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Planning your PCS to Hawaii

You’ve finally received the PCS orders you never dared to dream you’d get. You’re going to go live the Aloha life in Hawaii!

Once the initial excitement wears off, you might have a lot of questions. Island life is different than life on the mainland and it will take some getting used to. Nobody is in a hurry and you shouldn’t be either. Take a moment to breathe in the Aloha spirit and relax.

Ready? Now it’s time to start planning your PCS to Hawaii.

Moving to Hawaii

Moving to Hawaii isn’t quite as simple as moving across the country. Your stuff has to go by boat, with the exception of the items you bring with you on the plane. This means that it takes a while so you should plan early and know you’ll be without your household goods for a few weeks.

Pet Quarantine

There is no rabies in Hawaii and they want to keep it that way. If you’re bringing pets, be sure to know the requirements and get your pet’s vet paperwork in order before arrival. With the right documents, your pet will qualify for immediate release, a 5-day or a 30-day quarantine upon arrival. Otherwise, your pet will have to endure a 120-day quarantine.

Vehicle Shipping

The government will pay for one personal vehicle to be shipped to Hawaii. Beyond that, you’ll have to pay about $1,000 to ship a vehicle from the mainland. It will take between 2 weeks to 1 month, depending on the ship’s timeline.

Register Vehicles

You must register your vehicle with the state of Hawaii within 30 days of its arrival. In order to qualify for registration, it must first pass a Safety Inspection. This can be done at certain auto garages in Oahu.

Register Firearms

It’s also very important to register your firearms with the state of Hawaii. To do so, simply bring your unloaded firearms, ID, and proof of ownership to the Honolulu Police Department within 3 days of arrival. They will inspect your weapons and take your fingerprints and photograph. If you are caught with an unregistered firearm outside the 3-day window, this is considered a felony offense and you could be charged with felony possession of a firearm.

If you plan to live on-base, you’ll also need to register with your assigned military base. The process is similar, just go to the housing office with your military ID, proof that you have registered with the Hawaii Police Department, and proof of residence.

Schools in Hawaii

Families have a plethora of choices for schooling on the islands. If you choose to live on-base, the on-base school is a convenient option. Otherwise, you can send your kids to public, private, or charter schools. There is also a robust homeschooling community on the Islands for those who prefer to do their own thing.

There is only one public school system in Hawaii, governed by the school board on Oahu. You generally have to send your child to the school that corresponds to the district where your house is located, though you can apply for an exception if you choose. The school system works hard to make the transition easy and your School Liaison Officer can help as well.


Where will you live in Hawaii? Keep in mind is that space is at a premium in Hawaii. If you’re used to a large house on the mainland, your Hawaiian house might feel a little small.

On the flip side, if you like outdoor activities, you’ll spend very little time in your house. Remember, there are no long, dark winters to deal with in Hawaii. The weather is sunny and warm 95% of the time, all you have to worry about is keeping an eye out for rain!

On-Base Housing

Living on base is nice for convenient access to the base amenities. You will also enjoy the camaraderie of living on base and socializing with families who “get” military life. This is a good choice particularly if you have pets because it is very hard to find apartments/housing off base that allows animals.

However, housing choices can be limited on the base. You also may have to wait for weeks or even months for a home to become available. If your plan is to live on-base, definitely get your name on the list as early as you possibly can.

Off-Base Housing

There are a lot of opportunities for off-base living. The culture in Hawaii is very different from the mainland and living off-base will allow you to immerse yourself in something new. Be prepared to hear “Aloha” everywhere you go. You’ll soon discover that it means so much more than simply hello and goodbye.

Keep in mind that there is a lot of traffic in Hawaii, so you’ll want to choose an area that offers an acceptable commute. If your non-military spouse will be working, you may also want to keep employment opportunities for them in mind as you decide on a community.

Rent is expensive in Hawaii, but you will get a generous BAH to compensate. A particularly financially savvy move is to purchase a home in Hawaii with a VA loan. Qualifying military members can do this for $0 down and then use their BAH to make their monthly payment. House prices are nearly always on the rise in Hawaii and by the time you leave, you could sell your home for an impressive profit!

Buying a Home in Hawaii

Interested in buying real estate in Hawaii with your VA loan benefits? Check out our post that explains how this works in more detail. Or reach out to our real estate team today! We can help you choose the right area and purchase a home in Hawaii that will be a sound investment you can use to build wealth during your time in the Islands.

Contact us today to get started. Aloha and welcome to the Islands!

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