Everything you ever wanted to know…

….well, at least something….about moving to the big island of Hawaii.

So, you’ve decided to move to the Big Island of Hawaii.  So you already know that it is….um….big.  And it is NOT on Oahu. And it is NOT where Honolulu is located.  And it is NOT the capitol of the STATE of Hawaii…..and you know that it has 10 of 13 global climate zones. And you know that it has a wet side and a dry side. And you know it has the most active (gently flowing) volcano in the world, and the world’s tallest (as measured from ocean floor to peak) mountain-Mauna Kea. And you know that since it is the newest of the islands, it (at least on the east side) does not have the classic white sand crescent beaches of the other islands.

I assume you already have employment (or the means to support yourself….). If not, realize that though BI (Big Island) is the most affordable of the Hawaiian Islands, it is still remote, jobs are scarce and we certainly are not at the forefront of technological innovation and industry…..But you knew that, and are moving here anyway….and you have LOTS of questions about the mechanics of moving here. I have tried to coordinate all the info I gathered in planning and executing our move here.  Some of it is peculiar to obtaining professional and business licenses, so if it doesn’t apply–ignore.

I have listed the names and web addresses of real estate agents who we found exceedingly helpful, web forums where one can ask choke (plenty) questions and links to the State of Hawaii business and professional sites. The sections are listed below, with appropriate links embedded. And, since I am a storyteller, please forgive the tendency to embellish the sections with personal experiences.

There are bank, real estate, shopping recommendations. They are OUR preferences. YMMD (your mileage may differ…..)


There are NO nationwide banks in Hawaii (the state).  There is First Hawaii Bank. Bank of Hawaii. Lots of credit unions. But, no bank for which there is a mainland presence. So, either you come here prior to moving and open a bank account….which can be dicey if you don’t already have a physical Hawaii address……or do all your banking online with a mainland bank.  A story about our choice of banking institution:

The Konaweb discussion board is comprised of people who have moved, plan to move or dream of moving to the Big Island.  Moving, packing and “adjusting” tips are freely exchanged. One venerable member, Auntie Lele, is a life-long resident, speaks fluent Hawaiian, and offers her wisdom, word translation and explains local customs.

She wrote a beautiful piece on “Giving Aloha.”  It is hard for a mainlander to understand, let alone receive graciously.  We first experienced true “aloha” while visiting D and L on Kauai.  They took us for a Sunday Drive down toward Waimea.  D turned the car down a narrow dirt road which followed alongside a river.  A couple miles up, we came to an Eden of tropical fruit trees, meadows and flowers.  There was a large home there, and we stopped to greet the residents.  D and L had met them at a church function, and so hoped they would let us explore the area.

Nothing doing!  A self-guided walk would not do! They took us into their home, gave us wine and PuPu (appetizers), a tour of their home (which they had moved to shortly after WWII) and a guided tour of their fruit/vegetable farm, all the while giving us the history of the farm, the steps involved in transforming it from a rock-filled desert to tropical wonderland.   The woman picked fruit and veggies as we walked, and handed them to us as gifts.  At the end of our visit, she handed us each a copy of her signed flower identification guide.

We experienced Aloha again yesterday.  On BI to do real estate searching, open bank accounts and finish pre-moving details, we drove to Paauhou on the north coast to go to the little credit union I had chosen (I LOVE credit unions…..).  We arrived in the tiny little village at 4:36, and saw the sign “Hours, M, W, F. 8a-4:30p.  We missed by 6 minutes!  Wrong.  We peeked inside the still open door and R, sitting at the desk picking up her purse and keys and getting ready to walk out the door,  welcomed us with a huge smile, ushered us in and told us she would be delighted to open an account for us.

She spent another  45 minutes taking our info, setting up an account and explaining the benefits of this particular credit union, and welcomed us as “locals.”  It wasn’t the fact that she worked overtime to do what we wanted. it was the absolute joy and lack of any hint of irritation with which she did it. Such a thing would never have happened at “home,” and we felt blessed by the gift of such aloha.

E  komo  mai  means  “welcome to my home.”  We  feel welcome.

Ok, so a little verbose, perhaps, but you get the idea.  Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union will allow you to open an account without having a local, physical address.  At this time, they only have branches on the west (Kona-side) and north (Honoka’a). There are plans to open a Hilo branch, but they also have shared branching, allowing you to access a Hilo (or even Sparks, Nevada!) credit union for your banking needs.

Business licensing

Let’s talk about taxes. All states have ’em, in one form or another.  Hawaii has excise tax. It is levied on ANY money-making enterprise. You clean teeth?  Pay the excise tax.  Provide medical care?  Pay.  Sell your excess mangoes on the side of the road?  Cough it up.

In order to pay excise tax, you need a Hawaii business tax id.  Get it here.

In order to set up a legal Hawaii business, you must have either a physical address (a PO won’t fly), or pay someone to act as a registered agent.  I used the (initially) free service from Incorp. Get it here. .  Make sure that you reassign the registered agent to yourself when you have a physical on-island address, or else you will have to pay to renew the service yearly.

Excise taxes are due quarterly and are (for medical professionals) 4% of reciepts.

I created an LLC (limited liability company) using an online LLC form creator that I found by following a thread which lead to a thread which…well, anyway, I can’t find it now. But your friendly neighborhood lawyer or cpa can certainly create it for you….

Cost of living

When I told her I was leaving our practice to move to Hawaii, my partner asked “How can you afford to live there!!?”  It’s true, I couldn’t afford to live on Maui or Kauai….and definitely not Oahu.  But, Big Island is not them. Thank God!

In Nevada, in March ’08, we were paying $3.39 per gallon of gas. Right now (10/08) we are paying $3.39 with a credit union discount in Hilo. Milk is $4.99 gallon. Eggs anywhere from $2.69 (at Costco) to $5.99 (at Safeway non-member price).  Sales are always found though, and I have gotten cereal for as little as $2.50 box.  We grow our own lettuce, tomatoes and corn. Our property has grapefruit, orange, lemon and lime. And bananas. And mangoes, avocado and guava. And jaboticoba, coffee and pineapple.  We will certainly never starve here.

Banana smoothies. Banana bread. Banana cake. Banana-lime cake. Bananas for breakfast, and as lunch snacks. Bananas cut into my cereal. This week DH canned 12 pints of banana-mango preserves.

We search the internet looking for recipes for bananas, to use up our seemingly endless supply.  I am amazed when I go through the grocery store, to see them listed at $1.39/lb (more than twice the cost of them in our Nevada grocery store…..), when they grow wild all over the island here.

I remember one of the opening passages in the book Hawaii, by James Michener.  En route to the islands,  missionary Abner Hale force feeds his wife, pregnant and seasick, bananas, in an attempt to acclimate her to tropical food.  After months of this  torture, the meek and obedient Jerusha finally rebels and thrusts them in his face, refusing ever to touch another.

I certainly don’t dislike them like that…….I just am overwhelmed at too much of a good thing.

And don’t get me started on mangoes!

Farmer’s markets abound, and whatever we don’t grow, can be found very reasonably at either Hilo’s Saturday or Puna’s Sunday market (and numerous markets on the west side, also…but MUCH too far for us to drive….).

When DH has caught up with all the basic changes I want done to the house, he will build me a chicken coop so we can have fresh eggs.  Four chickens. That’s all I want. And two ducks. But that’s all. Just four chickens, and two ducks and a piggie. But that’s all……..

Electric power IS expensive.  HELCO (Hawaii Electric Light . Company) charges 42 cents per kilowat hour (as opposed to about 10 cents in most of the mainland.  Again, if you go solar, electric is FREE.  At least, you can have solar hot water put in, and it will greatly reduce the monthly bill.

Clothing is no more expensive here (assuming you shop at moderate priced stores) than anywhere else. Ross rules!

Health Care

Health care on Big Island is scarce….  And I say that as a member of that community.  Reimbursement for physicians here is poor… and slow….and low. Therefore, there is a paucity of doctors who are willing to accept new patients.  There are essentially two choices for health insurance:  Kaiser and HMSA.  We were covered through my clinic on the mainland, and when we moved here we continued to pay a COBRA continuation policy. That cost $1500 per month.  After the requisite 6 month waiting period that is required prior to applying for insurance here, we started looking……

I have no health problems (other than being fat….) but he has a prior condition.  Both insurance companies liked me, but would not accept him. An interesting quirk in the COBRA laws is this: once I (as the primary insured under our policy) became covered by a Hawaii carrier, his COBRA automatically expired. And by Hawaii law, the local insurers were then MANDATED to offer him insurance, as long as he applied within 60 days of losing his COBRA coverage. Voila! We are both insured. I through Kaiser (because if something happens, I don’t want to have to bare my butt to my colleagues in the same practice group, which is not associated with Kaiser….), and he through HMSA, in an HMO plan which allowed me to pick a doc of our choice…even though he is not routinely accepting new patients, he does accept the new HMO enrollees.

Now, if you are employed, work 20 or more hours per week, and for 4 consecutive weeks, by Hawaii law your employer is mandated to offer coverage.  That’s the good news. Finding a doctor who will accept you as a new patient is a bit more dicey…

Cost for both of us under the new plans:  $600/month.


Compared to the other islands, Big Island is a housing bargain.  It is entirely feasible to buy a NEWLY constructed home on 1/2 acre for less than $250,000.  It is also entirely possible to spend a couple million.

First, decide what your climate should be.  Mostly sunny, warmer and drier?  Need classic white sand beaches?  Kona (and surrounds) (um, and much pricier than other areas…..).

Dry, scanty foliage and rain, but views that go on forever (since the next land you would see is in Antarctica…..) and affordable housing, Ka’u. It also has the only green sand beach on the island, as well as Punaluu black sand beach, where turtles love to sun themselves.

Green, wet, green, humid and green?  Hilo (and surrounds). Though there are no white sand beaches, there are planny choke (plenty, plenty) county parks with easy ocean access for snorkeling, swimming and laying on the grass to get your tan.

Want jungle, alternative, green and sometimes bohemian lifestyles (and affordable)? Puna. No beaches, but great snorkeling at Kapoho and Champagne hot pond.

Desert, dry, hot and prices ranging from reasonable (Waikaloa village) to out of site (Kohala coast resort properties). This is where the classic, crescent, white sandy beaches are. It is also the site of a relatively recent volcano flow (Hualalai last erupted there in 1801). So, there are expanses of black, smooth (pahoehoe)or rough (a’a) lava fields as far as the eye can see. This is NOT the land of palm trees and climbing vines…..

If none of those fit, consider Waimea (Kamuela) up in the northwest.  At a higher (cooler) elevation, with both a dry and a wet side….and there is a definite LINE where the change happens. It is cowboy (paniolo) country, and at times evokes a feel of Ireland, with rolling, green hills covered with cattle, horses and sheep. Often misty and cool, it is a very different place than most of the island.

Now, if you want to be our neighbor, come up to the green, agricultural, often off-grid Hamakua coast on the northeast.  There are no beaches, a couple of county parks where you can sit and gaze out to sea…….but only the REALLY brave would enter…..This is an area of lush green, verdant hillsides. Our area, Ninole, is a site of numerous homes powered by solar.

Robert Ferrari is the west-side real estate guru.  The Konaweb discussion board is replete with his praises.  He was very helpful on our initial foray into a home search.

The agent with whom we found the house we initially rented, then purchased, is Jaelynn Rockman of Koa Realty, Inc.  I can say she literally worked her butt off to make our lease/purchase work.   (She works on both east and west sides).  Harry Pritikin, another agent at Koa Realty, Inc., has a GREAT website which allows you to get a daily newsletter with listings for south,  east or west side.

Moving household stuff

There are choke (plenty) companies that will be happy to take your money to move your goods.  I can only tell you our experience. Our problem was unique, in that we didn’t plan to move our “stuff” until 6 months after we moved ourselves.  That meant we needed either to pay for storage, then a move, or buy a seatainer in which to store our stuff, then move that.  Which is what we did, intending to use it as a secure storage/work shed when it is unloaded.

Buying a seatainer: We purchased ours through United Rentals, a national tool rental company, but a google search will bring up lots of sites from which to buy. I have even seen them on ebay. I specified the size (20′ x 8′ x 8′) and that it MUST have a seaworthy certificate. This is very important, because without it, your container can’t cross the sea!  This is a paper, filled out by a Marine Surveyor, certifying that your ‘tainer is water and airtight, and it has an expiration date. Make sure that the date gives you enough time to move it! Another story:

Used to be when something good happened to me or an acquaintance, I would say “…must have gone to church on Sunday.”  Well,  we didn’t go to church on Sunday.

On Monday they were to deliver our seatainer: a 20 x 8 x 8 metal box in which we will store our belongings, then ship them, then which will become a garage/storage building on our new property.  That’s good.

But, the transport truck had mechanical problems and it didn’t arrive till Tuesday afternoon. The driver could not get up our road (which is actually in very good condition given the kind of winter we had….)with his loaded truck.   That’s bad.

So, he took his forklift off his truck, LIFTED the 4 ton box twenty feet into the air (to avoid clipping the trees lining the road) and carried it up the driveway.  That’s VERY good.

But, he didn’t bring the certificate.  Without a valid, current marine surveyor certificate of seaworthiness, no shipping company will forward this freight box, and when I contracted to purchase it, I made it clear that I must have the certificate.  Without it, we would have to pay a marine surveyor (not many of them live in the Nevada desert……) to come here to perform an inspection and issue one.  If that were necessary, the box would have to be empty–meaning, we couldn’t pack it prior to leaving next week. That’s bad.

A phone call to the seller resulted in a copy of it.  That’s good.

The operating agreement for my clinic (which my partner and I just dissolved) called for paying me 20% of any money due as a lump sum, and the remainder in monthly installments.  But, since the money was available,  they paid me in full…..giving me much more fluidity during this move and 6 weeks of being paycheckless.  That’s good.

But, taxes come due during that time, and for the last few years I have owed LARGE amounts at the end of the year……which would certainly cut into that fluidity.  That’s VERY bad.

The accountant called yesterday.  I GOT A REFUND!!!!!!!! (the first time in 10 years…..). That’s…..well, you know.

I think we won’t go to church this Sunday, either!

Ok, got your seatainer and certificate? Now, pack it! Ours held 18,000lbs of stuff. That was mostly DH’s tools and garden tractor, my piano and organ and other junk. We did not bring much in the way of furniture. (Our fussy Victorian antiques were unlikely to “fit” into our new Hawaiian home….). Hint: pack each box, put a number on each side of the box, and make a list of what is in each numbered box. When our ‘tainer arrived, we could refer to the master list and know immediately what was in each box. Unpacking was…well, not QUITE a joy…

So now you need to find a way to get it from there it here. If your ‘tainer was set at ground level for packing, you need to arrange a crane to pick it up and set it onto a truck chassis that you have hired. We used Horizon lines for trucking and Sterling crane for um..craning. Coordination of time is critical, because you are given 2.5 hours for the process of setting up the crane, lifting and loading the container. Any time beyond that you are charged an hourly rate.

Lets talk about nylon.  Women will understand.  Nylon stockings run when you pull them out of the package.  They run when you put one foot into them.  They run when the dog brushes against you.  In other words….they are fragile.  So, imagine my surprise when Sterling Crane came to pick up our seacontainer on Wednesday.  Fully loaded, the thing has a gross weight of about 25,000lbs. The operator crawled on top, screwed in a horseshoe shaped bracket to each corner of the roof. To that bracket, he attached a nylon strap.Each strap is 4″ wide and 1/8″ thick, and the four straps are then attached to a huge hook…..and then the crane lifts it.  Into the air.  On four nylon straps.

And sets it onto the waiting truck chassis……So, why do nylons when worn on your legs run, but when used to lift, carry and lower 25,000 pounds of metal, furniture and other assorted detritus, carry the load with ease? I demand a refund for all those pairs of nylon hose that were ruined just by trying to put them on my feet!

If you were strong enough, and agile enough and dog-gone it…nice enough to load your ‘tainer while it was still on the chassis, then you only need to arrange trucking/shipping from home to here.  Matson or Horizon or West Coast Relocation will arrange delivery of a chassis, give you time (usually about 10 days) to load it, then drive it to the port for loading, and if door-to-door shipping, give another 10 days to unload. That’s ok if you don’t need to store the ‘tainer before shipping, as we needed to.

Once the ‘tainer reaches port (either Hilo on the east or Kawaiihai on the west), it needs to be transported to your new digs. Matson and West Coast Relocation DO offer door to door shipping. Horizon does not do deliveries on island.  Again, if you are just planning to unload the ‘tainer and let the trucking company take it away afterwards, it is best to leave it on the chassis, rent a ramp and unload (or pay some strong local lads to do so).  If you bought the container, and intend to keep it (fully permitted, of course) as a garage or work shed, it will need to be set on the ground.  The crane thing could be done in reverse (I was given a price of $1000, PLUS the cost of trucking at about $800..), but we hired Conen’s trucking. They picked the thing up at Hilo harbor, trucked it to the property and used a (STRONG) forklift to take it off the truck and set it on the ground.

…First there was a ‘tainer, then there was no ‘tainer, then there was (with apologies to Donovan.)

The seacontainer made good time (with the help of Horizon moving…) across the sea to Hilo and arrived last Friday into Hilo Harbor.  Local trucking company Conens agreed (um, for a price….) to pick it up and bring it here to the Hroost, and off-load it onto the ground.

Mr. Conen scoped out the layout on Saturday, to make sure it was doable. “Get much rain up here, ‘E?”  Mr. Conen was obviously Hawaiian.  Obviously a local. And, since Conen’s trucking has been in business for many years, I would assume that he knows that Hilo is the rainiest city in the United States…so I was a bit taken aback by his question….Um….it’s HILO!

He worried that if the grass was even damp, that the forklift would bog down and not be able to carry the seatainer from the truck to its final resting spot.

On Tuesday they planned to bring it up.  No rain all day Monday. No rain Monday night. No rain Tuesday morning.  Then….clouds.  Mr. Conen called….”‘E. Rain up there?”  “None yet,” we replied.  So, they came up.  But so did the rain.  The semi truck would be able to come down the hill to the house. But…..the wet grass would prevent moving the thing off the truck.

And….they left.

No rain last night. No rain this morning. Nice fresh wind helped dry out the grass.  At 10am the phone rang.  Mr. Conen.  “‘E, Rain up there, ‘E?”  “None!” we replied.  So, again, up they came. It was still a stretch.  No luck getting the thing to where we wanted it.  But, it is on the property, easy to access and, at least for the foreseeable future….stationary.

First…..there was a ‘tainer, then there was no ‘tainer then there was……WOOT!

$4000 for seacontainer purchase

$600 for crane rental/time

$7500 for trucking/seatravel

$1000 for offloading and setting it on property

Moving pets

Start early. Start early. Start early. And most importantly, start early.  Go here and memorize it. And….start early. Info below is ONLY for those planning direct airport release (and why wouldn’t you want to, knowing the alternative means Fluffy and Spot will spend six months in a quarantine cage?……..)

We have dogs, and so I will discuss….dogs, but the info is also valid for cats and maybe others.  First, see your vet and get their rabies vaccines up to date, and get them microchipped (mandatory for direct release).  In order to qualify for direct airport release, they must have been vaccinated against rabies at least TWICE in their lifetimes, the most recent not LESS than 90 days prior to scheduled arrival. Once they meet this requirement, you can have the rabies titers done (a blood test that is then sent to Kansas City for evaluation of the presence of any rabies virus—process took us about 4 weeks to get results). This must be done not LESS than 120 days and not MORE than 36 months prior to Hawaii arrival.

Once you have that information, you can send your application(s)(and money)to the quarantine office in Honolulu.

Since you’ve already done the microchips, titer tests and waiting period, what is now important is having the Health Certificates for each pet issued right before you travel. These need to be done no more than 10 days before your arrival in Hawaii. In addition, dogs and cats will need a flea treatment at that time.

Once you have microchip certificate, and rabies titer certificate, you can plan your pet’s transport.  Plan on spending money to do this (in addition to all the money you spent to get them “veterinarily” ready…). First, ascertain that your airline will indeed transport your pet.  Many won’t fly pets overseas (yes, Hawaii is most certainly….overseas), and most have temperature restrictions in place. If the expected temperature at ANY point during their journey is expected to be greater than 85 degrees, they WILL NOT move your pet (don’t plan on moving in August……). United, American and Northwest (and possibly others) will move pets. We flew Northwest out of Portland, Oregon.  Their pet-flying rules are found here.

Make sure that you give to the inch size and weights of each pet in his/her crate and that the person that takes your reservation reads back the info and gives you the separate confirmation numbers for each pets’ reservation on each flight. Make sure you print out itinerary and confirmation numbers so you have that with you while you fly. As far as I know, ONLY United will fly directly to Kona, allowing you to bypass Honolulu. BUT, their rates were triple any other airline I scoped out.  Honolulu for us!

The personnel at Northwest were FABULOUS! The cargo people obviously cared about the animals’ well being, and the chief steward made a special stop at our seats to tell us that they had been “boarded” without incident.

Make your pets spend time in their crates before you fly so they get used to being in them. If you can, drive them around in their crates on short trips at night so they get accustomed to the motion and won’t get overheated.

It was one of those nagging little things that I have subconsciously worried about for months. The two dogs, now eight and nine, have had the run of 30 acres of wooded property since puppiedom.

Though Ursula was crate trained as a puppy, she quickly grew out of it, and has not been in one for years, and Buffy had never been in one.  So, I worried about putting them in crates for a 10 hour airplane trip across the ocean.  For months we have had the crates in the den, have coaxed them to go inside by bribing them with cookies.

Today, I borrowed the Trailblazer in which we will travel to Portland for our flight out. I put the crates in and told the girls “lets go for a ride!”  Buffy went right in, and I closed the door.  Ursula went in, but as soon as I closed the door she started to wail….and moan….and bay……and whimper, pushing her head against the metal door and poking her nose through the plastic side vents. “It will be a LONG drive to Portland,” I thought.

I drove to the neighborhood park and let them out for a walk….they were overjoyed to explore and smell the goose tracks for 15 or so minutes. I put them back into their crates and closed the doors….not a sound. No resistance.

I drove to Lamoille Canyon and again let them out, where they explored the picnic area, rolled in the snow, drank from the river and ran after a rabbit. Back to the truck, they jumped in, lay in their crates and had the look of happy, contented dogs. I had succeeded in making them associate the crate with a fun outing.

I should have known. Don’t sweat the small stuff….it’s all small stuff.

I stripped the bed the morning I left and put the flat sheet in with one dog and the fitted with the other. Many people believe that having their owner’s familiar scent is soothing to pets while traveling, and they can nestle into the fabric if they get cold in the plane’s cargo area. An unwashed t-shirt would work as well.

Freeze water at least 24 hours before your flight in the little clip on trays that hook inside onto the grill of the crate doors, or a sport bottle, turned upside down with the stopper open, so that it melts into a bowl attached to the door beneath it. Liquid water and ice cubes will probably spill or bounce out long before the plane lands, and they will be stressed and need water.

In Honolulu, buy a bottle of cold water from one of the refrigerated vending machines in the baggage claim area.  You can either rent a baggage cart, push/pull it to the quarantine area to pick up your pet(s), or, if they are LARGE like ours, use an animal handler to help with that coordination. We used Lisa Matsunaga (Lisa Mitsunaga, A-OK Grooming,(808) 734-3628). She picked us up at the Northwest gate, drove us to quarantine where we picked up the dogs, and she then delivered us to Hawaiian airlines cargo (off-airport) for their interisland flight to BI, and then back to the Hawaiian check in for our own interisland flight.

In HNL you must take your pets on the cart (or with the help of the handler),  off airport property to relieve themselves. You can ask the quarantine staff to point the way to a little grassy spot in front of the post office to have a potty break and stretch their legs (on leash of course) before putting them back in their crates and rolling them or driving them  back to deal with checking them in at the inter-island terminal (or cargo terminal if they are oversize like ours)for the flight to Big Island.

Cost for NW flights, Portland to HNL: $300/dog
Cost for Interisland flights: $160/dog
Cost for Animal handler: $60/dog
Cost for approved crates: $70/dog

Professional licensing

The first question I was asked by most of my medical colleagues when they learned I was moving to Hawaii:  “How hard is it to get a Hawaii License??!!”

Sinfully easy is the answer. I applied July 31, 2007 and had my license in hand on September 14.  Everything you wanted to know about obtaining a Hawaii license is here.

Vehicle moving and registration

First, if your car is financed, you should obtain from the lien-holder written permission to transport the car (without that, the shipping company won’t accept it).

There are choke (plenty…) companies that move cars. Matson, West Coast Relocation and Pasha to name a few.  We moved ours through Pasha.  Other than them breaking a window (and quickly and efficiently replacing it prior to our pickup of the car) the process was painless and quick.

You can book through Pasha’s website, make a reservation and can pay by credit card in advance or by cashiers check in person when dropping off the car. We lived close enough to the Oakland drop off site that it was easy to drive across and back over the hill (Sierra Mountains).

I was struck, as we drove over Donner Pass for the second time in 48 hours, how amazing a feat that really was. Most of us who live in Nevada are aware of the story of the Donner party: a group of gold-seekers in the mid 1800’s who got lost in the Sierra mountains during an early November snow storm and resorted to cannibalism for several months to survive until they were found in the spring.

We drove over the pass to take my car to be loaded on a transport ship for the trip to Hilo.  It will leave San Diego on 2/23, be there on 2/27.  That same boat trip took Mark Twain 11 days from San Francisco by steam ship in 1866, and I won’t even try to google how long it took Captain Cook to find the islands in the 18th century…..


You have, I think, 2 weeks in which to get your car registered once it is on-island.  Before it can be registered, it must be safety checked. In order to be safety checked, you must prove you have insurance. There are choke (I don’t have to explain it anymore, right?) companies which offer insurance, but only a few national ones. Geico, Liberty Mutual, AIG and Progressive are a few. We changed to Geico prior our move, so that at least would be an easy change.

Once you have your car, take it to a safety check station. This is harder than it sounds.  The sites are usually local garages and service stations.  They are not listed in the phone book as such. I couldn’t find any on Google. Our landlady told us where she went, and so that is where we went…..

The check costs about $15, and consists of checking turn signals, brake lights, headlights and windshield wipers.  If you pass (that SHOULDN’T be a problem unless you drive a real wreck!), take the certificate to the DMV and stand in line. You should also have your title (or a note from your lien holder which gave permission to bring the car to Hawaii), current registration and proof of insurance.

*****UPDATE*****Since DS and MS just FAILED their safety check, I guess I need to revise: Make sure your shock absorbers are functioning, and that your window tint is not too tinted……(do you hear those expletives being mumbled in the background? That is DS and MS paying to have those things fixed……)
Once you have your new license plates and registration, take them BACK to the safety check place, where they will then attach the safety check sticker to the new plates (and if they are nice….will also put the plate on for you….).

Cost of registering our 2005 Equinox:  $112 (what a deal!)

*****UPDATE******Ok, now you’ve been here for a year, and it’s time to renew your registration.  Go get a safety check, right?  Wrong.  Though you likely got a safety check and registered on the same day, your registration actually expires one month before your safety sticker does. In order to re-register, take the yellow copy of your safety registration, along with proof of insurance, current registration and enough money to pay the registration fee to the auto registrar in either Hilo or Kona. The process took us 15 minutes, including line-wait time. (You can also re-register by mail, but we procrastinated too long to do so…..). The following month, go get your safety check and sticker….

You DON’T need to get a Hawaii driver’s license immediately as long as your current one is not expired.  There are benefits to getting one, though. Some restaurants, resorts and golf courses will give a Kama’aina (local’s) discount with proof of residency.  And besides, the cute little rainbow design is to die for!

No….don’t do it!  DH held up the newly laminated Hawaii driver’s license that the very friendly clerk had just handed to him, and started to ask a question.

Moving to Hawaii meant we needed to take the written test…..and it has been many years since either of us has done that.  So….we obtained the manual online, glanced through it and wandered off to get our “local” id’s. (Important, because “locals” get great discounts at restaurants and activities……)

We both passed the written test. I am ……supposed….to wear contacts or glasses, but have never been able to tolerate either.  I had saved just ONE pair of contacts, though, just so I could pass the eye exam I knew I would have to do.

DH had passed his last eye exam with no restrictions.  He does, however, use glasses for distance-more often when he is tired. He took his glasses with him to get the Hawaii license…..just in case.

I finished first, and waited till he had finished.  The very nice clerk….friendly clerk……efficient clerk…..forgot to do DH’s eye exam.  She handed him his new license and I was starting out the door when he started to ask the question.

“I have a question….” he began. (NO! DON’T ASK IT!!)….”Why didn’t I need an eye exam?”  (TOO LATE….Now he’s done it!)

“Oh, I forgot!” she said. “Just take a peek into the screen there and we’ll do it.” 1….wrong.  2 …..wrong.  3….right……

My stomach cramped as I listened…..

“Just by the skin of your teeth!” she smiled……

We scurried out the door before she could take his license away……

The driver’s license manual can be read or downloaded from the pdf file located here

I recommend reading it in advance.  There are some…..tricky….ones on there!

Other Links You’ll Like:

Punaweb discussion boards

Konaweb Moving Discussion Board