5 Reasons Living in Kona Is Difficult


Many of you think I paint an ever rosy picture of moving to and living in Kona. Heck, I wrote the book on how to move here, right? I also wrote in that book the many reasons why living here is not only expensive, but can be lonely and you may not find that island life is actually everything you thought it would be. Hey, I am spending FAR less time enjoying drinks with friends at a beach side bar than I even did five years ago.

Here are my five reasons living in Kona is difficult:

  1. Your friends leave. A really good friend of mine had to leave the island recently to get a liver transplant. The doctors told her she would die sitting on this island waiting for a match, so she moved to Seattle to have a better chance of getting the transplant. Of course she had to leave, but we had spent the past four years growing a great relationship. This happens to people here. A lot. Due to a population density that does not support a variety of medical specialities, most people have to fly to Oahu for in depth medical care or they simply have to leave the islands for specialized care on the mainland. And the older we get, the more we have friends seeking medical help off island. Or they simply decide it’s time to find other places to explore.
  2. Earning a living is hard. When I first arrived on the island in 2005, I thought for sure I would get a marketing position at a company. 15 years later, I still have not worked full time for a company, except for myself, and I can tell you that there are no paid days off, sick leave, insurance or a company car. Potential residents to the island will contact me and chat about the ability for them to find full time jobs in their line of expertise that will help them pay for a house, lifestyle and travel. Unless they are in the medical field, it is hard for me to encourage them. I have to tell them that most people who come to the island find whatever work is available, usually with few benefits and just deal with the price of living in paradise. The good news is that there are solid networking groups like BNI (Business Networking International) and the Ladies Artisan Marketing Group who provide community support to help you grow a business, make connections and friends.
  3. Going out is expensive. Since most businesses in Kona cater to the tourism market, they charge “I saved up for a year to come on vacation” prices. And I can not fault them with the cost of labor, food, electricity, taxes, etc. It is REALLY expensive to run a business in Hawaii, and the costs show up on menus around town. Eating affordably usually means a potluck with friends, family around the dinner table or finding really good happy hours. (Like the $5 menu at Jackie Reys!) I really enjoy meeting friends out for fun, but it’s not like asking friends to meet you at the local Chipotle or Red Robin for a $10 meal.
  4. Food prices.  When I was in Seattle recently, I looked at the food prices at Trader Joe’s and wanted to shove everything into a few huge boxes and rush to the local USPS to get it home! All packaged items have to be shipped here which adds fuel, labor, and taxes. (and time, so those blueberries, raspberries, and salad mixes have a half life in your fridge) I think this is hitting me more lately because I have two teenagers, one on a Junior Varsity team, and both are voraciously eating everything I bring home, quickly! At least if you move here as a retired couple, you can share 8 ounces of Mahi Mahi!
  5. Infrastructure Issues. Our population swells during high season, putting more cars on the road, which is causing traffic headaches for everyone. Kona was not originally built to handle this many people and our tourism numbers go up each year. There are few options for widening our roads or creating new bypasses through town. We will have a hard time building more homes to ease our affordability issues when we already are maxed out on our road load or our schools’ capacity to handle more students. I am reminded of this frequently by people who have lived here for years and share their concerns on social media and comments in the newspapers.

We have a beautiful place to call home, but yes, we have our issues, just like everyone else.

Gertrude’s Jazz Bar


Spread the word if you love what you heard! #365kona so we can say Thanks!

Meet the Author

Julie Ziemelis

Julie Ziemelis is an entrepreneur, business owner, author, blogger and vlogger in Kailua Kona. She created and moderates the “365 Things to Do in Kona” page and the Kona Newbies group on Facebook. She blogs at 365Kona.com and MoveToHawaii365.com and vlogs with her husband, Eric, at “365Hawaii” on YouTube. Julie also authored the books, “How to Move to Kona” and the “Insiders Guide to Buying Real Estate on the Big Island of Hawaii”. You will most likely find Julie in Kona hiking, running, biking, taking photos and sharing Aloha.

Leave a Question or Comment About this Topic

  • Betty Branham says:

    Great article.