Housing is expensive. Gas is expensive. Schools are mediocre. (I’m talking about the public schools; I haven’t heard anything bad about the private schools here, so I assume they’re okay). Public schools and state university in particular are suffering because they need money.
Hawaii has a history of being a bad place to start up a business. I wish I could link to an article, but I read a piece many years ago that talked about the ways the state government and big businesses here make starting and running a small business hell.
It’s is only made worse by the horrible state of the economy. The job ads in the classifieds run only several columns wide; they used to run pages, even multiple sections. Lots of people are getting laid off, and lots more are taking multiple, menial jobs. Businesses die easily, particularly the old mom-and-pop type shops that have been around for 50+ years.
Quite a few of the younger people (twentysomethings) are leaving for the mainland because of the economy and dearth of jobs. A half-dozen of my closer friends all moved to the mainland, and others are planning to once they finish graduate schoool. I’m moving, as mentioned in that Hawaii Dopers thread. I’m doing it mostly to see other places and to try living on my own for a while, but there’s also the reason that Hawaii’s just not an easy place to live right now because of the economy. I have a bachelor’s in psychology. If I could find a decent job, I’d stay here and be perfectly content travelling once a year. But short of working three jobs at insanely tiny wages, I can’t do that here now.
Gosh, what can I say? I mean, it’s Hawaii. It’s beautiful, warm, and filled with a variety of cultures, foods, and sights. Most people are very nice, and I think most people from Hawaii feel a sense of family/community (ohana). It’s a tourist haven, so there’s good food and good shopping.
Commuting’s likely in your future, but traffic’s not as bad as LA or anyplace else on the mainland. I live 15 miles from the state university, and the drive takes about an hour during rush hour by car and about two hours by bus. The bus system’s far from perfect, but it’s supposedly good. Won awards in 2000 from some national transit association, or something. (I rode it daily for 8 years, and I’m a little skeptical about their judging standards. :))
BTW, I’m speaking mostly for Honolulu and the island of Oahu. I haven’t spent enough time on the other islands to speak for them. But I do know that the Big Island and Kauai are more rural, more laid back, less modern, and less crowded.
Most people I know love it here and wouldn’t have wanted to grow up elsewhere. Those who hate it here complain that it’s too small and doesn’t have enough of what the mainland offers. It’s true, but some folks find they like that about Hawaii. YMMV.
Other than that, well, you’ll have to see the place for yourself. I forget which Doper it was (Athena?), but they were also contemplating moving here. The consensus was that they try living here for 6 months and then re-evaluate. I’m not sure if you can experiment like that, but I recommend you do that if you can.
As for me, I’ve never left here for longer than one month. I’m looking forward to moving, but I always liked living here and was happy to be from here. (People on the mainland seem more receptive to you and excitedly ask you questions and stuff. :)) I hope to come back often to visit and/or come back for good one day. Hawaii has its minuses, but the pluses make it more than worth it.