Moving to Kona? Tips For Success

As Hawaii Life says on their HGTV show about moving to Hawaii..”You don’t have to be rich to move to Hawaii, you just have to want it”..well, there is more to it than that, my friends. I  get a lot of emails from people considering a move to Kailua Kona asking questions about housing, jobs, services, etc.
I have seen some people move here successfully recently and I want to share two things that they did, that you may wish to consider before you move here:
1. Spend time here! Of course, I did not listen to this advice before showing up to buy a condo, having never been here before, but those who come ahead of time, drive the neighborhoods, talk to the locals and get a feel for the different parts of the island and Kona have a good idea of where they want to live.
2. Do your research ahead of time. Paradise is not paradise if you are not prepared. “Winging it” on finding a job, child care, housing, etc may work elsewhere, but I have seen frustration and heart ache when people do that here in Kona.
You are probably reading this because you are doing what you should be doing..research.  Craigslist/West Hawaii Today/local job boards and reaching out through Facebook are all good ways to get info and leads before you land.
Rental Housing Update 
Right now, rental housing is still in short supply and prices are ranging from $1400-$2000 for “decent” places to live in West Hawaii. Someone asked me about getting an apartment. We do not have ANY luxury or new apartment complexes near Kona, which means if you pay less than $1200 for housing, you are going to be in places that I would not recommend to families or older residents.  There are CONDO complexes and many do NOT TAKE PETS. I say this due to a recent experience of people moving here and waiting TWO months to find rental housing because they came with their dog and cat.
Another gentleman wants to move here sight unseen and I DO NOT recommend that without knowing the areas. I am looking for enterprising friends to agree to get paid to go take photos and give updates on the various places that ARE available for rent and sending photos, video and thoughts back to the mainland as a paid service.
Advice From a Local Realtor: 
A Realtor friend of mine, Delania Branham, was kind enough to answer some questions from a recent inquiry about services and I wanted to share as to help others make a move here. Here are tips she shared that you may find helpful:
Relocating dogs take at least 3 months because of the rabies quarantine. This is the company we used to help us with the process of moving our dog here 5 years ago, she was wonderful to work with:
A Place to Stay:
If you need to rent a place temporarily while getting a lay of the land,  the best bet is to look at You can choose the size, location, amenities of a place and get reviews from others that have stayed their. Vacation rental properties tend to be less expensive than a hotel and you’ll have the convenience of having a kitchen. If you are wanting to stay in the Kona area at a hotel there are 4 main options: Royal Kona, Kona Beach Hotel/King Kam, and Royal Kona will run around 200/night and Kona Seaside Hotel which is very basic will run about 100/night.
Moving Companies: 
Here are a few moving companies. You’ll have to talk to then directly to get an estimate but they should be able to give you a ball park on their smallest container. I know of some people that have shipped everything themselves through USPS in individual boxes, but it is slow going and you’ll have to have someone on each end to send and receive packages. I don’t know anyone that has had a great experience moving their belongings to Hawaii, it always takes longer and costs more than you think it will. It’s stressful but you only have to do it once and when you are done and settled and watching the sunset you can put it all behind you.
If you plan on shipping your car, remember two things: Is there a service department on this island already and how much are you willing to spend in time and money to have car parts shipped here if something goes wrong.
Shipping your car: 
Matson is the main moving company people use to ship their vehicles to Hawaii. It’s just about the only company! 
Here are some local car dealership if you would rather purchase after you arrive: 
runningonbeachManaging expectations from your Realtor: 
I want to interject here that Realtors are not personal tour guides. Realtors work on commission so their time is money and gas is expensive here.   “Our time in the car with a client is best spent looking at properties”, Delania shares.   “Most of the things you are looking for in Kona are very centrally located. Really your best bet is to rent a car at the airport after you land. Preferably,  reserve it ahead of time if you know your flight info. The hotel/ vacation rental will give you directions from the airport ( it’s really just a straight shot into Kona), and once you are settled, it’s easy to find directions to most of the places you are looking for. This is a very easy island to navigate having just a few main roads and having the “town” portion in a fairly small district”. want it? Get researching!

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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 and 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

  • Colin says:

    Great advice Julie. We have been over four years in research that started with “can our dogs go”. There is 120 days of quarantine needed that starts with a $400 blood test. Next was “can we afford it”. The rural areas of the big island are much cheaper than where we are moving from. Home prices in Kailua town are the same as where we are. The last 2 pieces were education and income. Schools in hawaii arent ranked high but some of that can be credited to a lifestyle difference. We found a few options that would work well for our daughter making us feel comfortable about moving. It was important to find home and business close to educational needs. We are self employed people so finding a business for sale or a market under served was the focus.
    In the end we are going to love our new island family. The community is small, word travels fast and the sunset washes the day clean.

  • Larry says:

    Yes, we became interested in retiring to HI via the Hawaii Life HGTV shows. It appeared that the BI and Kona were our best options in terms of home cost, variety of activities, and generally less crowded conditions. Most relevant GHI relocation/livingissues are readily available on the web after some searching around. We are about 1-yr into “the process”, and will visit for a week in August to scope it out. I expect we will need 2-3 more visits prior to finally deciding to relocate. Being retired– jobs, schools, commuting, etc. are not relevant to us The Kona inventory of homes is reasonable, so we should be able to purchase and move in a timeframe of 3-mo. I think the biggest hassle will be finding decent 3-mo rental to match the sale of our CA house, the move logistics, and the gap needed for buying a new place in Kona. Looking at Craigslist, Trulia rentals, VRBO, etc. shows a rather limited inventory. I’m not thinking you could arrange a VRBO rental at a reasonable $2-3K/mo rate where they have a large block of time matching a specific move date that is 3-4 weeks away. This will probably be the focus of our Kona visits a year prior to our move (looks like 2017-2018).

    • Larry-If you come during “shoulder season” there are vacation home owners that would let you rent for a reasonable price for three months while waiting for the higher paying “high season” guests to arrive. At our complex, snow birds come from mid-December and leave at the end of March or April. May-July are dead and so is Sept and Oct. Look for VRBO calendars that are empty in low season and make a deal with them.

      Remember…Hawaii Life paints a pretty picture..make sure when you come over to get a good look at gas prices, prices of groceries, health care, car costs, taxes, etc. There are real reasons why Hawaii was named the most expensive state to live in the nation. Live’ll live pretty well!