Pacifier Happy Hour

Raising a glass to the adventures of motherhood and life on an island!

How to Move to Hawaii: Checklist and Budget


Moving anywhere, even if it’s just down the street, is a stressful and expensive endeavor. Moving to Hawaii is in a league of its own. If you’re ready to live the island life… take a few breaths, start saving some serious cash and get ready for some big changes.

*As a disclaimer; this budget is based off of myself (8.5 months pregnant during the move, by the way), my husband and our dog, Bruce. We moved from Colorado to the Big Island of Hawaii. Budgets will obviously vary if you’re a single person, big family or have pets.

Budget breakdown:

Shipping personal items: $1,500

Dog expenses (vet visits, permits, plane ticket, crate, etc.): $1,250

Shipping vehicle: $1,000

2 one-way plane tickets: $550

Airport baggage fees (we had a lot of baggage): $350

Miscellaneous travel expenses (hotels, gas, food etc.): $400

TOTAL for 2 people and a dog: $5,050

For more details of costs and the process, keep reading…

Where to start: Save as much money as you possibly can.

Keep in mind, you’re going to need much more money saved than just what it takes to get here. You’ll need money for housing, food, transportation and living once you arrive. We saved as much as we possibly could in a short amount of time and ended up with about $13,000. I was lucky to still have some money coming for maternity leave for a few months, which definitely made it easier. Considering the cost of living in Hawaii, the fact that we didn’t have jobs waiting for us, plus a baby on the way, money was making us very nervous. It worked out and we had plenty of room to wiggle and live comfortably once we arrived. Plus, depending on the field of work you’re in, it turns out jobs are rather plentiful on the island from our experience.

Bring only what you really need. Sell EVERYTHING else.

A chunk of the money we were able to save came from selling almost everything we owned. Most of the rental homes here, if not all of them are furnished. So to start, you don’t need ANY furniture. Most things are more expensive to ship to Hawaii than to just buy new stuff once you arrive. We shipped our stuff through City Moving, which we found to be the cheapest option.

The total cost to ship 100 cubic feet with them from Colorado to Hawaii was $2,100, but we split this 3 ways since we had a friend moving as well. We taped out 100 cubic feet on our wall and floor and each of us got a third of the space to fit what we wanted to bring. To give you an idea of what we brought, here’s what our 100 cubic foot pile looked like plus a few extras like the golf clubs and couple boxes you see:

If you’re planning on shipping a 3 bedroom house with all of your furniture, you’re going to be spending between $10,000 – $15,000. So if you want my advice… keep it simple and purge.

If you can wittle down enough to just bring a few bags on an airplane plus maybe mailing a few things, go for it. The less you bring, the cheaper it will be.

If you have a furry friend, PLAN AHEAD!

Heads up! Bringing a pet is the most difficult and time consuming part of the process. It takes about 6 MONTHS to get your dog or cat to the island if you want to avoid them being in quarantine for 3 months when you arrive. Hawaii is a rabies free state and they aim to keep it that way. The Hawaii Department of Agriculture has a very extensive process for getting pets to Hawaii. Visit their website for more details, and make sure to thoroughly read every step.

Follow this checklist for direct airport release of your animal

If you are moving to any island besides Oahu, there is an additional checklist for neighboring islands as well: Follow this checklist in addition to the above for a neighbor island.

In addition to those checklists, airlines will have their own procedures as well. There are rules on the size of your crate, getting permits, etc. Check with your airline before you book your tickets to make sure they even participate in the program.

Don’t procrastinate on this part of the process, and be thorough. Again, this is the most stressful part, but you don’t want to end up having to send your dog to quarantine.

Approximate cost breakdown for a pet:

Import permits, fees for Department of Agriculture: $250

Plane Ticket: $450

Airline approved crate: $100

Hawaii vet airport release check: $150

Vet visits (health certificate, rabies shots, blood work, microchip, flea and tick): $300

Decide if you want to ship your vehicle.

We had a really good experience shipping through Hawaii Car Transport. A lot of people sell their car and purchase a new one when they arrive. You have to weigh out the pros and cons for your particular situation. If you owe more than you can sell it for, it might be better to ship. If you can sell it and use that money toward your move and a new car, then do that. For us, it was better to ship. It was also much cheaper for us to drive to Los Angeles and ship our car from there than to ship from Colorado. Plus we saved on plane tickets by flying from there, so it was a win win.

As a heads up, your car must be empty and have less than a quarter tank of gas to ship. So unfortunately, you can’t pack your car with all of the stuff you want to bring and ship it that way. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Research housing and locations before you move.

Hawaii climates and temperatures vary greatly even when you drive 10 minutes up the road. Because the weather is pretty much perfect year-round, air conditioning doesn’t really exist in most houses, restaurants and businesses on the island. That said, it does get hotter if you live at sea level versus going up a in elevation. There’s also a leeward “dry” side (west) and windward “wet” side (east) to each island. The windward side is much greener and more lush, however you will see a lot more rain (like everyday). If you prefer to be out of the rainy zone, consider living on the leeward side. Each have their pros and cons, so just doing a bit of research will guide you to the right place for you.

Housing costs vary by island and by area, so be ready to shop around and weigh out all of your options. Condos, apartments and ohanas are going to be cheaper. For a house, you probably won’t find anything decent for less than $1,300 for rent depending on the area you live in. If you don’t mind commuting to town a little bit, you’ll save on housing that way too.

To save money on the cost of living, a lot of people live in multi-family type housing. You’ll see plenty of houses that have an attached or detached ohana or guest area that allows for multiple families to live in one house. This is the route we went since we have some family here. Currently we are in a three-unit house (each with their own entrance, kitchen, rooms, bathrooms) with three couples, one in each unit. It works out perfectly so everyone saves money by living together, while still having separated living quarters.

Consider the cost of living, culture, climate, wild life and lifestyle.

I definitely recommend visiting the islands before up and moving to one of them. It’s a big change in lifestyle, and shouldn’t be done on a whim. A lot of people dream of living the island life and have certain expectations about being in paradise, but then aren’t really prepared for the change. It is a completely different experience. One that many people adore and thrive in, while others really just need a vacation once in a while then are happier going back to the mainland.

Life is slower, and much more laid back on the islands. If you’re not into waiting until the surf goes down to get your cable guy to come over, you might be in for a frustrating experience. When you live in Hawaii, you have to be able to slow down, take in the view and be open to living on island time.

With all of that said, we are the happiest we’ve ever been.

Moving to Hawaii was a huge change from living in Colorado. It’s a decision we went back and forth on for quite a while. In the end, what matters the most is the adventure, being close to our Ohana and raising our daughter with love and an abundance of fresh fruit. With all the stress it took to get here, we made it and are absolutely in love with the island life.



Author: Jessica Amelia Bruner

Life is Good | Lifestyle, Motherhood/Pregnancy Blogger | Hawaii Adventurer | Colorado Raised

8 thoughts on “How to Move to Hawaii: Checklist and Budget

  1. Nice read. Sounds like you guys did a good job of preparing for the move also. Can’t wait to see pictures of that new little bundle of joy!


  2. Do you mind saying what your expenses are now that you are settled? I would like to move with my kids but don’t believe I can afford it.


    • Hi Sandy. It is definitely an expensive place to live (groceries cost more, rent is very high,etc.) but I moved from Fort Collins, Colorado which is also a very expensive place to live – so we were used to a pretty tight budget. Where are you moving from if you don’t mind saying?

      We’re living in a shared complex so rent is not bad for us compared to what we would be paying if we lived in a single family home. We pay $725 for rent plus utilities (about $200 for water, electricity, internet and cable). Groceries aren’t bad if you just shop around for the best prices. Almost everybody on the island goes to Costco for most things since they have the lowest prices for most things on the island. For example a carton of 18 eggs costs about $2.50 at Costco where it can cost sometimes $6.00 at other stores here. Then of course there’s all your other bills (car, insurance, phones, loans, etc.) that really add up. So we’re definitely on a pretty tight budget. But the good thing is, most of the things we do for fun here are free. Going to the beach, hiking and exploring is free – so that saves our butts. I hope this helps.


      • Yes it does and thanks. Of course my biggest concern is housing and utilities. I pay about 1050 now and so fine. I have read about the shared complex ormultiplex but wondered how available it is Aa that seems to be the most reasonably priced

        Liked by 1 person

      • They are definitely out there. Sometimes you have to dig a little bit, but you might see the term “ohana” when you’re looking for housing. That might work for you too. It’s just basically an addition to a house meant for extended family to live in but definitely a money saving option if you don’t mind living close to another family.


  3. Dear Jessica,

    Thank you for the information. It really help to confirm our decision to move to Hawaii. We have been thinking about this for a couple years now. We have been to Hawaii 5x in the past 20 years. The first time we were there, we fell in love with the island instantly, and wanted to move then. However, we figured it was just a pipe dream and dismissed it then.

    We went to the Big Island a couple years ago, for the first time, and that trip ignited the desire to move.
    We went back to Maui last year to “research”, and also planning a trip back to Maui and the Big Island again this Fall to look for housing and scope out jobs. Can you tell me how did you decide on where to live? I know it depends on what fits for us, I just wanted to see what your thought processes were. It’s just my husband and me.

    Can you tell us what your professions are? We are thinking that my husband can find a job anywhere, being a cook… and I am hopeful to find any job being an administrative assistant.

    We have been saving a bit ($25+K). We have a primary home and rental property here on the East coast. We are contemplating keeping the rental and/or renting our primary home for additional income. However, we would have to continue payments on both properties for another 10 years before the “income” would actually start.

    Thank you in advance for the information and I hope I’m not asking for too much information…



    • Hi Caroline!

      I personally have not been to Maui, so as far as comparing the islands, I can only speak to the things I have heard/read about the other islands. We chose the Big Island because we have family here in Kona and wanted to be close to them when we had our baby. After exploring the island, I think being close to Kona was the best fit for us since there are more amenities than other locations on this island. From what I’ve heard, the Big Island has the best beaches with the most clear water. I have heard the water can be murky on other islands… but again, this is only based on what I have heard. I can say the water here is VERY clear. Perfect most days. So if going to the beach and having a variety of different types of beaches sounds good to you… the Big Island has a beach for everyone.

      If you have the option to check all of the different areas out before coming here, that is amazing! Definitely do the research to find what fits you most. I would suggest maybe renting for the first few months of being here so you have the option to move to a different location if you decide to. We are in Captain Cook now – looking to purchase a home a little closer in town near Kona. But being able to drive to different towns and look at housing has allowed us to really feel out where we want to settle in. We personally like being a little bit higher on the mountain because it is much cooler (since most houses don’t have AC). But you can drive 5 minutes up the mountain and it’s already 10 degrees cooler. So we find being in the areas where it stays in the 70 degrees much more comfortable.

      Your husband will definitely have no problem finding a job as a cook here. He could probably just pick a restaurant and most likely they are looking for a cook or two. My husband is also in the restaurant industry and found a job immediately. He’s also working at a country club a couple of days a week mainly for the free golf benefit. So he’s pretty content with that! I took the first few months off when we arrived due to the arrival of our baby girl. But, I am in lighting/sound for events and concerts – that’s something I got into in college. Much more difficult for me to find work, because it is more specialized, but I am starting to make my way in.

      I hope this helps!!! Making the move to Hawaii has been an amazing life change for us!!! You won’t regret it!


  4. Pingback: Happy Hour Adventures: “Green Sand” Beach – Big Island, Hawaii – Pacifier Happy Hour

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