Studying / retiring in Hawaii?

So my wife is back from Hawaii (as I mentioned a couple of days ago) and she liked it so much she wants me to do my PhD at the University of Hawaii and/or retire there. Neither plan sounds terrible to me though I’ve never been to Hawaii so what do I know?

My wife spent most of her time on Kauai at Hanalei Bay Resort but of course she drove a round quite a bit.

A little over 2 years a go I mentioned an article that said Kauai was changing for the worse (traffic and prices too high for the locals). One commenter wrote:

As a resident of Kauai for the last ten years, I would say to those traveling here it ain’t what it used to be. Most people come here to “get away from it all”. Natural beauty, peace and quiet, laid back. One trip around the island in a rental vehicle will put that bit of history to rest. We have not expanded the infrastructure to match the pace of increased development and tourism, and the one road around the island is officially a nightmare. I had a friend from LA tell me the worst traffic jam he was ever in was on Kauai. Personally I plan to travel around the island only during non-peak hours….I would recommend that strategy to anyone who has the option. That being said, I still believe Kauai is the best island, magical, beautiful, warm, welcoming and fun.

My wife was amazed at how little traffic there was on Kauai even though everyone drives so slow. Also the people she talked to (shop owners mostly) say that real estate is about 50% lower than it was before the recession and that you can buy a place for 150K. Apparently the economy has hurt tourism to Kauai and that’s about the only industry they have…

On the other side, I have a colleague in Seoul who left Hawaii 3 years ago. He was at the University of Hawaii (I’m assuming on Oahu) but said living in Hawaii was so expensive that he opted out of the university health insurance plan to avoid paying his half and still couldn’t afford to live there. While he was there he said it was great. He was healthy because it was so beautiful out that he would do pullups and go for runs and swims a lot.

So I guess I’m fishing for information from people who live in or have lived in Hawaii. How is the lifestyle? What are living expenses like? I’m not about to retire so if I move to Hawaii in the next few years it would only be to do a PhD. The university would probably give me about 20k a year…

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  1. Rhonda Peterson says:

    Hawaii is one of those places that it’s Saturday every day and summer year around. Everyone wants to live there….. so there are lots of people for very few jobs… so employers can lower the pay scale, because so many people need work, that they can afford to pick and choose, and still keep their payroll low.

    The cost of living is very high. There is limited land, so just about everything is shipped in… so there is a great deal of expense added to the cost of everything, to cover this. The Big Island helps support the other islands with meat and vegetables, because of it’s size…. but things are still shipped in from there too.

    Housing is limited and expensive. Land was bought up by developers, because hotels provide a constant source of revinue. More so then buying and selling a piece of property.

    The islands have “dry” and “wet” sides…. do to the height of the volcano’s. Rain clouds hit them and dump the water on one side… so the other side is almost desert like. So housing is cheaper where it rains every day…. tourist prefer to not be on that side…. just drive around and see it. So would it bother you to be where it rains every day? Though the rain showers are short and sweet. They are all day long. Though there are lots of rainbows!

    Try to remember….. vacationing somewhere for a short time is nothing like living there and dealing with the infastructure on a regular basis. Vacations are fun…. and budgeted for. To actually live somewhere is entirely different.

  2. Austinstar says:

    I lived in Hawaii for over 2 years. I loved the land, the sweet air, the fresh water, and the ocean.

    I found the Japanese Americans there to be rude and downright mean to haoles (white mainlanders). The Phillipinos were nice as were most of the other ethnic groups that mix freely on the island. Racism is very apparent to the non-Japanese descendants though.

    We also found the cost of living to be way to high to sustain and we ended up moving back to the mainland very much in debt. We did try to buy a condo on Maui, but it was way out of our financial reach.

    The traffic is getting much worse I hear and overpopulation of the islands is getting out of hand. But for the two years or so that it takes you to get your PhD, I highly recommend it. Just try to avoid going into debt.

  3. Jimmy B. says:

    I have owned a second home in Hawaii since 1988 and have recently built a new home in Maui. I can tell you, honestly, that if you just shop around, you can find some very competitive pricing on goods at the “big box” stores, such as Wal Mart, K-Mart, Home Depot, Costco, Lowes, etc. Those stores are typically within 3-5% of the mainland pricing. Thank God for them. I will be retiring in Maui in a few years and I cannot wait to get over there, full time. Go for it!!! JimmyB

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