Moving to Hawaii on a Minimalist Budget

Navigation:/, oahu/Moving to Hawaii on a Minimalist Budget

Below is a reader’s email about a couple moving to Hawaii from Colorado and they are not too concerned with spending a lot of money for the finer things Hawaii has to offer. Neither should you… if money is a consideration when moving over, you can maybe still make it – but some sacrifices must be made, or a new mindset must be adopted. The islands are killer-expensive, and yet many people live there that are only making $18,000 a year.

Hi Vern!

I have been reading around on your site for awhile now, and have to thank you for the information and insight you provide. I am hoping you can answer a few questions for me, as I have read numerous blogs and haven’t found many answers. My boyfriend and I are planning on moving to Hawaii in the next year or so, but are not sure which island/area best suits us. Here are the major contributing factors: We will probably sell our vehicle and rely on walking/bicycling and public transportation. Is the public transportation better in any particular place? Also, is it overly expensive? Second, we are minimalists who require very little to be happy in the way of housing…where is the best place to find inexpensive, but not completely run-down and unsafe, rentals? And on that note, are there beaches that allow tent camping with a permit or something similar?

I would greatly appreciate any information you can provide, and thank you again for your site! It has already helped us in our research quite a bit.

(Name removed)
Denver, Colorado

My response…

Hi _____!

Which island to live on is a major question for those that are considering moving to Hawaii, but haven’t yet been there. I wouldn’t really recommend anybody move to the islands without having visited at least Oahu before. Ideally you’d see Oahu, Big Island and Maui first, before moving.

I think the success rate of those that stay and live in Hawaii is lower if not having seen the islands first. That said…

Oahu is the better island from a transportation standpoint. You’ll be able to get public buses to most anywhere you want to go – island wide. There are about a million people just on Oahu – and they have all the transportation infrastructure you’ll need to get around. It’s not expensive – at all.

Oahu seems to be the better island to get around on bicycle or walking too – depending where you live. You will still have a hard time of crossing the entire island by bike or walking, but, for local stuff you need – Waikiki or Pearl Ridge areas of Oahu are pretty good. Personally, I’d live close to Waikiki – and that way the most is available.

Housing will get you – no matter where you live. In 2018 you might find a half a room for $900 per month near the University of Hawaii Manoa campus (UHM) and or about $1,670 /mo in Waikiki for a one room studio. But, is that all you need to live? For two of you – rather tight, but if you are adaptable and truly want the minimalist lifestyle – you can live on it in Waikiki or some other places in Hawaii. Big Island would be the next place to think about, but I think you’ll be moving to Oahu first – it’s just easier.

Best of luck to you both and I hope you write me and let me know if your move to Hawaii turns out well!




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. hiloguySkip Thomsen 07/16/2017 at 10:12 am - Reply

    I see so little here about moving to and living on the Big Island, the Island of Hawaii! I lived there for 19 years and then 6 years ago ended up (very sadly) moving to California to be closer to all our kids and grandkids. Our cost of living in Hawaii was about half of what it is here, and we live in the Sonoma County boonies. EVERYTHING is more expensive here! As seniors, our property taxes on our beautiful home in the hills of Hilo were under $200/year. Here, on a $330K house, they are $4500. Gas are sometimescheaper here, but not always. This very day, gas in Hilo is 3.01; here it is $3.39. And we have to drive 5000 miles a month here. We drove that much in a year in Hawaii. Our food bill is way higher here, but in Hawaii we shopped the Hilo Farmer’s Market for whatever fruit and produce we couldn’t get from neighbors’ trees for free. Car insurance almost doubled here.

    So I’m wondering why there seems to be so little mention of the beautiful, peaceful, and NOT overcrowded Big Island?

    Aloha Nui!

    • Peter Kay 07/16/2017 at 4:19 pm - Reply

      Aloha and thanks for writing! I lived in Pahoa for about 1 year and while I love Hilo & the Big Island the simple reason why there’s not a lot of content is because I don’t live there. We’d love to have you as a guest writer if you’re interested!

  2. Opal Huggins 05/23/2017 at 9:42 am - Reply

    This is my first time at doing anything except for texting a little on social media. I have been very intimidated by learning to use a computer. In my day we had manual typewriters. With that said I am determined to learn and actually live what’s left of my life rather than just exist.That is why I too want to live in Hawaii!!!! I was there 40 years ago and can’t get it out of my mind.The fragrance of all of the flowers are still imbedded in my mind.However I have only a Very limited Social Security check to live on. Is this a dream that I should let go of or is it possible to live in a safe place there?Any help would be appreciated.Opal

  3. Dennis 08/27/2016 at 4:40 pm - Reply

    I will be moving to Oahu November 1st and will be there at least 2 years. My wife and I need about 700 square feet apartment or rental home. What can I expect to pay on as monthly cost?

  4. Mari H 08/11/2016 at 3:35 am - Reply

    What recommendations do you guys have for someone on a low budget planning to move to Hawaii for a month or 2? Willing and able to work in retail, at a resort or in tourism, what island/town would you recommend?

    • Peter Kay 08/11/2016 at 7:51 pm - Reply

      If you’re from a really small town, start with Maui. Otherwise make it Oahu and then you can try the other islands.

  5. NewIslander 08/08/2016 at 9:03 am - Reply

    Hawaii has always been a place of awe-inspiring beauty and wonder since traveling there for the first time when I was 8 years old with the family. Since then, I have traveled all over the US and abroad and while all trips are certainly memorable, I was always left with something missing from each trip that I was never given complete satisfaction the way Hawaii did for me so many times. I can’t really pinpoint what it is. Perhaps its the ever-changing landscape that draws me in. Or maybe, its the other islanders that captivate me and how everyday life, whether it’s working or relaxing, seem to have a similar vibe.

    Don’t get me wrong, the natives who have been born and raised are a little leery about seeing new faces, but the more you show yourself out and about, the more you become one of them and are easily accepted as one of their own. I’ve needed a chance in lifestyle from my monotonous 9-5 career and started looking at the possibility of moving, living and working in Hawaii full time. I started scouring the internet to find ways to pick up and start anew in the place I believe to be the final destination to call, HOME.

  6. Precious Whitfield 08/07/2016 at 11:26 am - Reply

    Hello my name is precious looking to relocate to Hawaii soon. I’m single and currently have no children. I am a phlebotmist by trade and have dispatched for local police dept here in Dallas. However i need a fresh start a default button needs to be hit. I’m suffocating here in the states. Ive had Hawaii on my 30th birthday and its the one thing my heart and mind finally agree on. My thirst was quenched with the daily livingtry if the locals. I felt at home. I’m older now 33 and understand the importance of self awareness and understand that it may possibly be lonely at times. But I have a purpose to fulfill and need the opportunity to flourish. I’m on a VERY restricted budget however I’m willing to be patient and seek employment before arriving . Oahu is my choice being I know a handful of people mutually there. I’m trying to make the intinal steps on my own. Seeking hospital employment nanny services or law enforcement. Any advice on moving tips. I will only need a one bedroom apt or something in comparison. Is roommate livining optional there on islands. Just don’t know where to star . I nee . Solid job and living quarters .

    • Peter Kay 08/07/2016 at 5:12 pm - Reply

      Advice on moving: leave everything over there! Come here as lightly as you possibly can. It’s going to cost a fortune to move things here and then to house them.

  7. Charlene 07/27/2016 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    Hi ! My name is Charlen and I too was wondering how is it possible to move to Hawaii? Me and my hubby were there in June for our 25th anniversary and absolutely loved it
    I really woul like to know how you would go about getting jobs and housing !

    • Peter Kay 07/27/2016 at 3:52 pm - Reply

      Best thing to do is read all the pages on this website :) there are hundreds. Start be reading all the “Editor Picks” links.

  8. L.G. Swift 02/06/2016 at 9:18 am - Reply

    Lived on north Moliki, Oahu and Maui. Other than wonderfull weather, great beaches and warm ocean water, expensive and drug ridden, alcoholic, crime ridden, racist, and poverty stricken, not to mention gridlock on Maui.

  9. Kia 02/03/2016 at 4:43 pm - Reply

    Seriously thinking of moving here…I need a warm to climate to live in a have a strong medical background. Im just not sure. What the first step should look for a job or a place? Im looking to move by the summer & could use some advice

  10. Jasmine 02/03/2016 at 10:58 am - Reply

    Hello, my name is Jasmine Syed. I’m a 20 year old female. I recently gave birth 4 months ago to a beautiful baby boy, Zeus. We have left our family and friends to begin our wanderlust journey in search of learning and peace. I love Hawaii’s values and would love to learn and raise my son with Hawaiian morals and culture. I’m very interested in a work trade opportunity. I am a hard working individual, I love new experiences and would love to see what this world has to offer me. I love every human unconditionally and I’d like to meet others like me.

    • Madivie 06/19/2016 at 3:13 pm - Reply

      Jasmine, you should definitely contact me if you haven’t already moved. I have a six year old and I’m moving to Hawaii June 22nd and could really use some friends

  11. Juanita 01/24/2016 at 7:25 pm - Reply

    I have 10 years before retirement. Lived on Oahu for 4 years (military with 2 kids). Want to come back to live. Will be on retirement fixed income but do have a RT (R) RADIOLOGY license…could I live there agsin by my self??

  12. Kevin 12/06/2015 at 7:08 pm - Reply

    Hi Vern
    I am moving back to Hawaii next week I will prob fly n2 Oahu Which Isle are u on? Is it possible to meet up with you? I am a consultant for the DOST here in the Philippines 54 yrs old Lemme know

  13. Tina kelly 07/28/2015 at 8:25 am - Reply

    My husband and 4 kids under the age of 8 are considering moving to Oahu, north shore at the end of the year. Any opinions on public school system, groceries on a budget, medical system, rent and itilities. I want to be able to take advantage of all Hawaii has to offer and not struggle because we can’t afford it. Thanks!

  14. Donna 04/14/2014 at 11:24 am - Reply

    I’m a single mom with 2 children. I have all kinds of reasons for wanting to move to Hawaii. However I need some guidance. I’ve found a book to buy but is there any advice you can give me? We would be alone on a fixed income. I need good public schools,a safe reasonable place to live and doctor information. Any advice would be helpful and greatly appreciated.

    • Vern 04/14/2014 at 11:32 am - Reply

      I don’t think public schools for your two kids and a fixed income would be a good idea for moving to Hawaii. Unless your income is, I don’t know, $5,000 per month and then you can put your kids in private schools. My book on the subject is on the right column of this site. It’s about $5. I also did some youtube videos on moving to Hawaii you can find on Youtube. There are a couple hundred articles on this site you can read up on. Aloha, Vern

  15. Amy 02/03/2014 at 10:15 am - Reply

    Hi Vern,
    My husband and are considering a move to maui and have been there twice. I have been an RN for 10yrs and I think that I could find a job. However my husband is a probation officer for 5yrs and I’m not sure there are many jobs in his field. Any thoughts?
    Also, we would like to have at least 6months living expenses saved up. Rent is easy to account for and I’ve seen an average of about $1500. I have read that utilities quadruple in hawaii for the same usage as on the mainland. What would be a safe average to save up for?
    Thanks so much for your help!

    • Vern 02/24/2014 at 11:04 am - Reply

      Impossible to say really. Save up as much as possible and maybe you can make 6 months, maybe not. I don’t know how to estimate for someone else very well. For myself and my wife, I think we’d need 25,000 usd saved to try to make it for 6 months. Aloha!

Join the conversation! What do you think?