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Moving to Kauai – My Personal Experience

Moving to the Garden Island, especially if you are coming from the mainland can be intimidating, in fact, it can seem downright overwhelming. I’ve moved to Kaua’i twice from the mainland. The first time was from Virginia in 2008 and was relatively easy. It was just me and my husband, and we didn’t take much with us. The second time, however, was a whole different story. We moved from Colorado with a kid, two dogs, a car, and a whole house full of stuff. But with a little bit of planning, we made the move just fine. Here’s a breakdown of how we did it…

Shipping Household Items to Hawaii

The thought crossed our minds to just sell the majority of our household belongings and purchase new things after the move, but with limited resources on Kaua’i for purchasing furniture etc, we decided to take the bulk of what we owned. There are services such as Royal Hawaiian Movers, who will come and pack everything up for you. We, however, decided to take on the heavy lifting ourselves. We ordered a 20-foot Matson container, which was delivered to our house in Colorado and we loaded it full. Matson arranged pickup once we were done loading. This set us back around $8,000 to ship most of our belongings from our 3 bedroom house. Our container arrived at Nawiliwili harbor two weeks later, about half a week earlier than expected. From there, we arranged for a freight mover to haul the container to our new home in Kalaheo. Kauai Veteran’s Express and Kauai Freight are two on-island freight movers.

Shipping Your Car

I debated for a while about whether it made sense to ship my car, but in the end, I decided that I didn’t want to get rid of it. Every situation is different of course, and for someone else, it may not make sense to ship. I ended up spending about $1,700 to ship my car from my driveway in Colorado to Nawiliwili Harbor. I used King of the Road Auto Transport. They don’t actually do the shipping, they just managed the process and find the drivers. In our case, they contracted with a driver to pick up my car and drop it off at a California port. From there, it traveled the rest of the way with Matson. There ended up being about a week delay from the original arrival quote, but when my car did arrive, it was in good condition. If you decide that shipping isn’t right for you, you can certainly pick up a car on the island.

Bringing Pets to Hawaii

We have two large dogs, a Weimaraner, and a Vizsla/Lab mix. Being a big part of our family, there was no debate about whether we would take them with us. Hawaii does not make it easy though. In order to avoid quarantine, which can last up to 120 days, there’s a lot of paperwork and visits to the vet. You can learn more about the requirements here. We hired Island Pet Movers to help navigate us through this complicated process. There are several other companies that provide a similar service and you may also choose to go it alone. We found it very helpful to have someone manage the whole process. From filing paperwork to booking flights, they made sure everything was done correctly. Both dogs made it to Kaua’i with no hiccups on their end and avoided quarantine altogether. The total cost of transporting our dogs (including airline approved crates) was about $3,000.

Moving with Keiki

We moved to Kaua’i most recently during the school year so it was important to get everything lined up before we came so our daughter wouldn’t miss many days of school. We ended up enrolling her in the neighborhood school, Kalaheo Elementary. I was able to send them most of what they needed prior to arriving. All students must have a TB clearance to enter school in Hawai’i. We decided to have our daughter’s test done with her regular doctor before we left to expedite the process. For more information on requirements to enroll your keiki, please contact the schools directly.

Finding Housing in Kauai

We bought a home vs renting this time around. We had lived on Kaua’i before and knew that we wanted to be in the Kalaheo area. With two large dogs, this made it a challenge for renting. On a week-long visit before moving, we found the perfect home in the Kai Ikena neighborhood. We put in a contingent offer (our house was under contract in Colorado) and we closed a couple of days before arriving on the island. We got the keys and were ready to move in. Purchasing a home when first relocating may not be right for everyone. If you’d like to explore what rentals are available, Kauai Craigslist is a good resource.

If you are thinking of making the move to Kaua’i and would like to talk about purchasing a home, or if you would just like to chat about what it’s like to live in paradise, give me a call.

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Shannon McCarthy

September 14, 2018

Thank you for sharing this -very helpful! I will be using some of this information when I make my move to Kauai soon.


June 14, 2019

Very helpful article. I read it once and kept the link. Went back again to verify a few things. Appreciate you sharing this info and it’s a nice way to bring your real estate work to the attention of folks considering a move.


June 22, 2019

Wonderful article. I’m glad google posted this on my google page. Thank you for sharing your experience and information. I have booked marked your article for our future use.

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