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To Move or Not to Move to Hawaii, that is the Question......

Updated on November 12, 2011

Some reasons why it was time for us to leave.....

Tourists whom I waited upon at the resorts usually correctly assumed I was not born and raised in Hawaii (although some Caucasians are) and would pose the question, "What brought you here?"

I lived in California for 5 years prior to moving to Hawaii in 1989. Prior to making the move, I met a man who was 12 years older than me who worked in Ironwork construction. We met shortly after his return to California (from Oahu) where he'd been working. After being together for 4-5 months, he felt he had a brilliant idea, suggesting we move there. He was also certain he wanted to marry me. I was 21, going on 22, young and naïve and new to the bar scene since arriving at legal drinking age. I'd visited the Big Island of Hawaii once before. I told him I'd love to move to Hawaii but it must be the Big Island since I'm a country girl with no interest in Honolulu. That was cool with him since his brother owned property on the Big Island and he knew friends we could stay with for a time. To make a long story short, after a month or so, we settled into our own place. I became the bread winner and settled down, realizing I wasn't an alcoholic (although a heavy partier at that time) but a fairly responsible person. He was the opposite. He attempted to warn me prior to leaving California about his alcoholism but I just laughed it off. I did give him "the boot" after living there together for a year and a half.

Soon after getting this man out of my life, I fell head over heels for a "local" - a third generation Japanese man. He was big into "Hawaiiana" (very into the Hawaiian culture) participating in some things many wouldn't even consider such as leaving the Big Island with a crew, to paddle and sail an outrigger canoe in the ancient way to Maui, then to Kahoolawe.  He'd camp with others and possibly participate in rituals in regards to the aina (land) and perhaps discuss things such as the "sovereignty movement." Kahoolawe is not inhabited but is where our government would test military explosives. It was through this relationship I immersed into the culture and truly acclimated. This relationship had it's "ups and downs" however, and ended after two years.

Prior to it ending, I'd met the man I would marry. Also a third generation "local" with Filipino, Chinese and Spanish ancestry. We married after being together for two years. Ten months later, I gave birth to our first boy and we bought our first home almost simultaneously. When Makana was 9 days old (his name in Hawaiian means "gift,") we moved in.

So now I'm often asked when people learn I moved to Washington from Hawaii, "What are you doing here?" as though leaving were a crazy move. Simply put, after buying a house and starting a family, life wasn't a beach anymore.

Keep that in mind if contemplating a move.

Understand before I truly settled down, aside from working at resort restaurants waiting tables less than 30 hours a week, all my time was spent playing or "holo holo." I rented 3 different 2 bedroom condo's (I had three different roommates) and one studio within the first 4 years, and two homes with my husband before we bought our first home in May 1996. Back then, rent wasn't all that high and buying a house was affordable (thanks to good credit, income and FHA). However, our house payment with taxes and insurance was almost twice what we paid in rent....of course the difference in what we received back from taxes in contrast to what we'd been paying offset this a bit. (Note, the nice thing in Hawaii about owning a home, if one is an owner occupant - if this hasn't changed - people can count on receiving a 40% reduction in property taxes! Wish it were this way in Washington as our property taxes here are 8X what we paid in Hawaii! Washington doesn't have a state tax though where Hawaii does.)

After having keikis (children), we rarely visited the beach anymore, maybe once a month (how sad it that!). It was challenging with my husband working 5 days a week and me 4-5 days. My hours were 5am to noonish and he worked noon til 10pm. Our home sat on more than an acre of property, which required our time and energy to maintain. By the way, our home property was "fee simple" - it belonged to us, for any who may question if all the land in Hawaii is "leasehold"...most of it is not.  Our second boy Kainalu was born in 1999. In 2002 I studied to obtain my real estate license and still worked in food and beverage for a while the first quarter of 2003 after becoming active January 2, 2003. The beach was half an hour away and having babies or toddlers at the beach can be exhausting in contrast to relaxing. (How glorious when they realize sand is not to be put in the mouth and they can actually handle a little plastic mold or shovel and immerse themselves in creative play!)

Our town of Kamuela sits at an elevation above sea level by 2000 plus feet. Yes, where we lived, it rains more than it does in Washington (although there is a "wet side" and a "dry side"...housing on the dry side being more expensive).  Believe it or not, it does get cold with Mauna Kea being more than 13,000 ft above sea level and accumulating snow in the winter. Mauna Kea sits a ways behind our old house  - it takes about an hour to reach the road which may enable you to reach the top.  Four wheel may be needed and oxygen to boot...the air is very thin and it is not recommended young children, elderly people or asthmatics venture up.  Our little plantation house, with single wall construction and without any heat source (except a portable), contributed to moisture and mold being an issue. We ran a dehumidifier in our little 1100 square foot, 3 bedroom home each night and it did a great job extracting approximately a gallon of water each time. If not used regularly, I'd be mixing Clorox and water and wiping the walls and ceiling down a few times a year. Since moving to Washington, I haven't needed to give my boys any albuterol nor have they needed any Flovent inhalers. The Big Island is very diverse in climate however, of the 30 some odd systems which exist on this entire planet, I believe all but 5 exist on this island. So had we moved to another part of the island or had a newer, better built home, the health issues may have been minimized. Some areas are more expensive, some certainly more affordable than others. Travel time/distance to work and lifestyle are things to consider as well. I know some people who live in Hilo with housing being less expensive, who drive an hour and a half each way to work at the resorts on the other side of the island, where most hospitality related employment is found. When you spend this much time on the road and interstates being non-existant (one lane highway for each direction), it may feel like a mighty long time!

There is super cheap real estate down in H.O.V.E. or "Hawaiian Ocean View Estates." If one is happy living like a hermit (barely anything in terms of infrastructure for about an hour and a half) in the middle of a lava field, this may be the place.

The Big Island is BIG - land mass wise, all the other islands fit into it, with unoccupied space left over. It also continues to grow with Kilauea volcano consistently flowing (since the 80's). It takes at least 6 hours to drive all the way around without stopping. Seeing the flow up close is something to experience but not always possible (or wise) unless you check it out from the air. Kilauea certainly has affected the air might think Kona and parts of the island south often appear foggy but actually locals refer to it as "vog."

So aside from life not being a beach any longer, health concerns, another reason for leaving is flying a family of four off the island for a vacation is quite costly, to include traveling to the other islands at that time. A ferry system recently started from Oahu which may make this more affordable. I don't know much about it however except my inlaws did it from Oahu to Maui and it took a few hours. Here on the mainland, we can take a road trip if we so choose. I never thought I'd get "island fever" as big as the Big Island is, but perhaps I did. One of my dreams for a road trip here on the mainland is to leave from Washington and travel through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and back. (I hope gas prices stay down for another year so we might have the opportunity to do this during the summer of '09).

Hawaii's public education reputation is not too hot either; another concern regarding our boys. I understand private school and homeschooling are alternatives yet to date, not for our family. When we left, our oldest was in second grade and I believe the teachers he had were fantastic. Both boys were in preschool part time from the age of three and Smallworld Preschool was a great experience too. Many of the schools themselves appear impoverished or run down however.

Lastly, with my husband being a Chef and feeling overworked and under appreciated by management (under paid) and few, if any, potential positions elsewhere to apply for, he felt it time for a change. We knew the mainland would provide more opportunities. In five years, he's earning between 1/4 and 1/3 more than he was there and has advanced from a Sous Chef position to an Executive Chef.

Do I miss Hawaii? Of course I do. The culture and the people are amazing. Many loved ones reside there and I wish we were able to spend regular time together. We still email one another and "talk story" (enjoy a conversation) over the phone. I never thought I'd leave and still consider it home, having lived there longer than anywhere else at one time and experiencing many amazing things which are more than just wedding, giving birth to my sons, encountering Jesus and giving my heart to Him, being baptized at the beach (as was my husband, and Makana too before we left), growing and serving with other amazing Christians are just a few examples.

I miss the beach too and now that I'm a mom, even when I go back for a visit, my ocean experience is not the same. I used to accompany the man before my husband on his "free dive" excursions, rarely leaving from a beach, rather a shoreline of large lava rocks. I'd snorkel alongside or dive down deep, staying nearby much like a baby sea mammal might. My husband is a diver too and he never felt as free in the water when I'd accompany him.... he knew I was a little trepidatious about encountering a shark, particularly since blood is involved when fish are speared - as well as the vibration they create in the water can attract them. Green sea turtles or "honu" are common fare for sharks and I've seen many of them. I never did see a shark while I in the water however. So now that I'm a mom, I can relate I guess since I've been more cautious about where I take them to play in the water. I am a strong swimmer and although my boys know how to swim, they aren't quite ready for anything yet.... Although never feeling as comfortable in the ocean as I do on a horse, being in and under the sea is amazing...there is much to see and experience. I also really enjoyed paddling outrigger canoes for a couple of seasons (40ft long, crew of six) and would love an opportunity to do this again.  My first year paddling, I and one other novice were selected to paddle in the annual Queen Liliuokalani (last Hawaiian queen) canoe race which occurs every Labor Day weekend. Crews come from all over the world to compete in the 18 mile long race.    

So that's my story. Hope I've balanced out some of the negatives with positives. If one decides to be adventurous and give moving across an ocean a go, I suppose one can make a decision with this in mind; my attitude before leaving California was "if it doesn't go well, I can always move back." Typically, if a persons destiny does not include taking up long term residency there, within 1 -2 years, they move back. Only nine months went by when I decided I'd never leave and returned to California for the purpose of dealing with all the personal belongings I'd stashed in a storage facility. One never really knows which direction life - or perhaps I should say God - will take them. Change happens all the time.





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  • christinekv profile image

    christinekv 6 years ago from Washington

    Me (whoever you are!), great story about the shark experience - mahalo's for sharing!

  • profile image

    Me 6 years ago

    Sharks are great! I will never forget diving off the coast of Kona in a lava tube/cave. The current was pretty bad that day and the current in the lava tube was very bad. It was like being in a washing machine.

    As we went through this tube, I saw about a 2 foot long baby shark and thought "O look how cute". Course then I swam a bit further and saw momma. (Very large reef shark)

    I was worried the current would wash me into the baby and Momma would attack me out of defense.

    Instead momma looked at me, rolled her eyes and I swear I could see her thinking "Stupid tourist", and then she swam out, with the baby in tow.

    It was hilarious. That and the manta ray night dive was just mind blowing.

  • christinekv profile image

    christinekv 7 years ago from Washington

    Hey Pamela - mahalo for sharing yourself! I'd consider moving back to the Big Island once my boys are grown....they love it here (and I like my life here too) and they enjoy going back to visit, but no interest in moving back! They don't have any Hawaiian blood so can't attend Kamehameha (hubby is 3rd generation born and raised but ONLY Filipino, Chinese and Spanish blood). Think the public schools are better here although for the short experience we had there, they had some great teachers (oldest was in second grade). Private school is expensive. Talking "da kine," there is a time and place and some areas that's all they know.

    Regarding living on Maui, have you considered moving up mauka to Paia, Makawao (sp? I forget...) or Haiku or some place like that? Bet you'd like the weather better.

    Some of my ohana is in AZ now uncle had a condo on Maui but now he just owns real estate in AZ...I like AZ but couldn't do Phoenix...I'd have to be in Flagstaff or Prescott..where it's not as hot and there are trees instead of cactus!

    My mom is an artist type but opposite of you in terms of weather preferences....I could never get her to move up here because of the colder months (Nov- February typically). My mother in law who lives in Ewa Beach thinks its cold here in the summer....

    We are all different and everyone is "on the move" in some way shape or form (physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, relationally etc).

    Take care.


  • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

    Pamela Kinnaird W 7 years ago from Maui and Arizona


    I enjoyed your hub. We've moved to Hawaii three times now -- which I really wouldn't recommend, but that's us. Hawaii keeps calling.

    We've been on Maui now for four years and like it much better than we liked Oahu (in hindsight). Yes, the outrigging is something I would miss, too, like you do. I haven't done it much yet, but if I do a whole season, I'm sure I won't want to ever quit.

    You're brave to have gone diving those times. You sound like my daughter. She does the whole circuit of typical sensible things to do if one is going to live here. I don't. I love the colors here and love to draw and paint...but I don't like the heat. Our daughter and family have adapted to the heat and so they spend a lot of time doing beachy things. They're going to miss it, though. They've decided to move to Arizona where her husband is from and houses are inexpensive. Yes, life always changes -- usually when practical matters begin to be the priorities. Unfortunately or fortunately.

    Mahalo for sharing!

  • christinekv profile image

    christinekv 9 years ago from Washington

    Glad you enjoyed it Singingmommy and found it informative! Once you get there, I'm sure you'll truly be ready to "hang loose" since the move can be a bit overwhelming for some. I'm sure you and your husband will handle it just fine, knowing who to seek for peace.

  • singingmommy profile image

    Candace Green 9 years ago from OKLAHOMA

    Thanks for the very informative article. I guess if it is God's will for us to move there He will smooth out the rough edges, it's scary whoooo! I must keep the faith if thats what He desires:.) I enjoy reading your hubs, Keep writing!

  • christinekv profile image

    christinekv 9 years ago from Washington

    You should share some of your drawings palm tree sunset drawings SweetiePie...I know you are the artistic type and I'd love to see. I'm envisoning such a tranquil image! The orange fields you mention, are they poppies? Now I'm thinking of Dorothy and Toto. Praise God for imagination and creativity!

  • SweetiePie profile image

    SweetiePie 9 years ago from Southern California, USA

    I just really love the part of the Inland Empire I live in now. Yes there are some cities around here that are a little crime ridden and blighted looking, but around here things are still very nice. I enjoy still being able to see the orange fields when I go places. I am happy I found a job where I am happy for the first time in a long time.

    Hawaii does sound beautiful to see again though. I truly want to go to the Big Island or other islands I have not seen. However, I really do not have the money for traveling right now. I keep drawing many palm tree sunsets until then.

    My sister also bought a poster of Moorea that we look at each day. We definitely want to go to Hawaii again and French Polynesia too.

    I will be with my family on Thanksgiving, it is the best. Thanks for your warm blessings and have a great holiday!

  • christinekv profile image

    christinekv 9 years ago from Washington

    Hi Sweetie Pie -

    Thanks for stopping by and for the comment.  I think it's great you want to stay rooted, remain close to your family geographically. Many people wouldn't give their family, even to include what's best for their children at times,  a second thought.  I actually lived in Southern Calif. until I was 10....Simi Valley.  My mom and dad both grew up in Torrance.  My grandparents on my moms side were never anywhere else besides Torrance since I've been born  (my grandpa, last living grandparent still lives in Carson). They were just heartbroken when my mom left my dad. My dad remarried a year or so later.  It broke my grandparents heart when they decided to move us up to Washington. I am the oldest of 4 girls (one full sister and two half sisters) and was really close to them and they me.  My mom and the man who would later become my step dad, left S. Calif for N. Calif before we moved to Washington though.  

    You are right, Oahu does have some nice places...I love the windward side and the Northshore but many still have to work "in town" (Honolulu). Traffic is bad and the island is over populated with approximately 80% of the population residing on this one island.  Kaneohe is a town I like as is Kailua....Kailua is a very expensive area.  My inlaws live in Ewa Beach (Leeward side) and it's so hot in the summer there, I can't stand it! My mother in law comes here in July and she's cold!

    I'm assuming you'll be getting together with your family on Thursday..hope it's a blessed time together!


  • SweetiePie profile image

    SweetiePie 9 years ago from Southern California, USA

    I nearly took a teaching position in Hawaii back when I was looking for a full time position in this field.  A person from around where I lived was hired on the spot, but he must have had more experience because they did not seem very excited when I called to inquire.

    I think living in Hawaii would be a dream and a very beautiful place, but as you have pointed out there are drawbacks.  Oahu does have some more rural places outside of the city that I saw during my travels, but everything is very expensive. 

    People I have known such as yourself move back for the same reasons because the bottom line is it is easier to have a higher standard of living on the mainland than Hawaii.  One lady told me she simply could not even afford to buy milk for her kids or pay rent anymore, so she came to Southern California to get a job.

    In all my ponderings about Hawaii I decided not to try it because I am such a SoCal gal.  All of my family is here and I am rooted to this land because of my experiences here.  Teaching two years out in the desert in Blythe made me realize I wanted to be back in the Inland Empire near my family for the rest of my life.  It is the best decision I ever made thankfully :).

    Great hub and thanks for sharing the pros and cons of living in Hawaii.  I would love to visit there again for sure, but living there seems a little too expensive and too far away from my family.

  • christinekv profile image

    christinekv 9 years ago from Washington

    Hi Ty! How are you? I've been wondering about you since it seems you've not been around or responsive to some things I've sent your way - so glad to see you!

    It's a great place to live or visit and after our boys are grown and on their own (not for at least another ten years and Jesus likely will have come back before then) I'd love to move back and live on the Hilo side where there is still infrastructure but the pace is now still very relaxed, ("hang loose Hawaii style!") It's also rainy over there but warm, depending on the elevation of course but lots of areas warmer than where we were (Kamuela in the winter can actually get down to the low 40's, high 30's at night!).

    If we do the trip, I'll have to check back in for the Camp Bighorn info. I have been rafting a few times, once on The Rogue in southern Oregon (my best experience) once in Alaska on the Eagle? (near Anchorage) and then in Colorado close to Vail. The Oregon trip was the best because I was in an individual Tihati raft ....kind of like a kayak. I've done lots of outrigger canoe and kayak paddling and love it!

    Thanks for reading and the comments Ty. God bless and not sure if you do any type of Thanksgiving celebration in Canada (I know the history is different) but hope next week is an extra special time of reflection and thanks.

  • Tyhill27 profile image

    Tyhill27 9 years ago from Red Deer, Alberta

    I would love to get a chance to visit the Island one day... Even to travel some of the rest of the world. About your road trip.... I am not sure where else you have been in central US but Montana is for sure a different climate than the coast! There is a bible / family adventure camp that you can visit just outside of Plains called Camp Bighorn. It's a conservative camp but they are equipped with white water rafting, kayaking, and so much more. I wish I could take my family there. Have you been rafting before?

  • christinekv profile image

    christinekv 9 years ago from Washington

    Hi Eddie -

    You are funny and a blessing to me too! And thanks for your service to our country! Glad you enjoyed this piece.  I went back this past February for a week and a half. Stayed with four different families and spent three nights at two different hotels....Our friends gave us one free night at The Hilton which is a resort I used to work of my boys favorite's 64 acres with 3 pools, water slides at two of them, has boats and a tram for transport and then there are the dolphins.... Anyway, it was a wonderful time as it had been 4 years - minus a day - from the date the boys and I left (my husband arrived on Washington soil in October of 2003).  All of us are supposed to go back in July of 09 for my in-laws 50th anniversary party.  (Hoping we will still be able to use our miles since between my in-laws and us being able to pool them, we should have enough for 3 round trip flights).  This means we will spend time on Oahu which for me, aside from the family really doesn't present much interest.  It's so crowded.  I know I will spend time on the Big island again as I just can't go all that distance and not be there too!   

    The 100 miles in circumference, may be right. I'd have to look into it.  Almost 20 years ago, the island was roughly the size of the state of Connecticut. Surely it's larger now.


  • profile image

    Eddie Perkins 9 years ago


    Great article. Brings back a lot of memories. I was on the Big island for 16 months while in the military. After awhile I thought it was too small. If my memory serves me right it was less than 100 miles in circumference. Of course with my memory, I can’t remember who I am. I look in the mirror every morning and introduce myself.

    Here I go rambling again.

    If I were you, I would want to go back for a visit, if only to be where I met the Lord and gave my heart to Him not to mention the other life changing experiences you had there.

    Keep writing good material. You are a blessing to me. ~ eddie