The Definitive Hawaii Moving Guide

by Locations LLC 12/2/2011 10:13:00 AM

Relocating to Hawaii

Whether you’re being relocated due to a job transfer or simply lured by life in paradise, a move to Hawaii is a major undertaking. Moving your loved ones and belongings across the ocean takes careful and thoughtful planning and it’s never too early to start sorting through the details of your future move.

It’s no secret that the cost of living in Hawaii is one of the highest in the nation, so do your research prior to making the move. Talk to folks who have made the move, as well as long-time residents. Utilize the Internet, as it is an amazing tool to gather information about moving to the islands, as well as what you need to do to get settled once you’ve arrived in the 50th State.

Hawaii Moving Guide: Table of Contents

Housing – What can you afford and where?
Choosing a Neighborhood
Choosing a School

Preparing for the Move – Moving Costs
Post Office – Forwarding Your Mail

Packing Like a Pro

Preparing Your Pet for the Move

Once You’ve Arrived in Hawaii
Driver’s License
Car Registration
Setting Up Your Utiliies

Other Facts About Hawaii

Moving to Hawaii Checklist

Housing – What can you afford and where?

The first thing you will need to do, if you haven’t already done so, is narrow down where in the state you want to live. If you don’t know which island you want to move to, keep in mind that each island has its own unique personality — from the more urban lifestyle of Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, to the slower, laid-back way of life on the Garden Isle of Kauai. If your job is not dictating where you’ll be living, make sure you do the research on each island’s unique character. The Hawaii Tourism Authority maintains a website at which provides an excellent overview of each island’s characteristics. Although this website is aimed at visitors, it’s a good place to start in order to get a feel for each island.

Choosing a Neighborhood

Once you’ve determined which island you would like to live on, you will need to narrow down the potential neighborhoods. Keep in mind that neighborhoods may vary drastically on an individual island, so it’s best to seek the assistance of a Realtor. Go to  Locations LLC to find an experienced Realtor who can guide you in finding the perfect neighborhood for you.

Choosing a School

If you have school-age children, a home in a top school district may be your priority. You will find that the quality of schools may vary even within a school district. For instance, a district may have many high-quality elementary schools, but a weak middle or high school. While another district may have a strong high school and weak elementary schools. Your Realtor can provide you information on particular schools and school districts and you can also do your own research by asking family, friends and acquaintances for school recommendations. Read our article on finding a home in a good school district.

What can You Afford?

Before you begin looking for a home, you must find what you can afford, and this will help save tomns of time.   Speaking to a LOCAL loan officer is critical.   Only local loan officers know and understand the unique requirements of buying a home in Hawaii.   Usually when someone moves to Hawaii and tries to use a mainland lender/loan oficer, they discover that that lender has overlooked something relating to the local laws.  

Preparing for the Move – Moving Costs

Post Office – Forwarding Your Mail

Prior to your move, you should submit a Change of Address form with the United States Postal Service. You can obtain a form from any U.S. Post Office or submit it electronically at

Packing Like a Pro

• Develop a master "to do" list so you won't forget something critical.
• Pack like items together. Put toys with toys, kitchen utensils with kitchen utensils, etc.
• Decide what, if anything, you plan to move yourself. Precious items - such as family photos, valuable breakables, or must-haves during the move - should probably stay with you.
• Use the right-size box for the item. Loose items encourage breakage.
• Put heavy items in small boxes so they're easier to lift. Keep weight under 50 lbs. if possible.
• Don't over-pack boxes and increase the chances they will break.
• Wrap every fragile item separately and pad bottom and sides of boxes.
• Label every box on all sides. You never know how they'll be stacked and you don't want to have to move other boxes aside to find out what's there.
• Use color-coded labels to indicate which room each item should go in. Color-code a floor plan for your new house to help movers.
• Keep your moving documents together, including phone numbers, driver's name, and van/container number. Also keep your address book handy.
• Back up your computer files before moving your computer.
• Inspect each box and all furniture for damage as soon as it arrives.
• Remember, most movers won't handle plants.


Matson offers the most frequent, reliable service in shipping household goods and automobiles to Hawaii. There are other companies that offer shipping services, but is a good place to start to get a price quote based on your particular location and situation. Currently, the cost to ship an automobile to Honolulu from California is $1,072 and $1,729 to Honolulu from Seattle.

Shipping companies for getting your goods across the Pacific:

Horizon Lines

West Point Relocation
Ship to Hawaii
(Airfreight Discounts)

Preparing Your Pet for the Move

Hawaii has strict animal quarantine laws in order to keep rabies out of the state. There are two rabies quarantine programs for dogs and cats entering Hawaii: 120-Day or the 5-Day-or-Less Quarantine programs. If certain pre- and post-arrival requirements are met, your pet may be eligible for the 5-Day-or-Less Quarantine Program. For complete information on the quarantine requirements for your pet, see the Hawaii Rabies Quarantine Information Brochure at In addition, airline arrangements to transport your pet to Hawaii must be made directly with the airline.

Once You’ve Arrived in Hawaii

There will be a lot of tasks to do once you have arrived in the islands. Your first stop should be at one of Hawaii’s Satellite City Hall locations, which serve as the City’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Satellite City Hall locations and information can be found at

Driver’s License

Every person who drives any type of motorized vehicle is required to be tested and licensed. You will need to take a written test of traffic laws and rules of the road as well as a vision exam. You should study the Hawaii Driver’s Manual prior to taking the written test. Manuals are available at local bookstores and State libraries.

Car Registration

You have 10 days after arrival to register your vehicle and you have two choices: You can transfer to Hawaii registration, or get a permit to operate it until the out-of-state plates expire. Prior to registering your car, you must have a Hawaii Vehicle Inspection Certificate, also known as a “Safety Check.” There are many authorized safety inspection providers across the island, including many service stations. These providers will display a state-authorized Safety Inspection seal. You’ll need to show your Hawaii proof of motor vehicle insurance card to get your Hawaii inspection certificate. This means you will need to shop for motor vehicle insurance prior to registering your vehicle.

Go to any Satellite City Hall.

Setting Up Your Utiliies

There are some tasks you need to take care of no matter where you move. Basic utilities and services need to be ordered before you settle in to your new home. Here’s who you need to contact:
Hawaiian Electric

Hawaiian Telcom

The Gas Company

Honolulu Board of Water Supply

Oceanic Cable

Other Facts About Hawaii


Hawaii is one of the most diverse states with several unique population characteristics: 30% of the population is white compared to 39% Asian, as well as over 9% Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.  More info here.

Local Cultures

Fed by waves of Polynesian, European, American, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, Indian and other immigrants, mainstream culture in Hawaii since contact has been shaped by the interactions and intermingling of its many ethnicities and nationalities.  Exemplified in the iconic ukulele, as well as in the Plantation agrarian society that predominated from roughly 1850-1950, this uniquely local culture was built upon a foundation of treasured native Hawaiian concepts such as aloha.


From secluded rural areas to shoreline manors and suburban townhouses, Hawaii neighborhoods are as diverse as their populations.  Learn more about neighborhoods here

Cost of living

Owning a home or condo in Hawaii has been a surer bet than most mainland real estate, and long-term ownership in Hawaii is an excellent investment very likely to remain so due to high demand and limited supply.

However, isolated island living doesn't come cheap: the median single-family home price in Hawaii is $597,000.  A gallon of gasoline averages $3.44, a gallon of milk, around $6.  For more, check out this cost of living calculator.


A good way to ease the high cost of living is residence in the more affordable housing markets of Oahu, many of which will be served by a new rail line under construction.  For an idea of traffic in Paradise, consult the city and county of Honolulu's traffic cams.

Employment - Jobs

Get a head start on your job search with these great job resources:
Hawaii Job Engine
Craigslist Jobs


For many newcomers, Hawaii's opportunities for fun in (and out of) the sun are the first step in integrating themselves into local culture.  Here's a starter list of activity websites:

Stand-up/Paddle Surfing



Hawaii's Public Education system, like the rest of the state, has experienced a budget crisis that has created difficulties in a system that already had fierce critics in some districts.  For many parents, the value of private schools is well worth the investment.  Honolulu Magazine frequently publishes comprehensive information on both private and public schools. 

Higher Education

The University of Hawaii is one of only 13 land-, sea-, and space-grant research institutions in the country and offers an array of graduate, undergraduate and community college programs on 10 campuses across the state. 

Hawaii's largest private colleges are:

Hawaii Pacific University
Chaminade University
Brigham Young University - Hawaii 


Pacific Business News
Hawaii Business Magazine
Honolulu Magazine

Moving to Hawaii Checklist (download PDF)

Fill out
• U.S. Postal Service change-of-address forms or change your address online

• Newspaper subscriptions
• Magazine subscriptions

• Catalog companies
• Book, music, and video clubs
• Educational, religious, charitable, and fraternal organizations

Arrange to turn off, or change over

• Water
• Gas
• Telephone
• Sewer
• Electric
• Cable/Satellite TV
• Garbage

• Banks
• Credit card companies

Insurance agents
• Homeowners
• Auto
• Life

Service Providers
• Internet
• Cellular Phone
• Paging Service

Delivery Services
• Grocery
• Pharmacy

• Doctors
• Accountant
• Dentist
• Financial Advisor
• Veterinarian
• Stock Broker

• City, State, and Federal government agencies
• Income and property tax authorities

• Driver, pet, and other license data
• Pet vaccination records
• Voter, vehicle, and vessel registrations
• Business permits

Do you have anything to add? let us know in the comments!


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