Moving to Hawaii is a dream for many people, thanks to the state’s gorgeous weather year-round, outdoor activities (hello, snorkeling!), lush jungles, stunning sunsets, mind blowing waterfalls, incredible beaches, rich Native Hawaiian culture, and much more! Here, we’ll lay out how to move to Hawaii, and make that dream a reality.
From the utterance of your first “Aloha,” you’ll be hooked by the experience of living in Hawaii and all the beauty it has to offer. Vibrant beaches like those found in Waikiki make this state one of the most stunning and attractive places to live. It’s like being on a permanent vacation.
Hawaii is America’s quintessential island paradise, and though the cost of living can be astronomical, actually moving there isn’t overly challenging. Whether you’re setting your sights on the island of Oahu, Maui, Kona, the Leeward Coast, or Kauai, we’re here to help you navigate the process of moving to Hawaii.
It’s important to consider your options when it comes to moving to Hawaii, whether you’re moving to “the Big Island” (also called the Island of Hawai’i) or elsewhere in the Hawaiian islands, like Molokai or Lanai. These options to consider before moving to Hawaii may include any of the following:
- Ship (ocean or sea freight)
- Moving container company like PODS and UPack
- Air freight
- Carry-on (you take everything on the plane with you)
First things first, though. You’ll need to think about your budget. Moving to the Aloha State requires some advance financial planning. Use our handy moving cost calculator to help you come up with an estimate for how much your move may cost. Whether you’re moving to Hawaii from Los Angeles or New York, San Francisco or Florida, you need to have a moving budget and a moving plan for your new life and new home in Hawaii.
How Much Does it Cost to Move to Hawaii?
You’ll find that the cost of moving to Hawaii ranges 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 the island of Hawaii, for example, usually costs between $1,400 and $2,400.
Luckily, for most families, the cost of moving to Hawaii 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?
It costs less than $1,000 for a tiny studio apartment, to $15,000 (or more) for a large multi-room home.
- DIY moves are generally the most affordable way to go, cheaper than full-service and container moving companies.
- 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.
- Vetting moving companies is time-consuming.
- Choosing the wrong moving company could turn into a huge headache.
- You may have to share your shipping container with someone else.
Like with 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, 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 longer delivery times because the second shipment may need to be delivered before yours.
Alternatively, you can reserve the whole container for your own exclusive use, but it’s typically more costly.
This is called FCL, or Full Container Load.
Other ocean freight options
Many freight forwarders offer multiple services, including the following:
- Door-to-Door: When the company picks up your items directly from your old home and delivers them to your new home.
- 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. Then, 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).
Unsurprisingly, door-to-door service is the most expensive. But, with this option you’ll enjoy peace of mind knowing that experienced professionals are handling all the details.
While it may be tempting to choose one of the latter two options to save money, it’s not always the best –or wisest –option.
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. If the container doesn’t make it on time, 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?
Typically this kind of move costs over $3,000, but often it costs much more, depending on how much you’re shipping and where you’re moving from.
- Usually less expensive than full-service ocean freight.
- Multiple container sizes available to fit most needs.
- PODS does inter-island moves and moves from the mainland.
- U-Pack does moves to Hawaii from all lower 48 states.
- 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 through September).
How it works for door-to-door:
- The company delivers an empty container to your home.
- You have a set amount of time to load it (usually 2 or 3 days).
- They pick it up and deliver it to a port in California.
- The ship takes your container to a port in Hawaii.
- A truck delivers the container to your new home or apartment.
- 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 offers door-to-door service?
89% of users select this mover
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. Want to know more about moving with PODS? Check out our guide to the cost of PODS for more information on how much you’ll have to shell out for this type of move. Plus, get insight with our moving experiences from real life people like Kyle who moved from Arizona to Washington with PODS and Bethany who used PODS to move from California to Virginia.
89% of users select this mover
For moves to Hawaii, U-Pack uses “Relo Cubes” – 6’ x 7’ x 8’ foot metal containers. Check out our guides to U-Pack costs to estimate how much your move will cost with this container company. You can also find tips and real-life insight on moving with U-pack by checking out our post on Janna’s move from Texas to New York with U-Pack.
89% of users select this mover
3. By Air – Fast but expensive
How much does it cost?
For moving to Hawaii by air, prices range from just a few hundred dollars for small parcels to over $2,000, depending on which moving company you’re using, where you’re moving from and to, how much you’re shipping, and how quickly you’ll need your items.
- You’ll usually get your items in a few days.
- The service may be covered by your company, if you’re relocating for work.
- Can be prohibitively expensive if you’re paying out of pocket.
- 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 might pay for air freight for computers and other work-related materials that you’ll need to effectively do your full-time job upon arriving in Hawaii.
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 depends on a few factors, but if you’re just shipping a few boxes and priority delivery isn’t necessary, it’s often just a few hundred dollars.
- Reasonable prices if you don’t need expedited delivery.
- Insurance is available if you’ll be shipping expensive or breakable items.
- You may be able to track your boxes online.
- Slow to arrive.
- 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 expedited delivery if you need it. Or, you can opt for longer 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 best suited for sturdy items.
Insider’s Tip: Shipping via mail when moving to Hawaii is often a good fit for minimalists, backpacker types, and young professionals setting out on their own for the first time. If you fall under this umbrella of young professionals, you’ll be pleased to hear there are plenty of job opportunities in Hawaii, and that the state has a low unemployment rate. Hawaii is a great place to build your career, and thanks to its laid-back culture, it offers an ideal work-life balance, too.
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!
- Everything goes with you, so there’s no waiting.
- It can be convenient and inexpensive.
- 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 moving costs. That said, shipping all your worldly possessions by carry-on isn’t a feasible option for most travelers.
But if you’re a minimalist who is determined to start your new island life free from the burden of possessions, it may be the way to go.
Things to Know Before Moving to Hawaii
Ready to move to Hawaii? There are a few things to keep in mind before making the leap. From buying a home to shipping pets and plants, here’s what you need to know.
Buying a home in Hawaii
If you’re a young professional wanting to call Hawaii home, you may want to connect with a local real estate agent or an experienced realtor who can help you assess if buying a home in Hawaii is the right current or future move for you. (And of course, if you’re “renter mode” right now, there’s always Zillow for daydreaming about future home purchases!)
The national average for home cost in the U.S. is currently approximately $436,800, whereas in Hawaii, the average single-family home cost is over $800,000. So if you plan to buy in Hawaii, start saving today! Suffice it to say, Hawaii real estate does not come cheap.
You may be delighted to hear that Hawaii has the lowest property taxes in the U.S. This makes buying a home even more attractive. This said, Hawaii residents also experience high cost of living, high housing costs, and high home prices. This is thanks to the state’s prime location in the Pacific Ocean and its stunning scenery.
Growing your family? Hawaii has good private schools, and it’s reported that the best private schools in Hawaii can be found in Honolulu, Hauula and Kamuela. It also offers good public schools with an above-average public education system.
As for getting around Hawaii, the state offers a good public transportation system comprised of buses which are frequent and inexpensive. For that we say, “mahalo!” (This means an expression of gratitude in Hawaiian.)
Understanding Island fever
Before you move to Hawaii from the mainland U.S., you may want to be aware of island fever. This expression refers to a form of mental anxiety or distress that can afflict people from the mainland U.S. after moving to Hawaii. It can be brought on by feelings of isolation and disconnection, and in some instances it happens when living close to a coastline.
Yes, year-round warm weather is very attractive. But consider your mental health needs and other needs before deciding to move to Hawaii. And if you’re someone who thinks you may be prone to island fever, investigate your healthcare options ––particularly for mental health –– before moving to Hawaii. That way, you can at least be prepared if you experience island fever.
Shipping pets to Hawaii
Most pet lovers wouldn’t be able to enjoy their new island paradise with warm weather without the company of their non-human companions.
That said, shipping pets to Hawaii requires jumping through lots of regulatory hoops. 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. They can be confusing, to say the least.
Luckily, experienced freight forwarders will be able to tell you what can and can’t go to Hawaii, 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.
Make your move to Hawaii a breeze
Moving to Hawaii is a great and exciting course of action if it makes sense for you and your loved ones. Be sure to plan ahead, do your research, figure out how to ship your possessions, and you’ll be good to go –– ready to enjoy the incredible Hawaii life found in the Aloha State!
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