By Rochelle Murty, Navy Spouse
Aloha e komo mai to beautiful Hawaii – hello and welcome to your next great PCS adventure! The island of O’ahu has a population of over 950,000 and is home to almost 50,000 military personnel. The state of Hawaii is home to ten active military installations. Each branch of service, including the Coast Guard, is represented. Included in this number are Barking Sands Missile Range in Kaua’i and Coast Guard Station Maui.
From its beautiful beaches to its many peaks and craters, you really cannot go wrong when it comes to exploring and enjoying all the island has to offer. Here are a few things you need to know about being stationed in Hawaii.
Trade winds keep the average temperature in Hawaii at around 85 degrees throughout the year. The landscape across the island, however, varies significantly depending on location. On the Leeward (West) side of O’ahu, you will find a drier, more desert-like environment, while the Windward (East) side is home to the lush Ko’olau Mountains. Much of central O’ahu is farmland, and the North Shore consists of a rocky shoreline with higher surf; many popular surfing competitions are held there.
TRAVELING TO HAWAII
Moving to Hawaii is a process with a few more factors than your typical stateside PCS. It requires some extra planning when it comes to shipping your pets, vehicles, and even your household goods.
Commonly known as an “express shipment,” service members moving to Hawaii are allowed to ship a small, separate collection of household goods ahead of their regular shipment. This shipment counts toward your total household weight limit and typically includes things like season-appropriate clothing (it is surprisingly difficult to find summer-weather clothing in Hawai’i during the winter!), kitchen items and small appliances that can be used in temporary housing, and small electronics. This is a great opportunity to pack bikes and outdoor toys for the kids, or boogie boards and snorkel or scuba gear for the adults! Depending on the moving company and departure city, unaccompanied shipments have been known to occasionally arrive after the main HHG shipment, so be sure to plan accordingly!
Animal Quarantine & Lodging
Will you be PCSing with pets? Click Here to see the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s website for animal quarantine regulations and requirements. Please note the “Checklist for the 5 Day or Less Program.” If your animal qualifies, you will be able to pick them up and take them home directly from the animal quarantine station at the airport! Otherwise, the standard quarantine period is 120 days upon arrival in Hawai’i.
The next step with pets is to secure temporary housing that allows animals. The Royal Alaka’i on Hickam, Ford Island Navy Lodge, The Inn at Schofield Barracks, and Inn of the Corps in Kaneohe all offer pet-friendly temporary lodging. Weight limits and fees may apply, so be sure to double check before booking!
The military will pay to ship one vehicle to Hawaii. Motorcycles can often be shipped with your household goods shipment, so be sure to double check with your assigned moving company. You can use the PCS My POV website to find the nearest Vehicle Processing Center (VPC). Some people choose to pay out of pocket to ship a second vehicle, while others decide to purchase an additional vehicle once on the island. Military Car Lot is a great place to search for quality used vehicles being sold by other service members.
Wheeler Army Airfield/Schofield Barracks
Wheeler Army Airfield, which serves as headquarters for U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii, and Schofield Barracks, the home of the 25th Infantry Division, are located in central O’ahu. Nearby towns include Wahiawa and Mililani.
Listed as a National Historic Landmark, Fort Shafter is the oldest military base on O’ahu. It is home to the United States Army Pacific Command, the Army Corps of Engineers Pacific Ocean Division, and the Major Command of U.S. Army Forces for the Pacific Region. There is one elementary school, Shafter Elementary, located on post.
Tripler Army Medical Center
Tripler Army Medical Center is easily distinguished from a distance due to its pink exterior, sitting prominently on a ridge that overlooks Honolulu. Tripler is the home of the Pacific Regional Medical Command and is the largest medical treatment facility in the Pacific Basin, supporting over 250,000 active duty and retired military personnel, dependents, and veterans.
Naval Station Pearl Harbor
Located eight miles west of Honolulu, Naval Station Pearl Harbor is the headquarters of the United States Pacific Fleet. It is home to both surface ships as well as submarines. Adjacent to the base are the USS Arizona and Battleship Missouri Memorials, which are open to the public. The Pacific Aviation Air Museum can be found on neighboring Ford Island.
All Navy Family Housing in Hawai’i has been privatized. Although there is an inventory of over 4,500 homes, the wait can be long depending on the neighborhood. So don’t hesitate to get on the list if you’re on the fence about base housing! While not located on the main naval base, Ford Island, Makalapa, and McGrew Point neighborhoods are all gated, meaning you must show military identification to access them.
AIR FORCE INSTALLATION
Hickam Air Force Base
Home to the Pacific Command, 15th Wing, Pacific Air Forces headquarters and the Hawaii Air National Guard, Hickam Air Force Base was designated a National Historic Landmark for its role in the World War II Pacific campaign. There is one school, Hickam Elementary, located on the base. Hickam has a flat terrain that is wonderful for walking and biking, and there are open playgrounds located throughout the base. Behind Wright Brothers Cafe on base, there is a paved path that runs along the Pearl Harbor channel, where you can often see ships and submarines departing and returning, as well as fighter jets training overhead. Just down the road from Wright Brothers is Hickam Harbor Beach. The southeast corner of Hickam backs up to Honolulu International Airport.
MARINE CORPS INSTALLATION
Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH)
Located in Kaneohe Bay on the Windward side of O’ahu, MCBH is home to the 3rd Marine Regiment, Combat Logistics Battalion 3, Marine Aircraft Group 24, and the Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 2 (Navy). There is one elementary school, Mokapu Elementary, on the base. This base has an impressive four beaches, in addition to the nearby Sandbar. Accessing MCBH as a visitor, even with a valid military ID, requires either a day pass or an annual paper pass.
COAST GUARD INSTALLATION
U.S. Coast Guard Base Honolulu supports routine and contingency operations in the 14th District of Responsibility. This district is comprised of over 1,100 active duty men and women and covers over 12 million square miles of land and sea.
Off Base Living
One of the great things about Hawai’i is being able to live just about anywhere and still have a [semi] reasonable commute to a military installation. PCSclassifieds.com is a great place to check for available rentals and homes for sale in your preferred neighborhood! Popular areas to live off base include: Leeward (West) Side, Ewa Beach, Kapolei, Central, Mililani, Wahiawa, Salt Lake, Windward (East) Side, Kailua, Kaneohe, and Hawaii Kai.
The median sales price for a single-family home on O’ahu in 2016 was $730,000. Whether you decide to live in base housing, rent a home in town, or buy a house in paradise, be sure to check out PCSgrades for neighborhood reviews and military-friendly realtors!
If you have school-age children, a great place to start in selecting a school is to contact the School Liaison Officer for your respective branch. The SLO can assist in getting your child registered. Hawai’i does not have any DoD schools, but there are many great public, private, and charter schools to choose from, as well as a large homeschooling community on the island. Just a heads up: most schools and childcare centers require a negative Tuberculosis test in order to enroll!
Things to Do
Living on a tropical island means great year-round weather. No matter where you decide to live, you will only be a short trip from a beach or a scenic hike!
If you are interested in planning a trip to any of the locations below, be sure to check your local Information, Tickets, & Travel (ITT) or Leisure Travel Office (LTO) for exclusive military deals and discounts!
Kualoa Ranch – Kualoa Ranch has been a filming location for many famous movies. They offer a movie tour as well as horseback and ATV adventures.
Dole Plantation – The Dole Plantation in Wahiawa is famous for its Pineapple Express train that runs through the pineapple fields. It is also known for its Dole Whip ice cream and houses a koi pond as well as a pineapple maze.
Polynesian Cultural Center – Located in Laie, the Polynesian Cultural Center is an immersive cultural experience that allows visitors to learn about all the Pacific Island cultures, including food, hula, games, and lei-making.
For the Kids
A variety of great kids’ activities can be found in the town of Kapolei. Wet & Wild, iTrampoline, and Coral Crater Adventure Park are fun for kids of all ages. The Disney resort, Aulani, is located in Ko’olina and features a Disney character breakfast buffet as well as waterslides and other family-oriented activities.
There are a seemingly endless number of hikes to check out in Hawai’i. Some of the more well-known hikes include Diamond Head, Waimea Falls, Koko Head Stairs, and Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail. For those who prefer more of a leisurely stroll, there is an abundance of botanical gardens throughout O’ahu!
Hanauma Bay – This is probably the most well-known and loved snorkel spot on the island. Located in East O’ahu, droves of people flock to its beautiful beach and reefs every day. Park and walk, or pay a few dollars to catch a shuttle ride down the hill and back to the parking lot.
Lanikai Beach – Located in the town of Kailua, Lanikai is known for its beautiful white sand beach and bright blue water. It’s perfect for sunbathing and boogie boarding, and the low surf makes it great for the kids, too!
Waikiki Beach/Hale Koa Hotel – In the heart of downtown Honolulu on the south shore of O’ahu, Waikiki Beach is situated amongst some of the more popular hotels. The Hale Koa Hotel parking garage has great rates and offers parking validation for military members … the beach can be accessed by walking straight through the main lobby at the hotel. The Hale Koa also has two pools available for public use by military personnel and their families.
Lagoons at Ko’Olina – Located in Kapolei, the Ko’Olina Resort is a master-planned vacation community that houses several resorts including Aulani (Disney). It has three natural and four man-made lagoons that are perfect for swimming and snorkeling, making it an extremely popular destination for families.
Hawaii is definitely one of the more unique duty stations. With a little planning and making use of some great resources such as PCSgrades.com and PCSclassifieds.com, relocation can be a breeze and before you know it, you can begin to enjoy island life!
Author: Rochelle Murty is a PCSgrades Blogger Affiliate, Navy wife and stay-at-home mom. While born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, she is proud to call both Washington and Texas home. She currently lives in beautiful Hawaii with her submarine officer husband and their two children. You can follow her on Instagram at @txwifealohalife