I got this note from “Diane” recently about moving to Hawaii (Kauai) and whether it was a good idea or not. I thought I’d write up a response and try to catch up on some of these emails.

I’ll post my reply below her email.

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Aloha Peter–

I found your site today and read it extensively.
But thought I’d ask you a few more questions about Kauai specifically.

My other half and I have been seriously contemplating and planning to move to Kauai for 6 months to 1 year–to see how we like it. We know we just love, love, love the island–even the chickens. We have visited several times…the last time being in April 2013. We left there with what I call PKSD (Post Kauai Stress Disorder) and have been suffering from it since. But we do realize that living there is entirely different than visiting for 2 weeks on a few occasions.

We are both professionals in Seattle and are unhappy with the daily grind and would like to experience another way of life in what we consider the most beautiful place in the world. Our plan is to rent out our home here for a pretty penny and rent another place there. We both have savings as well.

We have put out feelers to some folks about rentals, but cannot nail anything down until we get a firm date to get there. It seems like there are so many nice folks that have given us so much information about the good vs. not-so-good places/areas to live.

Here’s the crux of my doubts–I met a man on our last visit that made me have 2nd thoughts. He lives on Kauai and may have just been the “sour grapes” type. I asked him if he lives on Kauai and he said yes. I told him how I thought it was just the most beautiful place ever, and this is where he went a seriously negative on me. He told me that people think it’s paradise, but it’s not. He married into a Hawaiian family and is now divorced, living on welfare, and doesn’t have enough money to get off the island. He also asked my religion, which is no religion. He told me that if I don’t belong to a church, that I would never fit in and people would constantly be on me about becoming a member of their church. He also said that if you are not a native Hawaiian, people won’t accept you. He also said that if you were of either political persuasion, people would not accept you. He finally pretty much told me to stay away. Just typing out all that he said made me realize that he’s probably being ridiculous and he’s the dude with the issues, not the people on the island.

Now, I only took his rantings with a grain of salt at the time and thought him a loon, but it somehow HAS stuck with me…in the back corner of my mind. For every one of his type, I’ve met 10 nice folks who are the total opposite. And yet…his words are still in my head.

I guess I am just wanting some confirmation that this isn’t a totally terrible, insane, ludicrous idea. I think if we could just get there, living might not be so hard with our financial plan. And we’ve both waited tables before and worked in the food industry, so if desperation sets in, I think we could get a job. I wonder what made you move there and have you ever regretted it? Do you miss family and friends on the mainland? Do people visit you there? Do you feel completely isolated? What are your thoughts on the loon’s ranting words? And your thoughts on our idea to relocate?

I appreciate your input.


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Vern’s response:

Aloha Diane,

Kauai is a beautiful island, as far as natural beauty – it is probably unmatched. It is rather unspoiled and the population of the island is tiny compared to Maui, Oahu, or Big Island and yet there aren’t all that many places to go on the small island. You run into the same people and everyone gets to know other locals pretty well if you’re doing the same sorts of things.

First I have to say that when I first visited Kauai in 1987 I was stunned by how beautiful the island was. On subsequent visits, less so, but still there is no denying that the island can seem like absolute paradise on earth the first few times you stay there. My total time on the island of Kauai is about 30 days. My impression of it will be limited to what I’ve seen while there, and heard while living on the other islands about life on Kauai. I will send you by email the facebook account of a couple that lived on Kauai for about a year. Maybe they will share some of their direct experiences with you.

I think living on Kauai would be one of the hardest things to take. The couple I just mentioned moved from Michigan to Kauai. The girl got a job as a primary school teacher. The guy tried real estate. Already they have pulled out and moved back to Michigan. Following their facebook photos showed they had an amazing time – a blast. I’m sure they count the experience as one of the best things they’ve ever done. You probably would too – even if you do pull out in the end.

The problems of living on Kauai:

1. Jobs
2. Few social activities outside of bars
3. Island fever

Jobs are extremely scarce. Teaching and real estate are two you could try, with teaching being by far the one that has the most chance of succeeding. Waiting tables is what many uneducated and even educated people are trying to do on Kauai. Once they find a job they like or love – they stick with it. I’d expect very few openings in this area. How happy will you be waiting tables, and for how long will you do it? A year? After a year, won’t it seem like you’re just spinning your wheels and on extended vacation, but without the cash to live like it’s a vacation? I’d feel that way.

The lack of social activities may or may not affect you. If you had money you could visit one of the other islands on the weekends and expand your list of things to do. I don’t think one could get bored having the money to travel a couple weekends per month to the other places to see the sites and shop. Oahu is the ultimate place for shopping.

Island fever has got to be a killer living on Kauai. Even though it’s one of the most lovely places on the planet, there is little really to do. There are a limited number of people to meet. Personally, though I love the island, I couldn’t live there longer than about a year myself. Even making good money. I’d bail out and move to Big Island or Maui.

Have you been to either of these islands? You didn’t say.

Here is some demographic information for the island of Kauai:

Kauai Demo (click)

The sourpuss you met on Kauai is trying to deter you from coming to live a life that he was not able to maintain. There are people like this on all the Hawaiian islands. I won’t say don’t listen to him, because there is some truth in what he says, however, you make your own bed. You will need to have a bail-out plan if things don’t work out the way you expect them to.

Honestly, I don’t see what is to be gained by moving to Kauai and struggling for work and things to do, over moving to Maui or Big Island and having a much better chance at making it. Really what I suggest is that you move to Oahu and see if you can nail down the best jobs possible, traveling to the other islands on the weekends and holidays so you can see what it might really be like to live there full-time. That is my advice to anyone who is reliant on jobs to be found once they arrive.

You asked me some questions –

I wonder what made you move there and have you ever regretted it? Do you miss family and friends on the mainland? Do people visit you there? Do you feel completely isolated?

I moved there as a result of the Air Force sending me there for my first duty station. At first I was shocked, horrified even. I didn’t want to live on a deserted island (Oahu). After seeing what it was all about, I couldn’t have chosen a better place for me. I got lucky to move there the first time! I never regretted it, but then I was always taken care of – either by the AF or with good jobs. The atmosphere was one I liked a lot, not Oahu so much, but Maui for sure.

I had some visitors, but not all that many. My family / friends saw it as a real haul to get over there!

Isolation? A little bit, yeah. But, having the money to travel to the other islands makes it much easier to endure!

OK then, best of luck to you!


Peter Kay