Seems like paradise but see why living in Hawaii isn't always so great.
If you've read some of the other articles on this site, like the Hawaii Living: Getting Started series, then you know that Hawaii is a pretty amazing place to live. And while this is in no way a Hawaii bashing article, the Hawaiian Islands simply aren't for everyone. Let's go over the top 12 reasons why Hawaii isn't always a great place to live.
Oh, and we won't list any lame reasons here. Maybe you've seen similar articles that will tell you that "not being able to complain about anything" because you live in paradise is a reason. Or maybe somebody will tell you that there isn't any good Mexican food in Hawaii, which you know isn't true if you read Best Mexican Food On Oahu. That sort of nonsense along with "not having big concerts", "having to be swimsuit ready year-round", and "no big food chains" is all just stupidity and often wrong (though there are plenty of Mainland Restaurants Not In Hawaii).
I promise I won't even try to scare you away with scary stories about the Nightmarchers, The Green Lady Of Wahiawa, or the spooky events that took place at Morgan's Corner. So let's get on with the real reasons that life in Hawaii may not be for you...
1: High Cost Of Living
You've heard the rumors about the $9 gallon of milk, but is it true? It is true, and a gallon of milk may even cost you more than $9. Though that's not a good example to describe the cost of living or what we call The Paradise Tax. Although not everything will make a huge dent in your wallet, most things will.
Housing is ridiculously expensive in Hawaii and what may cost you 2-3 times more than what you're paying on the mainland may also be 1/3 the size. Gas can be pricey at times, and so are most perishable items (milk, cheese, ice cream, etc) if they're not made in Hawaii. Since everyday things are more expensive here that means dining out and even taking in a movie is also more expensive here. More at: Hawaii Living: The Paradise Tax
2: Far, Far Away
Moving to Hawaii means moving far, far away from your friends, family, and support system. The island chain is around 2,500 miles from California which is over 5 hours by plane. Visiting friends and family is no easy task so rather than hopping in your car and meeting friends you now have to spend a lot of money and do some serious planning to make it all happen. Because of that, most real friends become facebook friends (which we know aren't really friends anyhow) and family visits only happen once every year (or two, three, etc). This is a deal breaker for many and why most people who move to Hawaii don't last five years here. More at: Hawaii Living: All Alone
We all know the dream, you'll move to Hawaii and get a job working on a tour boat or at a bar on the beach. Sounds great, right? And it can be for some people some of the time. For the vast majority, things will be very different. First off, getting that simple job likely won't happen since jobs here can be hard to get (and likely impossible if you're not already living here). Even if you get that easy beach job it probably doesn't pay well, not well enough at least. So plan on getting a second job, maybe even a third.
So what about a job that uses your fancy college education? It may not exist here and if it does the ratio of qualified people to available job openings probably isn't in your favor. So what do you do? You start very low on the employment totem pole (washing dishes, cleaning hotel rooms, whatever you can get) and maybe can work your way up. There's nothing wrong with those jobs and maybe that isn't bad for someone in their twenties, but do you really want to start all over in your thirties or forties? More at: Hawaii Living: Finding Employment
Traffic in Hawaii is bad. Really, really bad. It's Los Angeles bad. It's at its worst on the island of Oahu where most residents live. You could easily spend over two hours per day in traffic even though you only need to travel 40 miles round trip. I'd like to tell you the situation on Maui and Kauai is better but it really isn't and it's getting worse there as well. The Big Island isn't as bad but the flip side there is that you often have to travel much farther to get from your home to work. Lanai and Molokai are the only islands without traffic problems but life there isn't for most people.
5: Lackluster Selection
There are so many things you can't easily get here in Hawaii. It might be something simple like a Chipotle Burrito that you can easily do without or it might be something more complex like a decent piece of furniture to fit that spot in the corner of your tiny apartment. Of course, an Amazon Prime #ad membership will help, but many times even what they offer isn't shippable to Hawaii. If you have to go into a brick and mortar store in Hawaii your selection choices drop exponentially. So you'll need to learn to be really, really flexible on stuff you wish to purchase. More at: Mainland Restaurants Not In Hawaii
6: Slow Shipping
When you purchase things online you can expect to pay an arm and a leg in shipping fees almost everywhere. I know what you're thinking here, you'll grab an Amazon Prime #ad membership and save big with free shipping! Well, that's a good start but you need to understand that Amazon Prime in Hawaii is a different animal than it is on the mainland. There is no "free 2-day shipping" in Hawaii. Instead, we get free standard shipping on many items. Many, but not all. There is a huge list of items Amazon won't ship to Hawaii for any price, much less free.
When you do get free shipping you can expect to wait, and wait, and wait some more. Amazon is notoriously bad and holds items a while before they ship them to you (see Amazon Prime In Hawaii - A Complete Guide) in Hawaii in hopes that you'll order more and they can bundle the shipment and save on their end (that's my theory anyhow). It stinks, but most other online shops will just rip you off on shipping and take just as long to get here. Get used to waiting, and on that note...
7: Island Time
It's not just shipping that is slow in Hawaii. Everything is slow in Hawaii. The reason? Island Time. The islands operate at their own pace and any attempt you make to speed things up (kicking, yelling, screaming, or even being super nice) won't help. Everything is slow here, some islands being far worse than others. Got an appointment for that air conditioning repair guy to come out at 10:00 AM? He'll be there after 11:00 AM, or maybe later in the afternoon. Or maybe the next day. What would put companies out of business anywhere else in the world is simply accepted and normal in Hawaii. More at: Hawaii Living: Island Time
If you have kids and have seriously thought about moving to Hawaii you've certainly heard horror stories about our public school system. There have been plenty of reports, and infinitely more rumors, about the less than ideal education system we have. But is that really the case? Yes and no. A lot of the reports are old and outdated and Hawaii has come a long way in terms of public schools and education in general. We're not at the bottom of the list but also not at the top, often in the middle or slightly higher depending on the study.
For most, it comes down to where you'll be living because one school may score highly while one that is just a couple of miles away could be a school that scores poorly. It's hit or miss. We know of many great public school experiences but we've also heard horror stories first hand. So do your homework on schools before you consider moving or be prepared to shell out for a private school. More at: Hawaii Living: Schools
9: Creepy Crawlies, Biters, And Stingers
Looking for white knuckle thrills to get your adrenaline flowing? Already tried ziplining, skydiving, and surfing? Well you haven't lived until you're running around late at night in your underwear as a three inch, flying cockroach chases you and your family around your home. Maybe you're chasing it, it's hard to really know who's winning with those things. They might be common or you may only see one every year or so. But no matter how clean you live you'll deal with one eventually.
But don't worry, that's nothing compared to the snake like centipedes (pictured above) that also call Hawaii home. Roaches are just gross, those centipedes pack an incredibly painful sting! We have all sorts of bugs and animals you'll get to know well here. Jerry (of Tom & Jerry fame) was cute on TV, but less cute when it's pooping all over your house with a dozen of his cousins.
And that's just the land pests. We have ocean pests like the Hawaii Box Jellyfish, Shark Attacks In Hawaii, and many more Hawaii Dangers - Read Before You Go. Any time you have a place that humans enjoying living in you know you also have a place that pests like to live as well. You have to be ready for that when you live in Hawaii.
10: Weather & Natural Disasters
The weather is one of the biggest reasons people want to live in Hawaii but it's also one of the reasons not to live here. There are a variety of weather related concerns when you live on a tiny rock in the middle of the ocean and are 2,500 miles from civilization. One of the biggest would be the dreaded Tsunami. There are also major Flash Flood dangers and you'll want to watch for a Brown Water Advisory and Leptospirosis as well. Even the sun is out to kill you here so you'd better Protect Yourself From Sunburn & Skin Cancer. If you live in Hawaii you'll want to read up on Emergency Preparedness.
11: People & Crowds
When you think of people in Hawaii you probably think of our photo above, right? Beautiful people in fun outfits that exude the Aloha Spirit. That's the ideal image of for many. But when you leave the luau the reality will set in. Racism could be a problem for you in Hawaii. Will little white-skinned Tommy get picked on by the Hawaiian boys in school? Maybe. Maybe not. It's a hot topic and something to be aware of at least. It's a tough one since we've never had issues with it here, but we know of people who have. Even then, it's a small batch of bad apples that cause the issue and not what you'll experience from the general local population. Still, a few bad apples can spoil the bunch, right?
Maybe it won't be racism at all though. Maybe it will just be the masses of people that are everywhere. The islands are incredibly crowded so there are always people everywhere. It often feels like you can't escape it. If there is an event of any kind everyone shows up. A new Sunglasses Hut could open at the mall and pretty much every resident on the island will turn up for the event. That's just how it is here.
What am I thinking here? Am I really going to tell you that our awesome United States Armed Forces are a reason for not living in Hawaii? I am. While I'm all for what our soldiers do, fully support them, and am in no way bashing them or our military overall - I also recognize a problem that the military brings to these small islands. First up is the constant rotation of soldiers that come and go. They move into our communities with their families and then pick up and leave just to be replaced. All of that moving of people is a huge resource drain on the islands. It also makes it hard to get to know your neighbors when you know they're leaving in a couple of years and so there can be a disconnected community feeling.
The military is also notorious for doing things the way they want even if that isn't what is best for Hawaii. Just recently the EPA fined the Army $100k (after 11 years no less) because the Army was using cesspools which were banned years ago. There are many stories like this that make the news and I'm sure many more we never here about. Our military is a bully that does whatever it wants and when they do get caught it's a slap on the wrist (that taxpayers get billed for) and they continue on as usual.
The cost to feed, house, train, and transport soldiers and equipment to and from these islands is also far more than it would be on the mainland. Yes, even the military gets hit with The Paradise Tax. Of course, it's the taxpayers who pay their Paradise Tax in the end. Military personnel also get discounts on just about everything they buy almost everywhere (and the on-base discounts are insane, certainly no $9 gallons of milk there!) which also means they pay less in taxes on their purchases. So they drain more resources from the islands and the economy makes less from them compared to an average resident. Doesn't seem right, does it?
The same military families use all of our roads and yet so many never bother to get Hawaii license plates. Why does that matter? Because it's the fees from license plates that pay for building and maintaining our roadways. If you've ever driven in Hawaii then you know our roads are in bad shape. So having people come and use the roads without paying for that privilege doesn't seem right either.
There are also a LOT of military bases in Hawaii and a lot of military personnel here. We already talked about traffic and crowding here and a big part of that is a direct result of the military. It's also possible that such a large military presence makes Hawaii a big target for a country like North Korea or even China when they decide they want all that money we owe them. Sound crazy? Let's not forget about Pearl Harbor & USS Arizona Memorial. It happened once, only ignorant mind would suggest it couldn't happen again.
Did It Work?Did we convince you that Hawaii isn't for you? Or are you still keeping your dream of living in Hawaii alive? Either way, the point isn't to bash Hawaii because the pros often outweigh the cons for those who dream of Hawaii life, see the Top 10 Reasons We're Lucky We Live Hawaii. But at least now you know it's not all Hawaii Living: Rainbows, Beaches, & Shave Ice. So, if moving to the islands is still right for you then head over to Hawaii Living: Getting Started and make your dream happen.
Disclaimer: We're not affiliated, authorized, associated, endorsed by, or officially connected with the company or entities listed here, or any of their subsidiaries or affiliates. All trademarks cited, listed, or shown here are the property of their respective owners. We are not responsible for errors, omissions, safety issues
, or inaccurate information. This site is for entertainment purposes only and is not an official guide. Attempting anything you see here is done so at your own risk and we are not responsible for your safety, loss of life, legal or medical fees, or damages because of anything you see or read on this site.