There is a lot to learn when you first move to O’ahu and a lot to take in! Thought I would share some insight from what I have learned in this past year of living on this beautiful island. Here are some tips to help you feel more comfortable when you first arrive, and to get yourself settled! And of course to have fun in your new hood.
Accommodations When You First Arrive
I definitely wouldn’t recommend hotel stays, people do that sometimes thinking they will find a place within a week, and it is not easy to find a place to rent right away. Rental Property Owners look for tenants that make double the rent in monthly income, as well as proof of employment on island (They want pay stubs, proof of employment, local references etc). Of course if you have a good chunk of savings that can go in your favor.
Hawai’i is so transient people are always coming and going, so employers and property owners are looking for people who have lived on island for awhile. People aren’t open to hiring new people or renting out properties to haoles that just moved here. Haole is Hawaiian for anyone that is not a native Hawaiian, mainly directed towards white people.
The local area code in Hawai’i is 808, so not having an 808 number may not always go in your favor, BUT I still use my California number. Some people do purchase temporary phones with an 808 number when looking for places to rent and jobs.
What worked for me is subleasing a room for rent that I found on AirBnB. There are hostel like places you will find on this site, if you are looking for accommodations that welcome travelers from all over the world. You might be sharing a room with others in bunk beds, but you can find a bed for a month for about $600. I got lucky, and rented someone’s room in a 6 bedroom house for $600 a month because she was stuck on mainland. Unfortunately hostels are not an option, I learned this the hard way after losing a $40 deposit, hostels are aware people will try to stay there to find a place to live on island.
So, hostels do require proof of departure when you book a room. I am telling you, AirBnB is the way to go! I would recommend to start looking at least 3 months before you plan to move. And definitely inform whoever is renting out the room, that you are trying to find places to rent when you get there, so maybe they will offer you more time to stay than a month, just in case it takes a bit for you to get settled. If it does, and you cannot stay longer, just rent another room on AirBnB. A lot of people that rent out rooms on AirBnB even pick you up from the airport! I have friends that are on AirBnB here, and they always welcome new visitors, shoot me an email and I can try to send you some information to help you book a room!
Places I Recommend to Stay When You First Get Here
You will hear people saying “town”a lot around island, which refers to all of Honolulu like Waikiki, and other neighborhoods in that proximity. I only recommend living in town at first, because you have everything you need around you, and you are in the right place to look for jobs. Once you get more settled it will be easier to venture out of town since most locals prefer to live more in the country (outside of town). Like North Shore, Kaneohe, Kailua, or more inland like Nu’uanu Valley. These places are quieter, so it is harder to find a good place to rent, and/or jobs. I feel like being in town is also easier to meet people at first, you’re living in a big active city, a lot going on!
Cities to Check Out When You Are Looking for Places to Rent:
Honolulu: Waikiki, Moiliili, China Town, near Diamond Head, Kaimuki and Palolo are cool hip places, Manoa is where the University of Hawai’i is located, if you are a student, definitely look for places to rent here. On AirBnB, a lot of people rent rooms out to students, or student housing is available.
Pictures above (From Left to Right): Sandy Beach (Sandy’s), Makapu’u Beach, Diamond Head Beach, Makalei Sunset, the Ala Wai in Waikiki, and Hanauma Bay
You can ship your car over for about $1,000 plus. Some people like to sell their current car on mainland and buy a cheaper car on island. Most people purchase cars privately since Hawai’i is so transient, you can get a pretty good deal on a car if someone is trying to get rid of it fast. Buying privately is the cheaper and quicker way to go as opposed to at a dealership (Crazy Expensive for New Cars Here). Just be careful, a lot of people will try to sell you a lemon and/or rip you off. DEFINITELY have the car checked out by a professional before you purchase.
Or purchase a moped! You can get a cheap one for about $800 or a nicer one around the $1,500 range (financing is available). People love having mopeds, but you can only really ride it around town, NOT recommended to take mopeds outside of town. Not fun nor welcomed on the highways! Make sure to get a lock because they get stolen ALL THE TIME.
I do not drive at all! And a lot of people that first move here don’t have cars either. I have wanted to get rid of my car for a very long time, and always dreamed of the day that I would live somewhere where I could get by without having a car. And finally it has happened! Since Honolulu is a popular big city, their bus system is actually pretty good, and can take you almost all around island. Sometimes the bus can be early or late, or not come at all! So be prepared for things to not always go smoothly while relying on the bus.
You can purchase bus passes at any 7-11 for either a full month at $60 (make sure to get at the beginning of the month to get full month’s worth). $30 for 4 days, (Silly to do this when a month is only $60), or you pay $2.50 each time with a free transfer ticket, (make sure to have exact change). If you are going to be bouncing around a lot, or use the bus as your main source of transportation, get the monthly pass. I take the bus everywhere, and getting the monthly pass is the cheapest option for how much I use it. And super convenient!
Download DaBus app on your smartphone for all the bus schedules on O’ahu. Google Maps provides current transient information as well.
Some of the Major Bus Routes From Waikiki:
13-Manoa and China Town
2-Diamond Head, Kapi’olani Community College, and China Town
22-Will take you from Waikiki to all the popular beaches along the East part of island. Ends at Sea Life Park. Major Beaches, all along Waikiki, Sans Souci, Kaimana, Makalei, Cromwells, Diamond Head, Kahala Beach, Hanauma Bay, Halona Blow Hole/Beach Cove, Sandy Beach, Makapu’u which is right in front of Sea Life Park.
3-Kapi’olani Community College/Kaimuki
9-Kaimuki, Kapi’olani Commnity College, Airport, Pearl Harbor
A City Express-University of Manoa
4-University Dr and Moiliili
1-Kalihi Transit Center
8-Ala Moana Mall
Major grocery stores on island/town are Safeway, Foodland, Food Pantry in Waikiki, and Times in Kaimuki. If you stick to local products and produce it will be cheaper than buying named brand stuff that has to be shipped over since more expensive. The million ABC Stores and General Stores you will see in Waikiki are convenient for quick purchases or on the go, but they are always more expensive for most things.
Popular Places to Hang
In Waikiki, you have a ton of shops along with restaurants. Popular restaurants/bars in Waikiki, in my opinion, are Arnolds, Kelly O’Neils, Mahina and Sun’s, and LuLus. LuLu’s is at the end of Kapahulu in front of main Waikiki Beach. Beautiful view of Waikiki and a fun night life for young adults with good comfort food. Every Monday night they have industry night (Huge deals for anyone that works in hospitality), so turns into a dance party after dinner shift.
And of course I wouldn’t forget about the hip restaurants in Kaimuki, (Mahina and Sun’s in Waikiki is part of the same family restaurant chain), which include Town Restaurant, Mud Hen Water, (They do brunch on Sundays and Saturdays!), and Superette. Michelle Obama and Hilary Clinton come into Town Restaurant along with Bill Murray, Nick Jonas, and Jack Black, who also love Mud Hen Water. China Town is also big on the restaurant scene and night life.
Dave and Busters have deals on Wednesday nights, so also very popular. Liquor stores close at midnight and bars close at 2am. To karaoke or not to karaoke? Get your karaoke on! This is huge on O’ahu, people love renting out rooms and killing it at karaoke with friends! Most karaoke parties can go on all night if you really want to party.
Some Hawaiian Terms to Help you Get By:
Aloha-Hello and goodbye (there is a broad deeper meaning with aloha)
Mahalo Nui Loa-Thank you very much
Pau-Done, you pronounce it like you are saying, “Pow.”
Pau Hana-“Finished work.” Time you spend relaxing after work, with friends, drinking, eating, being merry ect.
Kama’aina Discount-Discount for Being a Local: Important to know this if you are working in hospitality. Means “Child of the land.”
Howzit-local way of saying what’s up, or short for like saying, “How’s it going?”
Haole-Someone who is not native to Hawai’i, white people
Uncle/Aunty-respectful term referring to any elder male or woman regardless of any sort of personal relationship to them. Instead of saying, “Sir” or Ma’am,” around Hawai’i you will hear, “Uncle” or “Auntie”
Shoots-“OK” or “Cool”