Questions / Answers About Living in Hawaii

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Is moving to Maui what you think it will be like?

Is moving to Maui going to be what you think?

I’ll do a couple of posts over the next few days to answer questions that came through email about living in Hawaii. Sorry I cannot answer your email unless I post it here – that way the answers can be shared by everyone that reads the blog, not just the one person through email. This email is from someone that visited Lahaina, Maui some time ago…

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My name is Joana. I currently live in NJ. I visited Maui, Lahaina to be exact, about 5 years ago on a vacation. I have always loved tropical areas and the island feel but as soon as I got to Hawaii I was in love and I’ve been attempting to get back out there to live ever since. I’m searching around for jobs, and apartments or houses to rent, in the different islands but it’s very confusing. I saw your webpage and see that your a local and was wondering if I could get some feedback from you, i.e. what islands are the most affordable but not big city atmosphere and with the most opportunities for jobs? I’m going to school for marine biology but I have experience in the restaurant/hospitality industry so I’m thinking of looking for jobs in the bigger hotel corporations until I get on my feet and can pursue marine biology. My friend and I are looking to move by August 1. Is there any information you have that could be helpful?

Thank you!


Joana I.
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Well, I’m not a local anymore, just want to set that straight for everyone. I do have friends in the islands and we keep in close contact. I created this site because I wanted to share what I do know about life in Hawaii, but I don’t know everything. Especially when it comes to helping people with specific circumstances, like marine biologists looking for jobs. I wish I could tell you exactly where to go to get jobs. I did post a job board article recently, they might have some jobs available.

I think most people want to move to a Hawaii that is not that crowded, retains some of the old world charm, and yet has jobs aplenty. That’s a fantasy that so many people have bought into, but it just doesn’t exist. Oahu has a lot of jobs, and yet, if you are not skilled in one of the areas that have openings, you won’t find it easy to get a job at all. With the exception of entry-level jobs, like waitress, sales, cold-calling, handing out brochures and other easy tasks. It is difficult for some people with their skill-set to find long-term, permanent, decent paying, secure, stable jobs in Hawaii. It is very hard to find that on islands other than Oahu.

Oahu has heaps of people. The island is 597 square miles in area and has 953,000+ residents, and many visitors each year. It is overcrowded, in my personal opinion. It is overbuilt in many areas. It is not really the paradise of peace and relaxation that many people think they’re getting when they go over for a visit. Most people enjoy the other islands more… Maui and Big Island seem almost livable to most people. Are they? Yes, and no.

Jobs are at a premium, as I said. Things to do, outside of outdoor activities like snorkeling, climbing mountains, diving, swimming, running, playing sports, etc… are not abundant. It is a different lifestyle that you really need to try to see – can you make it long-term, or not? Most people I think cannot make it for more than 3-5 years max. Just guessing, but I’d say that 50% of those moving to Oahu, move elsewhere in the mainland before a year is over. Probably 70% of those moving to Maui, Kauai, or Big Island, move away before staying a year. These are wild guesses, but probably not too far off.

Joana, if you are moving to Hawaii and think you’ll pursue college in marine biology later, it is likely just not going to happen while you are working as a waitress. It is hard enough to work in Hawaii as a waitress and just pay your bills. You will likely not be able to pay for going to university as well. Maybe you have some help from parents, or will take student loans, but still – not sure you’ll be able to pull that off. Just being realistic about it. Could you, working REALLY hard and doing 2 jobs and scrimping on everything, pull it off? Probably. I’m just saying, it isn’t likely. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that life in Hawaii makes everything possible. It doesn’t. I think many people fool themselves into believing that once there, it will all take care of itself… opportunities will present themselves, and life will go on merrily. I don’t think anyone living in the Hawaiian islands will tell you something like that.

Everyone that has made it work in Hawaii, I’m speaking about those that have moved there from the mainland USA or elsewhere in the world, has made it work for themselves. If you don’t have heaps of money to get moved and to support you once you’re there, you are going to struggle to make it work. If you are not a natural go-getter, and gregarious, you are going to find it hard to make it work in the islands.

Anyway, that’s my take on it. If you are willing to work yourself hard, you might be able to pull it off – and get your marine biology degree too. Otherwise, stay in the mainland, use your parents for support, and get your degree first before trying to live in the islands.

Here is a link to my free videos about living in Hawaii:

Moving to Hawaii chapter review of my book

Here is a link to my $5 book about living in Hawaii:

Moving to Hawaii (click)

Best of life and luck to you…


Peter Kay

[Image by lj16, a member. Image is creative commons, by attribution.]

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. Ryan 05/28/2014 at 1:27 am - Reply

    Hey Vern. How are you, im Ryan

    II currently live on the east coast of the mainland. I’ve done much random travels all throughout the u.s. and feel I’m in for an off the grid experience. I understand when you get further inland on the islands, (maui I have in mind) the have cabins for rent, for some what cheap. Looking for water barrels with a system and solar panel type electricity.

    My questions for you are, are these types of housing possible, and is it going to be so far out a bike wouldn’t suffice to ride to and from a job.. I’m in good shape. I could take down 5-10miles away everyday. And by work I mean, construction, farming, labor, fishing boats, ect.
    My next question, is I’ve read many stories of travelers living on farmland for work and stipend paid weekly.. Ever seen a plausible situation like that…

    Thanks I look forward to your response.

    • Vern 05/28/2014 at 6:57 am - Reply

      Hi Ryan,

      Sounds like an ideal experience… and I hope you find it! On Maui, I don’t see that happening. On Big Island – yes, probably something similar. There are some youtube videos people have put up of working on a farm and getting a free place to stay. It’s rural. It’s awesome… You won’t be making much money, but if your goal is to live in Hawaii in a rural setting – that’s one way, probably the easiest way to go about it.

      Now, another way might be to start contacting people with property that have an in-law suite (bungalow really) and see if you can stay there, and ride your bike into town or wherever you need to work. In this scenario you won’t be out in the country so much – not so remote, but you’d be working for actual money somewhere. This would best work on Oahu, but could maybe work on Kauai or Big Island.

      I think it’d be hard to find the situation you’re looking for on Maui. That doesn’t mean – don’t try. Just be prepared to put the effort in.

      Aloha and best of luck Ryan!

  2. Gary 01/29/2013 at 6:29 pm - Reply

    Hi Vern. I’m currently a college student at the university of Wyoming studying Kinesiology and Health promotion. I LOVE adventure, I’m outgoing and make friends very easily. I graduate in May and am hoping to move to Hawaii soon after. Is there a good chance I can find work in my field in Oahu? At the very least I’m looking to work as a personal trainer, either privately or at a gym. What are you thoughts? Thanks alot

    • Vern 02/05/2013 at 3:25 pm - Reply

      Hi Gary,

      There are many gyms on the islands, and many personal trainers. It is more a matter of competing for customers, unless you get with a great gym and they have more customers than they have trainers to support them. Do you have a website about being a trainer? That might help source people for you. You can find Hawaii sites to advertise your training service.

      It is possible to get jobs on the islands, however, the types of jobs that are readily available are things like waiting tables, sales, and cold calling… telemarketing. Much, much better for you to go have a look first. Or, when you’re ready to move over, just go and plan on making it an extended vacation. Then if you find a job, great. If not, no worries, you have a fall back plan.

      I get many inquires about whether certain jobs are available on the islands. Most jobs in the mainland are found on the Hawaiian islands. However, there are not openings all the time, it is often a matter of timing to get the one you want.

      Hope that helps.



  3. Jason 01/15/2013 at 7:40 am - Reply

    Hello Vern

    I’ve never been to Hawaii but I’m thinking about moving there but I’m also thinking about moving to SoCal. I’m self employed so I could careless about finding a job. But I’m having trouble making up my mind, the differences are Im understanding the weather is better in Hawaii and the water is warmer so I’m almost sold on just that fact; but now I’m hearing Hawaii is infested with bugs like cockroaches and the locals are unpleasant to white guys like me. So hears my dilemma should I move to SoCal “Santa Barbra/Pacific Beach/LaJolla/San Luis Obispo” and the water is cold but there’s no bugs and the people are cool; or should I move to Hawaii ” I have no idea where?” and the weather is a little better and the water is warm but the people are racist and there’s a bug infection. So Vern this is my dilemma if you could give me some advice that would be great. And if you advice Hawaii then where in Hawaii has perfect weather with the perfect beachs but also has a town with shops/restraunts/bars and is a majority white people?

    • Vern 01/15/2013 at 5:46 pm - Reply

      Hi Jason,

      Right, if you’re going to be spending hours at a time in the water, Hawaii is the place to do it. It is never as warm as bath water, but always just right. Yes, there are lots of cockroaches, but come on man… how often you going to see one? Now, if you let them run your apartment, you’ll see them everyday, but if you keep a clean place – no problem.

      Locals are unpleasant to idiot white guys I guess, yeah. So, be nice and respectful to everyone and you’ll have absolutely no problems at all with this.

      Where in Hawaii has perfect weather? Almost everywhere. Don’t stay in on the windward (north east) sides of the islands if you want to avoid the rain and wind.

      Where are the perfect beaches? Any island has them. I love the windward side of Oahu, and the west side of Maui for beaches.

      A town with shops, restaurants, bars and a majority of white people? Hmm. Ka’anapali in west Maui, but it’s an expensive spot. On Oahu maybe Kaneohe near the Marine base?

      If you move, would you write and let me know what your experience is of the place?

      Best of luck!



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