Retiring In Hawaii: Pros & Cons (Part 1)

It’s tempting to think of sunny weather, palm trees, ocean breezes and mai tais in the evening when contemplating retirement in Hawai’i. For Brett and I, the weather was probably the main factors in deciding to retire to the islands, but there are many other things about Hawai’i that work in its favor as a retirement location. However, there are also several other factors that are not so positive. While it’s easy to consider the good, the negative or not-so-good aspects of living on the islands must be honestly considered as well.

Before we relocated to Kaua’i in 2014, we did a lot of research. A LOT. One of the best resources we came across on relocating to and succeeding in Hawai’i was So You Want to Live in Hawai’i by Toni Polancy. Besides having loads of a great information about the ins and outs, ups and down of daily life in the state, the book also had a chapter on retirement, and outlined eight good reasons to retire in Hawai’i as well as eight good reasons NOT to retire in Hawai’i. All of these pros and cons were factors we weighed carefully before making our move to Kaua’i in 2014.

So You Want to Live in Hawai’i doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2010, but the general information presented in the book, for the most part, is still on point and worthwhile. I ran this seven-part series several years ago in a former blog, and in the coming weeks, I want to again present two points based on Toni’s list from the retirement chapter, one positive and one negative, and discuss where we how we have dealt with them.

  • PRO: Statistically, living in Hawai’i may add four more years to your life. You may also be thinner and more active in Hawai’i than you were on the mainland. Hawai’i has the fewest overweight people of any state. Those are statistics, but the (mostly) good weather and availability of outdoor activities mean that there is more potential to get out and stay active here year-round. The abundance and affordability of locally raised fruits and vegetables and the higher cost of food otherwise has turned out to mean we eat less of some things (like meat) than we might have in another location, but more fruits and vegetables overall. It’s truly easy to stay active here, whether that’s walking, swimming, hiking, doing yoga, or participating in other activities – we just want to be outside as much as possible! I honestly believe we’re in better health, and in better shape here than we would have been in any other location we considered.
  • CON: Although you’ll be living in paradise, once the initial thrill is gone it’s possible you’ll miss family and old friends more than you imagined. Loneliness is a major issue for many who move to Hawai’i, especially those who have grandchildren back on the mainland (or like us, in another country). The average stay for new residents is under two years, and loneliness is a major factor in many transplant’s decision to return to the mainland. We currently don’t live near any close relatives, nor do we see them frequently, and Hawai’i didn’t actually put us nearer to our son and his family as flights from Japan to Hawai’i are about the same length as flights were from Japan to Portland. Our distance from our family has been one of the most difficult aspects of living here for us but we have found ways to communicate frequently and keep up with each other. There have been no rose-colored glasses either when it comes to settling in and making new friends and connections here, or what we gave up leaving Portland. People are very friendly, here but it can take time to make friends and find your place in your community as locals have seen newcomers come and go for years and like to see first whether someone is committed to staying or not.

18 thoughts on “Retiring In Hawaii: Pros & Cons (Part 1)

  1. Year round activities exist in many places…and if you filter out the Asian population, who tend to be smaller and less obese…I wonder. Anyway, glad you like it there. If you weren’t rain adverse, staying in shape in Portland is easy, imo, year round.

    Like

    1. I guess I should have said year-round activities where you don’t have to buy extra gear for the season (coats, boots, special sports equipment, etc.). What you have in the summer works equally well in all other seasons. And, you can’t filter out the Asian population here, but they’re just as active as everyone else. There are definitely large and obese people in Hawaii, but not anywhere near the percentages you see in other parts of the country.

      It wasn’t the rain per se that drove me nuts in Portland, but the gloom that came along with it. It drove me inside to hibernate every year and it got worse and worse as time went on (I initially loved the rain). Seasonal affective disorder also kicked in and grew worse every year. If you don’t suffer from it, great, but for those of us who have it, it can be crippling. We went through a month or so of daily rain during our previous time here and I got just as depressed as I did back in Portland.

      But, otherwise I agree Portland is a very place to stay in shape. It’s a very walkable, hikeable, bikeable place.

      Like

  2. Lots of thinking to do. No place is perfect.
    Why not look at it as 10 years? That is what we are doing in Idaho. Great house, activities that we desire, children and grands at busy ages….our last good chance to live where we want for US. In ten years (74&81) we will reevaluate. We will probably live very close to one of the kids ( if not house share). Until then we are going to be content with twice a year ( we now officially call them covid break season) visits and FaceTime. At least that is the plan.

    Like

    1. There are pros and cons to every place one chooses to live or retire to. I just happen to live in Hawaii, which also happens to figure in many people’s retirement dreams. And, I don’t have any experience with being retired any place else. So, I’m writing about Hawaii. It’s been a wonderful location for us, even with the cons and you can’t ask more than that.

      Like

  3. I don’t know…the weather is nice year-round in places like California (some areas) and there could be other states too, depending on what each person’s definition of nice weather is. Some people love the cold and snow (not me!).

    As far as loneliness, I personally believe you can feel lonely even if you live near family/friends. I live near some friends I haven’t seen in a long time, mostly due to COVID, but even before that I wasn’t seeing them that often. Hawaii is more isolated, of course, but even if you still lived in Portland, your son would still be far (as you mentioned) and your girls are all on the east coast, so they would also be far. Not as far as Hawaii, but it’s still a long-ish plane ride. From what I’ve read, a lot of people don’t stay in Hawaii long due to fewer job opportunities and they underestimated how expensive it is to live there.

    Like

    1. Yes, the weather is nice in other places, but this is only Part 1 of the pros and cons of retiring here! There’s more to come, and choosing a place to retire requires examining all of them, weighing them, and then deciding what works best for you and fulfills both your needs and dreams.

      You’re exactly right that people don’t stay here long-term because of the job situation and how expensive it is to live here. Vacationing in Hawaii is vastly different from living here, and so many do not do the research needed before making the move and end up being disappointed (or broke). Hawaii has a certain mystique to it though that calls to people, so they will always come. One of the best pieces of advice we read was “always have enough money on hand to leave if it doesn’t work out.”

      Like

  4. Lots of people from Sydney and Melbourne retire to Queensland – housing was significantly cheaper until recently and the winter weather much warmer. Many are now going to Tasmania – especially with global warming.

    I’ve never liked hot weather so Qld doesn’t appeal to me. But my sis and mother live there! I like the idea of Tassie – the cooler weather, making it possible to have more English-like flowers. But being an island makes it like Hawai’i. Crossing water adds time and cost to visit family. Can’t just hop in the car and drive.

    Both my boys seem to be staying in Sydney so I won’t be split like you – with children spread across the planet.

    Like

    1. My brother and family are all up in Queensland, but they’ve been there for over 40 years, so their situation is the opposite of many.

      It really helped us to come up with a list of things that were important to us in a retirement location, weigh those things, and then fit them into a spreadsheet and see what places came out ahead. Hawaii surprised us as it had been put on our spreadsheet as a joke. It met eight of our nine criteria, and we were sure we could make adjustments and figure out the ninth (high cost of living) . . . and we have.

      The girls encouraged us to come back to Hawaii this last time because we had been so happy here, so when COVID hit during our travels, we did just that, and have few to no regrets. Hawaii is a very good fit for us. But so was being nomads . . . .

      Liked by 1 person

  5. We also used the book So You Want to Live in Hawai’i as a resource when we decided to move to Kaua’i 6 years ago. It was very helpful and like you, the weather was a big draw for us. I also love the proximity to the ocean, but there are certainly cons to living here as well.

    Like

    1. Weather was #1 for us, and being near the ocean. But in many ways it was like moving to a foreign country – everything seemed the same but was also different. Adjusting was a challenge, but we love it here now. There are definitely cons like living here – more coming in the next few weeks.

      Like

  6. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are many different places in the world but not necessarily better. I feel fortunate to live in rural NE Alberta, Canada. There are so many factors to consider and that’s what you and Brett do so well. I like that your decisions are not just based on emotion.

    Like

    1. That’s sort of the point of the series that will be going up. Although it focuses on Hawaii, it looks at the many factors that should be considered when choosing a location for retirement (or otherwise). Hawaii has sort of mystique about it as a retirement location, primarily because so many vacation here and fall in love with it. But living here is VERY different than vacationing! We looked at and weighed everything and decided it would be a good fit for us, and it has been.

      Like

  7. We have always enjoyed our trips to the different Hawaiian islands, but I know I couldn’t live there. After about a week, I start to get island fever and feel really, really far from everything. It’s not rational, but it’s what happens. Maybe it is because I was raised in a very rural area, but I just feel better knowing I can get into a car and drive somewhere else even if it takes days. 🤷‍♀️ Also, I really don’t do well in hot, humid weather. I suppose that is from growing up with big winter.

    We ended up back in our home state, partially for family, but mostly because it felt like home to us. Our kids are scattered far and wide, so living near any one of them isn’t realistic. But I can drive to all of them except the one in the UK. 😂

    Like

    1. “Rock fever” is very real for some; fortunately it has never bothered us, sort of strange because we love to travel (road trips aren’t our favorite type of journey though). The humidity was a bit of surprise, and way more oppressive than we realized it would be. One of the reasons I’m so thankful for our current location is that humidity only plays a minor role here.

      We’re in the same situation with our kids – they’re all sort of scattered far and wide. We seriously considered relocating to New England to be closer, but eventually realized we’d be miserable and our son and family would never come to visit us.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Really interesting topics here! It’s perfect timing in my life, as this time of life is getting closer. I appreciate the thoughtful, sensible advice- so far my ideas of what to do in retirement is based on a relative who has basically done everything wrong and is suffering the consequences while seemingly not learning a thing! My plans are “down do anything that M does!”
    Am I understanding correctly that you are doing a series here about the topic? I’ll wait to see what other topics come up, but thank you!

    Like

    1. Yes, it will be a series (there are seven parts total). As I said earlier, although it focuses on retirement in Hawaii, the questions and issues raised are equally as good for any potential retirement location.

      Retirement is a process so don’t beat yourself up about supposedly doing things wrong. It’s a very personal lifestyle for each person, and eventually we all find our sweet spot. You will too!

      Like

Comments are closed.