Living in Honolulu as an expatriate

Caffeinate Your Honolulu Expat Journey: Find Essential Info and Connect with Expatriates Today

Image of Honolulu

Honolulu, meaning 'place of shelter' in Hawaiian, is the largest city in Hawaii and the economic, political, and cultural capital of the state. Located on the southeastern coast of the island of Oahu, it is surrounded by crystal clear waters and offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. The city is home to a diverse population, including Native Hawaiians, Asians, Caucasians, and Pacific Islanders, making it a melting pot of cultures and traditions.

Tips for expats in Honolulu

Visa requirements

Expats moving to Honolulu will need a valid visa or work permit to live and work in Hawaii. The most common visa for expats is the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa for citizens of certain treaty countries, including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines. Extraordinary Ability (EB-1), National Interest Waiver (EB-2), and Employment-Based Immigrant (EB-3) visas are also available for eligible expats. It's essential to research the visa process thoroughly to ensure that all requirements are met.

Language resources

English is the official language of Hawaii, and most people in Honolulu speak fluent English. However, some Hawaiian locals also speak Hawaiian Creole English (Pidgin), which can be challenging for expats to understand. Expats looking to improve their English skills can take language classes at various language schools in Honolulu or use language learning apps such as Duolingo, Babbel, and Rosetta Stone.

Cost of living for expats in Honolulu


The cost of housing in Honolulu can be high, particularly for those living in popular areas such as Waikiki or Kahala. A room in a shared house may cost around $1,000 per month, while a one-bed apartment can range from $1,500 to $2,500 per month. Two-bedroom apartments can cost between $2,500 and $4,000 per month, and three-plus bedroom houses can range from $3,500 to $7,500 per month. It's essential to research housing options carefully to avoid overpaying.


Groceries in Honolulu can be expensive compared to other parts of the United States. Fresh produce, meat, and dairy products are generally priced higher due to Hawaii's location and lack of agricultural land. Some grocery stores also charge an additional surcharge due to the high cost of transportation and refrigeration. However, stores such as Costco and Foodland offer affordable options for basic grocery items.


Transportation costs in Honolulu can vary greatly depending on the mode of transport. A monthly public transportation pass costs around $65, while a taxi ride across the city can set you back around $50 during peak hours. Car ownership and maintenance costs can be high due to Hawaii's high cost of living. However, driving in Honolulu during rush hours can be slow and stressful.

Climate in Honolulu

Honolulu enjoys a tropical maritime climate with year-round warmth and humidity. Temperatures range from the low 70s°F (21°C) in January and February to the high 80s°F (31°C) in September and October. The city receives an average of 31 inches (78.7 cm) of rainfall annually, with most rain falling during the winter months from November to March.

Job market in Honolulu

The job market in Honolulu is strong, with a variety of industries offering employment opportunities. The city is home to several large corporations, including Hawaiian Electric, Bank of Hawaii, and First Hawaiian Bank. Additionally, there are many small and medium-sized businesses in sectors such as healthcare, technology, and education. Expats looking to work in Honolulu will find opportunities in these industries, as well as in areas such as hospitality and tourism.

Healthcare in Honolulu

Healthcare is of a high standard in Honolulu, with several top-rated hospitals and healthcare providers in the city. Some of the leading hospitals in Honolulu include Straub Medical Center, Queens Medical Center, and Kapiolani Medical Center. Expats can expect to find a wide range of medical services, from emergency care to specialized treatments. It's essential to have health insurance, as medical expenses can be high without coverage.

Transport in Honolulu

Public transportation in Honolulu is limited, with most people relying on cars or walking to get around. The city has a bus system, operated by TheBus, which covers most areas of the city. However, traffic congestion can be a significant issue during peak hours, so using public transportation may take longer than driving. Additionally, the city has a network of bike lanes and pedestrian paths, making it easy to explore the city by bike or on foot.

Safety in Honolulu

Honolulu is generally a safe city, but expats should still take precautions, especially in certain areas. The downtown area of Honolulu, including Waikiki Beach, is considered relatively safe during the day, but crimes such as pickpocketing and theft can occur at night. Expats should be aware of their surroundings and avoid carrying large amounts of cash or jewelry in public. It's also advisable to lock cars and houses securely and report any suspicious activity to the police.

Neighborhoods in Honolulu

  1. Waikiki

    Located on the south shore of Oahu, Waikiki is one of Honolulu's most popular neighborhoods. The area is known for its beautiful beaches, high-end shopping, and luxurious hotels. It's a great place to live for expats who enjoy an urban lifestyle, as it's close to many amenities and landmarks. However, it's also one of the wealthiest and most expensive neighborhoods in Honolulu.

  2. Kaimuki

    Located in the foothills of Diamond Head, Kaimuki is a charming residential neighborhood known for its tree-lined streets, antique shops, and mom-and-pop stores. It offers a laid-back and soothing vibe, making it an attractive option for expats looking for a quieter area. The neighborhood is well-connected to downtown Honolulu and other parts of the city via public transportation.

Attractions in Honolulu

  1. Pearl Harbor

    One of the most famous historical sites in Hawaii, Pearl Harbor is a must-visit attraction for expats living in Honolulu. The harbor played a pivotal role in the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II, which led to the United States' entry into the war. Expats can take a guided tour of the harbor and learn more about the tragic events that transpired.

  2. Waikiki Beach

    Waikiki Beach is a world-famous beach located in the heart of Honolulu. It's a great place to relax and unwind, whether you're swimming, sunbathing, or enjoying the stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. Expats can also take part in water activities such as surfing, snorkeling, and paddleboarding.

International Schools in Honolulu

  1. Punahou School

    1601 Punahou Street, Honolulu, HI 96822

    Punahou School is a non-profit, independent school serving students from nursery through grade 12. Founded in 1841, it's one of Hawaii's oldest and most prestigious schools. The school offers a rigorous academic curriculum, a wide range of extracurricular activities, and a diverse student body representing over 50 countries.

  2. Mid-Pacific Institute

    4547 Waikiki Heights Road, Honolulu, HI 96816

    Mid-Pacific Institute is a non-profit, independent school serving students from kindergarten through grade 12. The school offers a challenging academic program, including advanced placement courses, and a diverse range of extracurricular activities, including music, athletics, and service learning opportunities.

Useful expat resources in Honolulu

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