What Are the Worst Things About Hawaii? The Big 3!

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Hawaii residential buildings - Oahu in the Waikiki area is so crowded

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Overall, Hawaii is absolutely amazing and we could list hundreds of great things about being there and living there.

But, what are the WORST things about living in and visiting Hawaii? Things that might affect you on a day-to-day basis and make you visiting the islands at all?

The Absolute Worst of Hawaii:


Automobile traffic on Oahu, during rush hours in the morning and evening is insane. Hawaii State says there are about 2 cars for every one person living on Oahu. To illustrate this point… these two million cars, if all out on the roads at once? There is not enough paved road to fit them all. Bizarre right? This statistic about having 2 cars per person has been floating around since 1985 – I heard it then.

2. Prices.

I am surprised nobody is following us around and charging us for breathing. It’s that bad. You know things are bad when your monthly expenses for food for your family – approaches the same dizzying height as your mortgage payment.

3. Crowds.

I’ve said since the mid-80’s… Waikiki is like New York City on a beach. There are hundreds of skyscrapers, thousands upon thousands of people out and about – many trying to do exactly what you are doing. It is tough to find any deserted beach, or even space anymore – someone is already there or on their way. One million Honolulu residents plus millions and millions of visitors per year = one big headache for those on Oahu. Go see the other islands too to get the bigger picture.

So, these three things are enough to make most people ready to pull their own hair out by the root as they visit Hawaii – or worse – live there.

These three things primarily affect only the people on the island of Oahu.

The only one of these three that affects all islands is “prices.”

Some people would replace “Crowds” with “Bugs”. In truth – that affects more islands, but to me it really isn’t that bad. Sure there are big bugs, mosquitoes everywhere, and cockroaches flying through your room at night. Geckos? Yeah sure, they’re climbing the walls. No different from many places around the world. If you hate bugs – Hawaii has something for you.

What are some other negative things about visiting or living in the Hawaiian islands?

  • crime – theft is very common
  • inconsiderate tourists
  • inconsiderate locals
  • driving habits
  • finding a place to shee-shee
  • poor education and school experience
  • drug epidemic
  • adjusting to new diet – limited availability of food you liked on mainland
  • police eager to ticket you for anything
  • parking is a nightmare
  • half the island at any point in time is stoned

We had a reader poll for those living in Hawaii – and asked them to…

Choose 3 Worst Things About Living in Hawaii

  • High cost of living (71%, 37 Votes)
  • Illegal drugs epidemic (37%, 19 Votes)
  • Traffic (29%, 15 Votes)
  • Low pay (27%, 14 Votes)
  • High unemployment (19%, 10 Votes)
  • Isolation from other places (19%, 10 Votes)
  • Too many tourists (15%, 8 Votes)
  • Tough for businesses to make it (12%, 6 Votes)
  • Schools (10%, 5 Votes)
  • The people (10%, 5 Votes)
  • Not enough cultural things going on (10%, 5 Votes)
  • Military presence (6%, 3 Votes)
  • The constant police presence (4%, 2 Votes)
  • Bad place to raise family (4%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 52

[Source: Hawaii Poll – 5 Feb 2011]

Over at City-Data Hawaii forum “Souperstar34” came up with this list of 10 Worst Things about Living in Honolulu:

1. Cockroaches

2. Home costs

3. Drivers

4. Drugs

5. Racism

6. TV Commercials – she complained that many ads are for places that aren’t even in Hawaii. Who is watching TV anyway?

7. Traffic

8. Language barrier

9. Relaxed Atmosphere – “everything takes forever”.

10. Island Fever

On a more positive note, here is another reader poll we did:

Choose the 3 Best Things About Living in Hawaii <-click


About the Author:

I’ve lived Hawaii since the mid ‘80s when I moved here at the age of 21. I arrived site-unseen in Honolulu with zero contacts and about $5k in savings. I worked from nearly zero and today Hawaii has given me the greatest gifts in the world in all aspects: spiritually, financially, romantically (married since early ‘90s w/ 2 children), and most important, peace. My goal with this site is to share the magic of this Land of Aloha and help others who are on a similar quest.


  1. Penny 12/30/2011 at 10:15 pm - Reply

    Hello Vern,
    I have to admit after reading through your posts about Hawaii, I’m a little surprised you would have a poll about the 3 “worst things about living in Hawaii.”

    In general, you’re very positive and even your blog title “Aim for Awesome” suggests that the positives far outweigh any of the negatives. I think this poll would be more applicable if you qualified worse. All of the attitudes about traffic, bugs, expense, even isolation can be found in any large US city. There isn’t a population of 1,000,000 plus US citizens, that don’t have traffic issues, crime, racism, expense, economic divisions, etc. Perhaps the poll should be a commentary about why Hawaii isn’t the place for everyone. Or before you move, what do you expect? But “everyone” is here and living quite amicably among each other. The way true Hawaiians and those who embrace the local culture have been able to live and thrive cooperatively together is a great sociological study for successful living with all kinds of diversity. I think that’s the meaning of Aloha spirit and I see it everyday, everywhere.

    People who complain about the ills of society here will find them anywhere. People who want to live cooperatively side-by-side with diversity in race, religion, ethnicity, socio-economical, political viewpoints and backgrounds will thrive here. The icing on the cake will be if they’re also interested in the climate and types of activities unique to living on an island in the Pacific Ocean. And seriously, if the “bad” of Hawaii overwhelms the good, then I don’t know why anyone would live there.

    People who believe Hawaii is void of the shortcomings of society are shortsighted and naive. If, however, people are open to seeing the positives of any setting, odds are good that change for the better is possible. Recognizing negatives as potential works in progress will do a lot more than griping about them. For example, I’ve seen a huge transition in the awareness of the need for local food production and support among the islands. Local food use here is in every newspaper, blog, restaurant, even shopping bags. Awareness leads to change in behaviors. Hawaiians are aware in many sustainable living arenas where mainlanders aren’t because they don’t have to be. My best example is coffee. Hello, mainland? Hawaii is the only US state growing coffee. Are millions of Americans ready to give up coffee because it has to be shipped to them? Hmmm, I doubt that. So why are we citing shipping as a Hawaii worse? The potential of sustainable living in Hawaii is huge. Are we there yet? No. But at least most Hawaiians are aware that the problem will hit hard if there isn’t a solution in play. Mainland citizens can ignore it until it’s too late. Maybe Hawaii will be in a self-sustainable position already when that happens.

    I digress. But I think you’re right on, when you said in one of your posts, who cares about traffic when you’re literally minutes away from a hike to a waterfall or a swim in the ocean with a rainbow around every turn? You could be stuck in equally bad traffic and have to worry about miles and miles and hours of hours of just looking at the vehicle ahead of you and still not reach a waterfall or even a hike. And remember you’ll be breathing that vehicle’s output even when you get to your destination. In Hawaii the air stays clean. It’s an island with a lot of cleansing tropical breezes and light rains clearing out the pollutants.

    Basically, for me I’ve found no place more fitting than living in Hawaii. Everyday I feel like I’ve come home and I’ve woke up! My suggestion to your readers and curious would be to be 100% clear on what you expect Hawaii will be for you and be ready to be surprised. If you’re plaesantly surprised, you’re home. If not, start thinking of your next move.

    Aloha oi

    • Vern 12/30/2011 at 10:56 pm - Reply

      Hi Penny,

      Wow, what an amazing, insightful comment! I feel like I should write you a check!

      If you would like to write an article here whenever you get inspired – I’d welcome that, just let me know…

      At AFA I have both positive focused articles about living in Hawaii, visiting Hawaii, and negative focused articles. I think it’s important to have a balance because not everyone sees living in Hawaii as the positive experience I do. Not everyone can overlook all the negatives, and talk good about Hawaii every day they live there. I wrote a book about the dangers of Thailand – it was overwhelmingly negative. The book was just focused on the crime, cautions, tips, and dangers of Thailand. It got ripped to shreds because everyone expected to see a fair portrayal – positive and negative, of the country. I stated at the beginning and in all descriptions of the book, it was a focus on the negative… on how to stay safe in Thailand. It didn’t matter – it was ripped to pieces.

      I notice here too – readers often want both sides of the story or viewpoint. I try to acquiesce. When I do video at Youtube also – same deal. If I’m negative about something, comments reflect that – and they cry out for something positive…

      Presenting both sides just seems to be a better way to go about things for a site like this. AimforAwesome is not meant to be controversial and stir up anger. It does sometimes, and that’s not intentional, but nothing I can do. I have other sites where I intentionally incite people – to see their reactions. Different sites for different purposes.

      I hope you do think of writing for this site – I cannot pay anything, but if you have a business or website you’d like to link out to as you write – that would be fine.

      Best of luck and life Penny!



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