped in, which it does, but rather a cocktail that consists of:

  • High real estate prices (which affects warehouse and retail costs)
  • High government overhead (taxes, regulations, etc)
  • Low competition
  • Higher than normal shipping costs due to the Jones Act which requires that all shipping from the US mainland arrives on US flagged ships.

Hawaiian islanders get used to it until they go to the mainland for a trip and only then realize the “Paradise Tax” that we have to pay.  Visitors to Hawaii need only take one trip to the grocery store or any restaurant to experience extreme sticker shock that us islanders have just come to accept.

Reason #11 you should not move to Hawaii: Everything is really crowded

traffic backs up for miles to a popular surf event is another reason not to move to Hawaii

Even with the bus system, Hawaii still gets some traffic days like these.

Anything in Hawaii that becomes even somewhat popular immediately becomes overcrowded.  This perhaps may be more acute on Oahu than the other islands but the underlying fundamentals are similar.  Find a good restaurant? You’ll have to wait for an hour. New product announcement? Lines around the block. Big concert in town? Sold out in an hour. Big shopping sale at the mall? You’ll never find parking. Big event anywhere? Traffic backed up for miles. Big surf event? You can’t get near the place.

This phenomenon is probably the result of a combination of these factors:

  • High population density
  • Little variety results in high demand for new things
  • Bored with status quo of things to do
  • Cultural acceptance of waiting in very long lines

If you don’t like long lines or crowds, this is obviously not going to work for you. The way we islanders deal with this is either embrace it by making the long camped out lines part of the fun of the event itself (if you can believe that), or if possible, wait until the craze subsides and then participate, though this latter approach doesn’t work well for short-term events like concerts. One visitor summed up their experience: “It’s hot, crowded, and expensive”.

Reason #12 you should not move to Hawaii: No road trips

one of many reasons not to move to hawaii

No road tripping here on the island!

One of many things mainland Americans take for granted is the amazingly awesome fun of a road trip.  We’re not going to go into great detail here about how much fun that is because you either know or you don’t.

The best thing you can do in Hawaii is an “around the island” trip and we put that in quotes because you really can’t go around any of the islands due to terrain. So in reality what you end up doing is driving across the island and then back.

It’s fun, gorgeous, varied, and scenic.  But it’s the same road and the same scenery each time. It’s still beautiful but you can only do it so many times.

For those that enjoy road trips, you are really going to miss this if you move to Hawaii.

Still reading? You get a bonus 2 more reasons why you should not move to Hawaii

Reason #13 you should not move to Hawaii: Visiting family on the mainland is really expensive

The high cost of mainland travel is another reason to not move to Hawaii

You’ll probably be going to the airport to pickup family than to travel yourself.

In 2017 it’s about $500 round trip to San Francisco and $800 to Chicago or New York.  So for a family of 4, you’re looking at $2,000 to $3,200 just to get off the island. Add in $200/night for hotel, $75/day for car and a 2 week vacation starts adding up to around $10,000.  And we’re not talking about any trips abroad.

Visiting family will probably cost you a lot less as you’ll end up staying at someone’s house but you’ll still have to pop for airfare, probably car, and definitely eating out.

Either way, mainland trips are something you really have to think about long and hard because it’s going to cost you. What ends up happening over time is you go less and less, growing ever more distant from mainland family. For some, that’s a great benefit.  For others, it’s heartbreaking. Over time for many, it’s a dealbreaker.

Reason #14 you should not move to Hawaii: Less food variety

Before Costco came to Hawaii this was a lot worse but we still don’t get anywhere near the food variety that you see in similarly-sized mainland cities.  Surprisingly, our fresh fruit selection is not very good. While we have good local supply of pineapples, bananas and papayas, fruit that has to be shipped in is rarely ripe and either overripe or underripe.  Peaches are the best example: we only get really sweet and juicy peaches for perhaps 2-3 weeks out of the year with substandard selection after that.

Restaurants are a problem too.  Hawaii has a large selection of Asian-centric restaurants but after that it falls off the cliff. Italian, Greek, Mexican, Pizza and the like are sorely lacking.  And don’t even try asking for locally popular foods like Philly Cheesesteaks and Chicago Italian Beef sandwiches.

If you love Asian cuisine and seafood (especially sashimi), you’ll be in heaven.  But great [anything else] restaurants? You’ll be lucky if you find a tiny handful of the rest and how many times can you go to the same Italian restaurant?


Should you move not move to Hawaii? Despite all that, we’re still here!

Share this page with anyone you know that lives in Hawaii and they will have little to disagree with. But, guess what? They are still here and so are we! Why?

Easy!  We love the positives and the negatives don’t matter that much to us.  This of course is an individual choice and only you can weigh out your own internal equation.

So now that you’ve read the bad, it’s time to read about the good.

Read: “50 Reasons to Move to Hawaii” now


Should you move to Hawaii? Find out and take the quiz.

Still here? What do you think? Have we changed your mind? Let us know in the comments below


  1. Tami Greene 02/20/2018 at 1:26 pm - Reply

    LOVE the article. I did not pass the test – but who cares! It test where your life is now, not where you want to be. My husband and I are tired of the rat race and looking at places where we can retire in a few years. Don’t want to live in the city, don’t want a bunch of things. Not really close to any family. Love them, but not much in common. I know it is expensive, but that has a lot to do with what you THINK you need to live. You did give me things to think about and I love it! Hopefully, one day, I’ll be one of those crazies from the mainland who got right in the head.

    • Peter Kay 02/20/2018 at 5:04 pm - Reply

      Perfect attitude! Now you know the degree of change that Hawaii represents. Keep it up!

  2. Haole from Indiana 02/19/2018 at 2:23 am - Reply

    Haole from Indiana. My Great-Grandmother was Hawaiian.. doesn’t matter. I look and talk like a haole from the mainland (and I’m sorry, but I cannot completely change who I am overnight!). I’ve been in Hilo for 3 years. Came here with a decent savings account, but I’m heading back to Indiana. WHY? Because unless you REALLY get in with the right crowd, you’ll end up working at Wal-Mart or Home Depot 3/4 time. Half-Hawaiians (I say this because most here are NOT full-blooded Hawaiian, but they act like they own the mofo) will be nice to you when you have a dime to spend- but after that you’re just a haole from the mainland and they have no use for you.

    Most neighborhoods are just jam-packed with houses- one on top of the other. This means that you have no privacy. Our $250k house (2 bd, 1 ba) had eight other houses immediately around. I could literally throw eight rocks and hit each house. And most neighbors have two kinds of animals: CHICKENS AND DOGS. SOOO… all day and night you’ll hear cocks crowing (many of which are bred for fighting- HUGE on the islands), and many MANY dogs barking endlessly.

    Speaking of neighborhoods, most people here keep MUCH trash and junk in their yards. It’s just astonishing to see so much SHIT on small lots!!! They just do not care! Rusty cars and old appliances? Who cares? No effort to even TRY to make their places nice.

    The weather is just beautiful. I love and will miss surfing at Hololi’i every day (*when* the locals LET me get to the point and catch the good waves!). I really LIKE poi, starfruit, papaya, and so forth. Dining at Hilo Bay cafe or Huggos in Kailua-Kona is a treat (vacation like!). Electricity is just CRAZY expensive (I put all LED bulbs in my house, keep lights off as much as possible, only turn on the hot water heater when needed), and it’s still 200+ a month!. Yeah, we have Costco, Target, and Home Depot, but it’s still not cheap (thought understandable since I’m on an island).

    The Japanese own eh-every-thing… THEY OWN THE ISLANDS. THEY hold all of the political offices. So if they don’t like you, fugettaboutit. And since it’s a blue-state, it’s VERY socialistic- the Micronesians are the welfare queens of the islands. They are trying to take over. They live on food stamps, welfare, medicaid. Even the Hawaiians do not like them. But they are starting to over-run everything.

    And the state seems to LOVE the homeless!! Hippies come here from the main land, KNOWING they’ll get a free ride. SO they literally take over the parks with their “tents” (they are called “campers” by the local media), and expect food, health care, and they COMMAND to be taken care of by the government- and they get it!! Even the locals I know tell me that most homeless are addicts and thieves, so much so that their families are through with them!

    SO, If you have a good job lined up, and have found a decent home with an easy commute, you’ll have a decent life here. There is so much beauty it can make you weep. There is adventure around every corner. But be prepared for much sacrifice and expense to be here.

    • Peter Kay 02/19/2018 at 10:23 am - Reply

      Thank you so much for posting this. It is your story and I’m grateful you had the courage to post it. Unfortunately I do not see anything you’ve written that is patently false.

  3. Katarzyna Wolwowicz 02/12/2018 at 3:33 am - Reply

    Hi everybody! I love this page. There is mot many pages about living on Hawaii compering to other destinations! I live and work as Psychologist in Europe. I would love to move and work on Hawaii. I know it can be difficult to fing a job as Psychologist in short time, but I can do other things, if they allow me to pay the bills. I would like to come with 2 kinds and my mother to look after tchem when I am at work. So I am lookind a job before I come to minimalize costs. Do you know any good job agences for foreigners? The problem is that on most job offert they write that the offert is only for Hawaii citizens…:(

  4. Josh 02/09/2018 at 1:01 pm - Reply

    I was nervous to read this but really glad I did. It made me feel better about moving there actually. I also passed the quiz. I have immediate family who just relocated there and started businesses and are doing great. I’m a young architect living and working in Miami. After an apples to apples comparison of Honolulu to Miami, the cost of living is nearly the same and salary is actually significantly higher in Honolulu (per salary.com) for my line of work. I have a good chunk of savings and can stay with family until I get on my feet. I also have a couple potential job connects I can utilize. I really think I can make it work! My only concern is that I’ve never owned a home before, I’ve rented the last 10 years since college. I’m confused by your math on reason #5. If median home price is $712k, are you saying 20% of that is the average down payment? You can pay 3.5% down with good credit in Miami.
    Anyway, great article. Planning to the move by next year. Mahalo!

    • Peter Kay 02/09/2018 at 3:15 pm - Reply

      Glad you liked it! I can tell you are a planner! Point #5 is more rule of thumb rather than strictly authoritative. Go to a Bank of Hawaii (boh.com) website and you can find the mortgage section for the details. Looks like you’re in a good position Josh!

  5. tom re 02/05/2018 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    Hi Peter, I really like your style here…. I passed your quiz and I’m ready for Hawaii. I’m checking online to see what I can find, and I really want to experience and hopefully live within a great mix there, even if I’m a Haole. I love their independence where they take great pride for it, and I’m very happy they weren’t destroyed by Americans as was done to the Native Americans and Africans, I really do, looking forward to be able to see how people live there in their different ways. Yes, I’m white, ha ha, and I’ll do my best.

    I’ve lived my life from Chicago/Mpls to a new wild Berlin in the mid 80s through the 90’s and to a stunning Shanghai and I’m very open for many new things. I’m a composer/musician who can do lots of things on my own and hopefully find other musicians to create, perform and record it- and especially listening to Hawaii. I’m looking for a good place there which is more quiet but not too far from some good musicians there……..research,ha ha…….

    • Peter Kay 02/05/2018 at 8:22 pm - Reply

      AWESOME! Glad you took the quiz and liked it. We have a common past in that I was born in Chicago!

  6. Michael 02/04/2018 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    Hi. Thanks for the quick reply. My main question is how my part time concept relates to the cultural disconnects noted elsewhere in the list and comments as compared to full time living for longer stretches such as a decade plus, ie really moving there long term. Will this reasonably soften the cultural blow and ease of acceptance in both direction between the newcomer and long time residents.

    • Peter Kay 02/05/2018 at 8:23 pm - Reply

      ah, got it. I don’t think the partial living thing will have a significant effect one way or another. What’s a much bigger issue is how well YOU embrace the culture and the values.

      • Michael 02/06/2018 at 12:03 am - Reply

        Thank you Peter for your feedback and for writing the article/blog. The family had an offer on the table to buy their land from others and I was trying to decide if I should try to buy it personally before it was out of the family (purchased in ’58). I think I am going to let it go and perhaps in the future return to the concept of coming. The land is in orchidland estates and it seems that there are many lots there with privacy for under $50k, so it did not make sense to jump at this time, at least I think….. :) Short of your blog being down to earth and your willingness to discuss the bad with the good, I may have jumped prematurely.

        • Peter Kay 02/06/2018 at 8:17 am

          IT’s a tough call. I lived in that area of the Big Island back in the early 90s and lots were going for about $50k so not much has changed. For us, it was not a good move and we lasted here about 6 months before leaving. That’s not to say it’s not a good place for everyone, but it certainly wasn’t a good place for us. I’m happy that at least you thought through your decision.

  7. Michael 02/04/2018 at 5:33 pm - Reply

    My family owns 3 acres near Hilo and my wife and I are considering building a home to live in 1 to 3 years and then to rent it. We are not super social, but certainly want to be part of a community.we have owned land and built simple homes all over the mainland over recent decades…so I am asking about what part time living is like…live ther one year go away for 3 while we rent out property out, then come back for a year or two and so on? I am an educated builder, wife is an admin assistant. Down to earth mainlanders who live large in most places on $50 to 60k combined. No kids and life is an adventure. We have lived in tents, tipis cabins, and our homes, off grid, etc. Thanks in advance.

    • Peter Kay 02/04/2018 at 6:06 pm - Reply

      Not really sure what the question is. If you’re asking if it’s possible, I’d say yes.

  8. Jayne Davenport 02/01/2018 at 11:22 pm - Reply

    Hum, I take issue with your opinion on being a haole and never going to truly be accepted. As a hapa, my husband also a hapa and his sisters marrying haoles from the mainland, and us all having a huge mix of whites and ‘other’ as friends whom we treat all equally and they us. Why would you say such a thing? Hawaii has a lot of whites living here and I hardly ever hear any problems with any local and whites not getting along. Maybe now and again some local may do something to a military person, but in all fairness it’s usually surrounded by nightlife and drink and it doesn’t happen hardly ever.
    You forgot to mention however the incredible greed that is Hawaii, from the landlord hiking the rent every single year and heaven forbid the 80 year old roach infested dump needs repairs, the landlord will hike the rent to cover those costs too. Also, Hawaii is very dog UNfriendly. We take our dog out for lunch or any where really, just walking around the mall and we get the ‘dagger’ look. Forget renting with a dog over 10 lbs.
    You also say Hawaii has very little variety in food choices – really? You do live in Hawaii right? I lived on the mainland, Seattle to be exact for two years and honestly the choices were all the same and tasted all the same. Hawaii has a pot of amazing cultures to choose from.
    You made a comment about Hawaii offering pooper service. In Seattle I cannot count how many times I was ripped off. From having my vehicle serviced, to yard maintenance to home repairs, it was never ending. This doesn’t happen in Hawaii. Because in Hawaii we look out for each other and we go by word of mouth. It seems you have a very poor view of Hawaii so I ask you, why do you live here? You’ve basically put us down while trying to be diplomatic.
    While it is true, Hawaii is far from rosy, there is daily struggle and there are parts not so desirable, dangerous, but isn’t that in every state in America? What I know about most locals is if you don’t bother them, disrespect them they won’t bother you. Don’t move to Hawaii with the attitude you’re better, smarter, think you ‘need’ to change how Hawaii operates, locals don’t appreciate that and please, don’t move here and then try to talk pidgin because you will do that with the wrong person and perhaps get some sense knocked into you. Besides, anyone other than a true local trying to speak pidgin sounds utterly stupid. Hawaii is a beautiful place with a mixture of amazing people from all over the world, if you disagree you don’t belong here. You should never put your home and it’s people down. Shame on you.

    • Peter Kay 02/02/2018 at 9:40 am - Reply

      Thank you for your comments and I appreciate the time you took to write them. I think you misconstrue many of the factual parts of this piece to be negative when they are simply factual. The “outsider” comment is not negative; it’s a simple fact and as a mainland haole that’s been here since the 80s, I have no problem with it. Interestingly, I never used the phrase “not accepted”; you did. Your comments also make comparisons with the mainland and giving you the benefit of the doubt to accept your claims as true, they don’t make the facts stated here any less true. I live in Hawaii, love Hawaii, had my children here, and wouldn’t think of living anywhere else. This is not a negative piece; it’s a factual piece and designed to give mainland folks the reality of what Hawaii is. For me and countless others, these things don’t matter. For others, they will matter a lot and that’s why I wrote it. I truly do appreciate your feedback which is I I published your comment. Mahalo!

  9. Al Coholic 01/25/2018 at 8:44 am - Reply

    SO DEPRESSING! But appreciate the reality check.

    • Peter Kay 01/26/2018 at 12:06 pm - Reply

      Better know the reality than be fooled by the fantasy, right?

    • Peter Kay 01/26/2018 at 12:07 pm - Reply

      Better deal w/ the reality than be fooled by the fantasy, right?

  10. Kristin 01/15/2018 at 7:49 am - Reply

    I have to say that I have been to Oahu one time in my life. I was 9 at the time. I am now 36. My visit there with my family made such a huge impact on me, that moving there has been something I have been interested in since that visit. I am respectful that these islands belong to the natives and that they always will, however, I also know that may not be the case had it not been for the US military and the diverse make up of people that fought to protect that land on Dec 7th. The people that died there, who are still entombed there to this day, fought for it because of the love they had for it. It amazes me that the Japanese, who attacked the island, are more accepted now than those who defended it (US Heoles). I still respect why these feelings are present and out of that respect, I have started teaching my children the Hawaiian language and the Hawaiian beliefs as I have always found peace, comfort, and happiness, in the religion. I am a person who loves to learn about different cultures and I enjoy emerging myself in their practices and assimilating. This is one of the reasons I love the Aloha spirit. I still hope to live in Hawaii someday soon as I have a love for all people. Having someone treat me or feel about me the way that some people have expressed in these comments would break my heart as I would be willing to stand next to them and fight for their rights and defend their land. I certainly hope that these views will change in the future. Maybe not in their lifetimes, but someday. Aloha and Mahalo!

    • Kelly 01/16/2018 at 5:11 pm - Reply

      I understand the confusion with why people not native to Hawaii might wonder what the reason may be for some of the racism against caucasians but you have to understand the history of Hawaii’s statehood, the ousting of it’s monarch, the forced large acquisition of lands by private and government entities, and the fact that many people who visit Hawaii are from a very different culture Ie (acting like Logan Paul) and many caucasian tourist who acted in poor taste didn’t help. This along with some males in the military that don’t always behave themselves.

      As for the reason the Japanese are accepted and now a part of the culture is because of the fact that Japanese immigrants were part of the large immigration of Asians that have assimilated into Hawaiian culture. Along with the fact that the Japanese did not take over Hawaii during the war AND don’t forget…….Many ethnic Japanese were held in concentration camps by the U.S. military in Hawaii.

      Honestly, I didn’t even scratch the surface but these are some of the reasons as to why people in Hawaii are not fond of people from the mainland US. It’s actually pretty unfair to many caucasians visiting or living in Hawaii because it is a form of racism. As a non-white native of Hawaii, it really is unfair but I don’t think this will change any time soon.

      • Peter Kay 01/18/2018 at 6:43 pm - Reply

        Mahalo Kelly for taking the time to touch of some of the many cultural complexities at work in Hawaii!

  11. Ian 01/08/2018 at 8:05 pm - Reply

    This is a very solid article from a native of Hawaii. I attended BYU on the North Shore for 4 years and also attended Laie Elementary while my parents were finishing up their degree at BYU. Couldn’t agree more with the facts from this article. Good stuff. Very unbiased and true from all perspectives. It makes sense that many view Hawaii as a hot spot to visit rather than reside. Cheers Peter!

    • Peter Kay 01/08/2018 at 8:53 pm - Reply

      Mahalo Ian! That really means a lot to me as you can guess it took a lot of navel-gazing to write this. Much appreciated!

  12. Natasha Davis-Henderson 01/07/2018 at 3:01 am - Reply

    I live in Hawaii since I was 12yearsold because I was adopted from Russia. When years went by I had great time on Oahu the island I grown up then I had my daughter at 27 years old and I love the island but it got pricey offer the years…..I wish for 5tickets to get there. Not much to do either. That’s why I moved to the mainland

  13. Angie 12/27/2017 at 5:29 pm - Reply

    Dear Peter,
    What a great site and article. I have been enjoying your newsletters. We visited the Big Island this summer for the first time to visit friends who now live in Hawi. We currently live in San Diego and we were shocked at the EMPTY beaches and roads and CHEAP housing. We’re now considering making a move when our son is grown. Have considered foreign countries too and like the fact that HI seems different culture with no legal immigration issues. So do you think coming from So Cal and going to Big Island our experience would be different than what is described above? I have NO desire to live in Honolulu (too much like here), but the Big Island seems blissful. We did certainly notice the HIGH cost of food and Island fever is something to consider for any island, but I wonder if there are others who came from crazy SoCal traffic and expensive houses who find it all so much more more relaxing and even affordable since we already deal with the worst here…. Or am I being naive? If I’m wrong, please let me know. Gathering information.

    • Peter Kay 12/27/2017 at 5:33 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the kind words! I’d say on a general level these reasons hold true for all the islands with economic conditions varying the most, e.g. Big Island has cheap housing but there’s a reason for that due to a much smaller economy than Oahu. That said, all of these issues are surmountable by the right kind of people that are truly willing to embrace the island lifestyle which necessarily means letting go of many western cultural values.

  14. Makiko Felice 12/26/2017 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    Happy Holidays! This is a great article – I was born in Japan but grew up in Hawaii (Maui then Oahu) – I moved from the islands to FL 12 years ago because of my husband’s job opportunity. We visit my family every summer and we tell ourselves that we want to move back, but then the reality always sets in when we fly back to FL. I feel the cost of living there is always expensive and more, but my goodness, what happened to the real estate over there is unbelievably heartbreaking. We live in a fairy established area in FL (Sarasota/Lakewood Ranch) but I think the median home price is still a lot cheaper or we can get a lot more with what we pay.

    My sister works five days a week, some of my friends hold two jobs or work long hours.. They’re happy but also struggling.

    For those that already own a home are the ones that grandfathered in and passed on from their parents/grandparents, or luckily have purchased real estate before the spike. I regret that we left HI for FL because I feel we would’ve been okay had we stayed and bought a house when my first daughter was born. Now I feel like we wouldn’t be able to buy a house ( we live in a 4 bedroom/3 bath room 2700 sq ft home with a pool and a yard) that would be as big as our house now or else we would need to spend easily over $1M to live in town.

    The reason I found your post is because I googled “is it worth to live in hawaii..” – I always try to find a way to convince myself or husband to either stay in FL or move back to Hawaii. My heart still belong to the beautiful islands and my kids (12 and 10) always cry when we leave. My husband is a caucasian from NJ but he still loves Hawaii – we have many wonderful friends and family there waiting for us.

    The homelessness or struggles that every day people endure in Hawaii is something that I didn’t expect to get worse when I left. The rich gets richer and the poor gets poorer faster than any other states. It breaks my heart. I truly hope that the State can find a reasonable solution to provide affordable housings to those that so deserve.

    Meanwhile, I will continue to search for our home in Hawaii and hope we get to move back soon.

    • Peter Kay 12/26/2017 at 5:33 pm - Reply

      Thank you for the comment. Yes it’s very heartbreaking for those who have left and then discover how difficult it will be to return.

  15. Audra Le Beau 12/20/2017 at 8:26 pm - Reply

    That’s just like me telling the Pigeon, I’m native american indian don’t come to our Mainland it’s for us, we look what that attitude got use our land takin away. Yea keep that up mulehoggo, or mulalanie. From poco to you.

  16. Amy Arnold Veloz 12/13/2017 at 4:13 pm - Reply

    When I visited Hawaii many years ago, I was disturbed by the way the dogs and cats appeared to be neglected and abused. Maybe things have changed now, but I was horrified to see a dog living in a small cement enclosure in the front yard of a house. I was being driven by in a taxi and it took me a while to understand what I had seen. Were they keeping that poor dog in that tiny cement prison, as an alarm system? Did they ever let him out? It still haunts me…. I also saw dogs running around with collars embedded in their necks. I tried to catch them to see if I could help, but I couldn’t. Also, at the hotel, there were hundreds of stray cats begging for food. No one bothers to get them fixed. I hoped things have improved. It was like being in one of those horrible third world countries.

    • Peter Kay 12/13/2017 at 4:16 pm - Reply

      Hawaii definitely has a feral cat problem. The dog problem is more (IMO) of irresponsible owners.

      • Lori 12/22/2017 at 12:13 pm - Reply

        Wondering…. are there groups who do TNR there? I care for 3 feral colonies here in CA and I understand feral cat populations could be a HUGE problem where the weather is good year round. All that I care for and feed get fixed and released back into their territory. (That keeps other non neutered cats out)

  17. Ron 11/30/2017 at 9:56 am - Reply

    Aloha, Good article. I’m debating about taking a job on Kauai for about $90K which is a significant pay cut. But, I have no debt, some savings, and I am single. I miss the ocean, and I am a big surfer / paddleboarder, etc and the ocean is calling me back. I can not surf where I live now.

    Friends think I would wait until I retire, but I want to take advantage of being 41 and healthy and fit and be active while I can. I’ve worked hard in my career for 20 years, it may be time for me to chill a bit and live in paradise, but still be in my career field, albeit, not on the same upward career trajectory. Can you please offer me some advice? Thank you!

    • Peter Kay 11/30/2017 at 1:12 pm - Reply

      Glad you liked it Ron! You’re not getting any younger and if you love surfing this is of course the place to be. It really comes down to what you value more: money, or quality of life. Make sure you sign up for the newsletter as I’m forming an online community to help people move here.

  18. Stephanie Luciano 11/26/2017 at 6:24 pm - Reply

    Hello Peter,
    Are you writing this as it relates to all the islands, including Maui, or just Oahu?

    • Peter Kay 11/26/2017 at 6:29 pm - Reply

      These reasons are very generic and apply to Hawaii as a state, i.e. everywhere. Each island has variances of course but there is no island where any of these reasons do not exist.

  19. Kelly 11/22/2017 at 6:54 am - Reply

    Thank you for the article, very un-biased and pretty much on point. I was born and raised in Oahu and lived there most of my life. One thing that I think people don’t realize about Hawaii is the incredibly high amount of property crime (violent crime is also on the rise) due to the meth epidemic which has only gotten worse as the poverty level along with population density has risen.

    I say this as someone who has worked in law enforcement for most of my adult life in Hawaii and the amount of thefts, car break ins, and home burglaries and even the increasing rates of violent robberies has made Hawaii feel less safe than it was 15 years ago. It’s really sad because the Hawaii now is so different from what it was in the 90’s and early 2000’s. Now it’s laden with crime, congestion, and construction with political stagnation with monorail that will probably never get finished.

    If you plan on retiring, there are many better options than Hawaii.

    • Peter Kay 11/22/2017 at 8:44 am - Reply

      Mahalo Kelly for the comments and validation. Much appreciated!

  20. Rhonda 11/20/2017 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    Aloha Peter and thank you for your informative insights about Hawaii life!

    Although I have never visited Hawaii, I think I could enjoy living there. I took the quiz and it was favorable.

    Have you watched the TV show Love Yurts? it’s about a couple who build custom yurts and install them on your property anywhere in Hawaii and the South Pacific. I found some land on Oahu and would want to install a yurt on it. I would also want to install a raised garden for veggies and herbs, and grow some fruit trees.

    I grew up in Florida and want to live somewhere with a similar climate without the oppressive heat and humidity but still in the U.S. I have no family.

    My goal is to live a sustainable lifestyle and be as off-grid as possible. I have plenty of funds and would not need to work. My time would be spent volunteering, gardening, birding the islands, and general chilaxin’. I would occasionally eat out.

    Do you know of any others who have successfully done this or something similar? What are your thoughts about this plan? A couple of concerns I have are mosquito’s/biting insects (would I have to slather on insect repellent to enjoy the outdoors) and being able to grow a variety of fruit trees with the amount of rainfall common in Hawaii?

    Thanks so much for your time and kindness!
    Denver, Colorado

    • Peter Kay 11/20/2017 at 6:26 pm - Reply

      Very cool! I would recommend you take the time to rent a home here and find the right part of the island that has the precise climate and neighbors you want. There is a lot to choose from. There’s a good chance you’ll find what you want. I don’t know about the yurts but if there are others built on Oahu (I’ve not seen any myself but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any) you could probably get one built on your property though it might be better to buy a lot with a house on it already for zoning and permit ease. But those are details. Start your adventure! Get over here! :)

      • Rhonda 11/21/2017 at 9:38 am - Reply

        Thank you Peter! I like the suggestion of renting before deciding on where to live. I did the same thing when I moved to Colorado 18 years ago and it worked out very well. Thanks again!

        • Peter Kay 11/21/2017 at 10:11 am

          Good luck and keep us posted!

  21. Armando 11/17/2017 at 6:33 am - Reply

    An opportunity to transfer within my company to Honolulu, presented itself literally yesterday. This article helps quite a bit but I think I was already aware of the drawbacks. I would be relocating from the NYC/NJ metro area which is a DRASTIC change for a family of 5 (we have 3 girls) used to mall shopping, x-mas in NYC & all that. However, the laid back island life is extremely appealing. Still mulling it over after ready & taking your quiz. Never been out there so I think a visit may be in order before making any final decisions. Thanks again for your very open, honest & blunt article.

    • Peter Kay 11/17/2017 at 7:45 am - Reply

      Thanks for the kind words. I really had to reach down deep to write this as I live here! Definitely recommend a visit. Highly recommend you rent a house in a residential area and “pretend” like you live here including commute into downtown Honolulu as if you have to be at work at 8am. It will still be a fantasy world but it will give you a pretty good dose of reality. If you have 3 girls (I have 2) do the math on private school.

  22. ERNESTO DIAZ 11/16/2017 at 5:06 am - Reply

    Great article !! Really enjoyed it…As a native of Argentina and having immigrated to the US over 30 years ago,I never thought nor knew anything about life in Hawaii . Actually this came at a ‘perfect time’, because just yesterday I aplied online for a job at a Disney Resort in Kapolei.(for which I have good chances to get contacted I might add)
    So, and to barrow the Shark Tank’s phrase; “…and for that reason I’m out..”
    My hats off to those brave souls that for the love of this place will relocate (or remain) to the beautiful island.

  23. Maleko 11/09/2017 at 1:35 am - Reply

    Good article. I was born in Hilo and raised in Kona. I am hapa haole, my mom is from the mainland and my dad’s family is Hawaiian I joined the army after high school and left Hawaii. I returned about 10 years later and got a job with the federal government. I left Hawaii again with my job and have spent the last 17 years working on the mainland for the G. I just received an offer for a job on Oahu. My salary will be cut by about $4,000 if I take the position but COLA will be included that will actually be about $6,000 over my current salary. After reading this article I have serious doubts about returning home. At this time I am able to provide comfortably for my family, I am not sure if I want to return to an area that I will be living paycheck to paycheck again.

    I know a lot of islanders have moved away because the cost of living is too high or there are better job opportunities on the mainland. That wasn’t the reason why I left. Now that I am on the mainland I guess I must accept this as fact and really evaluate what is important to me. Ohana is important and I want to return to be near my family but I also have my own family now that I need to provide for.

    As for Malulani, unfortunately there are people in Hawaii who are like him who truly need to learn what the Aloha spirit is all about.

    Thank you for this article.

    • Peter Kay 11/09/2017 at 9:14 am - Reply

      Mahalo Maleko for such a wonderful comment! I really had to reach deep inside to write this piece and make it as honest as possible. You know the deal here better than most. Perhaps if you can get to Oahu first and then transfer again to Kona so you can be with your family that might work. Best of luck to you, bro!

  24. Poppa Bare 11/01/2017 at 11:55 am - Reply

    Yo Bro, if ya luv an respect the land, then ya should be allowed to live in peace no matter race or point of origin. The “native” Hawaiians all had their origins elsewhere also. Love, Peace & Aloha!

    • Peter Kay 11/01/2017 at 11:57 am - Reply

      Right on! It’s about aloha and respect for the ‘aina and her people.

  25. Katherine Stimson 10/30/2017 at 10:56 pm - Reply

    Thank-you for your honesty and informed perspective. Having lived in Hawaii briefly in my early 20’s I recognise much of what you say. This includes the anti-haole response which my partner found very difficult to understand. Obviously this ‘push back’ tendency is also evidenced by the comment of Malulani, who I would presume is a native Hawaiian, above. To be clear I think that this more militant response is not necessarily out of proportion. As an outsider I find it important to consider what my presence might have on the experience that native Hawaiians have of their own land. For example inflated real estate prices which can make quality of life unachievable for most people and is something that probably needs some kind of legislative or tax-based response. As similar problem is evidenced in global cities such as London, Munich or Vancouver.

    None the less, having travelled the world and living now in the Netherlands it is my dream to return. I very much appreciate many of the values that characterise the indigenous culture and frankly I am used to being an outsider and trying to understand others reactions from an outsider point of view. Figuring out what I need to have in place to make Hawaii a realistic move is very important to me even if this means planning for a retirement in Hawaii. This article will help many people make a better and hopefully more considerate decision. Again, thanks on their behalf, you have done a good deed here.

    • Peter Kay 10/31/2017 at 12:37 am - Reply

      Mahalo for the great comment. You too did a great job of summarizing and illustrate why despite the reasons not to, here we are in Hawaii!

  26. Laura shuck 10/18/2017 at 11:38 pm - Reply

    The only real reason is the filthy bat rastard realtors creating a hostile environment due to their GAUGING and GREEDINESS of all things having to do with properties on all the islands. Ive lived on big island. The only way to go is with ohana all in one house. The realtors are killing “ALOHA” and they damn well know it too! Just wait for it all to implode?

    • Peter Kay 10/19/2017 at 8:16 am - Reply

      Those are some pretty nasty words. Realtors don’t set prices, supply and demand economics does. I’m certain Realtors would rather have prices cheaper as they could sell more houses that way. Hawaii’s problem with real estate is that on one hand people don’t want more development yet on the other hand that creates lack of supply which inevitably drives prices up.

  27. Terry and Florence Allison 10/17/2017 at 9:56 am - Reply

    My wife and I have been to four of the Hawaiian Islands several times over the years and have a really yearning to live on the islands. Yes we would be outsiders, but the simplicity and the peacefulness we feel in the island culture is worth the sacrifices you have explained.

    We’re reaching retirement and don’t need or want a lot of stuff. We’re ok with less and ready to contribute to the island community in some manner.

    Yes, your points are valid and certainly apply to the majority. But with wide-open eyes we’re planning towards the goal of living on living on one of the Hawaiian islands within 2 to 3 years.

    Will we? We’ll see. Your posts help keep us inspired. Not that we need a lot. It’s on our minds almost every day.


    • Peter Kay 10/17/2017 at 10:13 am - Reply

      A few of my friends reviewed this page and we all agreed that while the reasons are accurate, we’re still living in Hawaii because the positives outweigh the negatives. It’s not for everyone but for those that Hawaii is for, there’s no substitute and never will be. Good luck in your adventures!

      • Malulani 10/18/2017 at 3:27 pm - Reply

        Hawaii is for native Hawaiians. no one else

        • Lori 11/01/2017 at 8:01 am

          Wow. Just wow, Malulani. I hope I don’t run into your wonderful kind of hospitality when I visit or move there. I was treated wonderfully by all I met when I was there, so maybe there’s just a small amount of rude “natives” like yourself. I could give a rats **s if people want to judge me because I have white skin or come from the mainland, really. I like everyone, no matter where they’re from or the color of their skin unless they give me reason not to. So tell me – what is the percentage of actual NATIVE Hawaiians that currently live on the islands?

        • Jo 11/19/2017 at 2:00 pm

          Lori– This is actually an attitude that you might encounter a lot if you move here. The reason many tourists are mislead to believe that there’s only a “small amount” of these “rude natives” is because many tourists only visit the touristy places, such as Waikiki or Haleiwa. These types of places are NOT what you should shape your views of the island around. They’re stereotyped and in no way represent the “true Hawaii.” (Which is both amazing and not-so-amazing).
          The truth is, people WILL treat you differently. It doesn’t matter that the percentage of Native Hawaiians (the only type of Hawaiian, actually) is one of the smallest in the state. Others will treat you differently as well. The Polynesians… Asians… trust me. I’m hapa-haole, a child of a white mother and a Japanese father (from the most local Japanese kind of family you’ve ever seen). I’ve lived here my whole life, know the culture by heart, and speak fluent Pidgin, but people still make comments. Don’t get me wrong, the community is amazing, loving, and compassionate, but we have our flaws in acceptance.
          WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, your viewpoint, similar to many other mainlanders who wish to move here, is naive. You may think that you couldn’t care less about what people think of you, but trust me, it’s a factor that you won’t be able to get past so easily. You’ll be the butt of everyone’s joke, and you’ll face hostility and bias. It doesn’t matter how much you think you can deal with it. I’ve lived here my whole life, local and not even full white, and I can speak from experience.
          By all means, visit the islands. Our economy thrives on tourism, and short-term visits are enjoyable. But please, THINK before you come here. It’s not as perfect as it seems. It doesn’t matter whether or not you “like everyone,” not everyone will like you back (and if you read into Hawaii’s history, you’ll find out why the grudges have lasted so long). Malulani’s comment, although uncalled for, it a popular opinion– and as much as you think you can deal with it, you’ll be surprised.

        • Peter Kay 11/19/2017 at 5:17 pm

          Aloha Jo and Mahalo for commenting. I think it would be helpful for others to hear from locals as to the accuracy of what I’ve written here and what they can expect. I’d love to hear your feedback on what I’ve written here.

        • Terry 01/11/2018 at 5:34 pm

          Hawaii is for… oh look at that, without the US military, you just got invaded by.. just about anyone… but let’s just say China or North Korea. That would take about 2 days. I’m guessing they are not bringing a constitution. Good luck with that Malulani.

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