Moving to Hawaii Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. Can I ship both of my cars to Hawaii?

The government will only ship one of your cars for free. You will have to pay to ship the second vehicle. We used Pasha to ship our car and it cost $2,000 from South Carolina to Hawaii.

2. Is living in Hawaii expensive?

Yes, but between your BAH and COLA you will be covered fairly well. The biggest expense I see is housing, utilities, fuel, and groceries. The BAH covers your housing, COLA covers your extra fuel cost (and hopefully your utilities), and the commissary helps reduce your grocery bill. Trust me – you have it much better than the locals when it comes to this stuff.

3. Does XM radio work in Hawaii?


4. Does Amazon Prime work in Hawaii?

Sort of. You get free shipping on most items, but cannot ship two-day for free like you normally can.

5. Is it expensive to fly back to the mainland?

Yes. Tickets back home are around $800 per person, but much cheaper if you’re only flying to California.

6. Should I live on base or off base?

If you wan to save money, live on base. You will save a lot on utilities, which are typically $200 – $300 per month for electricity and $100 for water. The schools on base are known to be better as well, a lot of public schools off base have bad reputations. However, living off base will probably get you a bigger, nicer house.

7. How long do I have to look for a home in Hawaii?

Maximum 60 days. You have to check in with your housing office when you arrive on island. They will give you a form to fill out which shows you are looking at homes. You have to check in every 15 days and show that you are trying to find a home, by showing the list of homes you’ve looked at. I’ve heard that the 60 days can be extended but takes some work and extra approval.

8. How much money do I get while looking for a home?

A lot. BHA + TLA + COLA. More details here.

9. What’s so great about living in Hawaii?

My favorite part is the weather, which is almost constantly at 78 degrees. My kids play outside every day after school with neighborhood kids. They ride their bikes around with shorts and t-shirts on while I sit outside and BBQ. I like BBQ’ing in the evening, or getting together with neighbors to drink a beer.

Of course, the beach is amazing. We used to go once a week but now go maybe once a month. Everybody is very friendly here and relaxed. I love wearing flip flops all the time! Get a nice pair of Reef sandals, they are so comfortable.

10. What do you not like about Hawaii?

My commute to work is tough and involves a lot of traffic. It’s expensive to fly home, so we can’t see family on the mainland as often as we would like (although they do visit us more often!). It’s hard to find good schools for my kids, and private schools are plentiful but expensive. Shipping is expensive, so you have to try and buy more things local rather than through the internet. Most neighborhoods are a bit crowded.

11. Best places to live off base?

Nicest, affordable homes: Ewa Beach or Kapolei. Downside to these areas is a bad commute, and more expensive utilities due to the homes being in a hotter area (need to run A/C).

Best schools, somewhat affordable homes: Mililani

Nice area, good commute: Kaneohe, Kailua. Homes here are expensive for what you get.

12. Can I ship all my stuff to Hawaii?

Yes. You can ship your full weight allowance, just like you are moving within the mainland. As an extra benefit, you can choose to put some items in government storage. I did this with my riding lawn mower. You do not need a riding lawn mower in Hawaii!

13. Are military discounts available on the island?

Yes! Check out Great Life Hawaii to find lots of deals from ITT. Some of my favorite deals: Hanauma Bay is free for military. Hilton Hawaiian Village has great deals for local residents. Try to stay in the Rainbow Tower, and stay on Friday night so you can watch the fireworks at 7:45PM.

One of the best military benefits on the island is the Hale Koa. Even if you don’t stay there, the parking garage is cheap and gets you into Waikiki for the day. I also love their pool, which is near the beach and is free to military any time, even if you don’t stay there. The Barefoot Bar nearby has drinks much cheaper than the Hilton or surrounding hotels.

14. Are the schools bad?

From what I’ve heard (my son is just starting Kindergarten) public schools in Hawaii do not challenge kids. They will likely study at a lower level than kids in the mainland. Some of the schools are crowded and are on a multitrack schedule, which means rather than have a summer off, kids attend year-round and have breaks during different parts of the year.

One thing I was surprised is that many schools do not have air conditioning. The schools can get hot, and teachers encourage kids to bring a bottle of water in their backpack.

Private schools are all over the island, but are expensive. We looked at a couple (such as Island Pacific Academy) that were $14K per year.

15. Is there a lot to do on the island?

Yes! However, don’t see everything in your first week on the island. Spread out visiting the big sights or wait for family to visit so you can see them together. For instance, I waited for my Dad to visit before seeing the USS Arizona. It was great seeing it together for the first time rather than running through it a second time.

After a year or so you’ve probably visited all the big sights. You can then visit different beaches, go on one of many hikes, take a boat tour, or find a new restaurant. Finally, if you’re really tired of the island, you can go visit another nearby island!

16. Do you ever get “island fever”?

My wife and I have never experienced this. The island is fairly big and there is a lot to do. A mountain divides the island in half, so if you’re ever bored you can drive to the other side, and it feels like a different area. Kailua looks a lot different than Honolulu, and the North Shore looks much different when compared to Ko Olina.