Living in Hawaii 10

It’s Whatever Wednesdays again. So let’s talk a bit about where I live: Hawaii.

Hawaii probably isn’t the first place on your list of places to live. However, I think it’s on most people’s places to vacation or honeymoon to… for good reason.

Let’s explore.

So first some background. Like I discussed in my About page, I’m a radiologist currently living in Hawaii. I came out back in April 2014 and have been out here ever since.

I live in the capital, Honolulu, on the island of Oahu. Oahu is best known for Waikiki, North Shore, and Diamond Head. It’s a great place to vacation, and Waikiki is pretty much the most tourist friendly part of the entire island. There are plenty of things to do within walking distance if you stay in Waikiki. However… if you’re a local, you tend to stay away from Waikiki because it’s pretty crowded. This brings me to my next point:

Traffic is bad. Like really bad.

Traffic is pretty bad in Honolulu, which is kind of non-intuitive given how small the island is. Honolulu kind of just became this metropolitan area, growing out of just primarily a vacation/resort area. The long term plan for Honolulu did not predict the need for commutes. As such there is really only one way in and one way out of Honolulu whether you’re going to the Leeward (West) side, Windward (East) side, or Mauka (North – toward the mountains). If there are any accidents on any of these major roads, your commute time can triple. Zipnado Carmageddgon occurred in 2015 related to a broken Zipper Lane which caused traffic to back up for miles. For this reason, most of the people who work in Honolulu try to stay as close to town as possible, but that comes at a premium since:

Housing costs are exorbitant. 

The median housing price for Honolulu is $627,700 (8-17-2016). However, that is for all of Honolulu. Let’s look at Manoa, a somewhat affluent part of Honolulu, which has good public elementary schools, Noelani and Manoa, as well as being close to the good private schools on the island, Punahou and Iolani. It is also is close to the major public university of the area, UH – Manoa.

The median housing price for Manoa is $1,098,800 (8-17-2016). Just to prove my point, here is another reference. In this report, median home price in Manoa July 2015 was $1.14 million and in July 2016 it is $1.2 million. In fact, when my wife was interviewing for her job, everyone she interviewed with referred to what they called the “million dollar fixer-upper”. They laughed a bit after they said this, but it’s really not very far from the truth. Ok, so it costs a lot to buy a house… what about cost of living? Well…

Cost of living is also very, very high.

The most recent piece on this is “Priced out of Paradise“. Virtually everything is more expensive here: gas, groceries, clothes, etc. If it “exists” then it’s more expensive here. Electricity is also extremely expensive, which is why Hawaii is one of the states that is adopting solar panels so quickly.

Ok… so then what do you do?

You do what you can do minimize these costs as much as possible.

For example, shop at places where prices are pretty reasonable.

Costco is a necessity.

Do you really need 5 lbs of ketchup? No. However, because of the extended family culture of Hawaii, it usually makes sense. This especially makes sense for non-perishable items like paper towels, toilet paper, etc. which you buy in bulk for cheaper.

Amazon Prime is almost a necessity.

The $99 subscription fee is kind of rough, but when you realize that shipping to Oahu usually won’t be free from most other places and may take a week or more, having the free and shorter shipping time is very helpful. Just so we’re clear, it’s not really “2 Day Shipping” when it’s Hawaii, it’s more like 3-5 days… but that’s still good! I buy virtually everything from Amazon and it is shipped right to my door.

For example, we moved my daughter out of her convertible crib/toddler bed and changed it back into a conventional crib for my son. I bought a toddler bed from Amazon and had it shipped here (with a mattress even). I could have bought a similar toddler bed and mattress at Babies ‘R’ Us, but it would have cost significantly more, and I would not have had the benefit of doing relatively extensive research online about the item.

And then there is:

Island Fever

When you live on Oahu, you can’t just decide to “drive away”. You need to get on a plane or boat to really get away. This  is a real phenomenon and usually hits people around 6 to 12 months into their move. My wife and I don’t have this problem since we did 2 years of medical school on an even smaller island. However, for many others they will feel the need to jump on a plane and get “back to civilization”. The problem is “civilization” is still a 5-6 hour flight away. For this reason, I would say a majority of transplants to Hawaii don’t stay.

With all of these problems… why do you live on Oahu then?

It’s true, I could live somewhere else with a better cost of living and more “bang for my buck”. However, like I’ve said before, I really like my job. More so than that, my wife really has an aversion to the cold (other than ice cream, she loves that). My daughter and son love it here and get to be outside pretty much whenever they want.

Are all of these reasons enough to justify the exorbitant housing costs and astronomical cost of living? I don’t know for sure, but I think so.


Hawaii is a great place to vacation.

However, living here is difficult because housing costs and cost of living are so high.

Island Fever is also real.

Nonetheless, it’s home.



Agree? Disagree? Questions, Comments and Suggestions are welcome.

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