FAQ’S on Moving to Maui

So many people write to ask me questions about moving to Maui that I have created this page to hopefully answer your questions. So check here first, ‘kay?

Q: Where should I live on Maui?
A: How much do you like to commute? It’s the same here as anywhere, is just that the commute’s probably a lot easier. So, you might choose to live Upcountry, but you could work on the Westside or down near Kihei. If so, you will be in the car a minimum of 45 minutes.

Q: Where should I work on Maui?
A: Chances are, whatever you do now will probably not translate to Maui. ( Unless you’re a doctor, lawyer, or Indian Chief. Oh, wait…never mind.) Most jobs on the island are in the tourist/service industry. That means you will probably work at a hotel, or in something related to the hotel industry: concierge, front desk, HR, GM, etc. Most hotels have restaurants, so you can be a waiter, waitress, busser, manager, cook.
The tourist industry: taxi driver, bus driver, photographer at a luau, hiking guide, Zipline guide. Boat Captain or crew. Work at the booth for a boat booking tours, or at a beach shack renting equipment. (Spa-related jobs are huge here, so get that massage license!) Also, loads of retail jobs. The bad news? Most of these pay about $12.00 per hour…or commission only. And your living expenses are going WAY up.

Then there are the county jobs as Maui is the county seat(and has lots of law firms…so receptionist jobs, para-legals, clerks for the court). And there’s a small computer industry tech park in Kihei. There is also a small UH campus. Teachers are not paid well on Maui (but are they anywhere?)
Entrepreneurs: Realize that the population of Maui is just over 100,000. So you must cater to the tourists, whatever it is!

Note: In many jobs, the job opening never hits the paper or Craigslist. Realize how close knit the families are in Hawaii, often the job will go to a sister, brother, etc. of another worker.

Q: Should I move to Maui and then get a job, or vice versa?
A: I would STRONGLY suggest trying to land a job first. But many readers tell me that that’s almost impossible, because the ads all say “must live on Maui for at least six months.” Why so unfair, you ask? It used to be that “they” said people didn’t last two years here. Now they say people don’t last six months. So a boss is trying to make sure you’ve decided to really stay.
How committed are you, really? Just testing the waters, or all in?

Q: So how the heck do I get a job?
A: It would be a great idea for you to come on an extended vacation on Maui, and try to land work then. Make friends with the person next to you at the bar or the beach, or at church, and see if THEY know of any openings. THEN go home and sell everything.

Q: Speaking of that, do I sell everything, or bring everything?
A: Shipping is expensive, much more expensive even than it was when I moved here,14 years ago. So, be brutal in what you bring. And realize that it’s not easy to buy furniture (Five month wait on orders) so you might have to go get stuff at moving and garage sales.

Q: Ha ha! So it sounds like life will never be the same?
A: You’ve got it.

Q: I am thinking about taking a job in Maui…. However I hate bugs!!!! Especially cockroaches . Perhaps this is not the place for me. Maybe you can tell me…. Are they in the plumbing?
A: There is a belief that the centipedes come up through the drains in the house. A friend of mine plugs her drains at night before she goes to bed. The cockroaches crawl and fly. Some of it depends on where you live. For instance, our neighbor has centipedes in her house all the time, but we have only had six or so in all the years we have lived here. But she lives on a slab, and our house is built up off the ground, so that might have something to do with it. If you don’t mind the chemicals, Terminex can be a solution. We don’t use chemicals on our property at all.
Best of luck to you as you make your decision. Thanks so much for reading along!

Q: Can we get by with one car?
A: For many years Mike and I both worked on the West side, me as a concierge at a hotel, and he as a boat captain. We tried and tried to get our schedules to align so that we could ride to work together, and it just rarely happened. Many people end up working two jobs, and that throws the one car thing out of whack also. And there is the bus, if all else fails!

Q:In terms of neighborhoods is Makawao the only “artsy” community?
A: The artists live all over the island, but there is a common conception that most artists and photographers like Upcountry, which encompasses Kula, Haiku, Olinda, Paia, Pukalani, and Makawao.

Q: We both just really enjoy the idea of community and being a part of the place we live.
A: Another common conception is that the Upcountry towns are little bit more community minded. For instance, Makawao is definitely a walking town, and so is Paia, but Kula is spread out all over Upcountry.

Q: Is a place that is not HUD approved a “safer” neighborhood?
A: This is a new one on me… As landlords, we just got HUD approved, to help a new tenant out, and it was a bit of a nightmare. Lots of paperwork, we didn’t get paid for months, etc. So I can see why landlords balk.

Q: We read somewhere that places offering fully furnished had a higher chance of termites, is that true?
A: Not that I have heard.

Q: Us both being dog people, we have slightly broken hearts when we see so many postings stating no dogs, are landlords that strict about it?
A: I get lots of questions about things like this. Here’s the deal: many people moving to Maui are just flakes. They are running from something somewhere else, they’ve had a drug problem in the past and want a fresh start, etc. So landlords are rightfully leary. In 10 years of renting our unit, we’ve only had one tenant who was like family. And lots and lots of flakes and problem children! So I believe landlords make it tough on people, to see what they are really made of. That said, we have always allowed pets. It got bad one time when a girl said she might get a cat, then got one without telling us, then threatened to sue us when we said she had to have a pet addendum! It’s enough to drive landlords crazy.

Q: How high are utilities?
A: Crazy high. The Killowatt per hour on Maui runs at least five times that of most places on the mainland. The cost of utilities can be prohibitive. We have an 1800 square-foot house with a 700 ft.² attached Ohana. Our electricity ranges anywhere from $300 to close to $400, depending on the time of year. But we never use the window air conditioner much, and tend to be very, very hot. And we live at a 1500 foot elevation! The cable/internet Bill inches up all the time, and is currently over $130 per month. We do not have a gardener, I don’t know what they charge.
AND don’t get me started on the price of food!

Q: C’mon,is the food REALLY that high?
A: Oh, honey. I would walk on the ceiling if we got Trader Joe’s on Maui and all the grocery stores had mainland prices. I love to cook, and it just makes me crazy-stressed to go to the grocery store. Five dollar loaves of bread, eight dollar gallons of milk. We LIVE at Costco. Then of course, we have to store all that stuff, and eat it all before it goes bad.

Q: We are finding also there are lots of spaces online saying they won’t rent to site unseen. Should we try to reach out to a real-estate agent for help?
A: Probably. Also, a vacation rental for a time period would not be a bad idea. That way you can check out an area, and know whether not you want to live there. Again, I strongly urge people to visit Maui multiple times before making the decision to move!

Q: What are is the best way to “fit in”? We do not currently surf and do not smoke weed (do lots of people there smoke weed??)
A: We are not stoners, and our friends are not stoners. I think it is who you choose to align yourself with. That’s not to say there is not plenty of pot on the island. And meth.

As far as fitting in: depending on what you choose to do with your time and what you get involved with could affect the quality of people you meet. As far as not surfing, what do you like to do? There is no doubt that water activities reign supreme here. So there is kayaking and snorkeling, and for group activities canoe paddling clubs, hula classes, ballroom dancing classes (which we took for six years at the Kihei community center and it was a blast. alohaballroom.com. cha-cha, East Coast Swing, etc.) Also, the Sierra Club, the Pacific Whale Foundation to volunteer, Humane Society volunteer, and beach clean-ups.

Q: Is it REALLY that hard to get a job? I work as a restaurant manager in New York.
A: I think a strong work ethic probably reigns supreme. I think there’s also a chance that an outsider can have an edge if they are driven to succeed, versus a more laid-back lackluster local person. Does that make sense? I do know that many locals set out to specifically get restaurant management degrees, and food and beverage service backgrounds, just so they will be employable here.

If I were you, I would plan to take any job that I could get, even waitressing, etc. Then when you have been here for a period of time, they will see you are serious about staying. That’s always the big question: is this person going to actually stay on Maui? Most people don’t make it two years.

So I would plan to have plenty of cash reserve, to hold me over till the real money could start rolling in. In the meantime, you could apply for positions from there, and see what the reception is…lukewarm, chilly?

Q: I found your blog by searching “blogs about moving to Maui” on Google. I am planning on moving there with my husband and youngest son in 2015. I have a job lined up but, it is still scary. I love reading your posts. I have a question for your New FAQ section (which is fantastic). My husband is a plumber. We have heard from locals that plumbers and other tradespeople are in high demand because it’s hard to find people who will work when the surf is good. Have you heard this?
A: Aloha Janelle,
I believe that good, honest tradespeople who know what they’re doing, and show up on time (show up at all!) will be in demand anywhere in the country. But you are right…the surf certainly has a way of making people disappear on Maui. Last week we had lunch at Hard Rock Cafe on Front Street in Lahaina, and it took well over an hour to get our food. We were too hungry to leave, and we kept thinking it would arrive… And we were all in agreement that “The surf must be up.” Meaning, the cook had disappeared.
One disclaimer: it would be my opinion that going to work for a plumbing company rather than trying to start a business from scratch would be the way to go. Best of luck to all of you!

Q:I was hoping you can tell me about any social stigma I may encounter. I have heard mainlanders are not embraced by locals but again others say this is not true. Some blogs claim that the more caucasion you look the harder things will be for you.
A: Surfers can be very territorial! Also it seems that if you live down in the tourist areas (Kihei, Lahaina/Westside) it is easier than trying to fit in elsewhere. Realize that for some Hawaiians, America will always be the country that overthrew Hawaii’s monarch. They are angry. Be respectful and wait for them to reach out first. I am a friendly person (and blondish, blue-eyed) and I finally decided to just smile at everyone, and stop trying to second-guess their position.

Q: My strategy is to join some local meetup.com groups,find a local watering hole to become a regular at and create a routine where people will get used to seeing me and observe that I am a very warm person.Like the farmers market,gym,horse stable. Is this a good path and how long will it take for people to not look at me sideways?
A: See above. Note that it can be VERY hard for kids trying to fit in at school, so parents need to be aware of that. But for your situation, remember two things: One, you can probably never go wrong with volunteering. And two: you can never go wrong with food. Hawaiians love food, and that’s the best inroad in any situation!

Which emotions surround you when thinking about moving to Maui or Hawaii? Anxiety? Excitement? Second-guessing?

How will your family (particularly grown children or aging parents) deal with your leaving them behind? And are your school-age children prepared to possibly be bullied in school or in the surf when first moving here…or even longer?

Are you prepared to have to FLY EVERYWHERE you go from now on?

Are you prepared to be sweaty and hot ten months out of the year? (Hard to believe if you currently live in a cold climate, but we get just as tired of being HOT as you do of being cold!) Maui has gone up ten degrees in the last ten years.

Have you done your homework? Are you aware that the sugar company burns sugar cane (and PVC irrigation pipes and pesticides) for ten months out of every year? And that those with asthma and even healthy people are greatly affected? Are you aware of the VOG (volcanic organic gas from the volcano on the Big Island) and how much it impacts residents on Maui? You can read my blog posts on these matters. And remember, for the most part, the trade winds blow toward Kihei.

No place is perfect, not even “Paradise”. As Leonard Cohen said in his song “Anthem”: “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

It’s The Dream to move to Maui and many times the decision is made in haste while enjoying a perfect vacation. Think about a cooling-off period. Maybe just thinking about the possibility is enough? You can always decide later on.

As they say in the islands, ’nuff already…
Wishing you the very best as you make your decision about a move to Maui.
Much Aloha, Jamaica.
There is a book called Maui 101 that can provide some insight to newcomers:

18 thoughts on “FAQ’S on Moving to Maui

  1. Thankyou so much for writing this!!! I vacationed there with my wife in May and LOVED it so much that all I can think about is moving there. My wife is a LOT more hesitant and really doesn’t want to, so I’ve been trying to research as much as possible in an attempt to show her that a lot of her fears are really unfounded. But we don’t have jobs lined up and it is a ton more expensive, so maybe it’s not worth it, sucks for me because I really took to the island (and not because of the vacationy aspect) but if she’s not sold then maybe there’s good reason. So thanks again for the unbiased review and extremely helpful advice. Maybe we will maybe we won’t…thanks either way

    • Aloha Stephen,
      Thank you for writing. So glad the FAQ’s helped. I try hard to give people the full picture! I know what you mean about that “just got to move there” feeling. It was all I could think about after my first couple of trips to Maui. Of course, the reality never quite matches the fantasy!
      I wish you and your wife well in whatever you decide. If you have questions, let me know.
      Warm Aloha, Jamaica

  2. I’ll be coming back to Maui for the third third time in two years in October . Last time in April . We seem to like Kehie, I am definitely a beach person. In April we started to go up county from Piai however we didn’t quite make it. We ‘ll make it up there this time.
    I ended up retire before I wanted to and basically a professional Volunteer, I was introduced to Habitat for humanity on my first visit during fourth Friday Kehie, that may be a sign, that’s what I do here in the Pacific Northwet. I also discovered Marty Dread I have looked in to renting a room for a couple months to test the waters so to speak, I have the money and a steady income ,its just fear that keeps me from making the jump. Just found your blog and it looks like it may ease my fear.. I also met two separate people who made the move with dogs that too could be another sign. I am all into the sense of community and getting out of the rat race here. . I discovered mystery books by JoAnn Basset, just started “Livin’ Lahnaina loca”
    and that’s where I am today. Any ideas on what to look out for upcountry?
    Aloha. and Mahalo

    • Aloha Chris, sorry for the long response… We were away for a month. I understand the fear thing. One book that helped me when I was considering moving to Maui is “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway” by Susan Jeffers, PhD. She says: “Obviously, the real issue has nothing to do with the fear itself, but rather, how we hold the fear. For some, the fear is totally irrelevant. For others, it creates a state of paralysis. The former hold their fear from a position of power (Choice, energy and action), and the latter hold it from a position of pain ( paralysis). I wish you all the best as you make your decision. As far as what to look for Upcountry, it is much colder the higher you go up the mountain, and many people need wood stoves. It is less windy up there, which is nice, and very high up, they probably get less of the sugarcane smoke, which is a very good thing.
      Good luck, and thank you so much for writing!

      Aloha, Jamaica

  3. Hello! This is an amazing post thank you for taking the to do this! My future husband & I are discussing moving from California to Maui after the wedding. I am reading all the tips about finding a job before hand & they are great. He is an aspiring photographer & I am a hair & make up artist. When we visited in September we saw atleast 15 weddings. Do you think getting into that line of work can be promising on the beautiful island of Maui? We were hoping to look into renting somewhere in the Napili/ Lahina area. 😁 I hear that is an expensive area too.

    • Aloha,
      Congrats on your upcoming nuptials. I would tell anyone moving to Maui to land a job (hopefully in your intended field) and then slowly build your own business while still working. Of those 15 weddings, did they all seem lavish? Seems that would be the type of wedding where they would hire hair and makeup….unlike the recent beach wedding of my niece’s 20-something friend, which was a handful of people on the beach. I would talk to those already in the business. You could approach it as the bride you will be….and see whay they have to say. Same with the photography.

      The Westside can be expensive, depends what you’re looking to rent. Be aware that there is an almost-dire rental shortage at this time. My niece has been looking for a long time and there were always 18 applicants ahead of her.

      I wish you both all the best and a lifetime of happiness.
      Aloha, Jamaica

  4. Thank you for this post. I came back to Texas from Maui two months ago and have not been rational since then. Your perspective helped me to realize that the timing isn’t right and I need that “cool off” period. Despite meeting a local that is able to help me get work, I don’t have that nest egg saved to help me if things go wrong. Throwing caution to the wind might be ok on the mainland but in Maui, the islands can be unforgiving. I met many homeless people while there who told me their stories. Most of them came over on an impulse without a safety net. Again, thanks. This helps me to plan better before I make such a huge decision.

    • Aloha Mindy,
      Very wise of you to indulge that cooling-off period. Maui bewitches people like no place else I have seen….so steady and slow is the way to go.
      Wishing you all the best as you make your decision.
      Aloha, Jamaica

  5. I am 70, female, retired, and can afford the move. What would you recommend as a length of time to visit as a trial resident? I am serious about relocating and want to give a trial a fair chance. Am thinking of Wailuku.

    • Aloha Charyl,
      I used to say that people should at least be here for some of the cane-burning season and the VOG season (which used to be about two months, around January and February.) But the VOG is in so thick right now, in JULY, that we can’t get over it. People with breathing problems are running the air conditioning and trying to stay indoors. The other thing I would allow enough time for is to see how you fit in socially. Go to some meetup meetings, attend some groups you are interested in, and see what you think. I would give it a minimum of six months…a year if possible. The magic of Maui needs to wear off a little and a dose of reality needs to happen. Also by then, people have gone to the beach every day and the luster of that has worn off a little, too.
      Let me know if you have other questions and what you decide.

      Aloha! Jamaica

  6. I guess I didn’t phrase my question properly, although the VOG could be an issue. I’m not looking for new BFFs or a new family, I’m not a joiner. I just want to live on Maui. I always feel healthier and more content when I am there and think it would be perfect for me. I’m not anti-social or a hermit, but I do enjoy my own company and have plenty of interests to occupy my time. PS – I don’t do water, unless it’s rain or a shower. Is actually moving there and finding a place to live the big problem everyone makes it out to be? I do have another trip there scheduled in October.

    • Aloha Charyl,
      Yes, unfortunately, finding a place to live here CAN be the big deal people make it out to be. It might depend on what part of the island you want to live on. Wailuku might be easier than the beach areas. It took my niece, who is 20, and manages a store here, months to find a place to live. She ended up in a studio in Kihei for $1100 a month. Landlords don’t want to rent to people who they are sure are not moving here permanently. Your age might actually benefit you, and a healthy bank account couldn’t hurt.
      Many rental deals are done through friends of friends (that’s the way a couple I know from Pennsylvania just nabbed a rental Upcountry). There are simply more people wanting affordable rentals than there are places to live.
      Best of luck as you begin your search!
      Aloha, Jamaica

  7. Aloha Jamaica!, I love, love, love your blog! My husband and I have been to Maui several times and are totally in love with the island. Ok, I am even more than he is but we both equally love it. Yes, we are aware living there is not like being on vacation but the peace and zen I (we) feel when we are there is priceless…being on the east coast is a totally different mindset. Can you give me an idea as of right now what the job market is like and are condo/housing prices still very high or has it started leveraging off? Also, do they have job placement / consulting agencies like on the mainland? I would definitely want to work when we got there.
    There was only one year I experienced the VOG. I think that’s what it was because my eyes were really teary and I had to get claritin. Funny thing, the next day I was fine and did not need medicine for the remainder of the trip. We usually go around October / November time frame. Also, does the VOG affect everyone or mostly new main landers who have moved there. Whenever I go to Maui, I know this is the place (I am sure you’ve heard this before, lol). Seriously though, we have checked out other beach / sea side towns on the East coast and nothing gives the feeling of Maui. We’ve had great experience with locals on vacation, however, your advice about locals being weary of newcomers is well taken!
    I will keep reading your blog and taking your good advice.

    D. Klein

    • Aloha!
      Yes, Maui is definitely “the place” for many. It’s finding and keeping the job, and the cost of housing that keeps it from being more crowded. I am not aware of any job placement head-hunter type companies. Probably because most people work for small companies like charter tours, or they waitress, or bar-tend. We know one guy who is a boat captain, a bartender, and is starting a tree – trimming service. A true jack of all trades’s!

      As far as the VOG, it seems to be cumulative. For years it didn’t bother Mike, and his throat is sore all the time he’s on the boat now. Peolpe who come on vacation for a week or three tend to not notice it, and they just think it’s “fog.” We are starting to hear more stories of people leaving the island because of it. One couple who live on the west side are selling their gorgeous house because of it. The husband grew up on Maui, and most times people who grew up here do not want to leave. They say it’s simply because they can’t take the VOG any more.

      Hope this helps. Thanks for writing!
      Aloha, Jamaica

  8. Great FAQ! Husband and I had been to Kauai many times (and lived like locals), so our trip to Maui was a pleasant surprise.
    Your words of wisdom are spot-on.
    This blonde haole says, “smile, be pleasant and quiet, make eye contact.” It helps.

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