So You Want to Live on Kaua’i?

The title of this post is blatantly copied from a popular book, but it’s a question many visitors ask themselves, and a few ask me. Indeed, I had to ask it of myself before I made the move, back in 2003.

So I thought I’d answer an email on the subject:

We are thinking about moving our young family to Kauai.
We absolutely love the island! We will be renting a house, as it is so expensive to buy, what is the best area to live? We are thinking Kilauea or Kapaa?? Any advice you can give us would be much appreciated. How are prices for food, gas, utilities???

First, I have written two other posts mostly on this topic. The first was way back when I started this blog, from someone who wasn’t quite as decided as the person above. Hey, Bill, if you’re still reading, leave a comment about your thoughts and eventual preparations for moving to Kauai. Then there one of my more recent posts, about having to move away. So here is my answer from the whole experience.

There is no “best” area to live, it all depends on your preferences and expectations. We chose Kapaa because it is centrally located. I think if you live in the north or south, you won’t drive the 2 hours to the other side more than a few times a year. But some people might want to live in a “smaller” place and not feel pressured to go everywhere.

In addition, Kapa’a is generally middle class (for Hawaii at least), and has the largest (and therefore somewhat more affordable) choice of housing. For these very same reasons, it is also where the most transplants end up, and so you’ll find more people like yourselves, which makes it easier to meet them. The Kapa’a area also has the most grocery stores (although the huge Safeway planned in Lihue will change that—as well as the small island feel).

One thing I recommend is to avoid the inland parts of Kapa’a if you can. This is where the most choice and least expensive housing is located, but it’s also the dampest and always a 15 minute drive to town. We rented up there for a year, but then we bought our house in the neighborhood called the Wailua Houselots, between the Sleeping Giant and Wailua Beach.

Lihu’e is nice, still centrally located, and closer to a lot of things (government offices that you’ll visit a lot at first, bigger library, the biggest gym, the only real movie theatre left, big stores such as Walmart, Kmart, Barnes and Noble, Costco, and the only mall—which is convenient even if shopping is not your thing). The southern side of Lihue is called Puhi, that’s where most of the shopping is, but it’s also the area that is being developed to look like
California.

Kilauea is closer to Hanalei and the North Shore, but it isn’t a coastal town like downtown Kapa’a. There are 2 beaches nearby, but they can only be accessed
by trail or dirt road. It is a great neighborhood, friendly and unpretentious middle-class. We had friends that lived there even though they had a long commute to Lihue. But there are only a few convenience stores there and natural foods store, which are more expensive.

You didn’t ask, but here’s my impression of the other main residential areas:

  • Princeville: relatively expensive and a bit sterile, like a retirement community. Plus there is lots of construction so it seems a bit noisy. They do have a great library, a full grocery (but the most expensive on the island), and Hanalei is nearby.
  • Hanalei and Haena beyond: 100% Kauai-style living, if you can afford it and overlook the vacation rentals. There are few affordable long-term rentals, but they can be had. It’s not completely overrun with tourists and shops yet, but close. Lifestyle is so laid-back, you’ll find it difficult to go visit the rest of the island. I think it would be too insular for my taste.
  • Koloa/Poipu: Koloa would be a nice town but it just doesn’t seem to achieve critical mass of conveniences: small library, small groceries, small neighborhoods, lots of through-traffic. Poipu is overrun with tourists, there are only a few residential streets. Still, if you want the most sunshine and the vacation-everyday experience, this is the place. If you have to go to work and live frugally, forget it.
  • Hanapepe/Waimea/Kekaha: now you’re in local territory, which means lots of friendly locals and a few resentful locals. Hanapepe is a quaint little town, very artsy, the most tourist friendly. Waimea and Kekaha are the cheapest places to live on the island, so a lot of locals have to move there. Hanapepe has the nicest beach, Waimea the least swimmable, and all 3 get very hot in the summer.

The deciding factor for you might be schools. Kilauea and Hanalei have good gradeschools, from what I’ve heard, Kapa’a and Lihu’e are decent. Near Kilauea is the private K-12 Kula School, I’ve heard decent things about it, but there’s only a few kids in each class. There are only 3 high schools, Kapa’a, Lihu’e (called Kaua’i HS) and Waimea. Unless your kids really have street smarts and something I would call a rural attitude, I’m not sure they will fit in very well. Plus academics aren’t that great, I hear they don’t have real AP classes. Kapa’a and Lihu’e have middle schools which are somewhere between the innocence of grade schools and the issues with the high schools. The west side of Lihu’e, Puhi, has the private and pricey Island School, widely recognized as the best pre-K-12 on the island–that’s where a lot of the transplant kids go, mostly haoles (ie white).

Regarding prices…

Unless you’re coming from California or the East Coast, housing costs are indeed expensive. Actually, it is somewhat less than big-city California in my experience, but without all the employment opportunities. Rents have come down a bit, but they’re hitting a floor where the landlords can’t go much lower due
to their own high mortgages. In any case, you’ll need a trust fund or some stable form of income if you expect to stay permanently. I lost my job and had
too leave—not fun.

To me, the price of food it the biggest myth. Yes, food is expensive if you eat lots of convenience and processed foods that have to be shipped from the
mainland to the local supermarket. Milk, even though it comes from small producers on the Big Island, is twice the price as California. We solved that problem by drinking soy milk, which was just as expensive until Costco arrived (about $1 per quart there).

We always go to the farmer’s market every week and buy local produce. Then just substitute all the local things into your recipes: sweet potatoes for regular potatoes, chard for spinach, etc. Eat local fruit, even from your yard and your neighbor’s (do not underestimate the value and goodness of an avocado tree at your rental property), avoid apples and store-bought fruit. We never had a big garden, but a few bananas and salad greens are healthy and don’t require too much work.

We would even buy a fair amount at Papaya’s, the biggest natural food store in Kapaa. It is overpriced (think Whole Foods but without all the glitz), but if you buy the bulk items (we baked our own bread in a bread machine) and stock up on sale items, you get can get by without spending a premium. Same goes for those things from the regular grocery that you inevitably need (beer, toilet paper, etc.): watch the sales every week and stock up. The way we cook and eat, I found it no more expensive than the mainland, sometimes cheaper.

Gas prices vary a lot, definitely more than on the mainland, but more uniform, so you don’t drive around worrying about finding the cheapest gas. They’re cheaper than downtown San Francisco, but more expensive than the California average, and significantly more than the national average. Costco has cheap gas. Contrary to California, Shell is consistently the cheapest on-island, especially the station in Wailua. If you have a Shell Mastercard that gives you 5% back on their gas, it’s as cheap as Costco and more convenient. Actually, there local newspaper hosts a web page with current prices. For comparison, it’s about $2.00 /gal in San Francisco, $1.75 outside of town, and I saw $1.55 in Texas over the holidays.

Utilities are the biggest shock, definitely 2 to 3 times more than CA, but even then, there are ways to save. Kauai has the highest electric rates in the whole country, so look for houses with gas appliances and hot water. Gas is expensive too, but more efficient and comes out cheaper. Best of all is solar hot water, as well as a covered clothesline; look for those in a house to save you at least $100/month. Then install compact fluorescent light bulbs if the rental doesn’t have them already.

That’s just an overview of the items I can think of. Feel free to ask more details in the comments. Readers, feel free to add your own examples of how Kaua’i is so expensive, or ways you’ve found to cope.

PS: I have gotten some other interesting emails and blog comments recently, I’ll answer them soon.

Printed from: http://great-hikes.com/blog/so-you-want-to-live-on-kauai/.
© 2014.

65 Comments   »

  1. Stacey says:

    Thanks so much. Great info! We are arriving on Kauai the beginning of February. We are all so excited! We have a rental in Princeville…we wanted to be at Hanalei Elem. I am a bit bummed that Princelle is “a bit sterile”…Our lease is up in 5 months, that will give us time to see if Kauai works for us and where we will want to be permanantly. Preschools? My daughter will start in a few months. Thanks for the heads up on the farmers markets! Can’t wait to get there!
    Thanks again,
    Stacey

  2. Fred says:

    I too would love to move to Kauai but have realized that the dream might only become a reality in retirement, which is 30 some years away. There are just so few professional jobs on the island that it would be impossible to move at this time. In the meantime, my wife and I are stocking away as much money as possible for retirement.

    Aloha,

    Fred

  3. Bill says:

    Hello Andy,

    Well, still reading, but sorry to hear about your bad luck. We had wondered about you when we heard about the layoffs at your work. Sadly, we felt it likely you were a part of the riff.

    We were last in Kauai in July 2008 for our fifth trip in four years. However that streak will end this year. Once again, the economic downturn is largely responsible. We are trying to be more prudent with out spending.

    So you might imagine that any preparations and dreams we have of moving to Kauai are pretty far on the back burner. I would guess that those who do have the money are finding great deals over there now. And I would guess there may be many like you who have had to retreat back to the Mainland. That’s pretty sad and I feel sorry for all affected.

    Take care,
    Bill

  4. Claudia says:

    I love Kauai from the first time I see and heard about…I wish I could move there…but it is soo far away (I live in Romania) and you need a lot of paper to make for the visa…But I can dream that I am living there… :)

  5. Fran Kralman says:

    My nephew & 2 neices go to Island School. There are way more brown skinned children and Asians at Island School than haoles. The haoles are the minority.
    5 kids in my nephew’s class also have Hawaiian/Asian mix.

  6. Buzz says:

    Howzit!

    I left Hawaii (Big Island) after Bush was elected, hoping to start a new life in Thailand. Well, I’ve spent enough time here now, and Bush is out, and thought about returning home – but not to the Big Island, but Kauai.
    I have a lot of questions, and haven’t found much in the way of local chat rooms or forums for Kauai, for getting answers.
    Basically, I’d like to come back, start a small recording studio, and get some lease-hold land for growing food, getting involved in a co-op, and investinf in solar energy. Possibly building the studio, barn & out buildings from recycled shipping containers.
    From the little I’ve been able to find out almost all these ideas are impossible. I hear that lease-hold properties are mostly a thing of the past, (and probably any other method for obtaining a couple acres are out of my budget). I’ve heard that building permits, won’t allow for shipping containers (no matter how hurricane-proof, beautifully modified, or integrated into the landscape they are) – even though I know a couple who made a geodesic dome home out of automobile roofs there about 30 years ago that probably blew away during Eva in ’82.
    As far as the music scene there, I don’t know what’s going on.
    Can anyone comment on the issues raised above? Are there any active forums where real questions can be raised?

    Thanks! Buzz

  7. Andy says:

    Hi Buzz,

    Sad to say, but yes, those ideas are no longer possible on Kaua’i. I saw one lease-hold property when we were house-hunting in 2004, but none since then. There’s still some ag-land, but even in this depressed market, it has been speculated and flipped to outrageous prices. And while you can easily put a shipping container on vacant land, you won’t be able to turn it into a permitted building. The building inspectors and the county are really cracking down on that. Your best bet might be a yurt, but you still need to find the land to put it on. There used to be tent accomodations in exchange for work on the north shore organic farms, but the county cracked down on those too. But maybe if you find the person with the land, you could bring your own container to an out of the way place.

    A co-op would be the way to go, but I only know of one, and it’s more of a community housing project. I don’t know the current status of the project, but here’s the contact info I found: Ileina Lane Community, Hedda Schmutz, http://www.heddaarchitecture.com/contact/. The problem is the same again, land is so expensive that it’s hard to have a grass-roots organization that starts from scratch. The other person I heard of wanting to start some sort of community was a multi-millionaire, and I don’t think he got off the ground.

    I’m not much into the music scene, though I do know the north shore is more of where it’s at. There are various small artists doing concerts for friends, and a few big names who have retired here part time, not much in between that’s local. Unfortunately, Kauai is a small place, and while you’re certain to find like minded people on Kaua’i, there just aren’t that many to have any forums that I know of–though that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there. The only one I can think of is kkcr.org, Kauai Community Radio, who might have some local talent, or at least local DJs who know the scene.

    Ironically, I usually think of the Big Island as a place where more of your goals are possible. There’s more land, it’s cheaper, and since it is often isolated and off the grid, alternative structures, solar/wind energy and water collecting are common. With the larger population, there’s more music too, or at least it seemed that way from the advertising when I was visiting there.

    In the end, I’m perhaps not connected enough to the people and community you seek, so I can’t really tell you whether what you want is possible or impossible. Your best bet might be to visit both islands and try to make some contacts and get a feel for the possibilities.

  8. Buzz says:

    Hi Andy – thanks for responding.
    A lot of the ideas I listed in my last post were things I was going to do here in Thailand. Foreigner’s can indirectly own land here, but they could change the laws in a heart-beat, and all you’re hard work would be down the drain.
    I spent just under half my life in Hawaii, mostly on Oahu. I moved to the Big Island in 2000, but left the day Bush started the War in Iraq.
    My idea was to create a sustainable, green life-style.
    After living Thailand almost 7 years I realize there’s no place like home, so I want to come back. But not to Oahu.
    I agree with what you said about BI being the place for me to realize more of what I’m thinking. But during my 3 years I noticed one major part missing from the picture. I’ve been a Scuba diver for 48 years, boater, sailor, fisherman, and Hilo side is OK but it’s way hard to get easy access to the ocean. All kinds of lava rock cliffs with dangerous boat ramps about 30 miles apart (except for in Hilo town). Kona’s got all that but property’s way expensive. And my days as an opihi picker are long-since past!
    I just wanted to set up some hurricane-proof dwellings. One for myself that would double as a recording studio (non-pro). And some more for people who want to do some farming and be self-sufficient.
    It’s hard to do on Kauai because the laws don’t favor a lot of these ideas.
    I don’t know what the future holds, but even if things didn’t change a bit, my ideas would do no harm. However I think Kauai, (and a lot of other places on Earth) need to get away from relying 80% or so on things from off-island, get back to the ways the Ancient Hawaiian’s did things, consider restoring the fish ponds, and stop thinking tourism and oil are forever.
    I will contact the email you gave me. Here’s mine in case anyone wants to contact me. buzzer@thaivisa.com

    Thanks again – Buzz

  9. Andy says:

    Hi Buzz,

    I’m afraid the ocean around Kaua’i is not much calmer. There are only two boat docks (Nawiliwili and Port Allen) and a few more ramps (and only one on the north shore). Hanalei has awesome mooring in the summer, but you have to go back to Nawiliwili the rest of the year. Scuba-wise, there are a few spots, the only real good one being 17 miles over by Niihau (Lehua)–at least from what I’ve heard as a land-lubber. The Big Island is known to have better conditions for diving: more lava equals less dirt equals less runoff and clearer water. Truth is, Hawaii has been discovered and all the people like me who tried to move there with California salaries drove up prices. I don’t think it’s a question of laws, it’s a question of the market forces. And all the opihi is gone now too.

    I too believe Kaua’i can and should be more self-sufficient, at least food and energy-wise. My wish is that the residents, native and recently-arrived, learn to live less wastefully and more in tune with land.

  10. Buzz says:

    Hi Andy,

    Sorry, in advance, for a rather long ‘comment’.

    My older brother lived on Kauai for about 9 years, helped found the Nawiliwili Yacht Club, and worked as a PADI instructor there (and for many years on Oahu before that). I was a PADI instructor on Oahu. He didn’t like the diving there as much as Kona which is the best, or even Oahu, which has a lot of great spots.

    Roughness of the ocean isn’t the concern. The concern is where can I get in the water? On Oahu I could go swimming by taking a short walk, or diving by driving and parking at a dive site. As I get older swimming for health has taken precedence over diving for sport.

    The problem was access. If I wanted to even just go for a swim starting from where I lived in Hakalau – Big Island. The ocean was only 2 miles from my house, but, at that location, it was all a’a lava rock, or a messy stream you could get in by. The closest reasonable place to go swimming was a 1 hour round trip drive to Hilo. I wasn’t into a commute every day just to go swimming. Whereas I might go diving occasionally now, I like to swim every day. This is a ‘bottom line’ for where I need to live.

    This problem about “market forces” is really true! In the 80s Japanese investors drove the prices up in Hawaii big-time, but it was happening before that… forever. And today I can’t imagine anyone on an average salary buying a home there and raising a family. Those of Hawaiian ancestry are the worst victims. If they were lucky enough to have inherited property, or received a good education and got well connected maybe they’re fairly well off, but for most that isn’t the case.

    Here in Thailand is a similar problem. The foreign investor comes here and looks at a piece of land and thinks “cheap” something the Thai’s think “expensive”, so the prices go up and up, and the poor Thai’s are kicking themselves because they should have bought that land even thought they thought it expensive, or they shouldn’t have sold it off a piece at a time for pennies on the dollar. It’s a real mess, and I feel heartbroken for them, and their future.

    Kauai – and virtually any other place on planet earth that you can name – needs to become more self-sufficient.

    I was watching a program called “David Suzuki’s The Nature of Things” the segment was called “Cuba:The Accidental Revolution”. Prior to the breakup of the Soviet Bloc in 1989, Cuba always had someone they could trade with, get oil for their cars, medicine for the sick, food for their people and export markets to sell their sugar and mangos to, etc. That abruptly ended in 1989, and all of a sudden they had to resort to thinking. They were poor and starving, and had all their fields tied up in sugar, mangos, bananas – things for export. All huge state run farms also were energy hogs. Since then, through small, privately owned farms, they’ve turned things around amazingly. They grow huge varieties of organic food, using every trick in the book, (and inventing some new ones). These use very little energy, and being a farmer is a lucrative occupation. They have dozens of farms right in downtown Havana, making the environment better there too. If you can find it online, I highly recommend doing so.

    Now, America has tasted of disaster. First the Savings & Loan debacle, now this latest recession. We’ve tasted! Hope we never have to drink it down. If we do, agricultural diversity and preparedness can only be a good thing.

    I’m still hoping for a forum, or even just an individual or two that I could discuss various questions, and find out what kind of green ‘people oriented’ resources are on Kauai. Hawaii is my home, but compared to decades on Oahu, and a short time on BI, I spent only short periods on Kauai visiting my brother, except for one 2-3 month period when I was actively looking to move there around 1980.

    So, I know, basically, what to expect if I moved back to Oahu, or Hilo side, but am a lot more interested in Kauai. Specifically, whether I’d fit in there well with my music, finding a place nearby for swimming or diving and my desire to live green.

    I think I can do that. And plan to move there in the next few months. But the big question is about finding a place for my recording studio. This involves a lot of questions. I’ve seen some land available – but it could be junk. Then, I don’t think Hawaii would let me build as cheap as I need to (with shipping containers). I’d need to find some farmers to work with.

    There’s so many questions that I really have to just set my sights in that direction and get them answered by living there for a while, meeting people, and getting them answered that way.

    Still, thank you Andy. And if you or anyone who finds this wishes to comment, please do so, also you’ll find my email address in a previous comment if you wish to contact me directly.

    Thanks – Buzz

  11. Leif says:

    Are there no geothermal energy plants that produces electric in Kauai ?

    Greetings from Iceland ;)

  12. Buzz says:

    Aloha Leif (if you ever come back to check on your post)

    Gee, ur, uh… Geothermal in Hawaii? Well, there is on the Big Island. But it’s a complex issue. To do so is to disrespect the Hawaiians belief system. Specifically their much revered goddess, Pele.

    They were there first, you know, and they would still be in control if it wasn’t for some hi-jinx on the part of American businessmen and military. They put the Sovereign Hawaiian Queen Liliuokalani under house arrest – sort of like Aung San Suu Kyi. Thus hijacking the roots of power from the rightful leaders and owners of that land. In about 1895 this well educated and enlightened monarch wanted to restore the power of the Monarchy, and, well, it was a black day for the Hawaiians in the furtherance of American interests.

    Today, if you want geothermal power there, you are going to get a lot of heat from Hawaiian activists, and even people like me. I don’t share their beliefs, but I share their heart. However, realistically, as bad as it was, the majority of the damage has been done. Now Hawaii is a State, and the rights of all have to be considered. I just wish the Hawaiians were considered with the highest priority.

    Scientifically, if it didn’t offend anyone, on the surface, it seems a pretty good idea. Below the surface may be another problem. I don’t know what kind of gasses it releases into the atmosphere. I know it stinks bad! So, not being a scientist, I don’t know how ‘green’ it is.

    All my information is old, however. I’ve lived in Thailand since 2003. Before that I lived about 40 minutes drive from the one geothermal station I knew about.

    Hope this helps – Buzz

  13. David says:

    Hi thanks for your blog. My girlfriend and i have decided to move to kauai, we live in Chico Ca and it is something i have always wanted to do so why not while i am young (26). my questions is i have been in construction my whole life i know the economy is down but why is it like there. i can deal with hard i can’t deal with “just not gonna happen”. also i was thinking about selling my truck and buying something when i get there are the prices any different there. thank you for your time
    David

  14. Andy says:

    Hi David, I’m sorry to bear the bad news, but construction is almost dead here, especially if you mean housing. We are hit by the economy too, and the fact that you can’t build forever on an island. No new resorts, very little housing. Lots of local construction workers with the connections to take up any jobs that may show up. If you do bigger stuff, the only project I can think of is the Kaumualii Hwy widening that’s been going on for a year–you would need to contact Kiewit Infrastructure West, the general contractor about jobs. Don’t know if it’s better to do that remotely or once you get here. There is also going to be the demolition of the old sugar mills, but I don’t know who does that. Again, the problem with construction is that there are already lots of unemployed locals in this field. That said, I know absolutely nothing more about construction than what I read in the papers and online–I have no inside knowledge of the local scene.

    As for your truck and finding places to stay, look at craigslist to get an idea. The truck market is always fairly good in Hawaii, lots of people seem to have the money for them, but I don’t know if that means it’s better to sell on the mainland and rebuy here. It costs over $1000 to ship a car to Kaua’i, and gas is $4.20/gal here so factor that too.

    A very good place to read about and ask questions about moving to Hawaii is the Hawaii forum on the City-Data website. I’ve been following it for a while, and the general consensus is:

    • Moving to Hawaii is a fairly common dream for mainlanders.
    • You need a job offer in writing, local family or big savings ($10K-$15K) to successfully move and get established.
    • It is costly: unless you have a special skill, you will likely only find small jobs and spend all your savings in your first months.
    • If you are barely surviving month-to-month, and always worried about the next paycheck, it’s hard to take time to enjoy being in Hawaii.
    • You need the right attitude here: the culture is predominantly Asian, which means emphasis on community and respect, not individuals and boasting.
    • 9 times out of 10, it turns into a 2-year adventure, then people move on for whatever reason (no job/no money, don’t fit in, miss mainland friends and family).

    I don’t want to discourage you, but I want you to be aware of everything that’s involved. If you’re determined, a hard worker, and culturally adaptable to Hawaii, you can succeed here. And you should be aware of the risk of moving back later, including the cost involved for that, and how much that will cost you overall in savings and missed time establishing your life on the mainland. But if you have the right attitude, you can make it work, whether short term or long term, and still have a great time. Just be aware that some people get into money problems, and it’s no fun being stuck in Hawaii without any friends or family.

  15. Kim says:

    I also want to retire to Kauai in about 4 years. I haven’t exactly convinced my husband yet. We have been there five times, mostly on the south shore, but in Anahola last May. I am trying to figure out where is the best place to live. I like the convenience of the east shore (Kapa’a, Kealia, Wailua), but we won’t be able to afford any place too close to the ocean (wish we could afford to buy a place now – the prices have really come down). I have seen homes in the Wailua House Lots area and I have two questions: how are the trade winds that far inland and how are the mosquitos? Silly I know, but if you are going to make the move of your life, you better ask the stupid questions. I appreciate this blog because it will help in convincing my husband who says Kauai is too expensive and too small. I agree with the accommodations you suggest for food. I really don’t think overall the prices are really any different than here in Jacksonville, FL if you go to the famers markets, Costco, and shop Safeway specials. Electricity is probably the biggest difference, but in Kauai you don’t need air conditioning and heat. In addition, I find property taxes in Kauai to be half of what we pay here. I keep telling my husband that size doesn’t matter because we live in the largest city in the U.S (by area) and we don’t drive to the other side of town. Besides, we are closer to our daughter and her family in Australia and have the whole Pacific to explore. It is just a matter of perspective. Sorry for dragging on.

    Kim

  16. Andy says:

    Hi Kim, no worries about dragging on, have you seen my replies?

    Personally, I’m not a big fan of living close to the ocean (within a few blocks) unless you have the view yourself. If you live inland without the view, the only advantage is that you have a shorter walk to the shore, and you still have the disadvantages of price premium, salt spray corrosion, and flood zone (tsunami or hurricane surge). If you do like to get out and walk the shoreline everyday, then it can be nice, but walking a bit further can save you lots on your mortgage. For example, the lower part of the Houselots are an easy walk to Wailua beach, but not thought of as an oceanfront neighborhood–or at least the markup isn’t as bad. The upper end of the Houselots has easy access to the Nounou East trail on the Sleeping Giant, which is very nice for walking, too.

    The Houselots do get nice tradewinds, though more in the upper areas because lower down by the ocean they are slowed by land and vegetation. The upper parts of the Houselots are about 300′ elevation, so they get nice breezes and better views. In the lower areas, it depends on the house and its orientation. Mosquitoes are inversely proportional to the wind, in particular because there is standing water just inland of the beach (around the Coco Palms area). So there are more mosquitoes and less wind in those areas close to the beach, and less mosquitoes further up. Mosquitoes can be a problem in wet areas like that, but we tend to have the smaller ones here, and I don’t think they are anywhere as bad as what I hear about in Florida.

    I would be very careful about island fever for your husband, since he is already showing reluctance at the idea. Island fever is both a physical limitation and a state of mind. Even if you don’t drive far in FL, and you drive everywhere on Kaua’i (and believe me, there are tons of nice little places to explore), you can still have island fever because of how you feel about being isolated in the middle of the Pacific ocean. And while Austalia is closer geographically and flights are shorter, it may still be less expensive to fly from Los Angeles. The same goes for exploring the Pacific: Tahiti is the closest destination, and it’s just as far as the mainland (2500 miles) and tickets are twice as expensive (not to mention the price of lodging). So you are mostly limited to the Hawaiian islands–again there is plenty to explore, but it really is one of the most isolated landmasses on earth. I would take an extended stay on Kaua’i first, to make sure he is comfortable with living here.

    Another thing to think about when retiring to Kaua’i (or Maui or the Big Island) is that health care is limited here. We have one or two of most specialists, but not all. The hospital can do surgeries, but anything major (triple-bypass) is sent to Honolulu. It takes a while to get an initial appointment and find a doctor you like, and doctors often move away if they get island fever themselves. And finally, long-term care and nursing homes are limited here, and very expensive.

    In the end, you have to balance the advantages and disadvantages, be honest about your desires and anxieties, and if you’re still positive, do a long-term stay where you can still go back at little cost. For example, consider a 6-12 month house swap.

  17. Kim says:

    So what you are saying is it is better to have a house on a “rim lot” versus in the crater? I wouldn’t want to be on the ocean because of the tsunami and hurricane surge threat, not to mention the maintenance. I mean we have hurricanes here too although only a 4% chance of a direct hit in any given year. One year, we had the indirect effects (lots of wind and rain) as the storms came to us from other directions over land and mainly the damage was trees blown down from saturated soil. I am assuming from what I have read that the hurricanes that hit Kauai directly tend to come from the east. Hence, the really brutal beating the island took on the east side? Although the Sheraton in Poipu was a mess for many years. We were living in walnut Creek, CA at the time and had stayed at a Poipu Makai condo the year before when the front page of our paper showed a picture of Makelena condo that was next door just flattened. I digress.

    Anyway, I appreciate your comments about healthcare, but we are generally of good health. In spite of the fact that my father is a doctor, I avoid them except in cases of extreme necessity. Think about it, doctors make people sick. When you go to the doctor, they are always looking for something to be wrong with you. I am a Financial Advisor so we got long term care insurance many years ago, but the idea is to have care come to us in our home, not go into a facility.

    My husband’s primary hobbies are surf fishing and photography. Can you think of a better place to do those things all year round than Hawaii? And, there are multiple islands to see as well as California as a fall back. He won’t really get island fever. You have to understand, we don’t go anywhere now except an annual vacation and an occasional night out. We are really boring!

    Actually, as the dollar loses value and the price of gas goes up, the cost of going to Australia goes up significantly. The first time I went in 2003, it cost about $1000 from Jacksonville to Melbourne. The coast for a trip this year will be over $2000. The cost from Melbourne to Kauai in 2010 was 1000 and it is the same now. But more importantly, my daughter and her family will never come here (Jacksonville) to see us because the airfare alone for 4 people is over $10000 from Australia; to Kauai is half the price. Otherwise, we will have to do 24 hours of travel every other year for the rest of our lives. This is why Kauai makes sense.

    I don’t know if the house swap thing will work since we have Golden Retrievers that must come with us (yeah, I know about the process to avoid quarantine), but we might consider renting. After the housing debacle, I’m not sure it makes sense to buy anyway. Our current home has only dropped in value by about 40%. We’ll see. As I said, we’ve got like 4 years to wait (unless I win the lotto – ha!ha!).

    Thanks for your information on Wailua Homesteads and mosquitos. What you think about the Lawai area – not the new multi-million dollar subdivision and golf course? I want to have a garden and fruit trees.

    Kim

  18. Andy says:

    Hi Kim,

    The information I gave you was for the Wailua Houselots, which are up to a mile inland between the ocean and the Sleeping Giant “mountain.” The Wailua Homesteads are a different neighborhood, 2-4 miles inland, behind the Sleeping Giant. The Homesteads get less sun because they are often under the clouds that form as the wind blows moist ocean air up over the terrain. That also makes it rain more, probably 80-100 inches/year against 60 in/yr for the Houselots. Most areas of the Homesteads get the tradewinds, though little valleys or behind the Sleeping Giant may not. Mosquitoes are a bit worse because it is wetter there, though it usually depends on how far the house is from a stream and whether it is exposed to the tradewinds. One inconvenience of the Homesteads is the extra 10 minutes driving to the main road whenever you go to or from anywhere.

    The other big neighborhood in Kapa’a is Kawaihau, which is along Kawaihau Rd, inland of the “old town” of Kapa’a. It is more like the Homesteads (cloudier, wetter, longer drive), though the lower parts are closer to the ocean and not as bad.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “crater,” the only houses built in any crater on Kaua’i are some condos in Poipu. Rim lots occur anywhere there are houses next to a steep river valley. The most prominent “rim lots” on Kaua’i are above the Wailua River on Kuamo’o Road (near the Wailua Homesteads), and above the Hanapepe river in Hanapepe and ‘Ele’ele.

    Hurricanes travel east to west in the Pacific, in a belt mostly south of Hawaii. So when they do hit Hawai’i they come from the SE quadrant. Iniki was traveling due north, when it passed over Kaua’i in 1991, but direction and landfall location don’t really matter because the winds are circular. I think the storm surge was worst on the south shore (Poipu and Kekaha).

    I’m glad you are a careful planner, but when you say something like “the idea is to have care come to us in our home,” you need to make sure such a service is available on Kaua’i.

    It sounds like your husband is compatible with the activities available on Kaua’i and travel around Hawai’i. But island fever is something like sea-sickness: you can’t imagine it and you won’t know you have it until you set foot on a boat. Your husband has visited here 5 times and he says it’s too small. Try to figure out if he’s just criticizing the idea of moving to Hawaii, or if he really felt limited. Note that the Big Island, while just as isolated, does have more open space and feels a lot less limited. It also has more land available and much cheaper, but often not as close to scenic areas as on Kaua’i.

    Lawai is a nice area between the lush and wet hills in Kalaheo and the drier South shore of Koloa and Poipu. It seems to be a nice mix of sunshine and rain, not too far from the coast. But again, it depends on which part of Lawai, because there are some streets inland of the main highway that will be wetter because they’re in a valley.

  19. Kim says:

    Sorry it took a while to respond, but I have been busy with “stuff”.

    Thanks for clarifying on “houselots” versus “homesteads”. I am just looking at “home for sale” on the internet and even though there is sometimes map reference, it isn’t a detailed terrain map. Also, I got the term”rim lot” from those ads. What can I tell you?

    Our visit last May was the first time we just started aimlessly driving inland to see things. It was a very rainy two weeks so it was hard to tell what “normal” might be inland from the east shore. So I really appreciate your comments about where it might be rainier. That is why I’m not real wild about the North Shore beyond Kilaeua although I have been there on very nice sunny days. It just feels wetter.

    As our next trip to Australia (going sometime this spring) approaches, I think the logic of living in Hawaii is bringing my husband around. Just the thought of 24 hours of travel makes you tired. I’m not really worried about him. We’ve got at least four years and he’ll come around. I mean, I got a new Honda Pilot and you can put your own pictures on the navigation screen (like a screen saver) and he put pictures he took in Kauai. And he doesn’t complain when I tell other people I want to retire to Kauai. One step at a time.

    I have read some books about moving to Hawaii and they do indicate that elder services are available on Kauai now and improving. So we’ll be O.K. I would like to think we don’t need to worry about it for thirty years.

    You have been so kind to explain things to me and answer my questions. I’ll be in touch if anything else comes to mind.

    Many thanks!

    KIm

  20. Kim says:

    Oh, I forgot to comment about the Big Island. I don’t think it is really for us. There are some nice areas however, the volcano is still active causing earthquakes and vog. We have done the earthquake thing in Northern California. Not for us I’m afraid. I’ll pay a little more for Kauai.

  21. Verena says:

    I love your blog…it’s so informative! I, too, plan to move to Kauai. However, my parameters are a little different: I am a single female, close to retirement. Still working actively and full time as a nurse (RN, BSN and Master’s degree). I understand that nurses still are in short supply on Kauai, thus I hope to get either a “travel” assignment, or come to Kauai and find employment on my own. How is the rental market to tie me over until I can purchase my own, small home? My future plans? I would like to find a small house with some extra space/addition/cottage to lease as B&B. Any comments/ideas are very much appreciated. Mahalo, Verena

  22. Andy says:

    Hi Verena, your plan sounds like a good one, but Kaua’i is small and things can change. Making the move as a single professional means that if you find work, you should be able to cover your living expenses. However, I do not know about nursing jobs, we have a very limited market, so there may or may not be open positions. There are 3 hospitals, but only one large one (and even that is not large by mainland standards), and a few clinics and care centers. You’ll have to do your research to see what jobs are available to you.

    The rental market is fairly good, rents came down after mortgages came down from the real-estate bubble bursting. Just look around on craigslist for what’s available. The standard way to rent is to get a cheap hotel or vacation rental for one or 2 weeks, and then visit the places in person. It’s better for the landlord and renter if you don’t try to work remotely. For purchasing, the prices have come down from the peak, but that doesn’t mean houses are cheap. The low, low end came down from 400K to 300K, and that’s a place with issues. Also, renting out as a B&B or vacation rental is strictly controlled by the county, you need a permit and those are now limited to avoid turning residential areas into transient lodging. So that one part of your plan is unlikely to work.

  23. Verena says:

    Andy, thanks for the great info. I’ve been looking at property prices already and realized that it’s going to be a long search. As for work, I will try to find a travel nursing assignment, and then hopefully convert this into permanent employment. I guess, the plan to sink down a “second income leg” has to be scrapped, but I do understand that Kauai has to protect itself from speculators in the tourist business (I come from a famous tourist location myself: Innsbruck in Austria). Thus, I understand why these regulations are necessary.
    As I get closer to my goal, I may have some more questions for you. In the meantime many thanks to you! I’ll keep coming back to your blog.
    Verena

  24. Jackie says:

    Aloha!
    First of all, thanks a lot for your time and information. We are a young family, currently living in Portland with a 7 months baby. We just set up a date for our trip to Kauai. We are both excited and full of questions about our next adventure. We will try our best to make it happen.. We are thinking of renting first to get to know the island better, find a job and hopefully someday own a land. My husband is about to start a class for solar panels.. Do you think that will work there? And I was also thinking about house sitting instead of renting a place cause that would be just perfect to begin with. Do you know if people do that in kauai? If so, how can I get contacts or information? What is your opinion about having a food cart?
    Looking forward for your reply. Thanks a lot again!! Peace

  25. Andy says:

    Hi Jackie. A lot of whether you can make it depends on money and attitude, but mostly money. You need some savings to tide you over until you can find a job, and you need some marketable skills to get a job. How much depends on the housing you find and how long your take to find a job. Solar installer may or may not be in demand, I do see a lot of panels around but I don’t know if the market is still going strong. Obviously, experience is better, but training is bettern than nothing. For food carts and food trucks, there seems to be a lot of them around already, in touristy and shopping areas. But I always think that good food in the right place (lunch wagon near office workers or near tourists) can sell–just remember that we do have regulations for preparing food and for vending, so make sure you follow the rules. Some farmer’s markets allow prepared foods (not the county-run markets, those are for produce only), so you can try selling at those too.

    There are always some no-skills-needed jobs, but you can guess they don’t pay. Even at the base rate of $10-12/hr, it’s impossible to meet expenses here. Having a baby, unfortunately, makes it harder because it reduces your work time or increases your child-care costs. Then there is the issue of health insurance: employers must provide it when you work 20 hrs or more, so a lot of jobs are 19hrs part-time.

    It’s very wise to rent for a year, because there are lots of little communities and different crowds, so you have time to find your “tribe” here and then move closer to your ideal place. I do not have an house-sitting contacts–I wish I knew a lot of rich people who needed caretakers, but then I probably wouldn’t be here writing this. Your best bet is probably the Heartbeat of Kaua’i list, an alternative-leaning listing of services wanted and offered. However, a search for “housesitting” turned up 4 house-sitters already, and no houses needed sitting. Usually house-sitting is for a few weeks or months at a time, so you’d move around a lot–good in some ways but not in others. Check craigslist as well, but watch out for too-good-to-be-true scams.

    I feel the need to ask: what attracts you to Kaua’i? Did you visit here already, and if so, what was it that prompted you to make the move? What do you expect when living on Kaua’i? Your answers can help frame your attitude and see if you’d fit in, make your own way, or find it challenging. You may also have to live very frugally, so knowing your limits and your abilities to do so can help you set expectations. One website that deals mostly with relocating to Hawaii are the forums on City-Data (I’ve linked to them in a previous comment). They cover a lot of general information, such as the high cost of living, the low quality of schools, and the difference between mainlander and local attitudes. You’ll see that the Kaua’i threads aren’t that active, a lot more people move to O’ahu (for the jobs) or Big Island (for the low cost of housing)–Kaua’i has neither of those. But don’t get discouraged by some of the negativity, for people who can adapt and contribute, they can usually find happiness on any of the islands.

  26. Catherine says:

    Aloha!
    I used to live on Kauai and raised my son on the west side until he was 3. My husband was ill so we returned to California. I also took care of my Grandma who passed away. My husband also passed away. My Mom still lives on Kauai. I have opportunities there and absolutely am in Love with Kauai. The problem is my son just turned 12 and he is scared to live on the west side. He gets along well with others but I’m afraid he may be an outsider. When we last visited Kauai there were kids his age running after chickens w/ machetes chopping the heads off. Kind of left lasting impression on my son. We can be tough but there can be isolated violent incidences on the west side. My heart is torn and I may move to a smaller town in Nor Cal. Great for my son but tears my heart. I could home school my son but he needs the socialization with his peers. He is into sports and music. He loves all cultures. But I wonder if Kauai is too limited?

    Mahalo for your wisdom. I’m not sure to follow my head or my heart <3

  27. Andy says:

    Hi Catherine. Moving with kids at that age is difficult for them. At least you have connections on Kaua’i and know about some of the issues. Yes, cruelty to animals is a problem here. My daughter went to a summer camp, and one of the 7 year-old girls was killing tadpoles and geckos during breaks. It sounds like both of you could adapt to Kaua’i again, though maybe on the more diverse east side. However, schools there are still not as good as what you can probably find in California, so I understand your dilemma. My daughter is home-schooled right now, we just try to do lots of play-dates and camps for her.

  28. Joshua says:

    What’s your opinion on Moloaa Bay area? Also, I hear the North and East sides of the Kauai are the Organic farming regions…is that true?

    thanks

  29. Andy says:

    Hi Joshua. Moloaa, as the area is called, is a little out of the way, but that’s why some people like it. Moloaa is generally understood to be everything along Koolau road, which connects to the main highway at both ends, and has a spur to Moloaa Bay itself. As far as a place to live, it’s an odd mix organic farmers who tend to be scraping a hard living from their land, exurbs where people have built a regular house on a few acres and simply commute a bit further to work/school, and high-end, gentleman-farmer estates in various stages of development, from speculation to established properties. It’s the kind of area where it’s common to see a horse or two being kept in the pasture next to the house. To me there doesn’t seem to be much community there, with everyone all spaced far apart, busy doing their own thing, and having different visions for the land. There is also some tension, especially because of the development, as I wrote about the Moloaa trail.

    The organic farms are mostly located in Moloaa and Kilauea. More specifically, near the southern end of Koolau Rd. in Moloaa, and off of Waiakalua and North Waiakalua roads between Moloaa and Kilauea.

  30. Joshua says:

    Andy…thanks for the info. It helps a lot with my planning. I plan to visit the area soon.

    blessings..

  31. Catherine says:

    Thank you, Andy! I will know by this week if we are moving back to Kauai. I am leaning towards California for more opportunities for my son and I. I have always made the best of Kauai though and living on the island has taught us to be humble. I do know it will be different to raise a teen on Kauai. His life will be shaped differently. I may say no to Kauai and choose California. It is a difficult decision. Kauai is in my heart and we love the people.

  32. Ken Hamilton says:

    Aloha Catherine ,,,1 million times kauai is a better place to raise kids over California ..growing up in norcal and now raising my kids ( youngest in hanalei school ) their is so much love here … since moving to Haena ( 900 sq. foot house 129k) . i have found so much oppertunity and so many ways to earn a great living.. the red jeeps and convertible mustangs drive way way way to fast ( i’m thinking the rental car companies rent the bright cars to tourists so everyone knows to watchout )

  33. Ken Hamilton says:

    when i was looking to move to kauai i only rulled out 2 areas Poipu and Princeville.. although pretty in an Orange County kinda way…they are a develpers ideal of Paradise and seem to attract an elite crowd…. if your into organic and GMO free living i think Kapaa north would be a good fit .. the west side has a bad reputation for chemical companies experimenting on crops..

  34. John says:

    Hi Andy,
    I’ve been to Hawaii several times, two of them to Kaua’i. I discovered your blog a few days ago and have read and enjoyed many of your articles. If you wouldn’t mind, could you email me, I would like to ask you a few questions off the boards. If there is a “contact me” link I missed, just point me to it. Mahalo

  35. kelly says:

    Hi thank you so much for all of your info.. when you say it gets hot in the summer how hot to you mean? like humid hot ? what is the weather like year round.
    thank you so much!
    Kelly

  36. Jack says:

    Hi:
    My partner and I are considering moving to Kauai from San Francisco in the next 6 months. We are fortunate enough to be able to work anywhere and have visited several times over the past 12 years we have been together. We aren’t big on going out, eating out, and like to do most stuff around the house. I know cost of living is comparable to San Francisco but am also wary of “not being a local” mentality on the islands. Is this a reality? I also would like to understand access to Medical care as that is an important decision in our move(she has Type 1 diabetes). We will be buying property in Lihue most likely. Thanks for any input.

  37. dudest of meisters says:

    i dream about abanding the mainland and moving to kauai. i work in televison studio production so my job would translate to managing events/video production possibly for hotels. the dream is crazy and far off but i never give up hope. i was last on kauai 11 years ago and the urge to return and stay there permanently has never left me. thank you for the information and for a place to dream!

  38. Justin says:

    Hello,
    My familys dream is to move to kauai. I have a wife and two daughters. We dont need much but a small place to live, good job, and church. Im a appliance repair man right now, and have many other skills maint. repair ext.
    Is it posable to live in kauai if you can live with out things. Just need
    a gas saving vec. a cheap home, job, food, and surf boards.

  39. Gary Wolf says:

    I was stationed on Oahu in the 1980′s. I vacation on Maui every year. Living there is very different than vacationing there. Night and Day. Advice? Do not move there with children. Have a lot of money. The jobs are hard to find, never full time and low paying when compared with the costs. You will feel very isolated if you are not Asian or Hawaiian. It is paradise even so.

  40. Andy says:

    Hi Gary, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I totally agree with most of what you say, especially about living in HI being nothing like vacationing there. Moving with kids is possible, but difficult. The one part where I disagree is feeling isolated by ethnicity. Some people on all sides play that card, but it really isn’t the norm. People fit in more by attitude and respect.

  41. Shana says:

    Hi Andy, Thank you for all of the information and helping people with the decision of moving to Kauai. Our family is not likely to move to Kauai because we would need to relocate our 11 yr. old daughter, but can you explain more about the difficulties and also positive things about kids moving from the mainland and being raised on Kauai? What do you mean when you say “street smart”? In particular, wondering about issues or benefits for a girl in middle school and high school. Would she need to be able to defend herself physically or more just know what to avoid? Are the 3 high schools on the island very different from each other and would you recommend a certain one for “haoles” or mixed races that would be an easier adjustment? Thank you very much for your time, Shana

  42. Andy says:

    Hi Shana, thanks for reading. Relocating kids is hard, though every situation is different, so I wouldn’t rule out the possibility completely. Beyond the obvious change of social circles, difficulties are some of the same as for adults:

    • Less shopping as a pass-time, more outdoors
    • Less appearance-oriented, though I do see kids wearing surf brands
    • Less status-conscious (and more likely status-averse, as in don’t flaunt your money or your things), and more recognition for character
    • Less boasting, more listening and being open
    • Less opportunities to meet sub-cultures (like geeks or mods or jocks …) and less likely to fit in with them if they do exist (those sub-cultures are noticeably different here)
    • Less planned activities, more self-starting opportunities
    • Less academics, more just getting along with the basics

    Of course, every one of those things can be positive if your child didn’t fit the first part and identifies more with the second part. The positives, in my own opinion, are the less materialistic environment, the more outdoor lifestyle, the multi-culturalism, and the lower pressure. By street-smart, I mean being able to fit in with kids who aren’t necessarily academically-minded and yet are in a way more independent perhaps than kids who have been “coddleded” by a middle-class upbringing. Unless the newcomer repeatedly provokes the wrong people, I don’t think there is any physical threat. But I can’t really give any specific issues for middle school or high school age kids, since my daughter isn’t there yet.

    As for high schools, I don’t know them very well. Waimea is definitely more rural. Kapa’a probably has the biggest percentage of haoles (unless you count Island School which is private), but I haven’t heard very good things about it (some really bad teachers). And I don’t know anything one way or another about Lihue (Kaua’i HS).

  43. MJ says:

    Hello Andy,
    I am a single woman in her mid-forties. I have visited Kauai 6 times in the last 10 years and have never let go of the dream of moving there. I cried the last time I left. I search CL almost daily looking at jobs and places to live. I have some marketable skills (a librarian (no advanced degree) for over 15 years, a cook, and a professional singer with her own PAs) and am looking to live very simply. My questions (and I don’t know if there are answers, really :)), is, how hard would it be to have a little cottage (or studio) for about $700 or so…with enough land for a little garden, maybe a rescue dog :), find a decent job, volunteer somewhere. How hard to find something like that? And how difficult to become a part of the community? I’ve heard it can be hard b/c locals tend not to get too close with newcomers, as they tend not to stay. (I plan on staying for hopefully a long while.) My hesitation: feeling isolated (though I have relocated twice as an adult and done well). I am not a big shopper, I don’t go out partying much–my idea of a perfect night is having friends over for dinner. I don’t do drugs and drink very little. Again, I’m not sure if there are answers to these questions, but I felt compelled to ask them. Thank you for your time. :)

  44. Jose says:

    Hi, my gf and I are really thinking of moving to Kauai. She’s born and raised in Waimea. She’s been living in PHX for over 10 yrs now. She’s an RN and I’m a heli pilot. We’re just trying to get the ball rolling as to how to move our stuff and vehicles there or if its cheaper just to buy all new/used stuff?? She misses Kauai and I love the shorts and slippas life style. Still haven’t decided where to live but am pushing more to the south and west side away from the touristy areas.

    Jose

  45. Andy says:

    Hi Jose, great that your gf has a chance to come “home.” Having family here definitely makes it easier–especially for having contacts to find jobs. You both have great job skills that should be useful on Kaua’i, but the question is always: is anyone hiring–check craigslist and thegardenisland.com . But with family and a bit of savings, you can probably afford to hold our for a while.

    The west side, Hanapepe, Waimea, and Kekaha is know to be less touristy and much drier. It can get hot in the summer, but you should be used to that in Phoenix–I went to high school in Glendale.

    Vehicles are just over $1000 from a CA port (San Diego, Los Angeles, or Oakland) to Kaua’i if you go directly with one of the shippers: Matson, Pasha Hawaii, or Horizon–all the others are just middlemen who will charge more. We moved a 20ft container (for a full 2 bedroom house) for $3000 from the Bay Area to Kaua’i, plus another $1000 for trucking and hired help on either end. That gives you an idea of the low end for moving everything. If you go with movers, it just goes up from there. Other options include:

    - Sell everything except for a few papers and mementos, and ship it by surface mail with the US post office: $60 per large box.
    - If you have 10-20 boxes, you can take them to a shipper and have them palletized: stacked on a pallet and wrapped with plastic. I’ve heard this is about $500 to Hawaii.
    - Relocubes and similar door-to-door options are all more expensive, sometimes as much as the container for 1/3 the space.

    So how much you move really depends on what you have and how attached you are to your stuff. You can certainly find used everything on Kaua’i, especially from people moving back to the mainland. It isn’t always cheap or great quality, so it also depends on whether you have quality furniture, electronics, books, etc. Same with the car: it’s probably not worth shipping unless if you have a reliable vehicle with good gas mileage that is paid off. But if you do have one like that, it’ll cost you more to sell it and buy the equivalent quality in Hawai’i.

    Some other financial considerations: You didn’t mention it but it’s best to have 3-6 months of living expenses saved up, including deposit on a rental. The recommended amount depends on how long you live in temporary housing (hotel or vacation rental) before finding a regular rental. Of course, staying with family can lower that. Also, Hawai’i in general has a high cost of living and lower wages, so it’s harder to pay off debt here. I don’t know if that applies to you, but consider getting rid of your debt (cars and credit cards) before moving.

    Good luck with your preparations. Another website to search for information is the city-data.com forums for Hawaii. Kaua’i is the least active of their forums and most of the moving thread apply to all of Hawai’i.

  46. Andy says:

    Hi MJ, sorry for not replying earlier, I was on vacation. On the one hand, I think your low-key, community-oriented lifestyle would fit in well on Kaua’i. If you’re open to people and genuinely interested in the local culture, you will make friends and find like-minded people. It’s true that newcomers have to bide their time a little, but that’s just part of the process of being dedicated to a new life, finding compatible people, and fitting in. Distance-wise, Kaua’i is definitely isolated. If you are close to family and friends on the mainland, you can’t count on seeing them much. They aren’t going to vacation on Kaua’i every year just to visit you, and it’s expensive to fly back all the time.

    Where you will likely struggle is with employment and cost of living. Jobs are still scarce here, and government jobs such as librarian probably go to locals first. You would have to be living here already, know some people in those departments to even have a chance at them–sort of a catch-22. Similarly, a small cottage and room to garden for $700 probably exists somewhere on the island, but it isn’t common, and you’d have to jump on the chance if it ever became available. I haven’t looked on craigslist recently, but I imagine that would be closer to 900-1000. That of course makes it hard to make the move, without any guarantee of a job. Maybe there are other fields where you could work, or create your own work online or in the tourist industry that seems to be rebounding first. I don’t want to discourage you, but I also think it could be a challenge.

    In a nutshell, how much will you enjoy Kaua’i or be able to participate in its culture when you’re struggling to get established? Nothing is written in stone, and you may have a totally different experience, but it’s good to be aware of the pitfalls. In any case, I wish you the best of luck and hope you find a way to make your dream happen.

  47. Gabrielle says:

    Hello!

    I am recently back from my second vacation to Kaua’i,and i am interested in moving there for a couple months. I am currently a college student in California, and i am looking to rent a room for 3-6 months in about a year.
    I am partial to the North Side, but I concerned that monetarily i wont be able to afford the North Side (specifically looking at Kilauea and anything farther North).
    How, and what, is the easiest way to find a temporary room in a decent price range?

    Mahalo for your time and thoughts!

  48. Andy says:

    Hi Gabrielle, that sounds like a fun adventure. Yes, most of Hawaii is expensive, and Kaua’i's north shore is no exception. The two places to look for local lodging are:

    From the second link, you can see you are not alone in wanting cheap accomodations on the North Shore. It does have some ideas such as house sitting and work-trade. But you can sometimes find studios in Princeville relatively cheaply, which is why I suggest you keep an eye on the standard listings. You might even be able to find a small vacation rental at a reasonable price if you negociate for monthly rates in the off-season (October, November, April, May). So keep checking and getting ideas. However, do be careful of scams on craigslist: do not send cash or check deposits (use a credit card) and double-check the offer through Google.

    The problem is that it’s hard to choose a place and pay a deposit until you’re on the island. If you find something ahead of time, you can’t see it in person, and then you have to send a deposit of some sort. Vacation rentals are set up for this (usually cleaner, lots of reviews online, and take a credit card deposit), but they’re expensive. For all the others, it really is better to be here on the island. What you may want to do is get a cheap accomodation for a week (hostels are about $50/night and the cheapest hotel, Kauai Sands, about $60), and then look in person.

    Another thought is that you’ll need references of some sort.

    Here’s a list of North Shore neighborhoods:

    • Wainiha/Haena – Anything in the 10 miles beyond Hanalei, very desireable and very pricey, even if some houses can be run down.
    • Hanalei town – Mostly vacation rentals and locals hanging in there despite the prices. Would be ideal, but you’d have to get very lucky to find something cheap.
    • Princeville – Generally expensive, but has so many condos, appartments, and vacation rentals that this is your best bet for finding a small studio cheap enough.
    • Kilauea – Has a mix of luxury homes near the coast and a regular neighborhood in town, and a few others scattered around, including some organic farms inland.
    • Moloa’a – This is the edge of the North Shore, fairly green but furthest from Hanalei. There are lots of organic farms where you can sometimes find WWOOFing opportunities, as well as scattered properties where rent is cheaper than in the heart of the North Shore.

      Another expense is going to be renting or buying a car. The regular companies have extra fees for drivers under 25, and they’re very expensive over time. The HeartBeat site above sometimes has local rentals, or you can look on craigslist to buy a cheap one and resell it after a few months–though that might cost you a lot in repairs.

      In any case, you have time to prepare. Do your research to look at prices and start saving your money.

  49. Laura says:

    Andy,

    I have been reading your blog for a couple of years and want to first say thanks for all the insights and great tips.

    We are committed to moving to Kauai in 2014, just as soon as our oldest child graduates from HS here on the mainland. We visited this past December for two weeks, and spent a great deal of time investigating neighborhoods,food costs, travel times, etc. About the only thing we couldn’t get a feel for was the cost of utilities (we were staying in a rental home). My husband and I will both be retired, and will have sufficient income (we hope) to live frugally but comfortably on Kauai. Two other children will (again hopefully) attend HS at the Island School.

    A big question for us right now is how much should we bring with us? We plan to ship our car, and will definitely bring all our kitchen accoutrements and small appliances, as well as a couple of other sentimental pieces, but otherwise are a bit afraid of the cost of moving more. Likewise, we checked out the costs there for buying furniture, mattresses, etc. and it’s obviously more than it is here on the mainland, and waiting for something you need to appear on Craigslist can sometimes take while. You wrote that you were able to move a full 2-bdrm house for the cost of a relo-cube (which is what we have considered using) – can you elaborate or email me privately and let me know which company you used? We live in a major port city on the west coast so getting items to the departure area will not be a problem.

    Kauai felt like home for both my husband and myself from the moment we arrived. I cried the day we left as it felt like I was leaving our home, and it would be a while before I could get back. We’ve lived for an extended period on an island before, but Kauai is special and we can’t wait to get back.

    Thanks for any help or advice you can provide.

  50. Scott Sorensen says:

    Hey Andy,
    After reading every blog I could find on Kauai yours made it to my toolbar! Very informative and enjoyable to read/look. 27 years ago my wife (Connie) and I spent a 2 week honeymoon on the Garden Isle and vowed to one day return for a longer stay. That time is nearing and plan on relocating within the next 18 months – gotta line the ducks up first. Question – hope you can shed some light as the research I’ve done hasn’t given us the ‘personal’ answers we were looking for – is it possible for the two of us to live/enjoy Kauai on a budget of $4500/month? Bills are non-existent (yeah!) and we’re assuming a monthly rent of $1200-1400. Any insight would be much appreciated. Thanks!

  51. Lynn says:

    I have enjoyed reading all your comments. My husband and I live on an island, just off the coast of Vancouver BC. We too have island mentality. Island time: being late for everything. Services: maybe.
    Rust and dampness: always. Pace of life: slow. It drives mainlanders crazy.We are looking for a place to be snowbirds( we don’t get snow) to and Kauai sounds great. Where is the best place for snorkelling and swimming, and hiking?

  52. Phade says:

    Hi Andy,
    Great information, so happy I came upon your blog! I was hoping to get some information to help in my decision making about relocating to Hawaii.

    Here’s my sit: I am a single mother of an 11 year old boy, we’ve been working towards our move to Hawaii for the last 2 years: no debt, $10K in savings, & recently sold the majority of our belongings & am camping with the grandparents till our big move… We are a pretty simple down to earth family really wanted an environment that will support a similar lifestyle; more time outdoors with nature, fresh local foods from the market preferably, we also prefer to walk or ride & would like a community where it wouldn’t be necessary to own a car, some other things that are important for us are local library & some kind of community or recreation center, my son is homeschooled & also involved in swimming & martial arts. I am also looking for opportunities for volunteer or trade work with places such as local farming, beekeeping, & work with animals, all of which I have experience with but would like to learn more about. I am in a unique situation for this move, I am widowed & currently receive around $1500/month in survivor’s benefits, I am also a massage therapist/energy worker & do freelance painting & photography. I am wanting to get licensed in hypnotherapy & also certified as a yoga instructor not too far in the future.

    I have felt the most called to Kauai, but am wanting to gain more clarity on where would really be the best place for us as I am really wanting this to be a committed move, somewhere we can plant our roots & become part of a community. Based on what I have shared about what we have to offer & what we are looking for, is there any ideas or specific places that come to your mind for a good fit for us? How does massage practice fair in Kauai, what about operating a business out of my home (which I’m guessing would be restricted to apartment living as having a house may be out of our budget)? I would love to hear your thoughts! I should also add that I have a deep need to be near water, so close to the beach (walking distance) would be a big plus for me! I’ve lived the last 15 years in Oregon, so rain doesn’t faze me, before that I spent my childhood in Northern Cali, so heat doesn’t faze me either, & actually one of the draws to our move to Hawaii is of course more sunshine & warmer days! :)

    Thanks so much for any advice/tips/ideas you can share!

  53. lollo says:

    I only read up until you said Kilauea has only two accessible beaches, wrong, there are plenty in kilauea, Rock quarry, a dirt road drive, but steps away from the beach and KALIHIWAI!! HELLO! ANINi..? secrets or kaupea? queens bath? or the princeville resort beach…then theres hanalei..justsayin

  54. Larraine says:

    Hi. I just hit on your blog today. My husband recently had a stroke and it looks like we’re going to retire sooner than expected. When we lived in Alaska, where he worked, we’d go to Hawaii for a winter vacation. We’ve been to Kauai three times, that’s our favorite. We would like to try for a few months to see if we could fit in and medical is important. If you would email me and we could have a personal conversation, I would appreciate it. Thanks, the blog is great.

  55. Dave Harms says:

    Hey Andy,
    Ok I’ve wanted to live in the islands since I stood up one my surf board. Now as it turns out Life happened and i’m now 47. My son just went to college. in 2 months I don’t need to pay his mom support anymore. And I;’m looking to move to the islands ,Preferably on Kauai. I’m a service repair plumber and live in mammoth which is severly a tourist town. I need to know if i have skills needed for the islands. I’m real good at my job. I just don’t want to be cold anymore. could use some great advise thank you for your input. Dave

  56. Palani says:

    One thing you didn’t mention: the water rates! Auwe! They’re close to ten times what we pay in Orange County. They have a five-tier system. The lowest tier, which only covers the first 1.33 CCF (1,000 gallons) is $3.50. You quickly get to the fifth tier (7 CCF or 5,000 gallons and above) $8.95 per thousand gallons (1.33 CCF). Our water bill there for a month was over $600.00!

  57. Bill says:

    Hello, well I have no savings, collect disability currently 850. a mnth. I believe it will go up if I relocated to HI.? I qualify for sec8 rent asst. And was working on having my case transfered to Lauai. I’m a 44yo swm. Only been to Oahu 4x’s during my teens. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated! Thanks Godspeed!!! Bill O.

  58. Andy says:

    Hi Bill, I’m sorry to say I think you’re a dreamer. I don’t know much about government assistance rates, but I can tell you that rent alone is close to $1,000 for the smallest place on Kauai. So any disability checks won’t cover your living costs. I don’t know how the section 8 rental assistance works, but as you can imagine, there are long waiting lists for any subsidized housing on Kaua’i (and throughout Hawaii). Without savings, how will you afford the move? Even if you just buy a one way plane ticket, you still need rent deposits and a used car at least. You need a car on Kaua’i, otherwise you won’t be able to do your shopping, go to a beach, or get to a doctor. Medical care is another big issue here: there are doctors, clinics, and hospitals, but depending on your disability, there are no guarantees someone has the experience to treat you.

    I realize Hawaii may seem to have advantages, but limited incomes really go further in most places on the mainland. You run the very real risk of ending up in a cycle of poverty here, in a run-down apartment with none of Hawaii’s charms, and no money or ability to find a better place. Plus, there are already lots of people here on government assistance, and Hawaii is not a rich state, so all the social services (unemployment, food bank, etc.) are already spread very thin.

  59. Betsy says:

    I am interviewing for ajob via Skype on Kauai, the job is that of a Probation officer and is for the state. The pay is about3500 per month. Do you think I could be comfortable on that salary, I am currently debt free?

  60. Andy says:

    Hi Betsy, That is definitely on the low end of the income scale, especially if you factor in taxes and health insurance taken from each paycheck. You should also ask about mandatory pension payments and possibly union dues. In other words, ask about take-home pay, not just gross salary. Beyond that, you didn’t really give enough information. A single person, no dependents and no pets, in a small rental with a used car might be able to survive on that. But it will require compromises (very little available for traveling) and flexibility (eating cheap local foods, not the supermarket foods you may be used to). Then there is the whole question of motiviation: why do you want to move and what are you seeking? Have you visited Kaua’i before and are you familiar with life in Hawaii?

  61. Wendy says:

    Hi Andy. I found your blog today and LOVE IT! Thanks for all of your helpful suggestions and recommendations. You’re a godsend!

  62. darryl says:

    hi andy, i’ve been to the island a couple of times and would like to spend possibility a year or two there when my wife retires. we’re in our late fifties and we’re pretty much home bodies working around the house. we enjoy the peace the island brings. ideally we would like to find a place that we might be able to trade labor for rent. i’ve done many things over the years inside and out. what do you think our chances would be to find a nice neighborhood on the east side and work out the rent.

  63. Terry says:

    My friend and I are 2 divorced retired women who visited Kauai and loved it. We have researched a move there and think we can swing it. We are coming this week to see a condo in Princeville that has been a vacation rental and we are planning on letting those rentals for the rest of the year remain, thus giving us time to sell our home in Oregon and make the move.

    We are vegetarians who prefer natural foods and are looking for a quiet, safe place to enjoy our retirement.

    Our combined income is per month is $10,000. Do you think we are being reaosnable in our dreams to think we can make it there?

    We would be bringing our 2 Pruis cars and minimal furniture and our person property.
    we have 3 large dogs.

    One of us is on Medicare now and the other will be in 2years. So we are also concerned about health care on Kauai. We were told we had a month after we left Oregon to find other health care plans. Is finding health care in Kauai and getting on to Obama Care and getting Med Advantage Plans a problem on Kauai?

    I think I might be rambling here but I imagine you can see that I am asking for any feedback you can give us.

    Thanks

  64. Jona says:

    To everyone who is thinking about moving here from the mainland, think carefully about the extreme change in lifestyle, very, very laid back it will be. For me personally, I call it going backwards and I don;t want it to be a surprise and I’m not gonna sugar-coat anything for you.

    If you choose to move your artwork, nice sofas & furniture, and car, it will cost you about $4,000 and will take about a month to arrive so plan accordingly ($1,000 per car, $3,000 for 25 boxes special artwork/ beautiful mirrors & certain furniture) and yes your furniture will get damaged (broken items, chips) obviously moving across the ocean. Cars are still cheaper to buy in the mainland than over here, so that is something to think about. Don’t think about bringing your dropped low red hot Porsche with racing stripes over here; the speed limit is never past 40-50. Don’t bring anything that will stick out like a sore thumb. Everyone on the island will know your car, haha. Unless you have a truck, you will also need to have your dark tint removed for DMV’s inspection at your expense of course. No Smog check here though. Believe it or not my car insurance sky-rocketed moving from SF Bay Area to Kauai, due from “high theft” and “flash floods”. I ended up switching my auto insurance after being with them for about 15 years. Just some extra info for you there.

    But if you “want to move to Hawaii”, ask yourself this important question first: Are you a high maintenance person or not?

    If you are, and need your Target, Barnes & Noble, Starbucks on every corner, Bed Bath & Beyond, Bath & Body, Nordstrom, Arby’s, Ihop, Denny’s, 24 Hour Fitness, etc. and you still want to live on Hawaii, then you better just move to Oahu- (I call it the mini mini mini SF). If you think you can just shop online, guess again. Very few stores will ship to Hawaii, and if they do, the charge to ship is super expensive.

    The cable lags due from weather all the time. There is such a delay in time over here that Monday Night Football is on at 2:30 while I’m still at work and Hawaii never broadcasts my team, ever. Sunday morning football begins at 6 or 7am. There is no time change ever in Hawaii.

    Kauai is a true island with limited low-paying jobs and limited but expensive resources. Kmart, Wal-mart and Costco will become your new favorites stores, even though Kmart is still expensive to me and lacks on variety of choices. This goes for the Home Depot and Macy’s here as well. There is one movie theater on the island and only shows about 2 or 3 movies at a time and aren’t always the latest releases.

    The job I have is very demanding, pays $11.59 per hour and your 2 15 minute breaks a day are not required, or enforced. Alot of extra free things your old work place in the mainland provided are not provided here. If you want it at work, it comes out of your pocket. (Plastic spoons, paper cups, tissue, etc.) Moving from mainland, the technology may seem as if you’re going backwards-somewhat old-fashioned.

    A lot of people speak “Pidgin”-even the “Haoles” (Hawaiian word for white people pronounced Howleys) It will be hard to understand at first, it may rub off on you a little bit but will never sound right if you try and speak like that because it’s native. But I’ve found the main ethnicity here is Filipino. Again I’m just throwing it out there.

    The electric bill is insane- only 2 of us and the bill was always $200-$300 in the winter and we never even used a heater. Hot water is scarce in our place and runs out fast.

    Food is expensive here, I don;t care what anyone says. A jar of mayonaise is $8 and so is a gallon of milk. Gas currently is almost $5 a gallon.

    Weather is bipolar but I happen to like rain and when it rains it’s never cold. It will be sunny, then rain out of nowhere. (Fall & Winter time anyway).

    If you’re going to move out here, I suggest you visit first for a month or longer of you can.

    Don’t move here if you have kids past 5 so that they have plenty of time still to adapt well with the other kids and the lifestyle, and only move here if your passions are purely and solely about nature, surfing, beach life every single weekend, and very low maintenance shopping, or going out to clubs or bars. Only one bar on the island.

    We moved here about 5 months ago after one of us decided to take a job offer in Kauai while living in SF, CA.

  65. Natasha says:

    Jeff – Thank you so much for your post!

    I have a few questions. I stayed in Kauai’s North Shore for 3 weeks in 2012, lived like a local (farmers markets, cooked, rode the bus system, etc) and had a BLAST! I got home, itching to make it back.

    My plan is to move to Kauai in 2016. I am a mobile applications developer and writer, and therefore, work from home, so I am fine on the money generation part.

    I would like to purchase a small piece of land, although expensive, it is still doable, build a container home, establish a garden and fence the home so my dog can roam around. My goal is to live as much off the grid as possible.

    Questions – 1. Is internet reliable on Kauai 2. Are sustainable solutions such as shipping container homes allowed? 3. Also, what is the best way to “plug in”. I will certainly join a church, but any tips would be great.

    Single woman I will be 40 by then, my son will be 3 years into college by then, and a fantastic (although rotten) puppy.

    Thank you for the post!

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