Moving to Hawaii from California: Everything You Need to Know

Are you considering moving to Hawaii from California? The Hawaiian Islands are a great place to live! From the warm weather to the natural beauty, it’s no wonder that so many people dream of making the move to the Aloha State. However, before you make the big move, there are a few things you should know. In this blog post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about moving from California to Hawaii. Get ready to learn about housing costs, job opportunities, transportation, and more!

Kauai County, Hawaii, USA
Kauai County, Hawaii, USA. Photo by Braden Jarvis on Unsplash

Cost of Living

Aloha, my dearest friend! Are you currently daydreaming about moving to Hawaii from California and you’re not sure if it’s the right decision for you? After all, the move will put hundreds of miles between you and your loved ones, but it can also be an exciting adventure that opens new doors in your life. One factor that’s likely weighing heavily on your mind is the cost of living in both places. Fear not, as I am here to share with you the implications of moving to Hawaii from California on your cost of living and quality of life.

The first thing you should know is that the cost of living in Hawaii is higher than the national average in the United States. Housing costs are a big consideration for many people, as the average cost of a home in Hawaii is much higher than in California. However, the good news is that real estate in Hawaii has a reasonable price range that depends on the type of move and the size of your move. If you plan on moving to the island of Oahu, you can expect to pay more than moving to the Big Island, which is the largest island in the chain.

According to BEA Personal Consumption Expenditures by State, 2021 | U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) the cost of living in California is $53082 per person per year, which is $4423 per month. Compare that with Hawaii, where the average expenditure was $49155 per year, or $4096 per month.

First, let’s talk about California. The Golden State is known for its high-income jobs, fine dining options, and upscale shopping. However, this reputation comes at a hefty price, literally. According to a 2021 report by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the cost of living in California is $53,082 per person per year, which is equivalent to $4,423 per month. As you might expect, rent takes a sizable chunk out of this figure, even in smaller cities. Don’t forget to factor in property taxes and insurance premiums as well. While the pay can be higher in California, so are the costs of everything else.

On the other hand, Hawaii has a reputation for being paradise on earth, with its warm weather year-round, picturesque beaches, and cultural diversity. The downside is that Hawaii is the most expensive state in the U.S., but is it the case for everything? The BEA report reveals that the average expenditure in Hawaii is $49,155 per year, or $4,096 per month. While rent in Hawaii is higher compared to other states, such as California, utilities, food, and healthcare costs are on par with or cheaper than California. In fact, Hawaii has the lowest healthcare costs compared to other states. Hawaii is the only state that has the average premium for single coverage below $1000 per year ($846), and it ranks #48 for states in terms of health care costs. Most and Least Expensive States for Health Care, Ranked – Forbes Advisor

MERIC Analysis

MERIC provides another view of the data. Cost of Living Data Series | Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (

According to MERIC, Hawaii’s rank for cost of living is 52, while California is at 49. But what does that really mean for your wallet and your overall quality of life? Let’s dive in and find out.

2023 First Quarter 2023 Cost of Living Hawaii vs California
2023 First Quarter 2023 Cost of Living Hawaii vs California

Housing is arguably one of the most significant expenses when it comes to cost of living. Unfortunately, moving to Hawaii might put a significant dent in your budget. The housing index for Hawaii is 309, while California stands at 186. What this means is that housing in Hawaii is 60% more expensive than in California. For example, a 1,200 sq ft apartment in Honolulu could cost you around $2,500 a month! So if you’re planning on moving here, be ready to sacrifice some space and luxury to make ends meet.

Kaimana Beach, Honolulu, United States. Photo by Michael Olsen on Unsplash

Next up is transportation. Hawaii’s transportation index is 140, which means it’s around 12% more expensive than California’s at 124. Cars and gas are quite pricey on the island, but depending on where you choose to live, you might not even need a car. Thanks to Hawaii’s beautiful weather, you might be able to bike or walk to most of your daily destinations if you live in town. If you prefer to drive, you can also consider carpooling or taking advantage of public transportation.

Yellow convertible car in Waikiki, Honolulu
Yellow convertible car in Waikiki, Honolulu, USA. Photo by Marcus Lenk on Unsplash

Grocery shopping in Hawaii can be an eye-opener for Californians. Hawaii’s grocery index is 125, while California’s is 112. This means that food and basic necessities are around 11% more expensive in Hawaii. Some items, like fresh produce, can be even more costly due to the long travel time to reach the islands. However, shopping locally and choosing in-season fruits and vegetables can help you save some money and support local businesses.

apples and oranges

When it comes to healthcare, Hawaii’s index is 118, while California’s is 106. While healthcare isn’t typically a part of daily expenses like housing and food, it’s an important factor to keep in mind. Healthcare costs can add up quickly, especially if you or your family have pre-existing conditions or need frequent doctor visits. That said, Hawaii’s healthcare system is pretty fantastic, and you’ll find top-notch doctors and hospitals throughout the state.

Photo by Markus Frieauff on Unsplash

Lastly, let’s talk about utilities. Hawaii’s index is 141, and California’s is 124. Utilities include electricity, gas, water, and other necessary services. Although utilities will vary depending on your lifestyle and location, Hawaii’s tropical climate can make some bills, like air conditioning and electricity, quite pricey. You could try to live in a more eco-conscious way to save some energy, but it’s important to budget for utilities accordingly.

Deciding to move to Hawaii from California is a big life decision. While the beautiful beaches, friendly people, and tropical climate can be alluring, it’s important to consider the cost of living and how it will impact your lifestyle. As we’ve seen, most expenses, including housing, healthcare, transportation, and utilities, are higher in Hawaii compared to California. However, with some savvy budgeting and a willingness to adapt, you can still lead a great life on the islands. Ultimately, your decision to move will depend on many factors beyond the cost of living, so make sure to do your due diligence and reach out to community resources before making the big leap. Mahalo, and good luck!


Transportation is another factor to consider. In California, owning a car is practically a necessity, but high gas prices and traffic jams can make driving harrowing. Hawaii does have a higher sales tax rate (4.5%) and registration fees, but the islands’ public transit system, bike trails, and car-sharing options make it possible to live comfortably without a car. The weather makes owning and maintaining a car more expensive due to more frequent repairs because of saltwater and humidity.

Waikiki, Honolulu, HI, USA. Photo by Justin Shen on Unsplash

Unlike California, Hawaii is not known for its public transportation system. Most people in Hawaii rely on cars to get around. Shipping container and moving truck companies will be able to help with statewide and interstate moves. When moving to Hawaii, you should also be aware that gas prices are generally higher than in California due to the state’s remote location.


Let’s not forget that living in Hawaii has its numerous advantages. Hawaii’s year-round warm temperatures and proximity to the beach makes it an ideal spot for exploring the outdoors – for free. Hiking, swimming with sea turtles, and surf lessons are just some activities you’ll have access to. Plus, Hawaii has a vibrant culture that’s truly unique. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about Hawaiian traditions, attend hula shows, and participate in local festivals that celebrate the culture.

Hawaii’s warmth is no secret, with its bright sunshine and endless summer vibes. But just how hot does it get on these breathtaking islands? Well, the average temperature varies throughout the year. If you’re planning a visit during the winter months, be prepared for a low of 65F and high of 80F in January and February. However, if you’re planning on hitting the beach during the summer, brace yourself for a hotter climate. August and September see the highest temperatures of the year with a high of 86F and a low of 72F. Regardless of the time of year, Hawaii’s weather is sure to brighten up any tropical vacation.

Public Schools

If you have children or plan to have them in the future, you should also be aware of the public schools in Hawaii. Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. that has a single school district, which covers all of the islands. The public schools in Hawaii are average comparatively to other states in the U.S. It is recommended that people that want to move to Hawaii research their children’s individual school when moving to Hawaii. I know that for us, we moved just 5 minutes away just before our son started kindergarten, because the two elementary schools were rated so differently.

Moving Company

When choosing the best moving company for your move from California to Hawaii, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. The reputability of professional movers is a key factor to research. Make sure to research their professional moving status as well as their interstate and international services. Also, the cost of moving will vary depending on the size of your move and the type of move. If you need to store your household goods, a storage unit might be the best way to go.

The Pros and Cons of the Six Major Islands

Hawaiʻi is known for its breathtaking landscapes, friendly people, and laid-back lifestyle. However, choosing which island to live on can be overwhelming. Each island has its own unique characteristics that make them special. So, what are the pros and cons of the six major islands? Let’s dive in!


Kauaʻi, known as the “Garden Island” is recognized for its stunning beauty, stunning beaches, incredible outdoor adventures, and diverse culture. This magical place is a paradise for those seeking a tropical getaway. Notably, Kauaʻi is the oldest island of the Hawaiian chain, and it boasts the iconic Napali Coast and the Waimea Canyon, known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Kauai is also home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, such as Ke’e and Tunnels Beaches, both ideal for snorkeling and surfing. However, this island is not only about natural wonders but also welcoming hospitality and vibrant cultural events, including the famous Kauai Matsuri Festival. All in all, Kauaʻi, Hawaii, is an exotic and exciting vacation destination that guarantees a blend of serenity, adventure, and relaxation beyond compare.

Kauaʻi, Photo by Jake Houglum on Unsplash


  • Known as the “Garden Island,” Kauaʻi is home to lush greenery and incredible waterfalls.
  • The island has a relaxed, slow-paced lifestyle.
  • Kauaʻi is popular for outdoor activities such as hiking, snorkeling, and surfing.


  • The cost of living on Kauaʻi is high.
  • Limited job opportunities can make finding work difficult.
  • Kauaʻi is prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods.


Oahu is known for its beautiful beaches and stunning scenery. With a mix of both city lights and breathtaking natural beauty, it’s no wonder why Oahu is one of the top visited islands in Hawaii. You’ll find everything from the famous Waikiki beach, spectacular hiking trails, and rich cultural experiences. The island is also known for its incredible food scene, where diverse cultures have come together to create unique dishes that leave your taste buds wanting more. Whether it’s exploring the historical sites of Pearl Harbor or catching a glimpse of the iconic Diamond Head Crater, there’s something for everyone on this island paradise.

Oʻahu. Photo by Peter Thomas on Unsplash


  • Oʻahu is the most populated island, making it a great place to connect with diverse communities.
  • There are plenty of opportunities for entertainment, such as attending concerts, festivals, and sporting events.
  • Many popular tourist attractions, such as Waikīkī Beach and Pearl Harbor, are located on Oʻahu.


  • The traffic on Oʻahu can be unbearable, especially during rush hour.
  • Due to its popularity, housing and rent prices can be high.
  • Crime rates on Oʻahu tend to be higher than on other islands.


The stunning Hawaiian island of Molokaʻi is a true gem of the Pacific. Known for its breathtaking natural beauty, this special place offers visitors an experience that is both awe-inspiring and deeply spiritual. From its rolling hills and rugged coastline to its pristine beaches and lush, tropical forests, Molokaʻi is a place of incredible natural diversity and wonder. However, what truly sets this island apart is its rich cultural heritage and traditions, which are woven into every aspect of daily life. Whether you’re exploring the island’s historic sites, sampling its delicious local cuisine, or simply taking in the stunning vistas, Molokaʻi is a place that is sure to leave a lasting impression on your heart and soul.


  • Molokaʻi is known for its rich culture and history, making it an excellent place to learn about Hawaiian traditions.
  • The island is small and remote, creating a peaceful and serene atmosphere.
  • The cost of living on Molokaʻi is relatively low.


  • Molokaʻi is difficult to access, with no direct flights from the mainland.
  • Limited job opportunities can make finding work difficult.
  • The island does not have as many amenities as other islands, such as shopping centers or entertainment venues.


Lānaʻi, a small island in the Hawaiian archipelago, is known for its beauty and serenity. Unlike the bustling atmosphere of other Hawaiian islands, Lānaʻi is a peaceful oasis with a population of fewer than 3,000 people. It is a popular destination for those seeking solitude and a chance to escape the stresses of daily life. Despite its small size, Lānaʻi is home to stunning natural wonders such as Hulopoe Bay and Keahiakawelo, also known as the Garden of the Gods. Visitors can also learn about the island’s rich history through a visit to the Iliholo-i-ka-uaua Church ruins or the Lānaʻi Culture & Heritage Center. Lānaʻi is truly a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered.

Scuba diving in Lanai
Scuba diving in Lānaʻi. Photo by Jake Houglum on Unsplash


  • Lānaʻi is a secluded island, making it perfect for those seeking a peaceful and private lifestyle.
  • The island is known for its natural beauty, including stunning rock formations and unique landscapes.
  • Lānaʻi has luxurious resorts and world-class golf courses.


  • With limited job opportunities, finding work on Lānaʻi can be challenging.
  • The cost of living on Lānaʻi is high, particularly when it comes to housing and food.
  • The island’s remote location can make accessing resources difficult.


Maui is a paradise destination known for its sandy beaches, breathtaking views, and crystal clear waters. This Hawaiian island boasts some of the world’s most renowned beaches, including Kaanapali, Wailea, and Lahaina. Maui’s unique topography also draws visitors to explore its mountains, valleys, and waterfalls. The infamous Road to Hana is a winding journey through the island’s lush rainforests and hidden beaches, providing a glimpse into Hawaii’s natural beauty. Beyond its natural wonders, Maui is also home to a vibrant culture with rich traditions, mouthwatering cuisine, and welcoming hospitality. It’s no wonder why Maui remains one of the most sought-after destinations for travelers seeking a taste of paradise.

Maui. Photo by Neora Aylon on Unsplash


  • Maui is known for its diverse landscapes, including beaches, waterfalls, and mountains.
  • There are plenty of job opportunities in the tourism industry.
  • Maui has a bustling nightlife and a wide variety of restaurants and bars.


  • The cost of living on Maui is high.
  • Traffic can be an issue, especially in tourist areas.
  • Popular tourist destinations and beaches can be overcrowded.

The Island of Hawaiʻi

The Island of Hawaiʻi, also known as the Big Island, is known for its unique natural beauty and diverse culture. Its size alone distinguishes it from the other Hawaiian islands, and it is home to one of the most active volcanoes in the world: Kīlauea. The island boasts of black-sand beaches, lush rainforests, and scenic waterfalls that attract visitors from all over the world. In addition to its breathtaking landscapes, the Island of Hawaiʻi features a vibrant culture with deep-rooted traditions that can be seen in its music, dance, cuisine, and art. Overall, The Island of Hawaiʻi is an alluring destination that offers a wide range of experiences for all types of travelers.

The big island of Hawaii. Photo by Andy Henderson on Unsplash


  • The island of Hawaiʻi (also known as the Big Island) is home to active volcanoes and incredible natural landscapes.
  • There are plenty of job opportunities, particularly in industries such as agriculture and tourism.
  • The cost of living is relatively low compared to other islands.


  • The size of the island can make traveling long distances difficult.
  • The weather can be unpredictable, ranging from sunny to rainy and windy all in one day.
  • The island is prone to natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

Summary of the Islands

Now that you are acquainted with the pros and cons of each island, we hope that you can make an informed decision about where to live in Hawaiʻi. Remember, each island has its own unique character and lifestyle, so choose one that best fits your needs and preferences. No matter which island you end up choosing, one thing is for sure: you will be living in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Mahalo for considering Hawaiʻi as your new home!


Whether you’re coming from San Francisco or Los Angeles, moving to Hawaii from California is a big move. While Hawaii may be the island paradise you’ve been dreaming of, it’s important to consider the high cost of living, housing market, job opportunities, and transportation. Do your research and reach out to reputable moving companies to ensure you have all the important information you need for a successful move. From the largest city of Honolulu to the North Shore of Oahu, the natural beauty and warm weather of Hawaii are waiting for you!

While the cost of living and move from California to Hawaii may seem daunting, it is up to you to weigh the pros and cons in your situation. In the long run, moving could end up being a lucrative investment in your happiness and well-being. Hawaii’s laid-back lifestyle, natural beauty, warm weather, and rich culture will surely make you feel right at home. Remember, paradise isn’t cheap, but the memories you make are priceless. So, if you’re after a quality lifestyle, take the leap of faith and consider trading the hustle and bustle of California to live in paradise in Hawaii. I hope my insights have helped nudge you closer to your dream! Mahalo for reading! To learn more about me, here is my About page Discovering the World: Karen Chow’s Moving Memos. And for additional moving guides, check out moving to Portland neighborhoods.

Have you been to any of the Hawaiian islands before? Let me know in the comments below!

3 thoughts on “Moving to Hawaii from California: Everything You Need to Know”

  1. Thanks for getting down to the nuts and bolts of it. The cost of living is very important when making the decision to move. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Wow! This is such a great breakdown of the cost of living in Hawaii and the pros and cons of each island that was so well explained. Thanks for such a helpful guide!

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