What is it really like to live in Kauai? Take it from us: It’s a unique, quirky, often surprising, and incredible experience that you’ll never forget. If you’re considering relocating to the Garden Isle, we put together a list of 11 must-know things to help you make an easy transition to the island, get settled quickly and easily, and enjoy your time on Kauai to the fullest. Let’s dive in!
#1: You won’t need as much stuff as you think.
We know plenty of people who have moved to Kauai with a only suitcase and the clothes on their back—and they rarely regret it. Moving to Hawaii offers you the chance to live a simpler lifestyle, one in which you might only rarely have to put on closed-toe shoes, and you’ll almost never need clothes fancier than resort casual. All that winter gear? All that fancy tableware for large dinner parties? All those family heirlooms that you plan to pass on to your kids? You probably won’t need it in Kauai, so you’ll want to consider downsizing before your move. (And it will save you money on your relocation!) That said . . .
#2: Bring a rain jacket.
If you don’t already have a trusty rain shell, you might want to pick one up for each member of the family before you head to Kauai. As on most of the Hawaiian Islands, short rain showers are common (as are the resulting rainbows!). Rather than let the rain spoil your plans, it’s easy to throw on a jacket and continue to go about your business. Plus, if you’re a hiker, you’ll be glad to have a small, packable jacket to keep you dry during your outdoor adventures. And while we’re on the topic of what to bring . . .
#3: Shipping your car to Kauai isn’t a no-brainer.
One of the biggest questions we get here at Royal Hawaiian is, “Should I ship my car to Kauai with me?” Truth be told, it’s not always a good idea to ship your car to Hawaii, especially if it’s an older model with only a few years left on it. In that case, you might be better off selling it in your current location and buying a car new or used here on Kauai. Some people here have also had luck shopping for a new car on Oahu, where car prices can be lower, then shipping the car over to Kauai.
By the way, if you need help making this decision, our complete guide to shipping your car to Hawaii will answer most of your questions in this arena.
That brings us to the other area of moving to Kauai that triggers a lot of questions.
#4: If you’re bringing pets, start the process early.
Because the Hawaiian Islands are rabies-free—and home to countless of flora and fauna you won’t find anywhere else—the state has strict regulations around bringing pets with you. We won’t sugar-coat it: There’s a long list of requirements you’ll need to meet and a sheaf of paperwork to complete if you’re moving with a cat or a dog. As a result, you’ll want to get started as early as possible to make sure your pet doesn’t have to go through mandatory quarantine boarding once you arrive.
Your veterinarian will be an excellent resource for you, and we’ve compiled this guide to bringing your pets to Hawaii to move you through the process, step-by-step.
By the way, going through this process will be excellent preparation for moving to Kauai because you’re going to have to . . .
#5: Get ready to go with the flow.
A lot of people wonder whether they’ll be able to “fit in” on Kauai. One of the best ways to assimilate is to accept from the get-go that Kauai operates on island time—a calm, unhurried pace that leaves plenty of room for pleasant greetings and the opportunity to shoot the breeze (also known as “talking story” here on Kauai). When you’re able to loosen your expectations around your schedule and simply go with the flow, that’s when you’ll be able to fully embrace this island and its charms. (And that’s also when the island starts to embrace you back!)
#6: You’ll learn to love Hawaii’s local produce.
Many mainlanders are struck by how many fruits and vegetables flourish here in Hawaii, often right in their neighbors’ backyards. You’ll find apple bananas, lemons, limes, kale, bok choy, herbs, oranges, avocados, papayas, mangoes, lychee, and many more grown locally in Hawaii. And since all the non-native produce gets shipped in via ocean container, everything that’s grown locally is significantly fresher. Once you make the move to Kauai, you’ll discover a high level of appreciation for the bounty of the land.
Insider Tip: For the best deals, keep your eyes out for those little stands on the side of the road that will sell you fresh produce, often on the honor system. All you have to do is drop some money in the box, and you’ll drive away with a stash of some of the freshest produce around.
#7: If you’ve got a Costco membership, keep it.
We know that you probably didn’t move all the way to Kauai to shop at Costco, but hear us out. Whether or not you’re a fan of the big box store, there’s one thing about Costco that’s undeniable: 99% of the time, it’s got the cheapest gas on island. A quick check the day this article was written put the gas price at Costco at $0.46 cheaper per gallon than a nearby competitor.i With a price differential like that, you’ll easily pay for your membership over a year—and then some. So even if you’re cutting a few of your ties to mainland life when you’re moving to Kauai, consider holding on to that Costco membership.
#8: If you see it, buy it on the spot.
We’ve all had those indecisive shopping moments where see something you like, but you decide to think about it for a day or two. On an island like Kauai, inventory doesn’t get replenished as much as it does on the mainland. When an item gets bought out, it might not be restocked for days, weeks, or even months. So if you’re shopping on Kauai and you spot something great, go ahead and grab it—or you’ll be taking a big gamble that it will be there when you come back. If you moved to paradise to enjoy the present moment, consider this an exercise in living the dream!
Just remember that sometimes, the dream does collide with reality.
#9: Yes, island traffic is a thing.
It’s true. Even paradise shares some challenges with the mainland. Now, on Kauai, you won’t be sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a five-lane superhighway. Instead, you might sit in a backup on a two-lane road caused by a long line of parents picking up their keiki from school.
Our advice? Choose your neighborhood carefully with your commute in mind so that you’re not spending your days on Kauai commuting. And remember that you live on “Kauai time” now, so, when you do get stuck, relish the opportunity to enjoy the island’s beautiful scenery. That will also help you with this next must-know.
#10: You might have to remind yourself why you fell in love with Kauai in the first place.
If you’ve shared your dreams of moving to Kauai with others, you’ve probably already been told that living on Kauai is totally different from being a tourist on the island. While there is some truth to this statement, we think there’s another piece of wisdom to be gleaned here.
When you move to Kauai, don’t forget what it’s like to be a tourist enjoying the Garden Isle. Plan a weekend excursion. Head to happy hour at a bar overlooking the water. Hit the beach for the day. If the everyday frustrations of island living start to build up, these kinds of activities will remind you why you moved to Kauai in the first place. (They’re also a great cure for that famous “island fever” that people love to talk about!) If you make time for fun and adventure on a regular basis, you’ll get so much more out of your time on Kauai. Finally . . .
#11: If you’ve never been here before, consider a pre-move visit.
Yes, it’s true. Some people decide to move to a place like Kauai sight unseen. If this is your plan, we admire your adventurous spirit—and we’d gently suggest you consider making a visit first. Come on over to the Garden Isle and tour a few places for rent. Go grocery shopping. If you have kids, visit a few schools and see what they’re like. Check out the prices on a couple of cars. In other words, live like a Kauai resident for a week and see whether the island is right for you. As we said earlier, the Garden Isle is a unique place. It isn’t for everybody. However, those who love it really love it. If you come for a pre-move visit, you’ll just know.
Choosing Kauai with Confidence
There’s always a little bit of uncertainty in the air when you decide to move to a new location. However, the more research you do—and the more knowledge you get under your belt—the more confident you’ll feel about your transition. These 11 items are a good start for your move to Kauai, and make sure you also check out our Insider’s Guide to Making Your Home on Kauai.
Need some help with your Kauai move? We do local moves, interisland moves, mainland moves, and even international moves. We’d love to help you with yours. Just get in touch with our Lihue-based team for a complimentary quote to get started.