There’s a price to pay for the things you want, especially if what you want is to move to Hawaii, the most expensive state in the whole damn country. According to a 2011 study, people who live in Hawaii pay 116% of the national average for the cost of goods and services and have the highest median housing costs for renters in the country, right around $1,300 a month. But this is not news to us, or to anyone, for that fact. What is news is how you’re going to afford it, and for most people, that means finding jobs in Maui.

So how easy is it? How much money should you save if you plan on moving to Maui? What if you can’t find a job that pays enough?

Finding Jobs in Maui

First of all, calm yourself, especially if you’re American and don’t have to worry about legal working status. That’s a HUGE step in the easy direction. Not only are you already legally able to work any job, chances are you’re qualified for lots of them, even if most aren’t something you’re used to doing. Second of all, as of August 2013, Hawaii has the 4th lowest unemployment rate in the U.S. at 4.3%. Compared to Texas, my home state, which comes in 17th at 6.4% and Costa Rica, which I can’t even compare because we were legally not allowed to work any job, this is good news.

How easy is it?

As soon as we decided to move to Maui from Costa Rica, which was less than two months from when we first visited the island, we started hounding the Maui Craigslist Job Postings. And by hounding, I mean applying for anything that looked even slightly doable. That meant hostessing, waiting tables, bartending, teaching dance classes, being a personal assistant, managing a hostel, doing social media marketing, web design, making snow cones, selling timeshares, working in retail shops, selling art, teaching scuba diving, teaching snorkeling, teaching ocean kayaking, working in a head shop, driving a tour bus, being a receptionist, being an office manager, substitute teaching, tutoring, being a pool attendant, babysitting, leading activities at resorts, selling leis, and taking beach/resort/sunset/wedding/engagement/underwater/family portraits of tourists.

We literally applied for all of those things. And if you’re telling me that you can’t or aren’t willing to do at least one thing on that list, consider this sentence an online slap in the face. Don’t expect to get a high paying job in your field before you arrive. Get here, be open minded, and then figure it out. If you have children, your concerns will be different, of course, but we are only giving advice on what we know through our experience.

Companies in Maui are hiring, despite whatever you may hear or read, and my boyfriend and I both found two jobs (although we both turned down one) within a month of being here. It’s a crowded island full of resorts, tourists, and activities. And if you still can’t find anything, start your own business. The internet is a great place to do that.

How much money should you save if you plan on moving to Hawaii?

That’s a hard one, and it depends on how much you’re willing to give up. As you know, rent is expensive and that will be your biggest monthly bill. Deposits, even if you’re renting a room in a shared house, are usually equal to a month’s rent or slightly less. We dropped $1,500 immediately for the first month’s rent and a deposit, and that is for a furnished room in a shared house, 3 blocks from the beach in Kihei. You can find cheaper options, but not by much.

We also needed (and wanted) a car since we work on opposite ends of the island and the buses don’t run very often, so we bought a $1,900 car and a $600 scooter to share. Keep in mind that you don’t have to do this right when you get here, or at all for that matter. There are many places on the island where you can walk to get where you’re going or take the bus if you don’t mind leaving early or getting home late.

If you want to plan for everyday expenses, my advice is to save $150 more per month than what you’d normally spend. We’ve had no problem finding great deals on groceries and gas at CostCo, and have found multiple food trucks and restaurants that offer $2 tacos, $5-$12 meals and $2-$5 drinks whenever we don’t feel like cooking.

What if you can’t find a job that pays enough?

Buy less or get two jobs. As far as I’ve seen, people work pretty hard to live here, and play pretty hard when they’re off. Use wifi at coffee shops, don’t get cable, take the bus, eat sandwiches, work out on the beach, share an apartment, etc. Also, lots of employers in Maui provide health insurance as long as you work at least 20 hours per week for 4 consecutive weeks. Not bad.


You have to pay to play to live in paradise, but don’t let anyone tell you that finding jobs in Maui is impossible. It isn’t.

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