Living on Maui – The Ups and Downs


welcome-to-Maui-signI have been thinking about this topic of “Living on Maui” for the past few weeks.  Recently our family’s income was reduced significantly. There were moments of panic and anxiety.  Then we prayed, we assessed, we prayed again and we planned.  Bottomline, we have to change our lifestyle and live within our means, with a new budget and a new lifestyle. Both my husband and I are possibly going to take a second job while we weather this financial storm. But no worries – at least we live on Maui, right? 😉

Are you dreaming of moving to Maui?  Some of you might not be just dreaming, but actually have a plan to do it.  Some of you might be doing your research right now, weighing out your options, writing out pros and cons.  I hope this little musing of mine will help you in your research and planning, or least give you something to think about.

When someone says to me, “I have good news and bad news” and ask “which one do you want first?”. I always ask for the “bad news” first, because I like hear the good news last … sort of gives it a happy ending.  So let me start with the “downs” of living on Maui before we talk about the “Ups”.

What are the difficulties you will encounter living on Maui?

  1.  High Cost of Living
    1. Food Cost is high.  If you are moving from San Francisco to Maui or Santa Barbara to Maui, the high cost of living on Maui won’t faze you. You are used to it.  But if you are moving from Texas or Kansas or other states and nation where prices of milk does not go as high as $9 per gallon, then you are in for a surprise.  Of course there are milk on “sale” and it can go as low as $4.99 per gallon (always check Costco), but still  … the prices of food / groceries are expensive.
    2. Housing Cost is high. Whether you are planning to buy or rent, the prices of homes and condos are high. To get an idea of how much higher it is to buy or rent a house here on Maui, I suggest you go to Craigslist and Zillow and look up the listing under Maui. You can also check my work website at Wailea Realty.  This is a major consideration and you must always have a plan on where you will live when you come to Maui.  We have many friends here on Maui who moved to the mainland because of housing situation. Some who are moving to Maui have the means and resources and can afford to buy nice houses or condos. That is great. But for some who have a tighter budget – housing must be planned well.
  2. Far Away From Family.  If your family and relatives are living on another State or Country, and you move to Maui, being away from a family can be discouraging at times.  For those who don’t have a lot of money, there will be many times when you’d want to visit your family but can’t because the price of airfare is expensive.  You can’t just drive to visit them.  You always will have to buy a plane ticket.  Again, we have many friends here on Maui who moved back to the mainland so they can be closer to their families (for example, they want their kids to grow up near their grand parents and Uncles and Aunties).
  3. The Vog and the Smoke from the Sugar Cane Burning.  I have no problem with these. I do not have any allergic reactions to vog or smoke from sugar cane burning. But others do. Therefore if you are sensitive to fog and smoke, Maui might not be the right place for you to live. (UPDATE 2017 – No more sugar cane burning)
  4. Limited  Career Growth – Hawaii’s economy is mainly based on tourism.  There are other areas and work possibilities but the easiest jobs to find are tourism related – hotel industries, restaurants, retail store, etc.  Teachers are always in demand but many of the teachers who moved here moves back to the mainland when they can’t keep up with the high cost of living.  The opportunities for career growth are limited on this island.  That’s something to think about.
  5. You’ll Miss Some of the The “Big Things” – One of our friends said that one of the things he misses while living on Maui is attending the ball games on a huge arena. He said he remembered doing that with his dad and wish he can do it here with his son but can’t. You’d have to fly to another state to attend a big ball game. Same with concerts, and plays.  You have to fly out to experience it – maybe go to Oahu or California or Las Vegas.  Can’t just drive. And the cost adds up when you include airfare on the expense.
  6. Culture – Although Hawaiian culture is full of “aloha”, not everyone can adapt to it.  For example, people coming from the East Coast have a hard time adjusting to the laid back culture and indirect form of communication (common in Pacific Islander culture).  And let’s not forget to mention that it’s not only the Hawaiian culture that is on Maui – you will have to adapt to the many cultures weaved in here through the people … Filipino, Chinese, Tongan, Korean, English, Canadian, Okinawan, Brazilian, Portuguese, Italian, German, and many more ….  For many, “culture” is actually the “Up side” of living on Maui and not the “down side”  and so let this part be a transition and let’s move to the “Ups” of living on Maui

What are the advantages of living on Maui?

  1. The Beauty of Nature – Most of not all places on Maui is close to the ocean. There are beautiful beach everywhere. You don’t have to on a trip and plan a major holiday to enjoy the beach – to snorkel, dive, surf or whatever it is that you enjoy doing in the ocean.  The sunrise and sunsets are spectacular.  Aside from the ocean/beach – the mountains are beautiful too.  In addition to the ocean and mountain – the flora and fauna are rich.  Gorgeous tropical flowers abound in the island – beautiful sights and smell abound!  I never take for granted the beautiful nature on Maui – and I love sharing them with you on my Facebook Pages: My Own Maui and A Maui Blog.
  2. The Weather –  It’s sunny most of the time in most places (like South side Kihei, Wailea, Makena and Westside Lahaina, Napili, Kaanapali).  If you like rain, Haiku and Hana is for you. If you don’t like hot and dusty and prefer a cooler climate, Kula is for you.  There are many options. If you move here from a place where  there’s an actual four season of winter, spring, summer of fall, – you will miss “fall” (the changing of leave colors, etc.) and “winter” (we don’t have snow here. Oh, sometimes there are snow dust up top Haleakala Mountain but it melts pretty fast.
  3. Culture and People – I mentioned earlier how this can be a disadvantage. However, it can also be the advantage or attraction on why people choose to move and stay on Maui.  The people are generally friendly and laid back. The culture is filled with aloha.
  4. Generally Less Stress  – Although the things I mentioned above on the “difficulties” on living on Maui can add stress to your lives, in general living on Maui is less stressful that living on the Mainland.  Sure the food cost is high and housing is expensive – but it’s really a matter of adjusting to a lifestyle you can afford.  Once you find that balance, living on Maui is a blast!

OK, I am done with my rumbling for the day.  I know the blog post is “subjective”. I did not really give you facts and figures. They were all  observations with subjective interpretations.  That’s ok because this is a blog post and not an article in a newspaper or magazine 🙂  It’s a Maui Local’s  observations and rumblings.  If you have anything you may want to add – observations, insights, experience, story – write them on the comment section.  We’d love to hear from you!

16 thoughts on “Living on Maui – The Ups and Downs”

  1. Great article. As a plus I would add the availability of wonderful fresh fish and produce. The cuisine in general is good and the fancy restaurants are amazing. The distance and the cost of traveling to family and friends is why we left. People from the northeast are very direct and will have a problem with the communication still but not the Southeast.

    1. Unless you have a hefty income, fresh fish and fancy restaurants are a bit out of reach on a regular basis. As local implants we have experienced bad service while paying very high prices. As far as family and friends, we have had way more quality time on an individual basis with each family member. Plus you really find out who your friends are when you move away. lol Our original plan was to come here for 2 to 5 years. 2 years later, we are thinking about heading to the big island for some rural living. Aloha

  2. Aloha,
    My wife and I are planning to move to Maui in Sept./Oct. of 2016. The planning for this move has been two years in the making. There isn’t anything on the “difficulties” side of the argument that we haven’t considered. I am retiring in January and my wife is going to continue to work. I think the biggest challenge will be finding a place to live. We are looking to downsize so we’ll more than likely end up in an apartment. We’ll be returning to Maui in August to secure a place to live. While rent is certainly higher in Maui, we currently live in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area and some of that rent will be offset by the fact that the air conditioner won’t be running 24/7 six months out of the year. We visited Maui this past May. One of the things we looked at was the price of food. here in North Texas, we usually shop at Costco. The week before we visited Maui, we went shopping at Costco and made a list of the things we usually buy and their prices. We went to the Costco in Kahului and compared prices for everything on the list. Prices in Maui were about 10% higher than in Texas. The things that were quite a bit higher were milk (as you stated), toilet tissue, and paper towels. Like anywhere, if you look for sales, you can save money there.
    Our move is not being done on a whim. We’ve done a lot of research and we’ve run the numbers and believe we can make it work. We’re not rich. We’re a middle class husband and wife who are now empty nesters. We’ve decided if we don’t at least try to make this move, 10 years from now we’ll be looking at one another over dinner and regretting it. Your article is very valuable in that it points out the fact that moving to paradise isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There’s a lot to consider before you make a move of this magnitude.

    Mike W.

    1. Aloha Mike, Sounds like our story 3 years ago. Even though things can tough here, I say do it. We did all the numbers and research too. Housing is the biggest problem. We never feel secure here because we feel really lucky to have found the place we are in and worry that finding another would be almost impossible. Also I have experienced a bit of local vs implant problems. The homeless pretty much own Kihei. For us, we find that incorporating the, don’t look is good. Living at 1400 a month rent makes for unruly and disrespectful neighbors. We have learned to keep our blinds shut with AC and fans on and mind our own business. Our standards from Seattle do not exist here on Maui. The beauty here surpasses all the social implications.

  3. Mike W,
    I’m also in North Texas and will be almost a year behind ya! I’d love to correspond with you about some things you’ve already worked out, if possible. I have questions about the moving part.
    Good luck my Fellow Texan!!!! I’m pulling for y’all 🙂

  4. Nina,
    While we’re still a ways out from the move, I’d be happy to help any way I can. I’ll correct you though. I was told when I moved to Texas more than 12 years ago that no matter how long I lived here, I’d never be a Texan. I’m OK with that. I’m an Ohioan living in Texas trying to get to Maui.

    Mike W.

  5. You make some great points Liza.
    One important item you mentioned that most people probably don’t think about is the limited opportunity for career growth. It’s especially frustrating considering the high cost of living. While you can manage your finances and plan for housing costs, not being able to increase your income is a real barrier to financial stability. Not to mention the lack of opportunities for growth within your career, and to enjoy the fulfillment and personal growth that comes along with that.

  6. Great article Liza! I would add on the “down side” the reality of life on an island that so many people don’t realize until they are here. A few more to consider are 1) It is very expensive to come and go. If you are a retiree and have children “out of the nest”, when grandchildren come along, the strain of the expense and distance is significant. If you are young and starting off, when you have kids but no family on island the same strain applies. 2) Limited medical resources. There are great doctors here but most cancer and serious long term disease care must be treated on Oahu or on the mainland. Many travel back and forth, but again, this is not feasible if you are on a fixed or middle class income regardless of your medical coverage. 3) Jobs are limited for people who were born and raised here, all the more so for those coming from the mainland. Employers want to hire people they believe will stay and most know that there is a “high chance of failure” for transplants on Maui. This limits the number of employers willing to take a risk on a new resident.

    On the other hand, sometimes you just want to throw caution to the wind and have an adventure, in that case…Maui No Ka Oi!

  7. Good article Lisa. I’m temporarily off island and have noticed a few things I miss.
    1. Birds singing. We take it for granted but the Maui skies are rarely quiet.
    2. Majestic mountain views. As a REALTOR, I deal with many people who want that precious ocean views. Living on Maui I find ocean views generally overrated. I find the most peace when observing the mountains. At sunrise, sunset and most of the day the mountains ground me. Travelling across the Midwest is beautiful but so flat!

    1. Aloha, for sure Kathy, the birds are awesome! In Seattle we don’t hear birds till spring! One of the hugest obstacles we have found is finding a place to live. There seems to be zero housing. We want to rent vs invest on Maui. It’s not easy to find the good places unless you know someone. What has been your experience? WE choose to live within the 1400 to 1600 monthly rent. We are secure with outstanding credit and background checks as a husband & wife team. Still it seems impossible to find a place with a lanai and a wheelchair access with a small service dog.

  8. Great article! My husband and I have lived here on Maui almost 2 years now. WE are originally from Seattle Wa. What has been your experiences with the locals? We have experienced a few things that we didn’t expect. Since I am around everyday, most of the small businesses know I live here. They have many smiles for all the tourists who are spending money and tipping. Yet when it’s my turn the demeanor changes. Blending in can be a challenge sometimes. Also, I have experienced the attitude that Maui has been invaded by foreigners. I find that I could adopt the same attitude in Seattle. The locals will smile and say aloha, yet they really don’t mean it in most cases. They know they need us to visit the island, yet they resent the fact that we are taking housing and beach space from them.

  9. We always tell people new to Maui that consider it a “second world country”. Don’t expect things to be like the mainland. Everyone takes time to embrace you because we will expect you to leave. People come and go and it hard on us who stay. Enjoy and embrace the culture. The people are wonderful.

  10. Something else to consider if you’re planning to move to Maui with pets. The pickings can be very slim when it comes to renting a place if you have dogs or even cats. If you have a large breed dog you are just about out of luck. We have resigned ourselves to the fact that we will have to leave our German Shepherd behind with our daughter because we won’t be able to find a landlord that will rent to us. Some places will allow you to have a small dog or a cat. Even if you buy a condo, you’re still subject to the restrictions imposed by the HOA.

    Mike W.

  11. I am so sorry about your change in the household. <3 Praying for all of it to come together for you.

    I agree with your points, and would also like to add that the medical care is limited. As someone mentioned earlier, you often have to fly to Oahu or to the mainland for care. When I think about someone retiring here, if they aren't in good health, I would not recommend it.

    Also, my friends leave the island all of the time. It's hard to focus on building a life here when people are coming and going so often and family is not here, either.

    But Maui No Ka Oi…so we go another day…in paradise.

  12. Great post!

    I just came back from visiting Maui and even with my short time here (2 weeks), being from the Bay Area, CA where it is already multi-cultural and expensive, my mind was already seeing the ups and downs. You just confirmed it as an actual resident. It’s nice to day dream and think about it though. If there was decent income to afford the high price housing, coupled with the gorgeousness of living in Hawaii, everything else just because stress-free.

    But of course reality wakes you up from that dream. The housing prices didn’t give me a sticker shock after being so use to Bay Area home prices. It was more so what kind of jobs can you get to be able to afford it. Everything does seem so laid back and I commend those who made the move. If you really want to, and can find means to do so, I say why not. If it was that easy, I would be considering it too!

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