16 Pros and Cons of Retiring in Hawaii

An image of Snorkeling Bay in Oahu, Hawaii featuring a sweeping cove with rolling hills that roll down to aqua colored ocean water containing coral

Picture it, you on the beach at sunset, enjoying the perfect Hawaii weather. Are you interested in spending your retirement surfing or snorkeling? If this sounds like a dream to you, you may already be considering retiring in Hawaii.  

While there are certainly plenty of pros to living on the big island, there are also some cons you may not have considered. Either way, these could be some real deal-breakers when it comes to choosing to retire in Hawaii.  

While this might be your goal, there are many things to contemplate when making such a big decision. Making a move to the big island is a real commitment. Remember, our 50th state is in the middle of the Pacific, and the closest U.S. state is Alaska, about 2800 miles away!

Having all of the information about life in Hawaii is key. Read on to truly understand what’s so great and not so great about retiring to Hawaii. So, let’s dig in and arm you with all of the information you need when deciding to retire to this island paradise.  

Pros of Retiring to Hawaii

Here are the benefits of Hawaii retirement.

1. Weather

Alright, as referenced above and obvious to anyone who has seen pictures or visited Hawaii, it truly is a beautiful destination. So let’s start with one of the main pros of retiring in Hawaii, the weather.  

You may be battling cold temperatures as we speak and Hawaii sounds like just where you would like to be right now. The weather in Hawaii is one of the main draws. Average temperatures range from 85-90° in the summer and 79-83° in the winter months.  

Consider what part of the island in which you choose to live, as temperatures vary, especially depending on altitude. If you are looking for warmer weather, make sure to relocate closer to the coast.  

Also, consider that some areas are prone to more rain than others. If you are looking for drier weather, the leeward side of the Big Island will be perfect for you. On to the next pro, great weather affords you the opportunity to enjoy nature, and Hawaii offers plenty of opportunities.  

2. Nature and Activities

Hawaii is near to incomparable when it comes to the beautiful nature you can enjoy if you retire on the island. You probably picture the beautiful white sand beaches with turquoise waters when you think of the big island, and you’re not wrong!

If you’re considering doing more than just enjoying the beautiful beaches, there are plenty of activities you can enjoy in Hawaii. Surfing, boating, snorkeling are some of the many water activities common to life on the big island. There are also lots of uninhabited islands to explore.  

If that’s not your speed, but you still want to enjoy nature, Hawaii boasts beautiful waterfalls, hiking trails, or even scenic drives. Rain forests and coastal cliffs are also part of Hawaii’s natural beauty.  

Hawaii also offers a wide variety of other activities including biking, canoeing, Paddleboarding, kayaking, and even snowboarding. Yes, you can surf in the morning and ski in the afternoon!

Take in the diverse wildlife and enjoy the common areas around the island, as they are accessible to everyone. Of course, gentle waves and picturesque sunrises and sunsets will come standard with life on the island.  

3. The People and the Vibe

A photograph depicting a male Hawaiian fire dancer kneeling on a beach. He is holding a firestick beneath his leg

When you think of Hawaii, you might think of a laid-back island vibe. Well, that’s exactly how Hawaiians roll. The people of Hawaii will be the first to welcome you, as they are known for being hospitable.  

If you look to incorporate the innate laid-back attitude into your life, you will find it easier to adjust to your new surroundings. Maintaining the pace of your previous lifestyle may not work on the islands of Hawaii.  

Also, with this vibe comes a bit different of a mindset than you might see stateside. The majority of Hawaii residents tend to value their family and personal relationships more than wealth or material possessions.  

4. Culture and Attractions

You will find that although Hawaii is a chain of islands isolated in the Pacific, diversity is evident. This is in regards to not only culture but also music, food, and entertainment. Also enjoy many farmers markets, art galleries, museums, shopping, and historical landmarks.  

As you can see, living in Hawaii affords you the luxury of the conveniences of a large city, and at the same time, the isolation from the 12 hour workday mentality. Island life moves at its own pace, so be sure that you are ready to acclimate to this.  

5. Low Crime and Safe Neighborhoods

If you’re coming from a big city, or even a small town, the low crime rates in Hawaii should be a selling point. Because there is literally nowhere to run, crime levels are low, and most neighborhoods have strong neighborhood watch programs.  

Of course, law enforcement plays a key role in maintaining low crime rates. Armed robberies and homicides are at a minimum on the islands.  

6. Health/Property Tax Cost

Hawaii is known for its efficient health care system, something often not found stateside. The average health cost is below the national average by 11.4%. Consider that with the pleasant weather and numerous activities, Hawaiians tend to have an overall healthy population.  

Hawaiians ranked in the third-highest spot in the United Health Foundation’s Senior Health Report. In addition to physical activity, both good clinical care and community support bump up their ranking. 

Hawaii is labeled tax-friendly in some areas like property taxes for retirees. Hawaii ranks as the state with the lowest property tax rate, coming in at just 0.28%, well below the national average.  Also, Hawaii does not tax social security benefits.  

7. Infrastructure

When you think of Hawaii, you don’t often think of infrastructure. But, rest assured Hawaii’s infrastructure is well funded. If you don’t want to drive, there is also ample public transportation. While there is often construction, this also ensures that roads and highways are well tended to. 

Related: Pros and Cons of Living in California

Cons of Retiring in Hawaii

Here are the downsides of Hawaii retirement.

1. High Cost of Living

An image showing a sea shell sitting on a pile of U.S. hundred dollar bills

Probably the biggest con for retiring in Hawaii is the  high cost of living. The main reason is that most goods have to be shipped on land or water. The cost of housing alone is on the steep side.

For instance, if you were looking to rent, a studio apartment would cost no less than $750 per month, and a one-bedroom $1300 per month. The average rental in Hawaii is around $2413 per month, well above the national average.   

If you are looking to buy, the average house cost is $672,429, according to NeighborhoodScout. While that is quite steep, that is not the only cost you will be paying more for than you would stateside. All said, the cost of living in Hawaii is high, so make that one of your considerations prior to moving.  

2. Lack of Goods Available

Look for an increase in your utility bill because there is a high cost in propane, electricity, and gas. Expect to pay more for transportation and groceries, too. For example, you can pay up to $7.00 for a loaf of bread or $10.00 for a gallon of milk.  

Lastly, don’t expect a break with your auto insurance. The costs are high for even excellent drivers. Hawaii is a no-fault state and for full coverage, you will pay about $1165 per year. For minimum coverage, you will pay around $487 per year.  

3. Climate

While the weather could be the main selling point for moving to Hawaii upon retirement, it might also be a deterrent. If you are a person that loves the change of seasons, Hawaii might not be right for you. The weather really doesn’t change except for the 10° difference between summer and winter.  

4. Rain

As stated above, some areas receive quite a bit of rain, so if you’re looking for consistently sunny skies, make sure you do some research into where specifically you’re looking to relocate.  

Hawaii as a whole gets about 70 inches of rain per year.  

This can result in flash flooding. If you do happen to choose one of the rainier areas, mold will become an issue. Coupled with the rain, the humidity will also play a big part in mold literally everywhere.  

5. Severe Weather

An image showing storm clouds rolling across Hanalei Bay, Kauai, Hawaii

Again, be careful choosing your new home area. While rare, Hawaii has experienced hurricanes. More common, however, are tropical storms. Hawaii is on the border of a tropical zone. Strong winds or tropical storms occur about once or twice a year.  

These storms can result in giant ocean swells, gusting winds, torrential rains, and flash flooding. The biggest threat comes from tsunamis. Hawaii has a long history of tsunamis, and since 1946 more than 220 people have died.   

Tsunamis can be generated from around the globe and can even be locally generated. If you choose to retire in Hawaii, you will want to be aware of your evacuation zone and the safety protocols you need to follow.  

6. Lava Flows

If you know anything about Hawaii, some of that information probably includes the fact that there are a lot of volcanoes, and some of these are more active than others. One concern for future retirees is lava flows.

Generally, these lava flows are slow to advance, meaning there is often time for people to seek safety. However, these are very destructive to everything in their paths. It is important to note that these lava flow paths are increasing as more development encroaches on active volcanoes.  

7. Infrastructure, Yes Again…

Because roads in Hawaii were not built to handle the amount of traffic that travels them now, those commuting in Hawaii will often experience significant delays. As mentioned above, although the frequent construction projects keep the roads smooth, they don’t do the same for traffic.  

8. Island Fever

Island Fever or Rock Fever is a common occurrence for those who transplant to Hawaii. This “fever” is like the feeling of claustrophobia. Because the islands of Hawaii aren’t large, you can start to feel like you’re almost trapped.

Typically, this happens anywhere from about six months to a year after you have relocated. The smaller proximity, coupled with a lack of immediate resources, fewer choices in entertainment such as bars or restaurants, and the slower pace may leave you feeling like you can’t escape.  

If you are used to wide-open spaces or taking long drives or road trips, Hawaii might not be the right choice for your retirement. If you feel like you could get over this island fever, you still might want to stick to your guns.  

9. Critters

Well, if you’re not new to Hawaii, you know that there are all kinds of critters on the islands. However, in this section, we will fill you in on the pests that can be dangerous. 

Hang on to your hat, and if you don’t like bugs, you might want to avoid this section altogether. Just know that they are there, and some of them can bite.  

Centipedes are very common in Hawaii. They can range anywhere from one to 12 inches. Yep, that’s right, a foot-long centipede. You will also want to know that they can make their nests in your house and that they do bite.  

Cockroaches are really everywhere in the world, even on the remote islands of Hawaii. There are 19 different species on the islands, but only three are near humans. As if that’s not enough, the rate of encounter is high. Be aware that they fly and crawl and are on the constant search for food. They can bite, but this is rare.

There is only one type of scorpion on the islands of Hawaii. While the rate of encounter is low, if you get stung, it is painful. Even worse, if you are allergic to venom, you will need to seek medical treatment as this can be a life or death situation.  

You wouldn’t think it, but the seemingly harmless caterpillar can be a nuisance as well. One species living on the islands has spiny hairs that can sting you. The risk of encounter is low, but again, you can be allergic to their venom, so you will want to seek medical attention if that is the case.  

Lastly, let’s not forget that Hawaii is home to bees, wasps, fire ants, bed bugs, and spiders. The islands do have both Black Widow and Brown Widow spiders, so you will want to take precautions accordingly.  

Related: Best Places to Live in Hawaii

In Conclusion

If you are a retiree considering relocating to Hawaii, you have a lot to consider. While there are numerous pros to living in Hawaii, you won’t want to discount the cons. Depending upon the type of person you are, Hawaii can be the lovely oasis you see on postcards.

But, the cons can be just as convincing, especially if you are not prepared for the culture or vibe of Hawaii or some of the other adjustments you will have to make. Also, moving from the mainland to this chain of islands can be a really big change.  

Native Hawaiians might tell you that most transplants don’t stay for long. But, if you’re prepared and understand what you are both gaining and giving up, you should be in great shape to plan your Hawaii retirement.  

Who wouldn’t want to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world? One could get used to having white sand beaches and turquoise waters right outside the door. Find out what your priorities are and if they meet living an island life.  

You might just find that retiring in Hawaii can be your little slice of heaven. If that’s the case, you may want to start packing your bags and making arrangements. Get ready to say Aloha to your new island life.  

Related: Pros and Cons of Retiring in Wyoming