Moving To Kauai?

From Malahini to Kamaaina Or Making it on Kauai - By Dain Spore


If you don’t know what the heading of this document means, this article is for you. “Malahini” = newcomer to Hawaii. “Kamaaina” = “from Hawaii” or someone who has lived in Hawaii for a while. (“Kamaaina” also means “give me a discount, I live here!”) If you have recently moved here and plan on staying for a long time, perhaps even the rest of your life here, I think you will find the following advice helpful.


Over the last several years I have watched many people come and go from the island, and have noticed a few common threads in their experiences. To begin with, There was a time about ten years ago when you could accurately predict that of all the new people who moved here, about 80% (!) of them would be gone within three years of their arrival. 


That number has significantly dropped over the last few years, and more people seem to be staying longer, and becoming permanent residents. However, the three year rule still seems to apply. Conventional wisdom has it that if somebody lives here for more than three years, there is a good chance that they are here to stay. The following are tips for malahini who want to become kamaaina.

The Easiest place to meet people and make friends on Kauai is at Church.

     When I first moved to Kauai, I had previously lived all over the world, and I declared Kauai to be the hardest place to make friends of anywhere I had ever been. Now, having been here a while, I attribute it to the point made above. Until you have been here a few years most people (whether consciously or subconsciously) naturally assume you will be moving back to the mainland shortly. I have to admit, after a few experiences of developing deep relationships with people, only to have them move away, it does start to make one a little gun-shy about the next person who approaches you and says “I just moved here, let’s hang out!”


However, at church, people will see you more easily as a brother or sister in Christ, and friendships have a better chance of developing. It is also your best place to begin to learn the various nuances of living on Kauai. Which brings us to our next point. Moving to Kauai is like moving to a foreign country. People who think Kauai is the mainland with better weather usually end up disappointed. Just click on the “free shipping” tab for a quick reality check.


The best way to quickly settle in is to study, and then celebrate the differences rather than compare them to the things are at “home”. I could fill a whole book on the sublties of the local culture here, and that would only scratch the surface. Here are just a couple of quick examples.


  • Flashing wealth may be accepted and even encouraged in LA, but deeply frowned on here.
  • Never wear your shoes into somebody’s house, and never sit on the table of a picnic bench in a public park. 
  • Always bring enough food to a potluck to feed an army, and always make a plate of other peoples food to bring home. Again, there are a million more examples of this, and the sooner you learn the basics the better. Which brings us to our next point

Meet Local people, get out of the “bubble”.

There are two small, sad bubbles that exist on the island. One is the bubble of local people who only know other local people, the other is transplants from the mainland who only know other transplants from the mainland. But the biggest and happiest group of people are those who mingle and move comfortably between the two groups. You definitely want to be in this group. Again, the best way to accomplish this is to get involved with the church. Although KCF is predominately haole, the local contingent continues to grow, and this is a great place to get to know some really great local people. Also make sure to get involved in some of the inter-island church events that will have churches that are predominately local.


If your workplace is predominately Malahini (PMRF for example) you should consider getting involved in community organizations , or local sports clubs (canoe paddling, softball, bowling etc.)

Have Lots of String

This final note is for those of you planning to move here on a shoe string: make sure to have LOTS of string before you step on the plane.

While it may seem like there are tons of opportunities and jobs, Kauai is much like any other small town USA - it ain't what you know, it's who you know that opens the doors.


Plan on having income stored up for 4-6 months while you are locking down a job. Make sure to have a car as the public transportation while cheap, isn't going to cut it for long.


Don't plan on being able to show up and find a suitable rental...or any rental at all. Housing is extremely tight on Kauai and most landlords don't want to rent to someone who doesn't have a job lined up yet and some history here. Plan on getting a vacation rental for a month or two while looking for a place to rent.


Figure out what you want to do with your stuff. It may not be worth it to haul all your household goods over here.


Remember everything on Kauai takes twice as long as it does in your home town. Whatever time table you have in mind for your agenda...double it.


In short, plan well, plan carefully and have your economic act together so that you do not become a burden on the good grace of others or end up one more knucklehead sucking at the system. Do it right and you'll be much less stressed, last much longer and and make everyone else happier as well.


Remember, you are not in Kansas anymore Dorothy!

Making Friends - The Story of Victor & Jill by Dain Spore

When “Jim” came to me with a complaint about the church, I was typically distressed. His complaint went like this; “I can’t make friends at this church. I’ve been here almost three years and I feel like nobody knows me. On Sundays, when service is over I’ll just stand there and nobody will talk to me”. I of course suggested that instead waiting for people to come talk to him, he reach out and initiate a conversation with somebody else. 

This didn’t seem to go over that well with him, and he walked away still disgruntled. 

At a leadership meeting later that week I brought it up, and the general response was “Who’s Jim?” 

This issue continued to plague me, and in fact, I heard the same complaint from another person shortly thereafter. Did I need to preach a sermon on friendliness? Was our congregation simply unfriendly? What was confusing for me was that I had never had any problem making friends at our church, or any church I had been a part of. 

Then one day, God made it clear to me what the solution was, and it came in the form of a couple by the name of Victor and Jill. 

The first day I noticed Victor, he was sweeping up after a Sunday service. I went over to introduce myself and thank him for his service. When I asked him how long he had been attending our church, I was shocked when he said it was only his second week with us! Even more interesting was what happened at a leadership meeting a couple of weeks later. One of our leaders was looking for a volunteer when somebody suggested he contact Jill. “Oh, Victor’s wife?” was the response. “I already have them signed up for something that day”. 

That started a brief conversation about what a great couple Victor and Jill were and how helpful they were. But one thing was glaringly obvious; after only three weeks at our church, every single leader knew Victor and Jill. 

As it turned out, Victor worked for Fedex, and could move around the country pretty much at will. Because he was a surfer, they typically found locations where there were good waves. Their modus operandi was to move every two years, and in Victor’s words “find a church to serve in that place”. And boy did they serve! They signed up at almost every opportunity and could constantly be found manning a desk, pushing a broom or driving a van full of kids. 

And the result? When their two years were up, and they were planning to leave (much to our sorrow!), we threw a farewell party for them that was attended by over 200 people! I never did ask them, but I’m pretty sure if you asked Victor and Jill if our church was a “friendly” church, their response would be something along the lines of “Huh? Of course!”. 

So now when people come ask me about how to get “involved” or make friends at KCF, I say “Well, start by picking a broom on Sunday mornings!” And then I tell them the story of Victor and Jill.



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