Honolulu, Hawaii

The Big Pineapple

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What's it like to live in Honolulu?

Worried about living in Honolulu, HI

Yes. Shit is expensive. Your standard of living will take a hit because you'll be paying more for rent and food.

Take a breath though and remember that all those people want to be in Hawai'i for a reason. It's beautiful and lovely year round and the people there are wonderful.

The best thing you can do is 1) Try to live as close to UH as possible to minimize commutes 2) Get outside. The beach doesn't cost a thing. and 3) Join the community

Look at Makiki. It's right on the #4 bus line so he can take the bus to school. It's super convenient and parking there is a nightmare.

1a) Look at Waikiki. You can walk to the beach and it's still close enough to UH to bike. A bus ride will require a transfer. *#13 bus works here too. You can find 1 bedrooms for 1000-1500. Just don't do your grocery shopping there. Everything is 3x more expensive.

2) Walk to the beach. Learn to surf. Go diving. Make friends and crew a sailboat. Learn to dive.

3) Absolutely join a community. If you go to church, go to church. If you don't, join another community: Do crossfit, join a martial arts dojo. The spirit of aloha is the real thing, but you have to be willing to engage. There are lots of people who cycle in and out of Hawai'i: tourists, military folk, university people like you. Some people fall in love and never want to leave, some people feel alienated and can't wait to leave. The difference is how engaged they are in the community.

Worried about living in Honolulu, HI

Normally I'm not inclined to jump in and offer my advice which would be based on my own experience (what neighborhoods I like, how I like to handle transportation, etc.), but you and I are roughly in the same situation income wise. I make about 55k before taxes and my partner is a graduate student at UH who makes about 30k (astronomy, so they pay RAs better).

We live a pretty comfortable life in a basically new/remodeled 2 bedroom in a great neighborhood in town (it's safe, we walk everywhere, stuff is close). We have a car, a moped, and parking. It costs $1450/mo and our electricity is about $75/mo since we have a window AC (you should get one, too, for both the hot summer nights and the noise of living close to neighbors). I don't think car insurance is much more than what I paid on the mainland, but you can always ask your company to run a quote using a HNL zip code as reference.

My advice is to skip the apartments with websites--which is what I'm guessing you're seeing by mentioning reviews--and instead stick to Craigslist. I personally stayed in a super cheap hotel for a week while I put in full days finding places, going to see them, and then waiting for move-in. I didn't find a perfect place the first time (small, expensive, and in Kaimuki which wasn't very convenient), but after a year I knew exactly what I wanted and how to get it.

While I moved here 7 years ago, I have family on a neighbor island and had some idea what life was like. I wasn't super excited initially, but I've grown to really love Honolulu and all of it's quirks. It takes work sometimes, but it's important to put the effort in if you want someplace to feel like home--even temporarily.

What advice would you give to someone who is moving to Honolulu?

Get all the facts you can from someone who lives in your potential neighborhood—life is drastically different for people who live only blocks away from each other. It is crucial to understand what you are going to face as a resident.

Make sure you know exactly what your income will be.

Don’t bring your old way of life with you. In Hawaii, you are doing well if you can pay your rent and manage some air conditioning on really hot days. People in Hawaii don’t care about outward signs of wealth and success as they do on the mainland. It is refreshing and, at first, a bit strange. You will come to appreciate this aspect of life here more than anything else.

Go to the Honolulu Costco on a Monday and the wealthy retirees all drive up in their Bentleys, Ferraris, Maseratis, Mercedes-Benzes, etc. And they walk around the aisles at Costco wearing jewelry you simply wouldn’t see anywhere outside a fund-raising gala. I happened upon the display one Monday when a business meeting took me to town—it was astonishing. The Costco door guy explained what was going on. Since nobody in town really cares much about these cars and fancy rocks—they put on the display for each other.

Life here is very, very good. But it is really beyond most people’s concept of “expensive.” Don’t wait to arrive here before you realize your food budget is easily two or three times what it was on the mainland and your utility bills are easily the same multiple higher than they were before.

What advice would you give to someone who is moving to Honolulu?

As someone who moved to Honolulu from Los Angeles more than 10 years ago, here are a few practical things you should consider — seriously:

  • Be patient. By that, I mean, patience on the road, patience in lines, patience in services, etc. If it’s not a life or death situation, there really is no reason to be in a hurry or expect rapid response from anybody.

  • Drive within the 25 mph speed range within the town. The roads, unlike in mainland cities like LA and Houston, are not straight and wide. By driving fast, you won’t have enough time to react to any potential road incidents. There are lots of tourists who drive aimlessly or couldn’t read road signs. There are also older locals who shouldn’t be driving anymore. There are lots of people who just cross the streets from nowhere and bicyclists that expect the right of way at all times. Your low driving speed will help you prevent any potential accidents.

  • Drive with Aloha. Be patient and polite on the road. Locals are generally forgiving as they’re understanding of drivers who may be lost or are plain slow drivers, or just jiving along in their car’s music. They let other drivers get in front of them on an already busy lane. Again, the thought is, you’ll all get there eventually…it’s not worth it to be upset or ruin your day with something so trivial.

  • Groceries are generally more expensive. For example, a dozen eggs in the mainland that costs 99 cents will be between $3.99 - 5.99. I have seen organic eggs in the $7 range; one large lemon in mainland can be had for 69 cents. It will be at least $1 here. I could go on and on. It helps to pay attention to sale deals at selected markets or grow your own if you can.

  • No one cares about what you do or how much you make. In most gatherings, you’re all equal so enjoy the food, conversation and company. It’s a small island so you’ll quickly understand that respect for others and maintaining a reputation is quite important. Don’t gloat, bloat or try to impress with your wealth or wisdom. Locals are generally quick to pick up on things without stating the obvious.

Living In The BIGGEST CITY In Hawaii - How I Make HONOLULU Work