Moving to Maui & Racism

Nov 12, 201329 comments

Hi, I am not sure if you answer these types of questions but if you do. Thank you in advance!

My fiance spent his teen years in Kihei and has always wanted to move back. He works in North Dakota in the oil fields so he has a job that he could keep til he found one on the island. He would fly in every month for 14 days. I have never been there and I have some wonderful things about Maui and some not so wonderful things. I have two children, my son is 15 and quite white and has flaming red hair and my daughter is 13 and is half Mexican and looks full. I have heard that the locals give “haole” kids a super hard time. Is this true there is racism in Maui? Is there anything we can do or learn about or avoid so this doesn’t happen? Also, do you have any suggestions on how to get a decent apartment or house to rent before we get there? I know there are a lot of scams out there. Do you know of any condos or hotels that rent by the week or month? I was thinking if there is that might be a good route to go so we could make sure that the rentals are legit. Any suggestions or insight you could give us would be wonderful! I really enjoy your page.  Thanks! Amber

Aloha Amber!

Those are all good questions. To be honest, we don’t have haole children of that age, so it’s hard for us to share the experience. From what we hear, it can be difficult depending on what school they go to. The racism sucks, but as a haole adult, it isn’t a daily issue (more like a yearly, minor issue here and there.) The more you embrace the culture, history, and people, the more it will embrace you. That being said, there are always bad apples with bad histories.

Moving here is kind of a catch-22. It’s hard to find a job when you’re new to the island and difficult to find a rental without a job on the island. Many look for the job first, either from the mainland or come for a few weeks and do some serious looking/interviewing for anything possible. Weekly/monthly rentals don’t really exist (legally) unless you’re paying vacation rates.

Moving to the island of Maui is not an easy thing to do. BUT, if you can make it work, it’ll change your life. Those that do make it often don’t last more than 2 years. Those that make it past the 2-year mark usually make it to the end.

Please keep us updated on your progress. Thanks for sharing your story and questions. And thanks for liking our page! It takes a lot of work getting these photos each day, but it’s also a pleasure seeing everyone’s responses!



  1. Derek

    Hi, I lived all over the big island for 20 years and saw both sides of the locals. I worked construction during the day and at subway sandwiches at night, so I got quite a mix of experiences. The locals on the construction site were pretty cool and always called me haole boy, but only a couple dudes ever called me “f@&king haole” which obviously was a different story. I’m generally the job site clown, so that helped a lot as I was the goofy one instead of having a chip on my shoulder with something to prove. At Subway, I worked with Filipino and Portuguese ladies and we always had a blast. I was a regular at the local fights and concerts, so even if the locals didn’t know me personally, they probably recognized me from somewhere as you see the same faces all the time. I dated a few local girls and was often literally the only white person at giant baby 1st birthday parties, but didn’t feel out of place at all. I was always driving a work truck and wearing clothes that were covered in paint, so it was pretty obvious I wasn’t a tourist and that probably helped. My one piece of advice I can give is this, if you make eye contact with anyone, no matter where it is or their race, always acknowledge them with a smile with eyebrows up and nod your head back real quick and then go about your business whether they smile back or not. Do that and you will make a lot of friends down there. All in all I was glad for the experience and felt accepted with the island’s aloha.

    • Maui Hawaii

      Thanks for sharing, Derek! Yes, I think it comes down to each person’s disposition. If a haole is rude, not pleasant, they’re a F@&king haole. Same on the local side. You can’t judge a culture by a few bad apples. Some locals are hurting and have hate as part of their symptoms. In my experience, it’s very rare and ALOHA is alive and well.

  2. Julian Aka Lo

    Visiting now in 2020, so sad…it took me two days before I saw a native that wasnt wearing a construction vest. $7 fish tacos, $20 quarter chicken meals and native boys begging for money to “buy something to eat”,$8 frosted flakes and Kombucha on tap on the markets??? You caucasians have the top socioeconomical spot in this world and everything else. Why can’t you go to a place and leave it be? Why must you make it your own? Why are you so butt hurt over recieving something you’ve done to others for 1000’sof years? Blacks and asians on the mainland bite their pride everyday bc of your superiority complex and continue our lives without writing a comllaint blog. Karma is a beach isn’ it? Keep looking for help, no one’s coming to save you.

    • Jackie

      Julian, whose the racist here?

      • Jim

        Keep your ghetto @$$ on that that ghetto @$$ island than, dont come here looking for jobs

    • Mark

      here’s a story that is probably the best indication of what life is really like on Maui.

      heard recently about a couple that had been living on the Big Island for a decade or so. so these people weren’t “newcomers”, naive, etc. – no , they’re two people who know as much about living in Hawaii as anyone. ten years is enough time to figure anything out.

      they loved their life on the Big Island – who wouldn’t, it’s everything people hear that Hawaii is…including being a place full of warm, friendly people. but they had a curiosity with Maui, they always heard so many cool things about it. well, after ten years on the Big Island they must have thought…lets give it a shot.

      it’s not as if they were going to relocate to Mars after all, just another Hawaiian island – it wouldn’t be the sort of thing that wouldn’t be a huge problem to retract from. and so they “gave it a shot”. after what was likely a due level of research related to work and housing, they relocated to Maui.

      according to the story, things for this couple did not go so well. remember, they had their Big Island experience to fall back on, to use as a realistic comparison.

      well, without going into detail, or speculating on what actually transpired (which I could likely do with accuracy and at length), they apparently lasted less than a year before they folded up their tent and returned to the Big Island.

      this much I’m certain of. the couple DID state that their primary motivation for giving up on Maui was in their words the “measurably higher number of hostile, unfriendly locals”.

      two people, vastly familiar with the “genuine Aloha” of the Big Island – gave up on Maui by comparison (and in the famous words of Cosmo Kramer…”a story like that’s gotta be true”).

      of course it is…just ask anyone that possesses a truly objective view of life on Maui (but be patient, that process might take a while). ♒

  3. Leigh

    I was sent an email regarding Administrative positions in the Medical Field. My oldest daughter is married and just moved to another state, my son is in college and my youngest daughter is about to enter college. Being a single mom, i was thinking this might be a new and exciting chapter in my life, so i was discussing this with a work colleague who lived on Oahu some years ago and worked as a Home Health nurse. She is possibly the nicest, kindest person in my life who would never disrespect anyone. She told me that unfortunately her experience was very sad due to how some of the natives she came in contact with(not all), felt about her being there and working. I would never want to take an opportunity away from someone, but i feel like if this company is looking for off islanders, they are having difficulty finding any applicants there on the island. Caring for others as well as caring and respecting the land and sea are one in the same. I thought it might be a great opportunity, and I would never disrespect the land or its people but i find myself a little fearful. Are things really as bad as some say, or if you are respectful, can you find friends and have a good experience?

    • Maui Hawaii

      Yes, of course you can find friends and have a good experience. Any place you move to will have bad apples. Surround yourself with people that care about you, and you’ll win (regardless of any haters.)

  4. John

    I moved to Hawaii from California. There is a palpable tension between Hawaiians and anyone they perceive as “haole” or white. Racial epithets are common place here. I’ve been yelled at to “go home.” My mixed race daughter (my wife is Japanese) is constantly ridiculed at school, which breaks my heart. California is light years ahead of Hawaii in terms of racial inclusion. I have lived in several countries and states; Hawaii is by far the worst in terms of racism. Hawaii brings to light that in 2019 racism is still very alive unfortunately.

  5. Vince

    I am African American it is racism in Maui…I been here 2 years..there is plenty of low end jobs..but it beats living in Pittsburgh or’s non violent racism….but s great place to live..mist people are friendly..but a few of the Hawaii people will let you know you are not welcome here…I’m moving to Honolulu…I here it’s more friendly there… overall Maui is a great place to live with plenty jobs…good luck time for me to move on for now..I may come back later.. peace and blessings

  6. Hayley

    I’m a haole chick and I love Hawaii so much. I’m nice to everyone. I have never had anyone be mean to me ever! If your a good person, your life will be good too. It doesn’t matter where you live. If you love yourself, the universe will too.

  7. Ponomo'i

    Embrace being the key word, not to be confused with appropriating. Understanding your white privilege, and the power and responsibility that comes with it. People often think just because you’re white and are born and raised Hawai’i that entitles you and classifies you as “local”. Not so, if people had the mindset of thinking Hawai’i is like a native american reservation then you can truly begin to understand island culture and the inherent racism that continues and perpetuated in the islands. The haoles that understand this, accept and acknowledge the violent history and colonization that is associated with white people, are more successful with locals than those that fight against it. Part of the issue further contributing to the hate is the economy as well. It is always a sellers market in Hawai’i so when you have a family who want to “live the island dream” it takes that opportunity away from a local one. The military artificially inflates the economy making it further harder for locals to find affordable housing. Locals are priced out of their own land, it’s an island with finite resources, a brutal colonizing history, so remote with a certain amount of land. I don’t understand how people can move to a place with the history it had, with a “reservationesque” mindset not expecting this kind of backlash. Would it be cool to go up to a native american person and try and teach them what their version of aloha is or means? No. Then why do people do it to Hawaiians?

    • Grizzly

      I really enjoyed reading your explanation… and for many of the reasons you’ve mentioned, I could never move to Hawaii and feel relaxed or at peace.

    • Go Griz

      On the contrary, my friend! As a Native American our experiences are not universal to yours. The atrocities that were committed on our people have not left us bitter and hateful. We have much bigger issues than being mad at white people.

  8. susan

    Teens everywhere around the world are testing their “power” on each other. IF you can educate your own children to expect this testing, make it a normal growth event, then they will likely find their way easier, being mostly analytical instead of being bombarded with negative reactions. I raised my kids (30 yrs) on maui, blonde hair and blue eyes, and they found their way pretty easily, mostly by making one solid friend, and slowly branching out from that stepping stone. Your son may have two strikes against him with autism, and I wonder if there is an opportunity for you to homeschool him? Or put him into a homeschool environment? You may want to contact a Maui psychiatrist to see if there are human resources on Maui that can give you very good advice concerning his options.

  9. Sandra

    We own a condo in Kihei and reside in British Columbia. We do find ‘some’ of the native Hawaiians to be very disrespectful. It is very disappointing that in this modern age, we cannot accept one another for who we are.
    We completely understand many visitors and guests are disrespectful….but we would encourage them all to realize….where would Hawaii be without tourism. That being said, we would like to see the beaches monitored for smoking, the taking of sand, shells, coral, standing on reefs, touching sea turtles etc. All of these actions indicate disrespect and we get very upset.
    It would be good to see some of the native locals out defending this wonderful resource and those who do not like the rules and don’t want to return…don’t. There are always more guests willing to abide by the rules of the land than not. We will continue to do our part; we have no problem letting people know they are violating the laws of the Hawaiian land. Admittedly, we don’t care if they don’t like it or like being told, just because you are there on vacation, it is not an open book for taking whatever you want and destroying nature in the process.

    • Maui Hawaii

      Much of what you wrote is right on, but using the argument that Tourism is good for the people will get you a lot of resistance. Without tourism, the islands would be very different, and many locals would be happier. We feel that there’s a balance where everyone can be happy, but it takes more understanding.

      • Niihau Lakes

        I SO agree with you as a kanaka maoli.

      • Daniel

        With less mainland tourism, Hawaii would be less of target for Mainlanders to flock to and in turn, “Karen-up” our islands. As a whole we may end up with less cash in our bank accounts, which would actually free us up to be more Hawaiian than we’ve been for the last 30 yrs. We know how to be happy with what we have and I’d guess it wouldn’t take us long to get used to living without the extra cash- it’s not like we plan on sending all of our kids to Harvard – and the 70 inch screen is a haolecentric thing we can live without. I think about where we’d be without mainland tourism all the time, I guess you could say I fantasize about it. Just saying…

  10. Corrie

    We lived on Maui for 2 years. When I left, I was so happy to leave. Now, 2 years later, I would give anything to go back and live there again. My husband is in the Air Force and was stationed there and we lived in Kihei. Our landlord’s house (the one we were renting) went in to foreclosure after we had lived in it for about 14 months (we had a 2 year lease). That being said, if you rent a house, do some sort of credit check on the person who owns the house you are renting to make sure their payments are up to date. Request to see a letter from their lender that they are up to date with their payments. If they won’t show you one, be wary of renting from them. As for racism, we were given some hyped up information about how haole’s are treated by kids in school. My son’s first 2-3 days were terrible because of what we had been told ahead of time (he went to Maui High). It turned out to not be as bad as we had been told. I would say that if you want more of a mix, live an an area where the kids would go to Baldwin High or upcountry. I know your kids aren’t that old, but I’m not that familiar with the boundaries. Also, you may want to consider putting your kids in private school, something like Saint Anthony’s. We had friends that had 2 kids going to school there and they paid less tuition than they do now for one child in full-time daycare in the Washington DC area. There are more haole kids there, and they might have scholarships depending on your income. For a long term rental, check out for rent by You can pick the area of the island you want to live in. You may be able to find someone who is willing to rent to you on a longer term basis (several weeks at a time) at a reduced rental rate. Beware that winter season (mid December through mid May) is whale season and the most expensive time of the year to rent a vacation rental. You might get with a real estate agent to help you find a house. I agree that you will need a job to get a rental on island. If you have any more questions or want more info, email me privately.

  11. Annette Canfield-Grove

    I moved to Maui with a teenage daughter. She was blond haired and blue eyed and had a difficult time adjusting at first. It’s all about attitude. If you embrace the Hawaiian culture and way of life then the locals open their hearts to you. It won’t be easy at first but the best things in life never are! When we first moved there, I found a temporary rental through It’s people who have vacation rentals to rent out. Then once I knew a bit more about the island, I looked for places close to my work..Good Luck!

  12. Sherry

    Amber, the natives prefer to hire natives. Teacher jobs may be easier to come by…I know haoles who are teachers K-12. I would recommend contacting a church pastor and get connected that way.

  13. Devan

    Howzit Amber!

    I moved to Maui when I was 10 years old, and I will be honest it was rough. I am haole so it took a while for the other kids to accept me. In a sense your joining a club, you must endure an initiation in some sense. For a local, the community and your friends/ family come before all, and because of this, newcomers are criticized. The term Haole literally translates into “one who does not breath” your husband should know the story, this term is now generally used for white people in peticular. It may be hard but with your husband being a local it may be a good idea to take advantage of that and immerse your children in his local friends families immensly before they enter school. Your son, being 15 will be attending Maui high school where I went. They have the best and highest awarded music program in the state, I was a part of it and I never met a more accepting group. I will not lie, he will have a much rougher time because he is male and white skinned. But if he can manage to embrace the ridicule, which sounds strange, he can understand the local mentality and gain a hard earned acknowledgement by his peers. Local people dislike tourists in general, not simply because they are not local, but because tourists do not understand that they are part of someones home. Most locals will say theylove where they live more than anything, and tourist treat It like a play ground. Caring for the land and its people is a local motto, do not forget. Your daughter will have an easy time because she is not white and racism is not so apparent with local woman. Racism is common, no lies, but it is not forever and enduring it will provide more positivity than detriment in the long run. You will never have friends like a local friend. You will be accepted as family wherever you go, as long as your ready to join a family and act like family. The jist of it is, your not looking just move to Maui, it also includes embracing a completely different culture and lifestyle. If your children are not ready to essentially move to another country they must prepare. Being open minded and strong during their “initiation” will result in invaluable benifits. Your husband, being local is a huge trump card and with his guidence and knowledge of local culture you guys have an advantage compared to how I was exposed. Have faith that things will be rough before theyre better.

  14. Kahalehau

    It’s not racism or anything like that. I’m half Hawaiian and half “haole”. It’s all based on respect. Hawaii is very different from anyplace in the world. It’s very laid back, and full of aloha. I was born and raised in Maui, but I was also raised in Houston. It’s all about attitude. If you plan on moving to Maui with a bad attitude then no doubt you will have a hard time. You don’t go to a strangers house and spit wherever you want. Hawaiians are connected to the island as if it was apart of them. If you present yourself as disrespectful then you will be disrespected. I am not happy at all to say this. I don’t want you to think that I am racist. I have a lot of family that aren’t Hawaiian. The term “haole” has no reference to being white or Caucasian. It simply means “no heir” or “not from this land”. If you know our history and had a little respect for our culture, then you would understand. If you can’t understand, then you obviously are and ignorant haole. Aloha

    • Amber

      In asking about all this, I did not mean any disrespect at all. I am a mother and only want to make sure my kids will also enjoy the experience. And yes clearly I am ignorant, that’s why I am asking before I get there. My husband is blonde haired and blue eyed and was called “haole” and teased and beat up and ridiculed the first year he spent there. My son has a from of autism and I only wanted to find out what we can do to ease his transition to a new place, which is hard for him anyways. I have read a little bit about Hawaii online but haven’t found much. Maybe you could recommend a website or maybe a book for me so I can learn about your culture. Thank you, Amber

      • Kahalehau

        Don’t worry Amber, you and you family will be fine:) I can’t tell your a good person. You’ll find many great friends and you and your boys will have a family over there with them. My brother is autistic. I’ve realized that people embrace and live kids who are like that. I can’t tell you which website to go on or anything like that, but I’m positive you folks will be just fine:) aloha

        P. S Maui high is not the school to go too. I’ve met a lot of punks that went there. I went to Baldwin. They have the best sports program in the island, great teachers. It’s very racially diversed. Great for autistic kids

  15. Abby

    Racism on maui is not just towards ‘haoles’ it’s also towards the locals.
    It is very sad that people who were born and raised here should be uncomfortable in their own skin.

  16. Kyo

    My wife and I have been to Maui a couple of times and we’ve only had good experiences with locals. We have down to earth attitudes and I think that type of personality tends to mesh well. If you lead with respect, then most people tend to reciprocate. That said, you’re always bound to run into someone that isn’t kind no matter where you go (island or mainland).

  17. AMauiBlogLiza

    I have hapa kids about the same age as yours, with pure “haole” friends and in the school. In the school they go to I have not heard of “racism”. I see kids getting along well and there are mix in there – all sort of race. That said I agree with what Maui information Guide said, it happens in some areas but not a lot. I want to emphasize what it was said on the post: “The more you embrace the culture, history and people, the more it will embrace you. That being said, there are always bad apples with bad histories.”.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *