This is a question that popped up a couple of times over the past few months, and even years, but today I’ll finally tackle the subject.

What do people that live in Hawaii – do in Hawaii?

I’ll tell you a bit of what I do and then I’ll add some about what others are doing with their time.

Life on the islands is not 100% stress-free living, contrary to what you might have heard or read. Life on Oahu especially, is sometimes a bit of an overload with things like traffic, high costs, and crowds of people to get you down. There is frequent petty crime, thefts and vehicle break-ins. There is a meth epidemic on the islands and people on meth need money and stuff they can sell. So, vehicle break-ins and theft of your money from your shoe while you’re surfing – happens often. It will likely happen to you. Welcome to the club. So there is stress to deal with on the islands, just like there is where you’re living at now.


Weekdays are filled with w-o-r-k. If you’re not retired and living on a cushy pension, then you’re probably working your butt off to pay the bills and to afford some of the nice things your neighbors have. Many, and I mean MANY residents on Oahu and the other islands work more than one job. Some work three. It’s a fact of life that if you can’t make more than minimum wage working in Hawaii, then you’re going to either get used to living like that, or work more to get more. There are a lot of ambitious people on the islands, and working 2-3 jobs is considered, in some circles, as normal.

If you don’t live close to your work, you might have to fight traffic to get there and home every day. That’s no fun, right? Though you’re living in Hawaii, one of, or THE most amazing place on the planet, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got idiots around you in traffic every morning on the freeway. If you’re going from the west side to town side, you’re going to be in this situation. Some people can deal with it and don’t hardly raise their heart rate, others suffer near meltdowns every morning they drive to work. Traffic on Oahu is horrendous during rush hours. It isn’t getting better. Just another reason to work online – right? 

For a long time I worked in Kailua and lived in Waikiki. That wasn’t a bad arrangement. Traffic was light and I couldn’t have been happier. For a while in the Air Force I lived in the Ala Moana area and drove up to Hickam AFB in the morning. I was going against the majority of traffic, so again, it was not bad. I have never had to fight the insane traffic going to work, and only on Oahu occasionally. Now that I work online I am so happy not to even leave the house if I don’t want to. It makes moving back to the islands a lot more appealing at this point.

So, you go to work. The workplaces of many Hawaii jobs have a laid back atmosphere. Everyone knows the traffic sucks. Most of your co-workers have also dealt with it. Some may have ran you off the road on your way to the job. Lunch time is a bring your own meal type thing for a lot of people that would rather save money than eat out. If you go eat out, you’ve got traffic to face again. Or, maybe you’re lucky enough to be able to walk to a lunch cafe or the Foodland deli for some ahi poke with shoyu. Anyway, you work 8-10 hours and you head home, fighting traffic.

Oh, almost forgot, one thing that is cool about living in the islands is that many employers are surf conscious. What I mean is, they understand that if there is an incredible swell happening on one of the shores, and you are a die-hard addict, they will sometimes allow you to stagger your hours to accommodate some extra hours in the water. Being in the water keeps many of us water-babies happy, and if your employer is as cool as this, you will probably stick with the job for a very long time. Many people take off the entire day and make it up by working a weekend day to compensate the boss. I was able to work out some early morning work hours with time off in the mid-afternoon to hit the waves. It really does take the stress out of  life to be able to do something like this when the surf gods start churning out the big waves.

If you’re really a water nut and need to get your surf-on more regularly – as in daily – you’ll get up early before work and head out for the daybreak sessions with your other surf-addicted pals. There are the same group of people out there pre-6 am. every single weekday. Some give it a break on the weekends, and some are there at that hour just the same. There is a magical stillness about the water at those early hours and it is something to get used to. Surfers that meet at the same place every morning are all friends or very tolerant of each other and it’s a great way to start the day. Keep this in mind if you’re going to break into someone’s group. Do it lightly and with the utmost care to remain respectful until they start to accept you. Really, it’s just good practice.

If you have kids – you take them where they need to go, you go shopping at the Walmart or one of the other shopping areas, you watch TV, cut the grass, change the plasma in the Lamborghini Aventador, you go to the park and run or ride your bike, maybe even fit in a late afternoon surf session, and then grab some dinner – usually at home, and hit the bed. You wake up and do it again.

Sandy Beach Hawaii Holga 35mm by Justin De La Ornellas is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. Image may have been resized or cropped from original.

The Weekend!

This is what Hawaii residents live for. I know, we all do, no matter where we live. But, people living in Hawaii really know how to make the most of a weekend – or the least of it in some cases. The weekends almost always include at least one day gathering with friends and family at a beach for a picnic type gathering and for some families, both Saturday and Sunday go like this. It’s tradition, and one that everyone loves. The opportunity to try local food and get in touch with those that mean the most to you, is one favorite thing to do when the weekend rolls around. Even if someone has other plans that day, they usually still stop by the beach to see their friends and family if it is possible. Some favorite gathering places for these picnics are Ala Moana Beach Park and anywhere along Waimanalo Beach. These gatherings happen all over, but you’ll see many families at one of these two spots. The water is usually gentle enough for swimming in shore, and with some waves for anybody that wants to venture out.

There are so many things to do on the islands on the weekend, that you shouldn’t get tired of the options available. If you find yourself bored – you should probably be asking yourself if living in Hawaii is right for you in the long-term. I think the problem for most people that arrive in Hawaii and then become disillusioned by it, is that they don’t have enough friends. You have to put some time into finding new friends, they don’t just show up at your door with a fruit-basket and an offer to join them for a luau. You have to really make an effort in Hawaii to make good friends. It’s like anywhere, but I think those moving to Hawaii sometimes have this idea that it’s much easier and they won’t have to make the effort. You do have to make a lot of effort or you will find yourself sitting at home in the evenings and on the weekends. Hawaii is a much more fun place to be when you know more people and enjoy hanging out with them. It can be a very lonely place for people without many or any friends. In my case, I tend to isolate myself a bit and just do things I want to do like biking, running, surfing, hiking. I’m happy doing those things alone or with others. When in Hawaii I made a conscious effort to find new friends to share these activities with so I didn’t become bored by myself. If you also are a loner – make the effort!

There is more shopping on Oahu than you could ever need – in my own opinion. If you’re used to shopping in New York City or LA, some other big city, you will probably find the offerings pretty meager. If you’re not a big shopper, like me, you’ll probably find everything you could want. What you can’t get, you can order online, but there is an extra charge for shipping to Hawaii sometimes. This reminds you just how remote you are in comparison to the rest of the world.

What you do on the weekend will depend on what type of person you are, and what you like to spend time doing. If you move to Hawaii, you should know that the focus is on being outdoors. You won’t find too many groups that meet in a shuttered building and turn the lights low. It’s an outdoor state, with outdoor minded people. If you don’t like being outdoors, you probably won’t like life in Hawaii and you’re better off to save yourself the money and aggravation of moving.

3 and 4 Day Weekends!

Yes, such things exist, and they are well taken advantage of in Hawaii. Personally I liked to go to the other islands on a long weekend because it gave me more time for my money. Robert’s Overnighters were short trips to other islands with hotel and car that I got used to real quick. Though the islands are similar in nature to each other, each one also has a different feel. All are worth experiencing, and eventually I’ll get to the ones I haven’t been to. If you haven’t seen them all, make some plans for the next long weekend to see something new. I like Maui and Oahu best, but who knows, you might find Kauai or Big Island Hawaii more to your liking. It may prompt a move on your part. For an exciting way to go, take a small boat to one of the other islands. There are affordable trips like this on small yachts and trimarans that give you more than just the other island experience, you get to experience being on the immense Pacific Ocean in a tiny boat. You can probably fish from the boat, and you’ll make friends with some of the other passengers. More than you would with a quick plane trip.

Camping Tent Hawaii Beach

Anini beach park by Sebastian Werner is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Image may have been resized or cropped from original

Camping is a great activity for a long-weekend. On the coast of Waimanolo is some of the best camping with other people that you’ll find. If you want remote camping, you might try hiking Kauai’s remote “Kalalau Trail”, which, by Youtube videos, is absolutely breathtaking – though admittedly quite a hike at 11 miles over sometimes rather slippery and dangerous terrain. You wouldn’t want to take small keiki with you on that trip.

There is a lot more eating outside, and meeting outside when in Hawaii. Many restaurants are open-air. Everyone seem to love a picnic or barbecue whether at the beach or someone’s home. The food possibilities are endless. If you haven’t tried seared ahi at Roy’s or a mahi-mahi sandwich at an oceanfront restaurant, you must.

Outdoor exercise and sports activities are very popular among locals and visitors as you might imagine. There are aerobic groups all over that just meet at a spot daily for an hour or so of high-intensity jumping around. There are bike clubs, running clubs, surf clubs, walking clubs, mountain hiking clubs, motorcycle clubs, car clubs, archery groups, yoga of every sort, Tai che, Taikwondo, Jeet Kun Do, stargazers, you name it, Hawaii has it. At least Oahu has it. Some of the other islands have less to do. For instance, I couldn’t for the life of me imagine living on Molokai or Lanai – or even Kauai for that matter. Just not enough infrastructure to keep me happy I think. Think about such things before you leave. This is why I recommend that most people move from the mainland to Oahu first so they can live there a bit and see if it fits them. If not, try one of the other islands. It’s easy to go visit another island to see if it has the requirements for living before you go. You’ll save money this way and probably have a more enjoyable experience than just moving straight from somewhere else in the world to one of the less-populated islands.

What do people that live in Hawaii – do in Hawaii? They live life! It’s probably a very different lifestyle from what you are accustomed to, but, if you are someone that enjoys the outdoors and you can put in the effort to make friends and try doing new things, try new food, and embrace a new culture, Hawaii life might be right for you. You’ll never really know until you try it.

What is holding you back from giving it a try?