Living In Kailua Kona, Hawaii

Living on the Big Island – Kailua Kona, Hawaii

5 years and counting…..


Last November marked our 5th year living in Kailua Kona. Time has literally flown by. Lately I have gotten a few email asking me how things are going or questions about moving here, so I thought it might be a good idea to post an update and share some of my my thoughts about living here.

For the most part we are really happy. All the good things about paradise we love. But since most people don’t email me asking what I love most about islands I thought I would focus on some of the frustrations or challenge living on a remote rock in the middle of the pacific can bring.

First I must recommend reading a ongoing series of articles Civil Beat has done on living in Hawaii. I think they give you a good feel for what we deal on the islands. It mostly focuses on Oahu – but still a lot of it applies to living on the Big Island just on a smaller scale.

There are 3 things that would make us considering moving back to the mainland. Jobs, schools and medical.


I think what is most frustrating is if you do finally find a good job that pays decently, you find you are bound to that job because there isn’t anything else.  On the mainland if you don’t like your job you know in time you can probably find something better. It’s different here. Kona is small and there are only so many businesses. One of my biggest concerns is if my husband or myself lose our jobs what would happen – more then likely at this point in the game we would have to seriously consider moving back to the mainland.. As much as I love living here  - working a shitty job just to live in Hawaii? I don’t think I would last long anymore. 5  years ago I would of have said it was worth the sacrifice. Now maybe because I am over 40, I don’t know if I am so willing to make those sacrifices as much. There is a part of me that feels like you get stuck here growth wise because there isn’t that many opportunities available here. As time marches I wonder how do you get ahead in Hawaii? Is it possible?

The fact of the matter is, you will work you ass off to survive here. I recently had a conversation with one of my friends from the mainland and she made a comment about how people here probably don’t like to work much and just implied this lazy attitude people must have living here. I had to laugh at her. Everyone I know works their asses off here to survive. I don’t anyone who is lazy or not motivated because if they were – I don’t know how they would survive with everything being so expensive.


I have talked about this in a previous post.  There are 3 public school, 1 charter, 2 private for elementary school. None of them are really that great. As my daughter gets older and middle school comes – I really will be concerned about our options. Hopefully, we can be making enough money to send her private or she is lucky enough get drawn in lottery for WHEA. If not, it something to considering moving for.


Kona is small and rural. So if one of  us were to get really sick – we would be off this island so fast. For the last 4 years we were on a PPO and could see any doctors we wanted. The problem is once again, you have limited options or choices. There just aren’t a ton of good doctors here – trying to find a specialist isn’t always possible. You probably will have to fly to Oahu and that is expensive. I am very grateful we haven’t had any medical issues but if we do – its a no brainer to move back to the mainland. If you have a medical condition before moving here. Do your research. This might not be the best place for you.

To end on a good note. As of right now we have good jobs, my daughter is doing ok in school and we are all healthy so we  have no plans on moving anytime soon!


Elementary Schools in Kona


Elementary School options in Kona:


Kona Christian Academy

Hualalai Academy



Kona Pacific


Kahakai Elementary
Holualoa Elementary
Kealakehe Elementary

Here is a the break down of the schools:

Kona Christian and Hualalai are supposed to be good schools – if you can afford them. You will have to double check prices but I believe Kona Christian starts about 7K a year and Hualalai at $12K. Both offer financial aid.

Everyone tries to get into Innovations – it is public charter.  Since there are so many applications they do a lottery – this year they had 8 spaces for kindergarten – and over 100 applications. Worth putting a application in for but don’t count on getting in.

Kona Pacific is a Waldolf based school – you have to submit a application that goes into a lottery – also very hard to get since the number of applications. It also pretty far south of Kona – something to consider since it is a drive from town.

As for public schools they are fair at best. In my opinion Kahakai is one of the better ones. Although most people will tell you Holualoa is the best.

Once you get here the best advice I can give is talk with other parents – it’s what I do. If someone has a child the first thing I usually ask is where to do they go to school and do they like it.

Are you considering moving to Kailua Kona with children?


If you are considering moving to Kailua Kona with children – one of the biggest factors to consider is schooling. 2 out of the 3 public schools in the Kona district don’t meet No Child Left Behind (NCLB) standards.

I am currently in the process of enrolling my child into kindergarden and I am finding the options a little depressing. There are 2 character school in Kona which are suppose to be good but admissions is done by lottery. From I am learning there are over a 100 kids applying for less then 20 spots. So not a option you can rely upon. There are a few private schools in town and price wise they range from about $7000 to $12000 for the school year – which is a little expensive for us.

If you are considering moving here and you have kids – you really need to consider the schooling options. If you plan on enrolling your child in a public school – I really recommend you research schools and where you have to live to attend the school you like. We live in a great place but are now considering moving just because of the school district we are in.

Questions answered about living in Kona.


I had a reader write me a few questions – I thought I would just create a post to answer them.

1. What would be a good area to raise a family around Kona Community Hospital in Kealakekua?

My husband and I really like the Captain Cook area. Although, I am not super familiar with the neighborhoods or school there. I haven’t heard anything negative about living in that area. The town is really cute and has a good vibe to it – little more laid back then say downtown Kona.

2. Is commuting between Kailua Kona (on one of those condos on Alii’s Drive to be exact) to Kealakekua every day is possible to do? How is the traffic?

Yes, this is very possible. Traffic can get a little heavy – usually during cummuting hours. Depending on what type of traffic you are use to – it’s not bad. On Friday afternoons I drive from Kona to just past the hospital and it takes me about 1/2 hour.

3. Can we walk to grocery store if we live in Kailua Kona?

This depends on where you live downtown Kona. Two out of the three grocery stores in Kona are off Palani and Kuakini Hwy – KTA and Sack and Sav. Then Safeway is off of Henry and Palani. Personally, I would think it would be a bit to far to walk to the store from most places to live.

4. Is it possible to live in one of those condos by Alii’s drive for long term or are those just vacation condos?

Yes, I see these condos for rent a lot on craigslist.

5. What are your thoughts between houses, apartments and condos, renting and buying there?

Since we have been here 2 years now, we are considering buying. I would recommend buying if you can just because it is still a good time to buy – probably cheaper then renting. I do strongly recommend living here for a while before you considering buying though. Figure out what areas you like. I know Kona is a small town but it has a lot of personality and different areas have very different vibes to them and different issues.

Living here you start to realize what types of things to consider. One thing we never would of consider without living here for a while is what elevation we want to live it. We learned we don’t want to be any higher then 1400 – 1500 feet max. We have friends who lived close to 2000 feet and everything they owned grew mold. It is so wet and dense up there nothing ever dries out. They hated it. We also learned around the 1200 feet and below you don’t get the afternoon rains nearly as much or often. I say this but it might be totally different in Captain Cook or farther south or north. So you just have to get to know the area you are interested in.

As for what is best – house, apartment, condo. I think it all depends on your situation and what works for you family. We have a dog and cat. We can’t live in one of the condos downtown – most don’t allow any animals. I think some might allow dogs under 20lbs. If we didn’t have any animals – we probably would be in a condo downtown.

6. I know you mentioned before about not liking to live by the ocean condos, can you give me some input please?

This is a totally personal thing. It doesn’t bother most people and I know I am a little paranoid. I personally don’t want to live where I have to evacuate from a tsunami. I like living up the mountain. I just feel safer. I do like downtown and we did live down there in a little house off of Alii for 6 months. We did really like being that close to the beach and all the activity. If it was up to my husband we would be living down there. If you rent down there make sure you look at the neighborhood and what is going on around it. Personally, I would stay away from the Banyans area. Although this is paradise, we still deal with mainland issue like drugs.

7. Can we find a house to rent around 1200/month or less in the area?

To find a stand alone house at that price might hard. The farther south of town you live – the rent usually gets a little lower. To be honest – most house I see are $1400 and up. I would be a little concerned about the condition of a house priced at $1200. I have viewed really old crappy houses at the $1500 and up range. If your budget is $1200 a month – I think you would be better off considering a condo and duplex situation. Please read my post about shared utilities in that type of situation. Take a look at craigslist for rentals – it will give you a good idea of what you can get for your money. It will take you a little while to start figuring out what listings are on this side and what listings are on Hilo side. Rent is much cheaper on the Hilo side. A lot people post on there by street name or an area name – not always by the city. Which when you are new to the area can be a bit difficult to figure out where it is.

8. Is there a good affordable (cheaper than the groceries) farm market close by?

There are good farmer markets. The best ones are in Hilo or Waimea. I have heard the one in Captain Cook on the weekend is good. There are a few in Kona but the one that is downtown is more of a tourist trap then a real farmer market. To be honest, when we first got here I was planning on hitting the farmer markets. I still haven’t gotten to many of them because most weekends we are headed to the beach and I would rather be at the beach with my family then shopping for groceries.

1 year anniversary


Today is our 1 year anniversary for living on the Big Island. Overall, I have to say I think we are happy with our move here. There have been some great things about living here and not so great. But the good has out weight the bad and we are excited for another year here.

I have had quite a few people write me asking me questions over the last year and I am going to try to address the most asked questions. So, here is my list of things to consider if you want to move to Kailua Kona.

1. Can you afford to live here?

This has been our biggest adjustment. The cost of living. At times this can wear you down. Gas, groceries and electric are the most expensive in the nation.

Here is a quick break down of some of our costs:
Gas: $3.99 to $4.60 a gallon
Car insurance: $140 a month for 2 cars
Internet and TV: $89 a month
Electric: $200 a month (that is not using an AC unit or any big appliances).
Groceries: $180 – $200 a week. (feeding a family of three).
Rent: $1700 (2 bedroom house built in 1976 where houses sell in the $200s to low $300s.)

I do miss the days I could just go to the grocery store and just grab what I needed and not have to price shop every item. But when you are standing at the cash register and EVERY item that is swiped is at minimum $4 -  you price shop. Every once in while I will let myself splurge and not look at prices but when I do I kick myself afterwards because I have spent over $100 for 2 bags of groceries. Oh boy, do I miss Trader Joes and buying a grocery cart full of food and only paying $100. The positive of this though is I value food a lot more now. We are not nearly as wasteful with food as we use to be and I don’t think that is bad thing. It’s also been great for losing weight. I have lost about 7 pounds living here.

2. Do you have money or a job?

If you have money – your are going to love it here. I think most of the struggle of living in Hawaii is the cost of living and finding a job that supports the cost living here. It is possible to do and people do do it. We are doing ok. Depending on what you do some people are going to find this harder then others. I do clearly understand now why people say get a job before you come. You will need a decent paying job to survive here.

3. Are you ok with paying more for less?

This one has been one of the bigger adjustments I have had to make. I think because it effects every aspect of living. From the type of house we live in, to the groceries we buy, to running around the house making sure we aren’t leaving lights on.

There are no two ways about it – your quality of living is probably going to be lowered if you move here. Unless you are able to find a job that pays really well or you have a lot of money.

I think one the biggest adjustment in this area is how much rent is and what you get for it. Now if you are from California or another high rent area- this might not be such a shock. If we were living in Arizona, with the rent we are paying now, we would be in a MUCH nicer home.

4. DON’T rent anything sight unseen.

If you are planning on moving here I can’t stress enough to rent a vacation rental or something temporary at first. I remember calling a rental company in Kona before we moved here and the agent told me they don’t rent houses sight unseen because they have had to many problems because people were expecting something much different then what they got. I didn’t really get it at the time but I get it now. Unless you have a budget over $2000 a month just for rent – you need to see the place you are considering to rent. Everything from the neighborhood to the condition of the house is not going to be the same as you could expect on the mainland. There are also so many Ohanas for rent – that if you have never lived in that type of situation before you are going to want to check it out first hand.

5. Patience.

Things don’t happen as fast on the island. Everything from driving, to packages arriving in the mail, even shopping for certain things. Living here does require some patience on all fronts. We are literally in the middle of the ocean and things don’t get here fast nor do they happen here fast.

Here an example of that: my husband is a mechanic at a dealership here. Someone brings in their car and they find out it needs a part. Well, it is pretty normal that it will take up to a week to get that part – where on the  mainland they usually can get that part in 24 hours or less. Hopefully, your car will still run without it cause if it won’t your car is sitting there for a week and there is nothing that can be done about. Fighting or getting upset about it isn’t going to do a darn thing. Your are literally in the middle of the ocean – things take time to get here.

Just like the mail. I don’t know how many times people have expressed or priority mailed me something and will call say – did you get the package? I will say no. And they will say will I express mailed it – its suppose to be there already. Welcome to living on the islands. Mainland rules do not apply here. I will get the package but usually 3 days if it is express mailed and 5 to 9 days if priority mailed. Even Fedex and UPS do not ship over night here. It usually takes about 2 days.

Although I think one of the most annoying things for me and one I have had to practice patience with is at the grocery store. If something goes on sale – MAN – does it go fast. Which is annoying because sometimes it staple items and there is none left. I have literally seen all the shredded cheeses gone from the cooler because they were on sale. So no cheese that shopping trip.

To end post – even with all these things to consider – Kona is a pretty nice place to live if you can swing it. We are happy here. I can’t imagine a better place to raise my daughter while she is young. The whole island is a awesome playground.

A word of caution about renting a house with share utilities



This last summer we rented a little 2 bedroom house in Kona. It is a single family home with a studio behind it that is rented out to someone else. We share a electric meter with this studio and our landlord gets the electric bill every month and lets us know our portion. When we first moved in it was under the agreement that the bill would be split 2/3 and 1/3. Which at the time seemed fair because they said the other tenant doesn’t have A/C. So we figured that this would be ok. BOY WERE WE WRONG! After we moved in we were told his portion of the bill was only $75 a month no matter what the bill was. We were not very smart because we didn’t put it in writing on the lease that the bill would be split 1/3 and 2/3.

The landlord lives in Oahu and is never here and hasn’t been for years. Since our first electric bill was so high – I went and bought an energy monitor to track what was using so much energy. It turns out – the other tenant is using more then $75 of the electric and it has been a nightmare with our landlord to get her to make adjustments to the bill. Basically she refuses to believe he is using more then the $75 a month even though I sent her my records to show that he was using more.

It has turned into such a mess we have broken our lease over it. There also has been other problems with this tenant and maybe in another post I will talk about that.

Here is my word of caution to newbies here – since we had to learn the hard way. Try to stay away from any rental situation that shares the electric because you might be paying for your neighbors and it’s expensive. If you decide to share the electric get everything in writing from the landlord on how the electric is shared and any other details about if the neighbor starts using AC all the time how it needs to be adjusted.

One thing we have decided is we will never get into a situation like this again because it has been such a mess. Since I have been looking at new rentals and talking with other landlords they also say they hear horror stories form other people who share electric. So at least I am not the only one out there that made this mistake.

*Follow up. We found a new place to live and decided to use a leasing agent (not to go through a home owner). We weighted the options and decided it was best to use someone that knew the renter laws. The more people we talked with the more and more we heard about how bad landlords can be here. Boy did we find out the hard way. My follow up advice is the same as above – GET EVERYTHING YOU CAN THINK OF IN WRITING! I can’t stress this enough.

Racial tension in Hawaii?


During my research before we moved here I read a lot of negative things about how the Hawaiians aren’t friendly to the Haoles. I admit it worried me some. But now that we are living here – I haven’t found anything I read to be true.

I had one reader ask me the following:

How friendly are the locals? Have you noticed any racial tension?
We found Hawaiians to be super friendly and easy going. I have yet to experience what I would call any racial tension. Now that being said, we have friended a few Hawaiians who have a very deep family history to Hawaii. They are very proud of this and proud of where they come from. This is their land and rightful so. I am not sure if some people confuse pride and ownership from the Hawaiians as racist or if they have had real racist experiences. I am not sure since I have never felt anything close to racism come from the Hawaiians. My opinion is if you come here and respect the Hawaiians you aren’t going to have a problem. Of course there might be that one person who hates Haoles that you run into – but I wouldn’t say it is the norm.

I actually have found that the Haoles who were born and raised here to be more stand offish and unfriendly then the Hawaiians. Go figure.

*The one thing we have been warned about from quite a few locals is camping. So if you plan on going camping here my advice is to stay within state parks and make sure you aren’t on private land.

Have your kids noticed problems at school?
Our daughter is in preschool and she has not had any problems what so ever. She is blonde hair, blue eyed, fair skinned child. She goes to a amazing preschool that has been on the island for over 25 years and children of all races go there. I have yet to feel anything close to her having any problems with the “local kids”. We will see as she gets older….

Now I have no idea what it would be like for a middle school or high school kid to move here and jump into a new school at that time. Realistically, I think any kid at that age would have a hard time jumping into a new school. Probably even harder time if say they were from the east coast and moved to the west coast. There is such a different style and attitude they have to adjust to and they will stand out for being different. At that age – being different isn’t what you want. I have read some stories of kids having a hard time at school here and I am not saying they didn’t. I am sure it was hard on them. The only advice I could offer is step back and be realistic about the type of child you have. Are they out going and make friends easily? Do they like to surf or play soccer? Are they into the same types of things the kids here on the islands like? My strongest suggestion – come visit the schools with your child. See what they think. Look at private, character, and public schools before you decide where on the island you will live. If it was me – I would figure out the school my child like the most and then find housing around that. Kids are kids and I don’t care where you live – all kids can be mean to each other.

DISCLAIMER: I do want to end this post with – I wasn’t raised here. I am not about to say that fair skinned, blonde headed kids did not have problems growing up here. I am sure they did. This post is only about my personal experience so far… If it changes I will update the post.

Cost of utilities in Hawaii..


When we first moved here we were renting a ohana and the utilities where included. We recently just moved into a small 2 bedroom house where they are not. Our first electric bill was a shocker considering we don’t have AC and the water heater is electric and solar.

Our bill was $300. Ouch… On the Big Island we pay .43¢ a Kwh. I looked at the national average it is .12¢ a Kwh. Hawaii has the most expensive electric in the nation. Basically, we are paying 4 times the national average for electricity. The reason for this is because Hawaii energy is created from petroleum that has be shipped in. Which I think is kind of sad considering some of the natural resources here: wind, solar, tidal and geothermal. I do know Hawaii is trying to become more green – I just wish that had start that before gas prices went through the roof.

I have taken $100 off our bill this last month. We bought a energy monitor that attaches to our electric meter and lets us know in real time our usage and it has turned out to be quite accurate. We now just use the solar to heat our water and so far it’s been fine. I also stopped using the oven and bought a large toaster oven and that has saved us because it seems to use half the power of the oven. I also have been really aware about how much laundry I do now – I make sure we have full full loads.

I do see that people on the island have propane stoves but you don’t see gas stoves or gas dryers. I am assuming this is because Hawaii does not have natural gases that can be tapped into. It does look like you can get propane – but I am not sure how difficult or expensive that is.

I can’t be much help on how much water is here. Our landlord pays the water bill but I have been told that water is also expensive here.

I now realize how much of a deal we really were getting when our utilities where included in the rent.

UPDATE: We just rented a new house and when I went to turn the electric on – since it is our first time doing this in Hawaii – they require a $400 deposit that they keep for a year and will give you 6% interest on. Just something to consider when you are moving here for the first time and you have to put the electric in your name.

Honolulu Civil Beat


This is a really short post – I wanted to share a website I found:



Honolulu Civil Beat

This is a great website to get an idea of what is going on in Hawaii politically and in the community.

Vog: Hawaii’s dirty little secret

Hawaiian Vog Photographed from Space Shuttle

Hawaiian Vog Photographed from Space Shuttle

It is not something you read about in the tourist brochures but if you google Vog you will see there is a lot of info out there on it. (I don’t mean this to be a negative post – more of a informative one).

Here is a short description of Vog in Hawaii (from NASA): Kilauea Volcano, on the island of Hawaii, has been erupting continuously since 1983. This image, taken by the crew of Space Shuttle Atlantis, shows volcanic plumes from Kilauea rising up from three locations: Halema‘uma‘u Crater, Pu‘u ‘O‘o Crater, and from along the coastline where lava flows from the East Rift zone were entering the ocean. The plumes have created a blanket of volcanic fog, called vog, that envelops the island. (Click on the satellite photo to read more).

So you would think Kailua Kona wouldn’t be to affected by vog since it is on the other side of the island. Unfortunately that is not the case – because of the trade winds we get quite a bit of vog. Now with the recent fissure the vog has been bad.

At first you don’t notice the vog so much but then a clear day happens and you truly realize how bad the vog can get here. I would say nice clear days are a rare thing in Kailua Kona. There are some days when the cruise ship is in that I can barely see it – it is probably only 4 miles away as the crow flies.

For my family the vog hasn’t really affected us physically. I don’t notice any affects with my 3 year old either. Sometimes my sinuses bother me but that is about it. I have heard that vog affects everyone differently. I guess the only way you will know if you will be affective by it is to come experience it.

The positive of this is that certain parts of the island aren’t as affective by the vog like we are in Kailua Kona. If you do a little research you can easily find out where the bad areas of vog tend to be. Although if we are having a bad vog day – it not only affects the big island but also the other islands.

Here is a great picture of Kona with and without Vog. Even though it was taken in 2008 – its still the same.

VOG Pictures

Here are some good links about vog:

Local TV station vog forecast.

Department of Health map of current air quality conditions.




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