• Cassie Valley, Big Island Realtor

Pros and Cons of Living on the Big Island

I am going to get real with you here. Island living is not for everyone. I know a typical realtor would try to sell you on only the pros of living in the area where they sell, however, Hawaii has specific nuances that one should consider before moving.

I first moved to the Big Island with the idea of spending a gap year on an island bartending on the beach, then back to the mainland for the next adventure.. Thirteen years later, here I am, raising a family on the Big Island with no plans of leaving. This happens to people out here, there is a magnetism that pulls you in, and you just don't want to leave. However, there are others I know who have moved out here with hopes of starting a new life, and within 2 years they are headed back to the mainland. After 13 years of living on the Big Island and seeing a lot of people come and go, these are the top pros and cons I have noticed for living on the Big Island.


CON #1: LOCATION: The Big Island is located about 2500 miles from the continental United States. That is at least a six-hour flight. Now, depending on your situation, this distance can definitely be positive and liberating. However, I know many people that have moved to Hawaii, and either their parents are aging and they want to be closer to them, or they have children of their own and need the help, and this distance begins to feel staggering. In my experience, this has been the principal reason why the majority of people I know moved back to the mainland.

CON #2: SERVICES: We have many great doctors and nurses on the island, however, we do not have the facilities that many hospitals in big cities do. For example, there is not a Pediatric Nicu facility on the island, so any serious issue with little ones provokes a flight over to Oahu. I personally lived through this past year when my four-year-old broke her arm and had to fly to the pediatric unit on Oahu to get it set and cast. On the upside, it is only a 30-minute flight, which could be faster than an ambulance ride in many places, and Kapiolani has a fantastic pediatric unit. Likewise, daycare and preschool options seem to be lacking on the island. Many new parents I have met find themselves overwhelmed when it comes to the search for childcare for their young ones and are on long waiting lists desperately waiting for spots to open up. As for the older kids, there are not a large variety of options when it comes to non-public schools, which families sometimes look for.

CON #3: ACCESSIBILITY AND EASE: Sometimes you just feel like meandering about a Target or getting Chinese delivery or calling an Uber to bring you where you need to go. These are not things that can come easily in Hawaii. There are two major "cities" on the island, Kona and Hilo, and if you are not in either of those towns, it can be difficult to find these conveniences that you may be accustomed to. Likewise, in Hawaii, processes take longer. For example, a building permit can take at least 6 months to get, while on the mainland it may take weeks. Many people live out here with the slogan, "Slow down, this ain't the mainland", and you will find this sentiment not only in driving but, in many businesses as well. Hawaii seems to be a bit behind the times with many conveniences, however, for some, that's part of the charm.


PRO #1: LIFESTYLE: This may be the reason why I can't see myself living anywhere else. After 13 years on the island, I am accustomed to the laid-back, aloha lifestyle the island offers. I never drive above 55, I rarely wear make-up, and I can't remember the last time I wore high heels. The people in Hawaii are also generally happy. When I walk past someone who lives here, there is always eye contact, a smile, and a friendly greeting. Friends are received with a hug and kiss, and life just feels good out here. The sense of aloha is alive and well on the Big Island.

PRO #2: CLIMATE: In my opinion, the weather in Hawaii is perfect, which is probably one of the main attractors for people moving here. I moved here from another tropical climate, Florida, however, unlike Florida, it is rarely too hot in Hawaii. In Florida in the summer, if your AC is broken, you are in trouble and it's basically an emergency. In Hawaii, I couldn't name 10 people who even own an air conditioner. We are blessed with consistent breezes and trade winds. Of course, the weather varies depending on your elevation and location, however, if it is rainy in one area, you can usually escape the rain by traveling to the beach. You can be outside all year round, which during COVID, really became a true blessing.

PRO #3: NATURE: The Big Island is an amazingly diverse place when it comes to the environment. If you travel around the island, you will have the chance to see snow, lava, rainforests, beaches, and deserts, all in one day The biodiversity helps keep "island fever" at bay and provides for great "stay-cations" around the island. Weekends are spent at the shore or camping by a volcano, and play-dates usually involve a trip to the beach, which is fun for the whole family. Likewise, the ocean life of Hawaii is inspiring. From taking a boat out for whale season in the winter to snorkeling and diving in the calm water in the summer, the ocean never disappoints. I've had the incredible fortune to be in the water with a whale shark, dolphins, and monk seals. The sheer vastness of the ocean keeps you feeling small and keeps your adventurous spirit alive.

PRO#4: BIG ISLAND GROWN: I would say at least 75% of my diet comes from food grown on the Big Island within a 50-mile radius from where I live. From locally grass-raised beef and milk, to root vegetables and leafy greens from Waimea, to Hamakua tropical fruits, the Big Island has an amazing agricultural scene. Also, given the high prices of processed food in the groceries stores, I have learned to make a lot of my own food. For example, instead of buying that $8 loaf of organic bread, I make a weekly sourdough loaf that costs, maybe $1. Instead of buying chicken stock from the store, I buy whole chickens, then make the stock from the bones. Since moving here, my family and I have shifted our diet to a more sustainable and healthy type of eating that living on the island promotes. There is a huge movement on the Big Island to support local farmers and products, and I am proud to live in a community that puts such an emphasis on supporting local.


As with any big decision, it is important to weigh both the positives and negatives, so I hope I was able to provide some insight into that today. If you are thinking about moving to the Big Island and want to check out my Relocation Guide, for a quick insight into the Big Island.

Have any questions or want to look at buying a property in Hawaii?

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