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Find a job, work in Hawaii

Work in Hawaii so you can enjoy scenes like this!

Hawaii, where the grass and ocean is so much greener! You can work in Hawaii and live here. Copyright NJScott1 at Flickr Creative Commons.

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 so you can work in Hawaii on one of the islands.

Moving to Hawaii requires a reality check on Two Issues that none of us escape…

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

2. Good paying jobs are not that plentiful. I’m talking about 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.

Willing to wait for the right job to work in Hawaii?

Finding a job on Oahu might be quite difficult if you’re looking for something specific. When Vern moved back here in 2002 he knew he wanted a job working in the internet marketing area since that was my specialty. He knew he wanted to make $50K minimum, but hopefully $70K. He 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 he didn’t have trouble within two 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 and retail. 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 one 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…

Vern 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 him. Many people visiting 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. Jobs are not so available. Housing is not so available. Transportation is not all that great.

In Vern’s case, he started on Oahu and found what he 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 in 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 for most people.

Work in Hawaii, the Big Island

The Big Island of Hawaii is a very tight-knit community, especially the town of HIlo. There are two populations centers and as of the 2010 Census the population was 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. In the early 90s my wife and I moved to the Puna area of the Big Island and bought a house and land for $75,000. It was only after we actually moved into the house why we realized it was so cheap – no jobs!

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. Get it by clicking the book cover on the right side column –>

Best of Luck!

Vern & Peter

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

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

About the author: Vern Lovic started this website in 2006 and has done an amazing job of content development. Peter Kay has lived in Hawaii since the mid ’80s and so loved Vern’s work he bought the website and is working hard to continue the quality and purpose that Vern started. Aloha!

26 comments… add one
  • Jerome Zeng

    Thank you so much for the sharing. I’m from China and I’m always interested in everything in Hawaii. I think it’s the most beautiful place in the whole world…So I do hope I could get a job and live there. I know it’s super hard but I still wanna give it a try. Life is so short and I wanna chase what I really like and want. I can speak English and Spanish, and of course Chinese. With these three most widely spoken languages I believe I can build myself a bright future. Good luck to myself:)

  • Nate Graham

    Hi, I have saved $5800 and plan to move to Honolulu by renting a room or studio (found a few for $600 a month) which will give me a good bit a time to find a fulltime job (Im not picky about what job, as long as bills are paid, “work hard,play harder”). Do you think that is doable? If it bombed out, as a backup plan I even thought of buying a cheap cargo van to live in by renting a covered parking space and a gym membership for showers lol (because I don’t plan on being at home much since if I’m not at work, I’ll be at Beach or hiking!). What do you think? Thanks for all your posts and information!!!

    • Peter Kay

      Hmm…well I moved here in ’84 and had about that much money and I barely made it. Today things are much more expensive. Then again, I was pretty picky in terms of the job I wanted to take. Just keep a reserve to pay for a flight back and at the very least you will have an amazing life experience. Go for it!

  • Deneese

    Aloha Vern.
    Great Article, my husband and I just got back from Oahu and the big island. And oh my, have we fallen in love with the big island. The people there so humble and the quality of air excellent. We are both 30 and no kids, my husband from New York but we currently live in Toronto. So I don’t see much diff in prices of cost of living. If anything it’s more expensive in Toronto and New York. I’m a master hairstylist and he’s a super skilled hands on guy who can and will do anything to make a living. Currently working as a laser machine operator at a steel company. I know it won’t be in issue with immigration moving to Hawaii since my husband is an American citizen. We are brainstorming all kinds of ideas for a business there, eg: hair salon,restaurant with maybe westindian influenced foods, Taxi company, even maybe in the bridal industry. Any opinions? Or advice. This is all in and around Kona town area. Also does it work out cheaper buying new furnitures, scars there or just getting it shipped?
    Thank u for your time Vern.

  • Tajunna

    I wanna move to Hawaii I’m sick of the cold which part is best I got two kids 18 an 10 and my man we wanna start a new life

  • Joe

    I’m working on getting my real estate license in Hawaii…been doing RE sales for 13 years…a company on Maui is looking for an assistant…I’m confident if hired I would make it as an agent…I was thinking of having 15k to 20k as reserves when moving…what’s your opinion of the about of reserves need…I can also drive for Uber. Do you have an opinion on which island is best to be a Uber driver, oahu or maui? Much love and Mahalo!

    • Oahu has the traffic Joe – many times more than Maui, but Maui is the nicer place to be by far. lol. I think if you had 15-20K reserve when you arrived, and you had a car, you might just make it. A real estate assistant wouldn’t pay much, but I think you’re right, anybody could be an agent. I sold RE in Florida. It isn’t difficult. A car is essential. Knowing the area is essential. Why not give it a go? Best of luck to you man, hope you check in to let me know how it’s going. Aloha!

  • Suzie

    This article is so helpful! I’m currently in my second year of a hospitality and tourism bachelors degree in Melbourne, Australia. In my 3rd year I have the opportunity to go anywhere worldwide to work in hotels or tourism and Hawaii is my first choice. I know moving from Australia, I have to get a company or business to sponsor me for the 6 months but I’m unsure about how the rest of it will work out. I’m very skilled in the hotel industry with a lot of experience in different components and for someone my age (19), I have more experience than most people in their mid 20s, not sure which part of Hawaii I should look into or anything though! I have always loved the Island lifestyle and was hoping to go to Fiji or Tahiti, but its extremely difficult to get work there as they need to employ local people before expats.

  • Cinna

    Great Article.
    I have been offered a job for 5 mos. in Maui. I have some questions, that only someone who lives there (and is willing) can answer: I have an option of shipping my car over, or renting a car. If I had to ship my car over, would I have to register it in Maui, being that I would be there for such a short time? I have also heard that due to the humidity and rain, cars get rusted pretty quickly. Your thoughts on that? Do you know of any reputable, reasonable corporate car rental companies in Maui? Also, I would need to (of course) to find a place to live. Again, because it’s such a short time, I would have to keep my residence on the mainland (along with having to pay rent). Would you know of a company who specializes in short term rentals, or renting a room in someone’s home (inexpensively)? I have also heard of times of the year when there are a lot of toxic chemicals (emanating from the sugar factory, I think) that cause respiratory problems. I would be working in Lahaina. Is this an area that is affected? I realize that these are not your ‘typical’ questions, but…I want to be totally informed before making a decision. Thanks so much! Aloha, Cinna

  • Hashed it out over a few beers, did ya? hahah! Good luck, hope it all goes really well for you. Please check in later and let me know how it’s going! Send photos! Aloha, Vern

  • 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 .

  • Colin grant

    Would like my life in Hawaii and live and jobs

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

  • prasanna

    my email id is prasannakumar_37@yahoo.com

    hope to seee posible answers so that i can know it

  • prasanna

    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.

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