5 Truths To Know Before Moving To Hawaii

January 1, 1970

by Alysa Yamada


Waikiki Beach, Hawaii

It’s hard to envision anything other than paradise when it comes to Hawaii. With rose-tinted glasses, we are all stuck in awe — with the island’s rippling tides, romantic hotspots, and exotic sunsets stretching itself across the sky. What a charmer. But with anything too perfect, it’s only about time until we start to get a little skeptical. So what’s the catch?

1. Prepare to pay for that paradise.

Hawaii Milk Prices

If you live in Hawaii, you’ll get the least bang for your buck and that’s that. The bottom line here is that the land is precious and limited, so the state will find ways to charge for its natural beauty. While the cost of living rises, Hawaii’s wages tend to remain low and stagnant while the rest of the nation steps it up. We now hold the record in the United States for being the most expensive state to live in. We wish we could celebrate with you, but that would just cost too much. You can witness our reactions first hand at local supermarkets where everyone is gritting their teeth while coughing up $8 for milk and $5 for eggs.

Everything just costs more when you are living on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It’s the price you pay for the ideal life — even when ideal may not be so ideal. We cannot afford to grow everything on our own, nor do we have space for it. We’ve nailed the production and export of coffee, macadamia nuts, papayas, and pineapples, but more than 75% of our food is still imported. In general, we end up paying a lot more for ordinary day-to-day supplies and food compared to our fellow mainlanders.

2. Are you ready to spend more for less?

Aerial View of Honolulu

Buying a house in Hawaii is like paying $10 at Mcdonalds for an average meal. You’re full, you’re content, and so you leave and get on with your day. Soon enough, you stumble upon a lesser known burger joint which sells high-quality burgers. They offer juicy burgers twice as large with garlic fries and a strawberry shake for just $5. You feel cheated. You feel betrayed. You basically paid for the “Mcdonalds name” and deprived yourself from relishing in tasty food with better deals.

In terms of housing, you would have the opportunity to get twice, triple or even quadruple as much in quantity and quality on the mainland in comparison to Hawaii. The average one story home costs $868,317 in Hawaii whereas in Iowa the average two-story home costs $140,000 with a swimming pool on the side. That’s a mighty big difference. But it’s true that we are paying for the island life, and you have to know what you’re signing up for. Or at least you have to know what you’re not signing up for with the same amount of cash.

3. Your drive to and from work will be a road trip.

Heavy Freeway Traffic

Minus the empty road. Now this is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow when it comes down to Hawaii’s unfortunate truths. You may go through an entire music album before reaching your destination. Either you are well stocked with your favorite jams or you are imprisoned to hundreds of commercials around the same 4 songs. The fact is, Hawaii ranks first (again) in America for the most ridiculously agonizing traffic. 6 lanes on the highway are not even a match for the army of cars. We are all packed like sardines and it drives us insane.

In 2011, the state of Hawaii decided to invest in building a rail transit system to ease traffic on the island of Oahu. Due to this, however, we can expect more construction, fewer driving lanes, quadrupled traffic, and impatient islanders with road rage. We can only hope that there will be better music choices (or just more variety) on the radio to ease the pain.

4. A tropical magnet for the nation’s homeless. 

Homeless in Hawaii

Although it’s often overlooked, homelessness is a pretty big issue in Hawaii. In fact, the island has ranked itself first (again and again) in the most amount of displaced residents per capita in the entire nation. The problem became so overwhelming that the government declared it an emergency just last year in 2015. It’s not something you can see right off the bat. There are harsh laws in place to get them off the touristic beaches and streets. Hundreds of the homeless volunteered themselves to be deported off the island. As a result, money has been sucked from taxpayers to help pay for these one-way flight tickets. Yes, it’s really happening. 

5. You are isolated.

Map of Hawaiian Islands

Ever heard of island fever? It’s the feeling of being disconnected from the rest of the world. After all, we are just a dot in the ocean — isolation at its finest. This can work both ways, of course. It’s exactly what some people want. But those who’ve spent many years on the rock know that it can sometimes be a curse in itself. For example, we are usually the last when it comes to famous stores and restaurants like H&M, Target, and Bath & Body Works. For everyone on the mainland, these stores are taken for granted but it’s all we ever wanted. We are currently still praying hard to get Olive Garden, Trader Joes, and IKEA.

The small amount of land also limits jobs (aside from tourism, the military, and agriculture). Many locals leave the island to pursue their careers in places with more opportunities. Travelling anywhere costs an arm and a leg to cross that ocean so it’s a big deal if we ever go anywhere. Most of the times, it’s just to experience real winter and to have a reason to wear our useless collection of stylish overcoats. 

Aloha from Hawaii

There you have it — a few breakdowns on some unflattering truths that no one really talks about when it comes to Hawaii. But a life in on the rocks is not all that bad. It’s a unique melting pot of Asian, Hawaiian, and pacific island cultures. With a mix like that, you end up with some mouth-watering and mind-blowing meals. The food is often a delicious result of the blend of different cultures. Our Hawaiian Pidgin dialect (now considered an official language) is also a result of the combination of ethnicities when people first began immigrating to the island. Some say it’s an English slang, but it’s a special part of our history. For the most part, the local people are friendly, filled with aloha, and laid back with a smile.

Leave a Comment...