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Retiring in Hawaii – yes or no?

Anyone who tells you they haven’t fantasized about living in Hawaii at some point in their life is straight up lying to you. With beautiful sandy beaches, a unique culture and perfect weather, Hawaii is not just a popular vacation and wedding destination. It is also the perfect idyllic home for many and the dream retirement location. But how realistic is that dream? And if you’re thinking of retiring in Hawaii, what can you actually expect? Most importantly, is retiring in Hawaii a good idea in practice?

About Hawaii

Hawaii is the youngest US state (having been a territory up until as recently as 1959). It consists of over 100 volcanic islands in the Pacific ocean (eight major). The archipelago is geographically a part of Polynesia, making this the only US state outside of North America. The state capital, Honolulu, is located on Oʻahu.

Beach view of Honolulu.
Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii

There are one and a half million people permanently living in Hawaii. Many of them are military personnel as there are a total of 11 military bases on the islands. In addition to English, Hawaiian is an official language. Hawaii regularly votes blue and its current governor is a Democrat too.

The pros of retiring in Hawaii

Thousands of people throughout the US and around the world fantasize about living in Hawaii. There has to be a reason for that (aside from the aesthetic and the coolness factor, of course). So what is it? What are some of the best aspects of retiring in Hawaii?

Nature: beaches and wildlife

What is the first thing you think of when someone says Hawaii? Are the sandy white beaches and the waves of the clear blue ocean lapping at them? This is easily one of the most common and most popular images of Hawaii. The good news is that the reality certainly doesn’t fall short of the postcards. If you want to move to a distant place from Raleigh, NC and trade the grey concrete of the city for stunning natural landscapes, you’ve certainly chosen a good location. Hawaiian nature is unmatched and unique in the US. You will get to enjoy the picture-perfect seaside, breath-taking waterfalls, stunning lush greenery, and a colorful fauna everywhere you go!

The weather: sunny, cloudless skies

A part of that perfect image is the clear blue sky and the sun that bathes everything in its golden warmth. And that’s certainly something you can expect to find in Hawaii if you’re interested in the benefits of warmer climates. But did you know that the islands are home to as many as 11 different subclimates? Whether you are more comfortable at 65 degrees or 90, in humidity or dry air, you can find an area that suits you somewhere in Hawaii!

The budget: taxes

When it comes to taxes, Hawaii is very retiree-friendly. Social Security benefits and most pension income are exempt from income taxes which leaves the households of people aged 65 and over with an average income of almost $72,000. This is well above the US average of $53,799. The average health care costs for a retired couple of $375,273 are, on the other hand, below the national average ($423,523). Overall, these conditions are quite favorable for retirees.

The safety: low major crime rates

It’s not exactly easy to get away with a serious crime on an island in the middle of the ocean. Presumably owing to that, major and violent crimes (such as murder and armed robbery) are relatively rare. The islands are overall safe to walk at any time of day or night and you can (for the most part) sleep easy!

The culture: fun, relaxation and never-ending vacation

If there’s a place where you can relax while moving house, it’s Hawaii. The general attitude of the residents is relaxed and laid back and the people themselves are largely warm, kind and welcoming. Even non-native locals mostly embrace the indigenous Hawaiian culture which is unique and probably very different from what you know. While this may cause you some culture shock at first, it’s not a bad thing! You’ll have fun discovering and learning the new customs, food and even language.

Hula dancers.
Hawaiian culture is unique.

The cons of retiring in Hawaii

So that all sounds great and you’re already packing your bags for the cross-country relocation to Hawaii, right? Well, hold your horses! Not everything is perfect on this island paradise.

Nature: the extremes

Hawaiian islands are volcanic in origin so is it really a surprise that the stunning nature has a dark side here? The active volcanos are extremely dangerous. And the molten rock is not your only concern. Earthquakes, rock slides, tsunamis, flash flooding, and lightning storms are all a serious possibility. These extreme natural hazards are admittedly rare. But when they do happen, they are devastating.

Lava dripping into the ocean.
Hawaiian nature can be as deadly as it is beautiful.

The weather: the variety

The variety of Hawaiian subclimates is as much of a downside as it is an upside. Depending on the area of the island, you can expect anything from severe droughts to extreme rain to noxious volcanic gasses. A piece of advice: do your research before retiring in Hawaii or you may end up in the wrong part of it!

The budget: the cost of living

At 87% above the national average, the cost of living in Hawaii is extremely high. Buying into real estate is near impossible and rent is not cheap either. Gas, insurance, car registration, even groceries are among the most expensive in the US. And let’s not forget: these are isolated islands we are talking about. Getting to and off of them is costly. Even hiring local movers like Moving Kings NC to help you relocate is going to come with a serious price tag when the destination is Hawaii.

The safety: serious drug problems

Major crimes may be uncommon. Drugs, however, are not. Crystal meth is a serious problem, especially on O’ahu. This has caused an increase in thefts and house break-ins. In some areas, other forms of crime (mostly auto break-ins and car theft) are also commonplace. Again, research is your friend here.

The culture: the isolation and otherness

The unique culture is as inviting as it is isolating. As a non-native, you will always be different and “other” on the island. This can be isolating and lonely, so be ready to deal with some culture shock and even island fever.

The verdict on retiring in Hawaii

Ultimately, we feel that there are more benefits than downsides to retiring in Hawaii. If you have the budget for it, of course. The decision, however, is yours. Do you think Hawaii is the right place for you?

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