Dreaming of warm turquoise water, cascading falls, and the friendliness of the Aloha spirit? Some would say that California offers similar things – temperate weather, outdoor activities, etc. – but there’s a magic to living in Hawaii that’s truly unmatched. From colorful coral reefs and lush rainforests to unique cuisine and incredible diversity, the state’s five main islands (Hawaii, aka “The Big Island,” Maui, Molokai, Oahu, and Kauai) offer amazing adventures and a lifestyle that is anything but boring! Before you say ‘Aloha’ – it also means goodbye – to California, check out this guide for a seamless move.

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What to Know About Moving from California to Hawaii

Island life offers so many perks – laidback lifestyle, year-round sun, beautiful people inside & out, and much more – but it also can be a bit of a culture shock (in a good way). Here’s a quick rundown of important stuff to know before you leave California for your new life in Hawaii.

Taxes

Alright, let’s address the elephant in the room first. Taxation is an inescapable part of life, and living in California, you know just how expensive those tax bills can be. The good news: the average sales tax in Hawaii is only 4.35%, lower than both the Cali average (8.5%) and US average (7.3%). The not-so-good news: income tax is currently 8.3%, which is higher than the US average (4.6%). The silver lining is that it’s still lower than the CA average of 9.3%. Though taxes are cheaper than those you pay in California, living expenses can be quite high (rent, groceries, retail items, etc.) due to Hawaii’s remote location.

Economy and Job Growth

As of the beginning of 2020, the unemployment rate in Hawaii is 2.3% (compared to the CA rate of 4.2%). Median household income is about $68,201 (compared to CA median of less than $61,500). A key point to keep in mind is the job market. Depending on where you live, it can be tight. The best advice for finding employment is to establish that you’re going to be living here for a while. If you can show that you’re in it for the long haul, employers are more likely to hire you. Combine that with the right connections, and you can do well in this competitive market. The biggest employers include the State of Hawaii, Hawaii Health Systems, Hawaiian Airlines, the University of Hawaii, and Hawaiian Electric Industries.

Weather and Climate

The consistently gorgeous weather of Hawaii – it’s one of the top reasons people move away from the mainland. Yeah, Cali has a pretty temperate climate, but it can’t compare to the sublime water temps and beaming sunshine you’ll find in Hawaii. The hot season is generally between June and October (average temperatures between 70 to 90°F), followed by a cooler ‘winter’ season between November and April (average temperatures between 60 to 80°F). The Hawaiian Islands offer a tropical climate overall, but, like California, the state has varying climates due to location and altitude. Fun fact: it actually snows in Hawaii! At elevations above 9,000 feet (mainly on Haleakala, Mauna Kea, and Mauna Loa), you can enjoy a super unique experience: skiing or snowboarding atop a Hawaiian volcano.

Geography

Want to experience the remote island life? Hawaii certainly offers the prime getaway from the continental United States while still being a US state. Situated approximately 2,500 southwest of California in the central Pacific Ocean (and about 4,140 miles southeast of Japan), the islands of Hawaii were formed by undersea volcanic activity that continues growing and creating new islands. From rugged volcanic vistas and black sand beaches to tropical rainforests and soaring mountains, it’s the only US state that’s an archipelago. Along with the main islands, there are currently 100+ rocky islets. The collection of islands is also home to high biodiversity, from plants to animals.

Housing and Cost of Living

Okay, so what does it cost to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth? Since there’s a finite amount of space in Hawaii, homes can cost a pretty penny (particularly oceanfront property), but that’s also the same case with many parts of Cali. The median home value in Hawaii is currently $642,526, while the median home value in California is $578,267. An important thing to keep in mind is fee simple vs. leasehold property. Fee simple (which is typical of mainland homeownership) includes ownership of the whole property (including the land). Since the State of Hawaii and the US government own most of the land on the islands, many properties are leaseholds. With a leasehold, you own the building but don’t actually own the ground under your place. A leasehold essentially gives you the right to lease the land that your home sits on for a specified length of time. If a real estate deal sounds too good to be true, it’s likely a leasehold!

The nationwide cost of living index is 100, and by comparison, living in either California or Hawaii is much more expensive. The overall cost of living in CA is currently 149.9, whereas the overall cost of living in HI is 170. Take into consideration that you’ll pay more for just about everything, including groceries, housing, and utilities.

Things to Do

The islands might be smaller than the state of California, but they definitely pack a punch! The name of the game is outdoor living at its finest. Whether it’s swimming, surfing, boating, sunbathing, snorkeling, or diving, it’s hard to beat what the islands have to offer. If exploring sundry landscapes and wildlife is more your jam, grab your hiking boots and backpack. The terrain provides colorful coral reefs, rugged mountains, flowing lava fields, and lush rainforests for endless exploration. Don’t think it’s just limited to nature adventures, though. The City of Honolulu, for example, is home to award-winning restaurants, night clubs, concert venues, the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, and more!

Educational Opportunities

When it comes to schools, Hawaii shines again. It ranks #7 in best high schools by state (compared to #2 for California), while it lands at #36 for overall public education (compared to #38 for CA). Private schools are exceptional here, including Punahou School (Honolulu), ‘Iolani School (Honolulu), Hawai’i Preparatory Academy (Kamuela), Le Jardin Academy (Kailua), and Parker School (Kamuela). The Aloha state is also home to several acclaimed institutes of higher learning. These include Brigham Young University – Hawaii (Laie), the University of Hawaii at Manoa (Honolulu), University of Hawaii – West Oahu (Kapolei), Chaminade University of Honolulu (Honolulu), and the University of Hawaii at Hilo (Hilo).

Culture, Diversity, and Demographics

There’s something naturally magical yet accessible about Hawaiian culture. Known as the Aloha Spirit, it’s an attitude centered around the essential meaning of the word ‘Aloha’: love. Though California is known for its diversity, the fast-paced lifestyle of major areas like LA and the Bay Area can hamper the enjoyment of interwoven culture. Here in Hawaii, however, you’ll find a unique melting pot of language (including Pidgin), food (a blend of Asian, Pacific Island, and European influences), and myriad races & ethnicities. All of this is married to a laidback lifestyle, which waits to embrace newcomers with open arms. In Hawaii, it’s all about friendly acceptance and being part of one big family. Aloha!

Transportation and Traffic

So, you might be trying to escape traffic and congestion in California. In many parts of the islands, you can breathe easy knowing how spacious and mellow it’s going to be. However, do keep in mind that metropolitan areas, such as Honolulu and Kapolei, do have their fair share of traffic issues. Wherever you go, you most likely will need access to a vehicle. There are no rapid transit options, but urbanized regions do offer decent coverage via public bus systems. According to Zip Atlas, the average commute time in Honolulu (zip code 96825) is currently 32 minutes. Even if the commute is slow-going at times, at least you get the treat of incredible scenery along the way.

Food

The food of Hawaii. So tasty! As a significant melting pot of culture and people, the Hawaiian Islands offer a bounty of culinary delights. Iconic dishes include saimin (a noodle soup dish), Loco Moco (bed of rice + hamburger patty + fried egg and gravy on top = delicious), poke (raw seafood marinated in sauce), and shave ice (a classic treat!). Of course, California is a highly diverse state, offering an endless list of cuisine from around the globe. But there’s something about the Hawaiian island life and Aloha Spirit that make the food here one of the top reasons why residents are so happy!

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Best Places to Live in Hawaii

Wondering where to settle down in paradise? Here’s our list of the top places in Hawaii to call home:

Oahu

While Oahu is a thrilling location, its population of over one million inhabitants makes it Hawaii’s most population-dense island. Even after determining Oahu is the place for you, you’ll have to choose which part of its 597 square miles suits you best – Honolulu, The North Shore, or the Windward Coast. Read more about living on Oahu here.

Maui

Ahh, the beaches of Maui! Will you live in Kula, Lahaina, Kahului, or another location? This beautiful island has a population of 180,000 residents and a total land area of 727 square miles. On Maui, you’ll have access to many of your favorite mainland stores – like Target and Costco, but there are also plenty of areas on the island that will make you feel as if you’re a world away from mainstream America. Read more about life on Maui here.

The Big Island

The southernmost Hawaiian Island, the Island of Hawaii, also known as the “Big Island,” spans 4,029 square miles. This island’s beauty is undeniably exquisite. Hawaii’s 200,000 plus residents enjoy fresh air, clean water, and unique scenery. If you choose to live here, you’ll have smoking volcanoes and well-preserved forest reserves right in your backyard. From Hilo to Kaulua-Kona, read about the best towns on the Big Island here.

Kauai

Although Kauai is a busy tourist destination, it has half the population of Maui and is more rural with less traffic and less noise than some of the other islands. There is far less to do in the way of nightlife and events, but Kauai is undeniably peaceful. If you desire a slow pace of life, you might check out The North Shore, Royal Coconut Coast, Lihue, or one of the other parts of lush Kauai. Read more here.

Molokai

Molokai is a tiny place, inhabited by around 7,000 dwellers who are halted by ZERO traffic lights. That’s right, if you’re looking for a break from traffic, consider moving to Molokai. The island of Molokai is located between Maui and Oahu and is just 38 miles long and 10 miles wide. Read more about Molokai here.

Lanai

Lanai is another quiet island, much like Molokai, but with fewer than half the inhabitants. If you enjoy solitude, you will love this location. Lanai City is the sole town on this tiny island, so this may be your best bet for finding a home. Find out more about living on Lanai here.


Cost of Moving from California to Hawaii

On average, it costs about $9,500-$11,000 to move from California to Hawaii. Though this might sound expensive, consider that you are hauling your stuff about 2,467 miles across the ocean. The total cost of your move will depend on several variables, including your origin and destination cities, the time of year you’re moving, the size of your household, and which services you require. The best way to get an accurate estimate is by scheduling an in-home or virtual (no contact) walkthrough with a licensed and insured interstate mover. Get free moving quotes from the best California to Hawaii movers now!

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Devin Barroga

Ever been bitten by the wanderlust bug? It's a powerful force, one which has captivated Devin for his entire life.... Read More