How to Move to Hawaiʻi

When Pat and I packed up a lifetime and household of stuff, dropped my horse and goat off at LAX Cargo, and hopped on our own separate commercial airlines, we were totally exhausted, to say the least. It was the culmination of years of dreaming, months of planning, days of potential disaster. But, we made it, all of us, safe and sound. Doing your research, setting up an organizational schedule, and sticking to it makes all the difference in the world. Here’s how we did it…


One of the most important things to do prior to making your move to the Big Island is to thoroughly research our 9 districts, 11 micro-climates, 4 land designations, the differences in cultures, as well as what your budget will buy. Take a look at the maps as well as my blog entitled A Snapshot of the Big Island, as well as spend plenty of time talking with anyone and everyone you know who lives here. For us, it was our Clark Realty Realtor® and a few folks we had met during our four reconnaissance trips. And speaking of those trips, it is never recommended to buy real estate prior to actually spending time in the area you are interested in. Often, those buyers who don’t take the time to hang out in different districts, even towns, find themselves selling and trying again some place else on the island.

The Big Island offers high-end resorts along the Kohala Coast, hundreds of options for VRBO and airbnb, moderate hotels island wide, as well as the possibility of house swaps. On one trip we spent one week in Hawi and Kapaau on the Northern end of the island, and one week in Waimea checking out areas along the nearby Hamakua Coast. Time well spent!

Once you have determined exactly where you want to live, and you have either purchased a property or plan to rent for the time being, the moment comes to prepare for your move.

Hint: During Phase One you will also want to make initial phone calls and possible veterinary preparations for your animals. Horses are the most time consuming, dogs are the hardest to get in and will take about four months of prep time, and there is a list of what you can’t bring in to the state – snakes being top on my list!


Pat and I couldn’t purchase a home when we first moved here because we got caught in the real estate and banking collapse of 2008. So, we ended up renting our Hawaii Realtor®’s vintage yurt on the Hamakua Coast. Before we stepped foot onto the property as true renters, this is what we had to accomplish…

The Stuff

We owned a 5 bedroom/3 ½ bathroom home in Big Bear, CA. We knew we couldn’t bring everything, so we began the process of serious downsizing. I/we made four piles that grew and grew and grew:

  1. Sell (yard sales equaled 4)
  2. Consignment/antique stores/thrift stores (My attempt to recoup some money we desperately needed for the move.)
  3. Gifting to friends and family (Everyone loved that one!)
  4. Donate: Salvation Army, Goodwill, and “Free” on the road outside our home. Works like a charm.

Memories of Matson
Household Items

Go on line to (Young Brothers is also an option) and make preparations/get estimates for their 20’ or 40’ container shipping program. We opted for the 40’ container which eventually was dropped off in our driveway. Pat was sure it would fit all we planned to take with us. Truth be told, it didn’t. But, we didn’t realize this until it was 4/5th full. Painfully, a few pieces of furniture and a whole lot of yard equipment had to be left behind. Thankfully, friends showed up and whisked it all away!

Matson then returns and takes it away. Ours went to the Long Beach docks. It arrived safe and sound about two weeks later. We paid about $6500.00.

Cars, Trucks, Boats, etc.

No, you can’t try to hid your car inside your personal belongings shipping container! Don’t even think about it. Again, go on to Matson’s website and get a quote. Then, either you or someone you hire drops the vehicle off at the docks. After you complete all the paperwork, make sure the car has less than ¼ tank of gas, has been steam cleaned underneath, and is empty of ALL your other stuff. You can’t fill your car with stuff and ship it. Vehicles can take 2 to 4 weeks to arrive. This can be a bit frustrating. We paid about $1038.00 per car.

Your horse, goat or other livestock

This has been explicitly explained in my blog How To Get Your Horse And Other Livestock Safely To Hawaii. Please read it carefully as there are many elements to the process that must be followed to the “T”.

The important things to accomplish before your move are to do your research, hire the companies, get rid of as much as you can live without (spouse excluded), then make a TIMELINE! Oh, and follow it! If you miss an important date it can easily end “The Plan” and you have to come up with “Plan B”. To read about the horror of realizing my horse and goat were flying out one day sooner than understood, and the absolute chaos that transpired, check out my book – My Year In A Yurt. Spoiler alert…we make it safe and sound, but I wouldn’t wish that experience on my worst enemy.


Once you actually get here you will want to give yourself time to settle in. This is a new way of life, a new culture, new temperatures, everything is new! Here are some tips on making the transition smoother and more enjoyable:

How to meet people

  1. Meet your neighbors…even if they are acres away. We threw an Open Yurt Party for our neighbors. We had a blast and they got to see my yurt decorating prowess. It also eventually led to my first job!
  2. Join like-minded groups. The canoe club, hiking groups, philanthropic organizations, equestrian groups, etc. Whatever you are interested in, I can almost guarantee there is a group on the island.
  3. Go to church! We have dozens of wonderful churches…something for everyone!
  4. Volunteer: The Food Bank needs help, the churches need help, the hospitals could use volunteers. The list is endless.

Get a job

But it doesn’t have to be immediately. Check out my How To Get A Job blog.

Here’s the thing…be open to a new you! I discovered I couldn’t really recreate who I was and what I did before moving to this island. I had to give myself a break, meet people and listen to what the needs were. This is when I was able to step into some fun part time jobs that eventually led to my real estate career! I don’t regret a moment of the journey.

What Clients Are Saying

“Jen’s education, skill, and the perfect blend of creativity and reality made the impossible, possible for us. She went the extra mile, actually, the extra 100 miles, and our family will forever be grateful. She’s not just a Realtor®, she’s a dream-maker.”

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Jen McGeehan, RS-80881

Phone: 808.747.2365
Email Jen

I am an adventurer by heart, never letting too much dust settle under my feet. My latest adventure began in 2018, successfully merging over 46 years of varied work and life experience into a real estate career that focuses on the goals and dreams of my clients. Now, as a top 5% Coldwell Banker Realtor®, and two-time recipient of the coveted International President’s Circle award, I am so grateful I took that leap of faith!

LIVING THE HAWAII LIFESTYLE is living the dream! How can I help you purchase (or sell) a little slice of our heaven?

2021 & 2022