Moving To the Big Island – 5 Things NOT To Do

DaylightMindI have been reading and responding to comments in a Facebook group about moving to the islands. These folks are diligently researching how to move to Hawaii.  (And many have read my book, “How to Move to Kona” !) Using the group page, they are encouraging each other along the path of the dream to live in Hawaii. I like to lend my two cents in the group, but  I don’t want to be TOO encouraging, because moving here IS a complete life experience change and it’s HARD. However, I don’t want to tell them HOW hard it is because each person has a different story, a reason, a calling, and a mission.

Here are my personal 5 things not to do when thinking about a move to Hawaii:

1. Too Much Research– You can research yourself right out of making the leap of faith to move here. Personally, I had a gut feeling we would be ok and we made the leap. Yes, researching is important, but someone asked the question, “Do you know of anyone who has regretted moving to the islands”. YES! Plenty of people can not make a go of it and they have to move back. But everyone had a different story about what made them leave. To tell you the truth, we made it a year. Then we rented out our condo and went back to the Bay Area to regroup and figure out a way to financially handle it. As the universe often works, my husband was offered a full time job as a resident manager two weeks before we decided to move back to our condo. I have seen “things line up” for the people who make the move successfully. If you are supposed to be here, things work out.

2. Going it Alone– Find encouragement by joining on line groups, forums and such.  Band together for a dream. You can also share research, ideas, and connections. One of the guys on the Facebook page posted a photo of he and his wife getting off the plane in Kona, and saying he DID IT! (Then he proceeded to spell Mauna Kea wrong, but hey, we all learn along the way here.)

3.  Waiting TOO Long To Make the Leap-Jeez Louise, the average life span of an adult male is around 75. (Just by living in Hawaii, you get a few more years of life!) If you retire at 65, you only get 10 years to finally enjoy your life..and that is if you have managed to stay healthy and put some money away. I see people who have always dreamed of moving to Hawaii wait until they are 70 or so. Although I came here when I was in my 40’s, I also came with my two kids to get away from the crazy Silicon Valley life that is sucking the life out of my friends right now. I can’t imagine having waited until I was too frail to hike, too worried about my hips to climb in and out of a 4WD vehicle, or worried about a fall while getting in and out of the ocean on the rocks. Just sayin’.


4. Try To Compare The Cost of Living To Where You Live-I have seen MANY people try and compare the cost of living in Hawaii to where they live. Stop. It’s not the same. Sorry. It is VERY expensive to live in Hawaii, especially if you think you are going to try and have the same lifestyle you created for yourself elsewhere. People compare rent. Well,.are you comparing the cost of electricity? We have the highest cost of energy in the nation. Have you seen our taxes..on everything you consume? Did you know I pay almost $7 for a loaf of bread at our local grocery store? Meat prices have me pacing back and forth between chicken thighs and hamburger. Although I must say that we do have relatively low property taxes compared to the rest of the nation; comes in handy when filling out your efile at tax time.   Sure, you can get some deals by shopping at Target, but for the most part, it all adds up. Plan on living a more simple life, make friends with farmers and think about a Paleo diet. (All processed food has to be shipped in..and guess who pays for the cost of shipping?)

5. Not Having Enough Faith In Yourself– To move to Hawaii you need two things: Desire and Grit. Things are not going to be easy. There is culture shock, homesickness, trying to make new friends, your kids beating you up for making them move to a new school. You have to believe you did the right thing because it was a dream you wanted to pursue and fulfill and you have to tough it out some days. If you felt called to make the move, and you know in your heart you wanted to do it, well, then you make it work. You take a job maybe doing something you don’t love, but it pays the bills. You live in a smaller place. You eat more avocados and less steak. Remember you came for the lifestyle and it takes about a year to adjust. Just have faith. And if for some reason, it does not work out, then you had an adventure you will never forget. But you had it. And that is a lot more than most people get.

A quick analogy-my daughter and her 7th grade class had to hike Pu’u Wa’awa’a (the “Jello Mold” off of Mamalahoa Highway on the way to Waimea from Kona). It is an 1800 foot elevation gain from the road to the top and it’s a 7.5 mile hike. (It’s HARD!)  Most of the class has never hiked that far in their lives. Many did the research about the hike and almost did not want to even begin because they knew how hard it was going to be. Some of the kids had no idea what was in front of them, other than a challenge. Some of the kids decided that they would do the best they could and see how far they got. The teacher never gave an opinion about the difficulty of the trail, because to some of those kids, they did just fine and the ones that were not in shape discovered their own limitations along the way. My daughter was one of the kids who tucked in with the front group and challenged each other to the top and they sat on that bench up there, with the view in front of them, high fiving themselves for their achievement. Who says that can’t be you?

37 Responses to Moving To the Big Island – 5 Things NOT To Do

  1. Sami January 25, 2018 at 5:26 pm #

    This was so helpful. What is the Facebook group? We are thinking of moving with our two little ones and our dog.

    • Julie Ziemelis January 25, 2018 at 6:48 pm #

      the Group is called Kona Newbie Group..please make sure you answer the questions to get in.that’s our signal to know its not a spammer! Good luck on getting here!

  2. Mona January 4, 2018 at 1:19 am #

    Just ordered the book…ready to take the plunge!

    • Julie Ziemelis January 25, 2018 at 6:49 pm #

      Awesome!! Stay in touch..we do referrals for real estate and all manner of great services in West Hawaii!

  3. Syd Highley June 2, 2017 at 2:25 am #

    Hi JULIE, I got your book and read it. My wife and I went to Kona and we are now in escrow on a beautiful house in upper Lako. We are so very excited. We see how expensive this is going to be but we can rent our place out for a time to help us. Thank you for getting my initial rear end off the couch. Cheers.

    • Julie Ziemelis June 3, 2017 at 8:18 pm #

      Congratulations! That is an amazing place to live! So glad that you were inspired and now you are doing something that most people never have the guts to do!

    • Tia June 4, 2017 at 9:45 pm #

      If you are looking for a renter I was looking to go home but Hawai’i is more like home now than touristy Oahu. I’m in the mainland traveling my way to California; checking out things as I have a chance, but would come on a dime.
      Retired chemical engineer.
      Means over analyze and anal it seems lol
      Ground zero hot zone emergency responder
      If you have children, you have a sitter.
      Non smoker
      Great references.
      Great person.
      Lives an eclectic lifestyle and am a traditional wiya.
      Loaner case sensitive or gmail for any questions you might have or a phone number.
      Either way it was worth a shot right? Lol
      Aloha hui hou au makamaka

      • Julie Ziemelis January 4, 2018 at 1:23 am #

        It is worth a shot! Perhaps someone will see this..if you are serious..put it out on CraigsList, too!

  4. Rodni Cruz May 21, 2017 at 9:11 am #

    Thank you so much Julie, for all of the wonderful advice! I am a female (even though they named me Rodni… Go figure, they wanted a bit!) OB GYN physician and looking to possibly work with Ali’i Clinic. I hope to come soon to visit! I lived on Maui for several years, then moved back to the mainland due to my mom’s illness (cancer, she passed away) 🙁 Hawaii had always been a spiritual calling for me…. Just feels like home. The culture, the people and the lifestyle. I pray I can make it come true, please…. Any advice you might have????

    • Julie Ziemelis May 21, 2017 at 5:13 pm #

      Rodni-the island is desperate for GYN/OB practitioners-you would be a god send to the women on the island!
      If the island is calling you, you can get a job and you can get a lead on a place to live, at least come for the adventure. You can pick up just about anything you need off of Craigs List, so you don’t need to bring much with you. Get my book, How to Move to Kona, for some inspiration and solid advice about what it’s like to live in West Hawaii. Good luck and if you DO come, I invite you to join our “Kona Newbies” club on Facebook!

      • Anne Bornet June 4, 2017 at 1:05 am #

        I spent my first 5 years of life in Hawai’i. 45 years later I returned for a Probowl game trip my husband won at work. Deep breath, it was unexpectedly and overwhelmingly like returing home, I felt it so strongly! since then we have come back 3 times and now talking about moving there. My husband is a semi retired hospital pharmacist, and I am a nurse. Are there needs and opportunities for those types of jobs?

    • Cynthia June 24, 2017 at 12:18 am #

      I have been in the Medical Field (Administrative Duties). I can help start your practice! I want to move to Kona also! Rent my Condo out and just do it!

  5. Nancy November 28, 2016 at 11:56 pm #

    It would be great if you could make your book available as an e-book! I am living outside the U.S. and it is really hard to have things shipped here.

  6. Erika June 29, 2016 at 10:42 pm #

    I’m filled with so much emotion as I read your post and responses. I’m literally on the verge of tears. Eileen summed up exactly what I feel, “Don’t be too analytical, because the move is an inner calling therefore a spiritual/emotional thing.” That’s exactly what I feel and haven’t been able to explain it to friends and family. My family recently returned from a visit to Oahu and before we even got off the plane home my husband informed me he’d already looked up a couple of positions he could apply for in Oahu. We live in the Bay Area and he works in the tech field. I’ve been longing for more family time with our three children and recently decided to home-school them. We initially had a two year plan to make a move but my heart has never really been here in the Bay Area and knew it wasn’t where I wanted to raise our children. We fell in love, absolute love with the locals and slower pace there. It spoke to our hearts. I couldn’t even get him to agree to move to SoCal and here he’s wanting to move to Hawaii. We had such a spiritual experience there. Sure I’m nervous about the move, but my heart skips a beat when I think about the possibility. I do have a couple of questions that I’m not sure are covered in your book and not sure if you know about. My children all have food allergies which I’m managing and would have to find a good allergist before we arrive. But, what I’m most concerned about is our asthma. My children and I all have asthma. My girls asthma is severe. Would you happen to know anything asthma and living on the Island?

    Thank you so much for your encouraging post and I plan to purchase your book. Now, we just gotta find my husband a job.


    • Julie Ziemelis November 29, 2016 at 1:00 am #

      Erika-I am just seeing this now. Sorry it has been so long! Asthma is the worst thing you can have if you live in West Hawaii due to the high levels of VOG. If you could make a go of it in Waimea or Hilo, that would be alot better. I DO cover the air quality issues in my book. We left the Bay Area, too and you know what? It was the best thing I could have done for my kids. If you can NOT live in South or Central Kona, that would be a good thing. You can get all the great mana, organic locally grown food and culture if you live in Waikoloa where there is plenty of wind or as far away from Kilauea as you can get.

      • Michelle March 31, 2017 at 1:12 am #

        Hi Julie,

        Though this post is from 2015, I still found a lot of inspiration and confirmation in it. I am however wanting to move to Maui. You are right – go with your gut as I do believe it is a calling. I see that you have your own communications company. I’ve been working in the marketing and communications industry in Dallas for over seven years now and though I am sure may be tougher to find on the islands, would like to still continue my career in Maui in communications. Would greatly appreciate any insight to communications companies and/or contacts you may have, if any in Maui.


  7. Meg July 20, 2015 at 1:48 am #

    Hi! My husband has a job opportunity there. If it were the two of us, we’d go in a heartbeat. However, we have a 7 year old with slight special needs. I’ve heard that the schools aren’t wonderful and may not have the services he needs. Does anyone have any information that might help us? Thank you!

    • Julie Ziemelis August 6, 2015 at 2:12 am #

      Meg..get my book..I list all the schools and phone numbers and websites. The public schools have the proper funding for special needs children. IF you are called to be here and really want to make a go of it, don’t let that stop some research first.

  8. Monica June 2, 2015 at 10:15 pm #

    Aloha Julie,

    My husband and I are trying relocate to Kona from Foster City, CA. He is in the position to receive a job transfer with the same low pay he is currently getting. He retired early 8 years ago and took on another job so that his income would be our fun money. I have a great job with excellent pay and I know I will not be getting (six figures) or anything close to that when I get to Kona. I’ve been in Biopharmaceuticals for the past 24 years and I need a change. I’ve been scouring the job postings; but, I haven’t been in touch with a recruiter or agency in quite some time. I have no hospitality experience; but willing to learn. What are your thoughts and recommendations if I took the leap with my husband? If we cash out in the Bay Area and we move with only him having a job, the money from our home sale, while I take a temp job until something more permanent comes along. The opportunity to telecommute is doable for the short-term; but, not desired by either my employer or myself. Any advice you can give us is fantastic. BTW, we are a middle-aged couple with no children.



    • Julie Ziemelis June 2, 2015 at 10:27 pm #

      Monica-I left my high paying job in San Mateo to come here and I DID telecommute until I got my legs under me to start my own consulting company. For the ten years I have been on this island, five years full time, I have yet to see a “perfect” job with a salary that could help me make my bills come up in Kona. The job market encourages entrepreneurism. But you need a change-right?! Lots of folks are fleeing the Bay Area for a less stressful-less crowded life. However, because of that. we are experiencing a VERY tight rental market right now. If you want to do something out your home and buy something here with a rental cottage (ohana unit) on it. That would cut your living expenses way down. You can pick up a part time job somewhere if that is what you want to do (Pier One, Target) or you can decide what you REALLY want to do and see if you can make money from it. I tell my book…it gives a fair and balanced view of life here…not for everyone and it IS hard to come to an island where you don’t know anyone. Search your heart for why you want to come. Many are feel called to be here. If they are called, things just work out for them..if not…they don’t. Coming with no kids gives you more freedom, too, btw.

      • Monica June 2, 2015 at 11:07 pm #

        Mahalo Julie. I will read your book and actively start a realistic plan which had only been a pipe dream not too long ago. I also will keep investigating; but, I won’t over research. A great deal of information I read on the web confirms my desire and confuses me about even thinking about moving – all at the same time. One good thing on my side is that my husband who was born in Honolulu and lived there for the first 10 years of his life is very supportive of my wish to live a slower pace in a comfortable and friendly place. Since we visit Kona once a year, we are often mistaken for locals. I know that both of us knowing many of the customs, (he can speak pidgin if he wants to), and having roots (grandparents/parents) on both sides from Hawaii will only help us “fit in”. At this point, I’m looking for a career change (something meaningful) and not be so stressed all the time. I don’t want to keep up with the Jones’; I was never like that so material things aren’t important. I have always felt that Kona called to me on my very first trip in 1997. It felt like home.

  9. Manisha Shrestha April 22, 2015 at 3:38 am #

    Hi.. I am so glad I found your blog. It’s so great to hear about everyones’ stories. My husband and I are going back and forth on if Hawaii is for us.. Looks like it is calling us. We are still deciding if we should just move with just our suitcases.. or bring a pod.. Any recommendations? Moving service for household and car. I hope I can bother you guys with simple questions like internet services, where to shop, live.. etc. For now my husband will be working remotely. Thanks again!!


    • Julie Ziemelis April 30, 2015 at 11:38 pm #

      Aloha Manisha-
      I wrote “How to Move to Kona” because so many people were asking me those exact questions! Should I bring a suitcase or all my stuff? Moving services and such…it’s all in the book!
      The two biggest problems right now are a lack of rental housing and a lack of jobs that pay a decent wage to afford to live here. If you bring your jobs with you, that is one thing that will help. Make sure you line up housing before coming…and unless you plan to buy a house, don’t bring pets. You’ll have a heck of time trying to find a rental. Good luck!

  10. Phoebe Dylan April 16, 2015 at 5:29 am #

    Hi Julie, you have some good advice in your book and here as well. The only thing I feel a bit conflicted about is your comment on not waiting too long. I am 66 and will be moving back to the Big Island in a couple of months. I would have loved to have made this happen a few years ago but it just didn’t play out. I would say that no matter what age one happens to be, finding a home that you love is worth risks, as is anything that matters.
    And I have been lucky enough to visit Hawaii for the first time in 1952, live on Oahu, Kauai and Hilo. I remember Waikiki when Canlis was the only place my father could find a steak. Now it’s time to come back to stay, for whatever time is left.

    • Julie Ziemelis April 16, 2015 at 6:10 am #

      Phobe-If you are in your forties or fifties and think “someday”…that is who I am targeting that at..if you are trying and it just did not gel until you are in your 60’s..well, at least you are living life on the island in a healthy place and saying YAHOO!!! Congrats for making the dream a reality.

  11. Becky April 14, 2015 at 10:55 pm #

    Julie – thanks so much for a great blog. My husband and I moved here to the Big Island about a year and a half ago from the San Francisco East Bay area. So many people we talked to couldn’t believe that we did it….

    I have to agree whole-heartedly – if you want to, just do it! Don’t over-think it. And do realize that certain things are NOT going to be the same as where you live now, and it is NOT the same as being her on vacation.

    But we wanted the slower pace of life. We wanted to be able to swim in the ocean on a regular basis, and we were willing to sacrifice some things for the sake of these others.

    And it does help that we are both entrepreneurs. The short and the long of it is (and having dealt with a debilitating back injury and then cancer since moving here – all better now! – I know first hand), life IS short. Time to live!

    Love and Aloha,

    • Linda January 8, 2018 at 8:59 pm #

      We are also moving to Hawaii from the San Francisco North Bay Area, finally, after years of planning, we had to retire first. Now we are prepping our home for sale. We are very familiar with Hawaii, been going there for thirty years. We considered other places but not for long, we love Hawaii. We lead a more healthy lifestyle there. The air is so fresh, the climate is so lovely, we love the ocean, the people are great, I will be 70 next year and my husband is 72. I can’t wait. Not really a sacrifice for us at all, the last time I was in SF was six years ago! Won’t miss it at all. I will miss my friends but they will just have to visit. Somehow I doubt they will have a problem with that. Good for you!

  12. Jenny March 20, 2015 at 6:12 pm #

    I’ve read your book (excellent btw), been to Kona twice and hubby and I are planning on 2017 for the big move. We have thought and planned it out for almost 10 years. We’re in our 40s so that shouldn’t be an issue.

    I do have one question for you: What is internet service like in and around Kona?
    We both work remotely for our jobs, and that’s important for us.
    Otherwise, we are ready for the island life and the culture. We want to be around people not constantly looking at their phone! There’s more to life than that!

    Thanks so much 🙂

    • Julie Ziemelis April 14, 2015 at 11:12 pm #

      Aloha Jenny: Thank you for reading my book! Appreciate your kind words, too. Internet service is great around Kona (unless a truck snips a high power line and we lose all internet connection for hours..happened a few months ago). Internet starts to fade and becomes more of a connectivity issue in the smaller towns around the southern portion of the island and into Puna. Hilo and Waimea are fine. You can go into Waipio Valley and swim at Green Sands Beach without ANYONE looking at their phones because there is NO wifi access in those areas! Good luck on the move!

  13. Michelle March 14, 2015 at 7:06 am #

    Loved, loved, loved this article!
    Everyday I think of Hawai’i. I will keep pressing toward that hope. I admire you and thank you for your words of wisdom and encouragement. Looking forward to being neighbors soon.
    Mahalo Nui Loa!


    • Julie Ziemelis April 14, 2015 at 11:09 pm #

      Michelle-keep the dream alive and do something every day that moves you closer to your goal of living here! Keep the faith!

  14. Eileen Santos March 13, 2015 at 8:41 am #

    Julie, great article. Based on my own experience, I have to agree with each of your posts.
    1. Don’t be too analytical, because the move is an inner calling therefore a spiritual/emotional thing.
    2. I made a few friends in the beginning who were a guiding force for me, answering my questions and supporting me spiritually as I took the first steps by living here part-time.
    3. My husband and I vacationed here 5 years ago and then returned five months later to buy “a second home”. He wanted to wait 7 years to buy and retire here, but I wanted to take advantage of the depressed market at the time knowing full well we wouldn’t have been able to make the jump if the market rebounded. We’re a few years short of retirement, but by selling our mainland home and making a profit on the sale of our Kona condo, we are now in our forever home.
    4. Yes, milk and bread are more expensive here, which is OK since we don’t buy much of either. Our real estate taxes are a lot lower, we don’t need to pay for heat 9 months per year,and fortunately we don’t use AC. We enjoy shopping at farmers’ markets and trying new to us fruit and veggies, and beaches and parks are free (in RI, you can be charged up to $20 per day for parking your car at the beach).
    5. The theory is that if Madame Pele wants you here, it will all work out. I was always able to find 3 month jobs while I studied for my HI real estate license. My husband, the major breadwinner, made the leap here trusting in my conviction that Universe and Madame Pele would provide. His second to last day at work in RI, they asked if he would consider keeping his CIO/Project Manager job and doing it from HI. Yeah!
    That’s my personal story and I’m sure that there are thousands more that are just as, if not more, inspirational. Mahalo, Julie, for all you do.

    • Julie Ziemelis April 14, 2015 at 11:08 pm #

      Thanks Eileen for your “real life experience” comments! That is great about your hubby! My job let me work from Hawaii, too for a year until I could wean myself off a steady paycheck into opening up my own consulting business. Pele works her magic sometimes!

  15. Brittany March 13, 2015 at 7:59 am #

    This is SOO true, even down to eating more avocados than steak. Embrace it!! If it’s meant for you, it’s the best way you can live.

  16. LisaJo885 March 13, 2015 at 3:58 am #

    Do NOT expect that you will be able to transfer your mainland life to Hawai’i. Really, you will get used to the temps and not run need an A/C that you would pay hundreds of dollars a month for in electricity. Forget sleeping in on the weekends, not only will the birds wake you up at dawn, you won’t want to waste a minute of the gorgeous day. You will lift your head up from your phone, and start getting to know your neighbors and the kid who bags your groceries at KTA and the farmers at the local market. You will likely not be working an 8-5 job in an office where you dress in suits; you’ll embrace the aloha shirt and slippers. Your stresses will be different, but you’ll know it’s not about keeping up with the Jones, but rather inviting the Jones over for potluck pupus and watching the sunset.

    • Linda January 8, 2018 at 9:06 pm #

      I know I am speaking for others when I say I can’t wait to leave my mainland life behind. Horrible traffic, crime, insane politics, high stress living. We moved to CA in the 70’s and it was nice. Now it is horrible. We are seeking a solar home and I see there are some, if not we will add it. Now all we need is a place in the country with a small cow! Dairy prices are amazing. Otherwise not that different from our home here in CA. We gave away all our suits when we retired. Next winter clothes. Most of our stuff in fact. we are bringing our books, clothes, dogs and that is about it. we will see how much it would cost to bring our two cars but my guess is we will be better off selling them here and buying a car in Hawaii.

  17. kona Colin March 13, 2015 at 3:30 am #

    This is great advice Julie. Dive in, make adjustments, change a few things to make it work, but most of all, never give up on your dreams.

    I for one did tons of research and am 3 years behind schedule, but have never given up.

    The only thing I’d stress is what you stated in your book, be mindful of the culture and customs here. It’s the little everyday things that make it easier to fit in and ‘make it’. Respect and taking time for daily life are key.

    Best of luck to all.

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