What’s island life like when you’re living on a small island and everything is so close by?

One of the many conveniences of living on an island is the nearby proximity of everything. For example, the island of O’ahu all of 597 square miles. It’s a small place. With this, each subdivision is also smaller. Each subdivision generally comes with its own shopping center, grocery store, post office, etc. So, you’re generally going to be driving shorter distances to your necessities.

Living on a small island: neighborhoods are smaller

In mainland cities and towns, the land region allotted for a specific subdivision or neighborhood is typically larger than the average neighborhood in Hawaii. Because each subdivision comes with its general stores and necessities, you’re just going to be driving a longer distance to get to the one in your neighborhood.

It’s a matter of proportions, the smaller the subdivision, the closer your necessities are. So in Hawaii, everything is nearby.

Speaking of nearby necessities, there are beaches everywhere. It’s an island. Every edge of the island meets the ocean at some point and 90% of that is accessible with reasonable transportation. Beaches are also public land, so even if someone builds their house or hotel on the beach, you’re still allowed to walk on the beach without risk of punishment.

what's island life like

Neighborhoods are smaller so commodities and markets are closer.

Living on a small island: neighborhoods are separated by valleys

In addition to beaches, Hawaii’s gorgeous mountains are also nearby. Unlike mainland cities that are typically built in a basin of mountains, Oahu’s mountains are arranged differently. For example, on Oahu most neighborhoods are separated by mountains so that each valley is its own subdivision and neighborhood. Mountains are much closer to homes and sometimes serve as your backyard (for the houses in the very back of the valley.) So, with the close proximity of mountains comes nearby hiking trails and adventures!

There are benefits with having a close proximity to so many things. For example, you won’t be putting on so many miles on your car here because you just simply can’t drive that much. Although you may use more gas because you’ll be idle in traffic for so long, your vehicle’s lifetime won’t be shortened as quickly.

This is the valley where we camped while backpacking. Dense jungle, no beach.
Hanakoa from the sea by Joey Doll is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Image may have been resized or cropped from original.

Living on a small island: less travel time, more fun

It’s also nice to know that you’ll be spending more time doing qualitative things rather than traveling. For example, it only takes 15 minutes to get to the nearest beach, a place where you’ll probably spend 3 hours in one instance. So, the ratio of travel : activity time is in favor of the activity.

what's island life like

Less driving time means more fun time!

Living on a small island: more activities in the same day

This also makes for doing multiple activities in one day. For example, you can do a hike in the morning and go to the beach in the morning because these things are just so close to each other. I notice when I’m in Reno, when we all go to the lake we stay there for the entire day, 9am-9pm. The first time I did that, I thought I was going to die. Although I’m accustomed to sun exposure, I was a red lobster when I got home. I definitely had a ton of fun, but it was a lot of sun to take in. I learned what a “lake day” was really quick. I’ve never done the same activity for 12 hours straight, unless you count flying on an airplane.

what's island life like

More time to do more things during the day.