How to Move to Hawaii

Moving to Hawaii doesn’t have to feel like you’re moving to another country. Here are the best ways to move to Paradise.

From lush jungles and pristine beaches to year-round tropical weather and delectable seafood, there’s really nothing not to love about Hawaii.

It’s America’s quintessential island paradise, and though the cost of living can be astronomical, actually moving there isn’t particularly difficult.

5 Most Popular Cities in Hawaii

In fact, there are just five basic options:

Ever asked yourself –

How Much Does it Cost to Move to Hawaii?

Try Googling it, and you’ll see that prices range from less than a few hundred dollars to send a few boxes of clothes and electronics through the US Postal Service, to well over $15,000 for a full-service move.

Shipping a car to Hawaii usually costs between $1,400 and $2,400.

Luckily for most families, the cost is usually somewhere in the middle, and you’ll be able to customize a moving solution that works best for you.

Did you know…

Full-service moving companies that handle overseas moves are often called freight forwarders.

Now let’s look more closely at how to move household goods to Hawaii.

1. By Ship – The Most Popular Method

How Much Does it Cost?

Less than $1,000 for a tiny studio apartment, to $15,000 (or more) for a large multi-room home.

Pros –
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Fast by ocean freight standards
  • Most freight forwarders handle all the details and offer the same services as full-service movers like packing, crating, insurance, storage, and auto shipping
Cons –
  • Vetting moving companies isn’t easy
  • Choosing unwisely could turn into a huge headache
  • You may have to share your shipping container

Like on international moves, when choosing ocean freight for a move to Hawaii your household goods will be shipped inside a 20 or 40-foot container depending on their weight and volume (cubic feet).

If there’s extra space left over, your shipping company may suggest consolidating your shipment with another to increase efficiency and minimize cost.

This type of shipping is called LCL, which stands for Less than Container Load.

It may be a good option, but it can result in slightly longer delivery times because the second shipment may need to be delivered before yours.

Alternately, you can reserve the whole container for your own exclusive use.

This is called FCL, or Full Container Load.

Other Ocean Freight Options

Many freight forwarders offer multiple services, like –

  • Door to Door – When the company picks up your items directly from your old home and delivers them to your new one
  • Door to Port – When the company picks up your items from your old home, but only delivers the container to the port nearest your new home (you’re responsible for getting it delivered from the port to your new address)
  • Port to Port – When the company picks up your container from one port and delivers it to another (you’re responsible for trucking at both ends)

Not surprisingly, door to door service costs the most, but you’ll enjoy peace of mind knowing that experienced professionals are handling all the details.

Though it may be tempting to choose one of the latter two options to save a few bucks, it’s almost always a bad idea.

Insider’s Tip: Remember, with door to port and port to port service you’ll be responsible for knowing regulations and procedures, and getting the container where it needs to be on time – and if it doesn’t make it it’s your problem, not theirs.


2. By Moving Container – A Cost-Effective Alternative

How Much Does it Cost to Move with a Moving Container?

Usually more than $3,000, but often much more depending on how much you’re shipping and where you’re moving from.

Pros –
  • Usually less expensive than full-service ocean freight
  • Multiple container sizes available to fit most needs
  • PODS does inter-island moves and ones from the mainland
  • U-Pack does moves to Hawaii from all lower 48 states
Cons –
  • You’ll have to do the packing and moving yourself
  • You’ll need to familiarize yourself with Hawaii’s customs procedures and restrictions
  • There may be availability issues and price increases during the peak season from May thru September
How it Works (with door to door)
  1. The company delivers an empty container to your home
  2. You have a set amount of time to load it (usually 2 or 3 days)
  3. They pick it up and deliver to a port in California
  4. The ship takes your container to a port in Hawaii
  5. A truck delivers the container to your new home or apartment
  6. You have a day or two to unload it before they pick it up

* Transit time usually ranges from 7 to 14 business days, but keep in mind that not all companies offer door to door service to every island, so check with a representative before signing on the dotted line.

Who Does It

PODS
PODS Moving Services     4.0 out of 5.0 stars

Whether moving between the islands or from the mainland, PODS ships containers door to door, or to one of their storage centers near your new home

U-Pack
U-Pack     4.0 out of 5.0 stars

For moves to Hawaii U-Pack uses “Relo Cubes” – 6’ x 7’ x 8’ foot metal containers

U-Box

U-Haul’s U-Box containers get priority shipping and have interior capacities of about 260 cubic feet

3. By Air – Fast but Expensive

How Much Does it Cost?

Prices range from just a few hundred dollars for small parcels to more than $2,000 depending on who you’re using, where you’re moving from and to, how much you’re shipping, and how quickly you’ll need your items.

Pros –
  • You’ll usually get your items in a few days
  • May be paid for by your company if you’re relocating for work
Cons –
  • Can be prohibitively expensive if you’re paying on your own
  • Some items can’t be shipped by air

Like it is for international moves, air freight is usually reserved for small parcels of items you’ll need access to before the ocean freight portion of your shipment arrives.

If you’re moving for work, your company may pay for air freight for computers and laboratory and surveying equipment if you’ll need them to do your job on arrival.

Your freight forwarder will provide packing service for air freight in accordance with airline regulations, so set these items aside.

4. By Mail – Good for Small Shipments

How Much Does it Cost?

It’s dependent on a number of factors, but if you’re just shipping a few boxes and priority delivery isn’t necessary it’s often just a few hundred dollars.

Pros –
  • Reasonable prices if you don’t need expedited delivery
  • Insurance available if you’ll be shipping expensive or breakable items
  • You may be able to track your boxes online
Cons –
  • Slow
  • You may have to pick items up at the post office
  • Weight and dimension restrictions may apply

The great thing about shipping with the USPS is that you can pay for fast delivery if you need it, or opt for lengthier transit times if saving a few bucks is more important.

Remember, not everything can be shipped via mail, and items shipped in individual boxes are more prone to damage than those shipped inside steel containers, so this option is generally best suited to relatively hearty items.

Insider’s Tip: Shipping via mail is often a good fit for minimalists, backpacker types, and young professionals setting out on their own for the first time.


5. By Carry-On – Great for Light Travelers

How Much Does it Cost?

It’s free if your carry-on and checked bags are under the airline’s weight requirements!

Pros –
  • Everything goes with you, so there’s no waiting
  • It can be convenient and inexpensive
Cons –
  • Size and weight limits apply
  • Some airlines have exorbitant baggage fees

Selling, donating, or discarding everything but clothes and necessities prior to a move is a great way to reduce cost.

That said, shipping all your worldly possessions by carry-on isn’t a feasible option for most travelers.

But if you’re a minimalist determined to start your new island life free from the burden of possessions, it may be the way to go.

Shipping a Car to Hawaii

Whether you currently live on the east coast, west coast, or somewhere in between, shipping a car to Hawaii is usually pretty affordable.

Generally, the cost is between about $1,400 and $2,400, which in some cases isn’t much more than shipping a vehicle across the continental US.

Like domestic car shipping, costs vary depending on:

  • Type and size of the vehicle
  • Its value
  • What part of Hawaii it’s being shipped to
  • Where it’ll be picked up
  • How soon you’ll need it

Shipping Pets to Hawaii

Most pet lovers wouldn’t be able to enjoy their new island paradise without the company of their non-human companions.

That said, shipping pets to Hawaii requires jumping through lots of regulatory hoops – especially now during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In short, plan on your animals being in quarantine for up to a month and paying hundreds of dollars.

Always consult your freight forwarder for specific pet information, and check out the website of the state’s Animal Industry Division.

Shipping Plants to Hawaii

If you’ve ever crossed from Arizona into California on Interstates 10 or 40, you’ll know there are Ports of Entry through which cars and trucks must pass.

Though these ports serve a number of functions, one of their main duties is preventing the spread of invasive insect and non-native plant species from one state to another.

Likewise, when moving plants from the mainland to Hawaii, you’ll be subject to lots of rules and regulations – and they can be confusing to say the least.

Luckily, experienced freight forwarders will be able to tell you what can and can’t go, but checking out the website of the State of Hawaii Plant Industry Division is a great way to get up to speed during pre-move planning

Did You Know…

According to the state’s Plant Industry Division, most plants are permitted into Hawaii if they’re properly packed and pass inspection, but chrysanthemums, dahlias and orchids (among others) may require permits, treatments, certification and quarantine.

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