Hawaii Life, Thoughts

Q & A – Life on Oahu

We have officially hit the 9 month mark of Hawaii Life, and are still very much in love with the island, its people, and culture. Many months back, I promised a Q & A about Hawaii.

You asked the questions, here are the answers.

Does life feel like a vacation?

There are moments that feel definitely like vacation, like when we are on a new beach or hiking a new trail. But Hawaii mostly feels like home. We have several favorite hang out spots, run into friends on the beach, and have to continually keep up with a house and two kids.

Moments like this are still surreal.
Moments like this are still surreal.

So you’ve made friends? Where do you meet people?

We’ve met people on the beach, in our neighborhood, and at playgroups. People here are warm, friendly, and easy to talk to. From a Texan’s perspective, it feels a lot like southern culture but with more liberal views and a lot more Asian food. Because many people who live here are far from family, friends become close and rely on one another.

How expensive are groceries? Housing?

When shopping at Costco (where we try to buy as much as possible) prices are not insanely different. Some items are exactly the same, while others cost around 25-30% more. When I left Kansas City, a gallon of whole milk cost me $4.08. Here it costs me $4.48. Diapers are about $3 more per box, and chicken usually costs me an extra $0.25 per pound. Some produce is notably more expensive, but can be found for a good deal when it’s in season. There are also special deals on Fridays at most grocery stores, which is a fantastic way to stock up on meat.

Housing is exorbitantly expensive. A house/apartment costs 2-3 times more than on the mainland. A 3 bedroom fixer-upper close to the beach will cost you more than a million. New construction out in Ewa Beach is more reasonably priced, but a starter home still runs around $400-500k.

How do you afford living there?

Of course this is a personal question, but a relevant one for anyone considering making a move like we did.

Brett has a solid job, and I spend a lot of time in the kitchen to save money. We eat budget friendly meals, and enjoy sandwiches while hiking or hanging out on the beach. To eliminate the car payment we had in Missouri, we now only have one vehicle, and it’s not a luxury SUV like I previously enjoyed. Our entertainment here is close to free and our wardrobes consist mostly of tank tops and shorts. Another big shift in spending is that I no longer shop for fun, or decorate my house for every season. While part of me misses those aspects of life, it is freeing to not feel the need to constantly change my home decor and wardrobe.

Don’t you get sick of going to the beach?

If all we did was sit at the same beach, the answer would be yes. But there are dozens of beaches to choose from here, and there are many more activities than just swimming or walking — like snorkeling, bodyboarding, kayaking, whale watching, crab hunting, spear fishing, paddle boarding, kite surfing, surfing, tide pool exploring, watching sunsets, running, etc. PLUS the ocean changes with the seasons.


The beach is also a great hangout spot for friends. Rather than sitting around a living room, we sit in the sand and let the kids wear themselves out.

And seriously, parents never get tired of sitting around relaxing while their kids exhaust themselves WITHOUT destroying the house. Carter never tires of swimming or running along the coast, and Pierce has yet to get sick of the sand, filling buckets with water to make “soup,” or exploring in the foliage. Because the boys entertain themselves and are able to be as rambunctious as they want, the beach is one of the easiest places to watch our kids.

Have you experienced any culture shock?

Before moving, I was worried about the slower pace of “Hawaii time,” but I have found that it perfectly matches the pace of life with toddlers. No one rolls their eyes as my kids slowly walk through a store, or as they squeal on the beach.

People here also show genuine interest in kids. Everywhere we go, strangers take the time to really talk with my boys, asking them questions and laughing at their responses. The slower pace of life truly caters to personal interaction, where people “talk story” and invest in getting to know one another.

I also have to add that Oahu is more like the mainland than you might anticipate. There are 1 million people who live here, and most mainstream shops and eateries are available. The other islands are less densely populated, and as such have fewer amenities.  

What are people like there?

People here are incredibly warm and kind. The “aloha spirit” is very real, and its charm runs deep. It is hard to put into words, but anyone who has lived here can relate. Acquaintances talk like long lost friends, and people connect to one another here in a way I haven’t experienced anywhere else.

Are you homesick?

We desperately miss our families, but the great weather and opportunity to constantly be outdoors provides a lot of fulfillment. I don’t miss any particular city, but do miss some aspects of being on the mainland, like fast shipping, awesome restaurants, and convenient shopping. The time zone difference is sometimes a challenge, and I definitely miss how affordable nice, updated houses are in Missouri. Brett misses air conditioning.

There’s no A/C?

Most houses do not have A/C, but most stores do. We rely on trade winds to keep us cool, and our bodies have adapted to the warmer climate. Around 80 degrees is comfortable to me now, and I get cold whenever I’m in an air conditioned store.

Where are you living?

We live on the Windward side of Oahu, alongside the Ko’olau Mountain Range. We picked this area of the island for the gorgeous tropical views, and its access to hiking. There are also lovely beaches and we are a reasonable distance to the North Shore.

What makes Hawaii so awesome to live in besides the weather and the beauty?

The combination of a slower pace of life, the warmth of the people, and the appreciation for culture and human/nature connection make Hawaii living unique.

The land provides entertainment, rather than shopping centers, and life experience is emphasized over material possession acquisition. There is always somewhere new (and free!) to explore, and I find it incredibly therapeutic being immersed in nature.  Living in Hawaii is certainly not for everyone, but it fits our family’s needs beautifully.

Sunrise from the Haiku Stairs
Sunrise from the Haiku Stairs

What are the daily problems, such as crime, that Hawaii deals with?

Hawaii has high rates of car theft (there are signs all over the island that say not to leave valuables in cars) and there is also a very high rate of homelessness. The cost of living is exorbitantly high, making it difficult for families to afford housing. This problem also makes it hard for the state to hire and retain teachers, because even with a higher starting salary than most states, it isn’t enough to counterbalance the increased cost of food and housing.

Is there any talk of refugees being accepted in the state?

Hawaii has a very diverse population, and people here are generally accepting of all cultures and beliefs. But with as a remote island chain with a cost of living that is twice the national average, it isn’t the most practical location for resettling refugees.

If I missed your question or if you have a new one…

Feel free to drop a comment and let me know. I’ll likely do a part two at some point in the future. 🙂 Thanks for reading!


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