Moving Your Family to Maui


Ever dream of packing your family up and moving to an island?  Filling your days with balmy breezes, sugary white sand beaches and turquoise waters as far as the eye can see?  If you’re wondering if this dream can be a reality, read these triumphs and hurdles from our family’s personal experience before you buy your one-way ticket.


The Process of Moving to Maui

Moving is awesome, said no one ever.  Unwinding the web of stuff that has somehow found its way into your closets, garages and under every bed is exhausting.  Once you’ve separated the “must haves” from the “don’t have room for it” items, you now have to categorically box everything up in a way that will be manageable to unpack when you get to your final destination: MAUI!

Moving to an island takes that process to the next level of pain.  You have three options for shipping:

  1. Get rid of everything and move to the island with the shirt on your back and a checked bag.  This option is great for those families that are up for the wild goose chase of re-acquiring everything you just got rid of for twice the price.
  2. Downsize your belongings to a pallet.  You will squeeze your life onto a 4’x4’x6′ pallet, and trust that the plastic wrap that they wind around your things will hold.  This option will usually run you about $1,000 and the pallet takes about one month to arrive on the island.
  3. Save up all your pennies and reserve a crate.  These bad boys range from 20′ to 40′ and come with the hefty price tag of about $5,000 to start.  These crates usually take about 2-3 weeks to arrive on your doorstep.


Moving Your Family to Maui

Moving Family to Maui*Our experience:  We have had the honor of using all three methods respectively.  The crate (container) allowed us to literally move everything we owned, but left us with quite an excess of unneeded items.  After numerous trips to the local Maui thrift store to dump our unwanted items, we realized we only wanted/needed about half of the items we shipped over.  For our next move, the pallet made us downsize to the point of near panic and pain, but you better believe anything that made it to the pallet was worth its weight in gold!  There were a few items that we wished we would’ve packed, but it was a good lesson in things not having too much value.  Lastly, we checked bags.  Granted, we ended up carrying on 8 bags (2 per ticket carrying passenger) and checking 8 bags.  And since two of the passengers only carried their pillow pets and Frozen backpacks, my husband and I were saddled with an over-burdening amount.  We would probably paid extra for a few more checked backs next time.


The Home Renting Process

Most people moving to a new area with a few basics secured, like having a job and a house.  If you’re playing the rental game, craigslist is just there just to tease you.  Most landlords won’t entertain the idea of renting to you if you’re not living on the island.  So, you’ll have to gamble and move your entire life with the prayer that you’ll find something as soon as you land!

*Our experience:  My husband and I decided we wanted to live on Maui’s North Shore, in a town called Haiku.  After 3 weeks of relentless looking and calling different rentals from the mainland, I started to panic a bit and broadened my search to the entire island.  2 more weeks of “sorry, we can’t hold a rental for someone who hasn’t made the jump across the ocean,” we made the gutsy decision to get a vacation rental for 7 days and hope for the best.  Our little family of four hit the island running.  Visions of our 2 and 3-year-old daughters living homeless (albeit tan) on the Maui beaches added an extra layer of panic as we scoured the island for our home.  The story does have a happy ending, as we did end up finding a rental in Haiku that fit our family’s needs in the nick of time.  Not a leisurely way to start our island adventure, but survivable!


The Living Process

It’s no secret that living on Maui can be expensive.  Everything is marked up, from the food to the taxes.  But many people move here every year, confident that they can make it.  After all, the perks of living in paradise is worth it, right?  Ehhh, it’s not that simple.  Yes, technically you live in paradise.  However, to afford bills like your $200 electrical bill (oh yes, it’s that bad), you might have to pick up more than one job.  Which means the 4 free hours you have every week will probably be spent doing things like piles of laundry and falling asleep by 7:30 pm.  You will be able squeeze in beach days, waterfall hikes and stunning sunsets.  Not often, but they will happen.  And hopefully its enough to tide you over until the next tropical interlude.

Moving Family Maui

*Our Experience:  When we first moved to Maui, I worked at a restaurant and my husband worked as a musician.  If we were lucky, we’d get about three full days together a month.  Most of the time, we’d only see each other as we passed the kids off.  We often felt like single parents, rarely enjoying dinners or outings as a family.  After two years, we started to realize that paradise was losing its beauty.  I asked other Maui friends with families about their daily grind, and most of them painted the same picture.  So, real life, hard times and those pesky bills do tag along, even to a tropical island.



Your Instagram game will be dialed in.  Your friends will be living in a pool of envy when you post swimsuit pictures in December.  Your summer clothes are your year round wardrobe.  And your kids will be living the life you thought you’d live, splashing around in turquoise waters without a care in the world.  So, at least someone wins in this game!

Moving Family Maui

Moving Family MauiWe have no regrets about moving to Maui.  It has been an adventure, from cane spiders the size of my hand to cutting apple bananas down with a machete in our backyard.  However, any illusion us adults had about leisurely living on an island was ripped away with the first shocking grocery bill and money-siphoning electric bill.  If you’re thinking of moving your family to Maui, make sure your expectations are realistic.  Life on an island can be both beautiful and difficult, but it will be a memory your family won’t regret trying!

7 thoughts on “Moving Your Family to Maui”

  1. I moved to Maui for a year when I was 19. It cured me of any dreams of living there. Everything you said is true.
    I lived right across from a lovely quit beach and I never went in the water or barely to the beach. I was working all the time to pay the rent and bills and food. Also I did get Island Fever bad.
    I go back for vacations now, and we stay in Kiehi, and we love it, but after two weeks I am ready to return home. I do live in a nice area of California with beaches and a mild climate, so that helps.

  2. Aloha Brita. My husband decided to move himself, me and our two youngest of eight children (ages then 11 and 15) to Maui almost three years ago. We sold almost everything we could in order to afford to get here and it was not enough. We also had similar experience trying to find a place with the addition of bringing our 6 year old Samoyed (who died 8 months from some mysterious illness). We paid an inflated price the first year because of coming from off-island and the dog. Our family came with a minimum of bags, shipped $1200 worth of boxes that showed up 6 weeks later, and year later we flew back and packed up most of the rest of our things in a small crate and had it shipped. We shopped off Craigslist and were given things for free from others moving off Maui. I am a stay-at-home mom but babysit to help with the cost. My husband works 60+ hours a week over 6 days at 2 jobs to provide. We went the first year and half without a car bringing groceries home on the bus, and doing a lot of walking. Our family dream of going together to the beach is as you described, not very often. We are in our late 50’s and cannot begin to save for our retirement here. I have no idea how we will deal with that financially when the time comes but my husband says he never wants to leave Maui. People always have that wistful look in their eye when they find out where we live but those who live here know how difficult it is with the inflated cost of food, rent and just about every thing else here. There have been many wonderful people and experiences along the way and that keeps us going but if I had my way, we would probably have moved back home a long time ago.

  3. I have a 5 year story of living on Maui that could be a book I need to write! You can’t make this stuff up as you well know 🙂 I’m happily back in San Diego and it seems cheap. So there’s one of the benefits! Have great friends there. Love it. But happy to be living in my true paradise now even if it is on the Mainland! 🙂

  4. Sounds as though the times have really changed since we made that move.Went over in 1987- 1994 We first sent a motor-home via Matson. We were able to put a few items in the small closet and seal it. That cost $1000.00. We parked it in our older kids front yard, (our daughter went over after graduating high school and didn’t come back home), she got a job right away and had been there for 4 years. We got jobs after a time, enrolled our younger 3 in school and moved to first, Wailuku and then to a more permanent place in Kahului. Making friends with the locals was the key, our new son-in- law was one and his family were great. I became a home health nurse-aid, and met more locals. We were offered homes to rent, so spent 3 years in Kahului in a nice 3 bdrm. place for $300.00 a month, then my work took me up-country and we rented from another family while I worked in Kula. A wonderful home, same rent. Our electric bills were minimal. Water was the most expensive, but still not bad. We shopped where the locals shopped, went to the big open air market every week and bought furniture etc. at yard sales. My husband joined the Hawaiian Carpenters Union and was working as often as he wanted and still able to fish commercially every summer. The kids and I traveled back to the mainland every summer and visited all the relatives and friends then back home for school. Sold the motor home to a bachelor who had plenty of land and wanted a small place, (before the tiny home craze). It had been perfect for us for the first year and half. We would buy a Maui cruiser when we came back home, fix it and sell it in June when we would go to the mainland. We did that every year, it was great. I did not find it to be so expensive to live there nor did we become tied down or develop “rock-fever”. Our kids graduated from Maui High, and got jobs. A building moratorium was put in effect, so work for the union slowed, I broke my foot badly and couldn’t take care of others so we moved to another island,( in Alaska) another adventure. We completely packed another Matson container and moved one last Maui cruiser which had been given to me , all of our wanted furniture and other items we just couldn’t leave, another $1000.00, not bad at all. Two of our kids that had gone over with us, stayed on Maui for another two years, then missed the rest of the bunch and moved back to Washington. I have gone back to Maui every year since we moved away. Still have family and good friends who open their homes. Don’t take anything but a small carry on as my Maui clothes are still there with family. Nothing like O’hana. I would stay there in a minute if I could make myself retire, but love my job and have lots of grandkids and great-grandkids that I would miss, so have to be happy with the yearly visits. Your adventure there makes me miss those times.

  5. Wow, only $200 for your electricity bill? I guess those of us in Lahaina should feel cheated because I’d be ecstatic for a $200 bill each month! We got it down to $190 one January by sitting in the dark, sweating, for most of the month.

  6. I’ve lived on Maui 2 different times now, soon to be 3rd time when we decide to migrate back from Italy. As for the electric bill, if all that you run is a refrigerator, a TV and a ceiling fan, you’ll be fine. Forget running central air or even a window unit unless you have the bucks to put forth. Groceries “can” be expensive so shop, compare, clip coupons, but first and foremost, get a Costco membership. The money you save will make things a lot easier. The article did not mention anything about the price of gasoline. That will shock you as well, so make each and every trip you take count.


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