E komo mai! Welcome to Hawaii! Have you received a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) to paradise? While you may be excited about this move, you may also be apprehensive about relocating thousands of miles away to an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Follow these eight tips for a great move to military life in Hawaii paradise.

Tip #1 - Connect with military members who have previously made the move. When you receive your PCS orders to Hawaii, you will also be matched with a sponsor, who will give you more information about your assigned base. Connect with your sponsor and ask questions.

Social media groups, like “The Pearl Harbor Spouses” or “Hawaii Veterans Market,” also are great ways to connect with military members and ask questions about moving and Hawaii life in general. Nearly every Hawaii base and service has a local Facebook group.

Tip #2 - Take an inventory of household goods, be insured, and prepare for the movers. What will you move to paradise and what will you leave behind? Realize that homes in Hawaii are typically smaller than the mainland; the standard 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom home is 1,500 square feet. Also, since you can spend time outdoors year-round, you may not need as many household items.

Inventory all the items you want to ship, making a thorough list and even taking pictures of the condition of items. Estimate your household goods’ (HHG) weight, and assure you are roughly in your desired range. Also consider adding more insurance if you are moving more valuable items – like your grandparents’ antique dining room table. While the moving company will pay a limited amount for lost or damaged items, additional insurance can give greater peace of mind.

Sorting and preparing your household goods will assist the carrier in properly packing items and shipping them across the ocean. Here is more information from the Department of Defense on moving.

Tip #3 Prepare to ship and register a personally owned vehicle (POV). Military members are typically authorized to ship one vehicle at the government’s expense, which can total around $1000 from a west coast port. Depending on the cargo ship’s departure time, your vehicle could arrive in Hawaii between two weeks to a month. Here is more information on shipping vehicles during a PCS.

Once on island, you must pass a Hawaii State Safety Inspection, which can be done easily at many auto garages for about $25. After the inspection, you will be able to register your vehicle with the Hawaii Department of Motor Vehicle Registration. You must complete your vehicle registration within 30 days of arrival.

Top Tips: Hawaii Driving Laws

  • It is a fine of $100 to $200 if you are caught using a handheld cell phone while driving. Instead, you can pull safely to the side of the road, turn off the engine, and then use your handheld device.
  • All passengers inside a vehicle must wear a seatbelt.
  • Motorcycle riders are not required to wear a helmet off base but must wear a helmet while on base.
  • If all seats are taken inside a truck, passengers are allowed to sit in the bed of the truck.

Tip #4 - Know about the Temporary Housing Allowance (TLA). Within 72 hours of arrival in paradise, you must report to your base’s housing office, where you will be directed to on or off base temporary lodging. You might be authorized for 30 to 60 days of TLA, where you can check in to a TLA-approved hotel.

Tip #5 - Consider Hawaii housing options. New military members in Hawaii typically have three housing options:

  • Living on Base: Connect with your service and base’s housing office to determine on-base vacancies. If you move on base, all or most of your Base Housing Allowance (BAH) will be utilized.
  • Renting off Base: Rent in Hawaii is expensive compared to the mainland, but if you move off base, you will receive a BAH depending on your grade and dependent status. A local real estate agent or Craigslist can assist in finding a Hawaii rental.
  • Buying a Home: If you want to invest your BAH into a Hawaii home and possibly use a VA loan, you might want to begin house hunting. You could contact a real estate agent and a Hawaii mortgage broker before your arrival to get the process started. However, if you begin house shopping as soon as you arrive, realize you do have 8 days of “house hunting” and typically 60 days of Temporary Housing Allowance (TLA). In Hawaii, it usually takes 30 to 60 days to “close an escrow” or purchase a home.

Tip #6 - Understand Hawaii’s pet quarantine laws early. Hawaii is a rabies-free state and has strict quarantine laws for any cats or dogs that move to the state. Here is some important information from Hawaii’s Animal Industry Division to assist in your dog or cat being released directly on the day you arrive (instead of up to 120 days of quarantine):

  • 10 days before you arrive, assure your cat or dog has a working electronic microchip.
  • More than 30 days before you arrive, assure your cat or dog has been vaccinated at least twice for rabies in its lifetime. The vaccines must be administered more than 30 days apart. Obtain a rabies vaccination certificate for each of the vaccines from your veterinarian.
  • More than 30 days before you arrive, do a FAVN Rabies Antibody Test at an approved lab. Once you have a successful test, wait at least 30 days before you arrive in Hawaii, or your pet will be subject to quarantine for $14.30 each day along with a $244.00 fee.
  • Complete all the documents and send them in a set, so they arrive 10 days before your arrival.
  • Schedule flights to arrive by 3:30 p.m., so the Airport Animal Quarantine Holding Facility has time to inspect and release your pet before 5 p.m. closing time. Otherwise your pet will have to stay overnight for an additional $59 fee.
  • Be ready to pay the $185 Direct Airport Release fee upon arrival.

Tip #7 - Study the schools for your children. The Hawaii State Department of Education works closely with the military bases to ensure children have a successful transition to public school. Contact your base’s School Liaison Officer (SLO) to learn more about the schools near your assignment and how to register.

Homeschool, public charter, and private schools are also popular in Hawaii. Research more about all the different educational options on the island to assure your children have a smooth, successful transition.

Tip #8 - Reserve a temporary mailbox 30 days before your arrival. Temporary mailboxes can often be reserved for 90 days and extended upon request. Each base has a temporary mailbox location and point of contact, so inquire more at your respective base’s post office to begin receiving your mail in paradise.

Congratulations on receiving a PCS to Hawaii! With a little planning and packing before arrival, you can more easily transition into making Hawaii home.