42 Answers to the Ultimate Question of Life on Maui

My life on Maui is very different from the day in day out of life on the Mainland. Here are 42 answers to questions many people have been curious about or maybe they were never considered, because we don’t know what we don’t know.

People always ask me, “Well, isn’t it expensive living on Maui?” Yes absolutely! But instead of getting a new European sports car every few years I drive a 15 year old base model VW Beetle that may or may not have a giant spider, roach or rats living inside. Finding housing can also be tricky particularly if you are renting. And even trickier when seeking more affordable housing. Often landlords will not rent to people that are not on island. You may find housing with a shared kitchen and or shared bathroom and still be working 2-3 jobs to pay for it depending on your line of work.

This list will cover some of the information needed for anyone toying with the idea of moving to Maui and information visitors may find fascinating.

1. We Maui residents are happy with what we have –  We are great at improvising and making due. Sometimes we can’t get something we want delivered to the island at least not in a timely fashion, and  we realize the fewer items we possess the freer we are to relocate.  I have met many Maui residents that can fit everything they own in their small car (I am talking about a Toyota Corolla not even Camry). We like to be able to move from place to place on the island with ease.

2. Supplies are somewhat limited on the island –  Everything on Maui had to travel across the Pacific to get to us, and we pay dearly for it. Many retailers simply won’t ship to the islands and if they do, it will usually cost extra. It can be impossible to even get certain things.

3. Going Shopping – The good news is we don’t tend to make a social event out of going shopping. We are happy with what we have and we have better things to do besides mindlessly looking at mass produced stuff. We enjoy living light and simply. Think minimalist and that is life on Maui.

4. Pets – Your pet skunk, snake and ferret have to stay on the mainland. The list of prohibited animals goes on and on and on.  Dogs have to be cleared by a veterinarian and a bunch of paperwork completed. Money has to be paid. etc

5. Plants – Plants have to stay on the mainland. I had hundreds orchids and bonsai trees that I was training for over 20 years, and I had to say goodbye to them all! It was heartbreaking, many of the were from Hawaii in the first place, they had to stay on the mainland. Oddly enough, the commercial stores have little trouble shipping a variety of plant and plant products from the mainland.

6. Lots of people will say they will come to see you – Everyone you ever met that is not afraid to fly, will tell you they will come and see you. Don’t hold your breath waiting for them to show up. And don’t waste money to rent a bigger home to accommodate guests, they are not all coming.

7. Free place to stay – The few visitors you will have will  be expecting a free place to stay on Maui – Again, get a home that is comfortably affordable for you. Hotels are expensive and guess what, So is RENT! Many of us have exactly what we need and little extra. And space is no exception!

8. Acting as Travel Agent – Be willing to help visitors find a place to stay and save yourself some money on housing – So you may find yourself as I did telling friends and family you will help them find a place to stay. Because no matter how much you love your visitors there is such a thing as too close for comfort.

9. Extended vacations – When people come to Hawaii, they don’t usually show up for just a weekend. Depending on from what distance they are traveling. If you can provide lodging they will stay as long as you let them. No kidding. My father announced he would stay 2 months in my tiny home! I negotiated him down to 3 weeks and he rented a room from a friend with a larger home down the street. After one week he had had enough of the gecko noises waking him. But the second week he had had it with the rain and other moisture related smells and general dampness.

10. No one will come to see you – Be prepared, out of sight, out of mind. When I was planning to move to Maui, I was assured time and time again that everyone was going to come and see me. But because of my tiny house they simply would not fit. Visiting me suddenly became very expensive. A few friends are too scared to fly so then there is that!

11. Balance – Balancing day to day life and taking time to give tours to friends and family that do come to visit. This can be tricky for those working a 40 hour work week or needing to do get children to and from school and activities, cooking, cleaning getting groceries. As mentioned previously, it’s expensive living on Maui. Many of us work way more than 40 hours a week.

12. Jobs and Salaries – There are a lot of service industry jobs paying commission only or about $12/hour. But as far as careers in technology, medicine, or law are concerned those are few and far between. We work remotely from home which is a dream come true. There are of course many other ways people make a living here just like anyplace else, in sales, fixing stuff, construction, farming. Also, many employers will not even begin the hiring process until the potential applicant is on the island for some time and show promise of staying longer than a couple of years.

13. Recycling – We take our recyclables to the recycling drop off place. Our trash collector does not pick up our recyclables for us. We have to stay on top of that for ourselves. Having a truck is really convenient for this one. Just throw it in the back of the truck and go. There are a few people on the island that you can pay to come get your recyclables for you.

14. The Post – Many of us have post office boxes. Here is why. Sometimes to get home requires a 4 wheel drive vehicle, and lots of local knowledge. The mail trucks are not made for these off road shenanigans or unmaintained driveways.

15. Living Rural and packages that can not be delivered to a P.O. Box either – This brings be to another situation worth mentioning. Remember when I said some vendors simply won’t ship to Hawaii. Well many of the ones that do ship to Hawaii, will not ship to Post Office boxes.  So more in the spirit of making due with what we have.

16. Flammables and Liquids in transit – Select paints and other flammable or hazardous materials travel by water on a slow boat. Anything coming by boat takes weeks to get to the islands. Here is where that skill of  improvising comes in again.

17. Electricity is very expensive on Maui – Many people don’t have hot showers and others have on demand propane water heaters.  Sharing propane is a common thing. We don’t leave on a bunch of lights and fans and then leave the house. We air dry our clothes when we can – and some have no choice because they don’t have the luxury of a clothes dryer.

18. Finding propane can be a chore – Often I find myself going to 4 different stores to find propane. Some stores are less expensive than others but those stores are in Kahului and 35 minutes from home if there is only a little traffic.

19. Sharing is Caring – People share really well here, Out of propane and don’t want to drive to town. It is perfectly normal here to go borrow a tank from a neighbor.

20. No one goes straight home – Propane tanks make a lot of noise rolling back and forth in the back of a VW beetle – Secure the propane tank because the road home goes left, right, right some more, a little straight, up, up, down, down, down and left, right, left, right, left,  hard right, slight left, up, up, left, right, left, right, left, right. I think you get it. (No that is not a secret Nintendo cheat code.) Our winding roads demand attention when the speed limit says 5, there is a good reason, there may be a car coming at you head on, at 5 mph impact can most likely be avoided.

21. Potholes or Puka – Almost all of the side roads have them, even after being repaved a heavy rain will come and make a mess of the new roads up quickly. It’s almost like the roads are made out of sugar. Swerving around potholes on Maui could be an Olympic sport. We find our way home by driving on what is left of the road. Even if you miss all of the potholes or puka. Secure all things in the car because it is going to be a bumpy ride. You may leave Mana Foods in Paia with a dozen eggs, some fresh onions, green pepper, organic local cheese and arrive home in Haiku with an undercooked omelette. So secure loose items in the car.

22. Beach Wildlife – And, No I don’t mean hippies! We have lots of turtles all year, in the winter whales can also be observed right from the beach, they are that close and the Hawaiian Monk Seal comes to the beach to sleep. You think you are at the beach but you are really in the bedroom of Sea Turtles and Hawaiian Monk Seals. There is usually someone from NOAA nearby keeping track of the Seals and documenting any disturbance caused to the seal.

23. Poke or Poké – Pronounced poh-kay.  Poké is diced raw fish with other seasonings like, soy sauce, green onions and sesame oil. Other recipes include furikake ( a blend of dried fish, dried seaweed and sesame seeds, chili pepper limu, sea salt, Kukui nut, maui onion, fish eggs wasabi. This Native Hawaiian Cuisine served as an appetizer or a main dish. It started our as a way to serve cut-offs of fish usually ahi (tuna),  but may also be other types of fish.

24. Coffee – We love our coffee here.  Visitors pride themselves on carrying Maui beans back to the mainland to share with others. Coffee is an event, a ritual, and a part of the routine.

25. SPAM – SPAM is to Hawaii what Kit Kats are to Japan… Very popular. Spam Musubi roll is a very common food for most people here. Tourist can be seen taking photos of our SPAM selections in all major grocery stores.

26. Swimwear and sarong is appropriate attire – Almost everywhere we go involves a beach visit and maybe a swim. So, it is perfectly acceptable to go grocery shopping or to the bank wearing a sarong and a bikini or swim trunks.

27. Slippers and other less common footwear stay outside –  Slippers or Slippah are also known as flip-flops or thongs in other places. When arriving home or to the home of another we remove our shoes at the door. Shoes are left just outside the door of entry and can be collected when leaving. Some homes have a neat little line of slippers and others a mess of matching slippers it is not unusual to leave with one or two that do not belong to you. This can get crazy at a party because the footwear mostly looks the same except the worn in foot pattern.

28.  Slippah tax – This is what happens when nicer than normal slippah are worn to the beach. The beach goer kicks of his/her footwear in the sand and  goes surfing, wind surfing, SUPing or swimming, then returns and slippah GONE. Someone has accidentally mistaken yours for theirs. Mistaken? yes we will go with that. And now You are on your way home or to grocery shop barefoot.

29. Windows stay open – No Air Conditioning or Heater needed on much of the island. When it is VOGGY it would be nice to have AC but most homes don’t even have it. It is chillier at higher elevations some of these homes even have fireplaces.

30. Trade Winds – coming from the North, North East are the most common wind pattern on Maui from April to October. Our trees are are used to the wind coming at them from 12-36 mph from this direction so most tree species hold up well in the wind.

31. Rain direction –  because of the Trade winds we know which way the wind will carry the rain and thus we can confidently leave some windows open when we leave the house and we know which  windows to close. The wind is reliable here. Sometime the wind DOES blow from the other direction though because of Konas.

32. Kona Winds – Wind coming from the South or Southwest depending where you are on the island. These winds usually occur during the Autumn and Winter months and blow at only 12 – 18 mph usually, not always. Kona winds can be much stronger.

33.  Stronger than normal Kona Winds and Trees – The Tradewinds have trained the trees to grow a certain way and when this wind direction changes the trees often lose branches or break entirely, taking out phone lines, power lines and internet for residents.

34. VOG – Kona winds carry Volcanic smog known as VOG is the sulfur dioxide spewing from fissures and vents around Mt. Kilauea. When the wind blows across the  Big Island, Hawaii, it brings this VOG with it. We call this phenomena Kona winds.

35. Breathing – During Kona winds breathing becomes uncomfortable when the air is VOGGY. Visibility is reduced, many of us get headaches, respiratory or sinus problems. The longer the VOG remains the worse it gets putting some people in the hospital.  Sometimes the VOG cloud that was blown out to see will return with the trade winds for a short time before clearing out for good.

36. Gecko sounds, eggs and poo – Oh the geckos they are so cute and have such personalities. The make this laughing sound or chirping sound anytime day or night. They lay their cute little white eggs two at a time in the strangest places. And they eat lots of bugs, flying bugs, crawling bugs, bugs much larger than on would believe possible. You know what happens next?? Poo that’s what. Never stand under a gecko!

37. Spiders and Roaches –  We have some impressive spiders. Take the cane spider, for example can grow up to 4 inches across they are quick too. They are more scared of you than you are of them, they just want to go on their way and protect us from the Roaches. HUGE Roaches. and some smaller ones. The roaches big and small are not afraid of us they will not scurry away when they are caught eating a papaya on the kitchen counter in the middle of the night. They give you a dirty look for turning on the light before they put on a pair of sunglasses and continue what they were doing before you so rudely interrupted them. If you do decide to reclaim your papaya the roach and three of its friends will launch and attack and fly at your face.

38. Birds – We have some birds but not as many as most people would expect. The birds that are here were either brought by humans or stowed away on boats or they are really really good fliers. We do not have pelicans or seagulls. We do have owls, known in Hawaiian as pueo. Maui also has lots of Chickens.

39. Centipedes – Chickens love to eat centipedes, thank goodness the centipede has a predator on the island or we would certainly be over run with these resilient creatures. They live about 10 years and lay 50 to 80 eggs at a time.  The centipede can inflict a painful bite. They have been known to get into bed with people because they like our body heat but they feel they have to defend themselves when we roll over onto them in our sleep. They can be found hiding under rocks or garden debris. It is not uncommon to find them in homes, cars or shoes either. The photo is of brand newly hatched baby centipedes.

40. Rats – Rats do what they want. We may be outnumbered by the rats. They will get into cars, nibble hoses and wires leaving the car owner stranded. They do their business and sometimes they even have the nerve to die in the car. Ever smell a dead rat, in your car, for several months.

41. We Create and Co-create –  We express ourselves in creative ways.  We go barefoot so we can be connected to Earth, we put glitter on our Third eye, we grow our hair and many have dreadlocks. There are so many artist on Maui. We paint, dance and play music openly in public and this activity is encouraged and celebrated.

42. Thrift Shops – Maui is very transient with people coming and going everyday. Shipping to and from the island is very expensive and can take months.  Many people can find what is needed at a thrift shop for what one may have paid for it new on the mainland but still a good deal on Maui. Furniture is ridiculously expensive,  In a few months or a couple of years when people start missing their families or transfer for work or get rock fever they donate the items back to the thrift shop or sell it on Craigslist. Craigslist is very popular with the people living here.

Hopefully, you are still reading this and found this info either helpful or entertaining. Please like and share us on social media. Our goal is to support local business that are supportive of Maui in sustainable ways. Instead of pushing against what does not serve the island we have decided to promote that which does support the island that we love.