Hawaii Military Life: Got Orders to Hawaii? Oahu PCS Guide

Aloha! Congratulations on your PCS selection to Oahu. If you felt like I did when you first heard about your PCS orders, you're probably feeling like you've won the lottery, but are also apprehensive about what a move to Oahu, Hawaii, really means. This article will help demystify your PCS move process to better set you up with the right expectations and way ahead for your future Hawaii military life! military

Aloha and congratulations on your PCS selection to Oahu!

First thing, as soon as you get your PCS orders, start planning! After PCS orders are issued, each military member will be provided a sponsor, who will provide the member information on moving to your new base. Consider joining social media groups geared towards a PCS and move to Oahu, HI. Nearly every service has a local spouse's Facebook page.

Household Goods (HHG)

When planning your move to Oahu, determine what household goods will stay and what will be left behind as living space is greatly decreased in Hawaii. The standard size of living area is generally around 1,500 sq. ft. for a 3 bed/2 bath home. Estimate your HHG's weight (roughly 1,500 pounds per room excluding bathrooms and storage room) with Move.mil's estimation tool to help with stay-or-go decisions.

Inventory all of your belongings before the movers show up. Consider adding more insurance coverage if you're moving high-value items. The moving company pays a limited amount for lost or damaged items. Private insurance companies, your moving company, or your homeowner's policy may offer coverage for items in transit.

Pet Preparation

Pets are a part of the family, so it's important to take the time to understand Hawaii state laws concerning your pets prior to your PCS.

Hawaii is rabies-free. The quarantine law in Hawaii is designed to protect residents and pets from potentially serious health problems associated with the introduction and spread of rabies. All dogs and cats, regardless of age (puppies and kittens included) or purpose, must comply with Hawaii’s dog and cat import requirements.

All dogs and cats must go through quarantine. Depending on how early you get started on your pet's pre-arrival checklist will determine how long your pet will stay in quarantine. Talk to your veterinarian about the move. Pets may be eligible for 30 day, 5 day, or direct release from the Honolulu International Airport (HNL) if requirements are met. Otherwise, pets will be quarantined for 120 days upon arrival. It's never too late to start the quarantine process at your current location. For more information: Hawaii's Animal Quarantine Information Page.


First thing, as soon as you get your PCS orders, start planning!

To qualify for the 5-day-or-less quarantine program, please follow the requirements stated in this checklist.

Inspection hours for dog and cats at HNL are between 0800-1700 daily. Pet owners must be sure to arrange flights to arrive by 1530 because it may take up to 1 hour for the airlines to transport a pet to the Airport Animal Quarantine Holding Facility. Pets will have to stay overnight at the Animal Quarantine Station if airline arrival times occur beyond 1630. Pick up for pets that stay overnight must be by 1000 or an additional $59 will be charged.

Animal Quarantine Station (0800-1700): 808.483.7151 99-951 Halawa Valley St, HI 96701

United Airlines Military & State Department pet exemptions - Pets travel as checked baggage with PCS orders.

Island Pet Movers is a veteran owned and operated pet relocation service that has helped many military families PCSing to Oahu. Visit the provided link to learn more about how they can take care of getting your fur-family members to Oahu, HI with you!

Temporary Housing Allowance (TLA) Approved Hotels

Upon arrival, newcomers must report to their housing office within 72 hours. From the housing office you will be directed to on or off base temporary lodging. Depending on availability of on base lodging, there's a chance you'll be authorized for TLA, which can extend up from 30 to 60 days.

Before checking into a TLA-approved hotel, ensure you have authorization to do so by requesting a TLA "Non-Availability" letter prior to making any reservation at a TLA-approved hotel. Here's a current list of Oahu's TLA-approved hotels and rates.

If searching for a home off base, newcomers will need to provide documentation to the housing office as evidence of your home's search and current escrow if you enter a contract to buy any island house or condo.

Newcomers' Briefing

Once you've arrived on island, don't forget to attend the free newcomers' briefing your base should offer. Spouses are encouraged to attend. Please inquire with your sponsor for a day, time, and location. These briefings occur monthly. Each base's housing office will have this information for you.

North Shore

Adventure awaits on the island of Oahu (Photo: Christa Funk/USCG/instaclamfunk)

Transporting Your Vehicle (POV) to Hawaii

Military members are authorized shipment of 1 POV at government expense. From ports in the west coast, you can expect to be charged approximately $1,000 for transport charges to Hawaii. A timeline for transport could be 2 weeks to a month, it all depends on when the cargo ship leaves harbor. Once you arrive on island, call the Vehicle Processing Center at Horizon Lines to arrange for pickup. For more information on vehicle turn in, checkout, or in-transit visibility, visit the provided link.

Horizon Lines Terminal (0730-1630): 855.389.9499 1601 Sand Island Parkway Pier 51-B Honolulu, HI 96819-4357

Registering Your Vehicle (POV) in Hawaii

Newcomers must register their POV with the Hawaii Department of Motor Vehicle Registration within the first 30 days of arrival. For more information, visit the Department of Motor Vehicle Information webpage.

Non-resident active duty military personnel must submit a properly completed Non-Resident Certificate, Form CS-L (MVR) 50*, for each registration, renewal, or transfer transaction. Form CS-L (MVR) 50 and Form CS-L (MVR) 50A is available from your military personnel office or your unit.

Vehicle registration approval will require passed Hawaii State Safety Inspection. This can be accomplished at selected auto-garages around Oahu. Call to verify an auto-garage can do a Safety Inspection. Once passed, you can then get your car registered.

If you plan on obtaining a Hawaii's drivers license, visit this Driver's License Information webpage.

Note: Talking on your cell phone while driving is against the law. Passengers are allowed to sit in the back of a pickup truck bed if all the seats are taken inside a truck cabin. All vehicle passengers must wear seat-belts. Motorcycle riders are not required to wear helmets while off base (on base helmets are required).

Firearms Registration

Upon arrival military members must register their firearms with the state of Hawaii and the base assigned. The limit to register your firearms is 3 days with the Honolulu Police Department (HPD). Failure to register your firearms could result in a felony possession of firearms charge. To register simply take the unloaded firearm to the Firearms Division of HPD for inspection along with proper identification and proof of ownership. You will be fingerprinted ($16.50 fee) and photographed.

If you plan to live in military or privatized on base housing, you must register the firearm with the base's security office you are on. You will need to bring a valid military ID card and proof of HPD firearm registration, and proof of residence in the housing area. Please refer to Oahu's Military Directory (808.449.7110) for additional registration office contact information.

Requesting a Temporary Mailing Address

Upon arrival temporary mailboxes can be reserved for 90 days and can be extended by request. 30 days prior to your PCS would be a good time to reserve a mailbox. Each base will have their own temporary mailbox location and point of contact. Please refer to Oahu's Military Directory (808.449.7110) to reach your respective base's post office for temporary mailbox information and set up.

No shortage of things to do here! (Photo: Christa Funk/USCG/instaclamfunk)

Medical Resources

Hospital functions have nearly all been consolidated to Triple Army Medical Center:

Address: Jarrett White Rd Honolulu, HI 96859 Online Appointments: www.tricareonline.com 24-Hour Nurses' Line: 1-800 TRICARE (874.2273) All Medical/Dental: www.tricare.mil MetLife Dental: 1-855-638-8371 (CONUS) / 1.855.638.8372 (OCONUS)

Schofield Acute Care Clinic: (808.433.8850) ***The Acute Care Clinic is located on the first floor of Building 684 of the Schofield Barracks Health Clinic. Access is via the ACC front door facing Waianae Avenue.***

Tripler Army Medical:

Center Emergency Room: 808.433.6629 Central Appointments: 808.433.6661 Drop-In Care: 808.433.3270 United Healthcare: 877.988.9378


The Hawaii State Department of Education works hard to smooth the transition for military families who enroll their children in Hawaii's public schools. School enrollment requirements, zone maps, and FAQ can be found online. It's also recommended that you contact your current and destination SLO (School Liaison Officer) to assist with the transition.

GreatSchools.org is a great resource that will quickly acquaint you with school ratings and performance.

Homeschooling is also popular on Oahu. Various homeschooling communities are active and flourishing all over the island. To find the various homeschooling networks, conduct a simple online social media search that will be able to link you directly to active organizations.


The Hawaii State Department of Education works hard to smooth the transition for military families who enroll their children in Hawaii's public schools

Housing: Base Housing, Rentals, & Home Buying

Newcomers and their families have 3 options to consider when moving to Oahu. They can either move on base, rent, or purchase.

Moving On Base - Depending on which base you're being assigned to will determine the base housing you'll be directed to. Connecting with each service's housing office will be able to link you with vacancy options at the time of request. Unfortunately, all or most of your Base Housing Allowance (BAH) will be taken away from you by moving on base. Contact your sponsor or reach out to military directory for updated housing office contact information.

Renting Off Base - If you decide on base living is not for you, renting is an option. Moving off base means you will be provided a significant amount of BAH in accordance with your grade and dependent status. BAH is supposed to offset the cost of market rental housing by offering a monthly allowance that will permit you to live comfortably in the local area. In fact, BAH is actually formulated off local area rent averages. As rent increases or decreases, BAH amounts will follow in trend. Due to the fact that rents are high on Oahu, so is BAH. To find out what you will be provided in BAH on Oahu, visit the Defense Travel Management Office's BAH Calculator Tool.

Preferred Oahu rental search resources are Craigslist or AHRN. Craigslist is known to be the best online option when looking for rentals.

Ewa Villages Home

Purchasing a Home - Not interested in losing your BAH to on base housing or rental landlords? Buying a home on Oahu just might be the option for you. The best time to buy a home is upon your first PCS arrival into Oahu. Military members and their families are provided 8 days of "house hunting" and up to 60 days of Temporary Housing Allowance (TLA) to look for and purchase a home. Considering it takes 45-60 days to "close an escrow" (purchase a home), this is exactly the right amount of time to get into an island home.

Honolulu Board of Realtor FACT: Median price of a home on Oahu in 1985 was $158,600. In July 2015, the median price of a house was $710,000. Based off historical sales data, values double every 10-15 years on Oahu.

Using Your VA Loan Entitlement - Oahu's current VA loan benefit limit is set at $721,050. This means if pre-approved for a VA loan, a veteran can buy a home at 0% down up to $721,050; as opposed to a Conventional 3-20%+ down loan non-veterans are subject to when buying a home. If you've already used your VA loan in another location, you'll be surprised to find out you most likely have enough of the loan left to use the rest of your VA loan on Oahu. The only requirement for use of the VA loan is the buyer(s) must live in the home for at least 1 year immediately after closing.

Other benefits to using a VA loan include not having to pay Mortgage Insurance, lower interest rates, and lower credit score requirements. VA loans can also be used to purchase multi-family properties. It is important to keep in mind when looking to use a VA loan, strict condition requirements must be followed, homes need to be in good condition (no fixer uppers) and only have permitted work done on them. Any unpermitted improvements causing a property to not match tax records will negate the use of the VA loan. This is to help make sure the veteran is buying a safely built and permitted home.

When it comes to VA loans, closing costs can be negotiated and sometimes covered by a lender. However, in general, buyers will need 2% of the loan amount to pay for closing costs, appraisal, home inspection, taxes, and fees, etc.

Contact Hawaii VA Loans for more information on how you can take advantage of your VA loan benefit.

Recommended Off Base Living Locations

Considering quality of housing, neighborhood safety, schools, distance to bases:

Kailua, Kaneohe, Mililani, Ewa Beach, Kapolei, Haleiwa, Aiea, Honolulu.

The most affordable and new off base housing options exist on the Westside or "Leeward" of the island. To explore what homes currently are for sale right now, contact the Hawaii Military Team to establish an automated listing service that will provide you current housing inventory for your areas of interest using the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) tool.

Commute Times

It's no secret, Oahu is busy with a population of almost 1 million, meaning traffic is everywhere. The peak commute hours are 6am-10am and 2pm-6:30pm.

Living on the Leeward side of the island could mean transit times from 1-2 hours if traveling into and out of Honolulu. Windward traffic jam commuting generally takes 40 mins-1 hour. From the North Shore to Honolulu it can be 45 mins-1 hour. If you happen to work odd hours, you might be able to escape being stuck in traffic too long. Outside of traffic hours, commutes from the Leeward and Windward sides into Honolulu can be a speedy 30 minutes.

Another transportation option will be available when the new rail system comes online at the end of the decade. The rail line will start in Kapolei and end at Ala Moana Mall. The estimated time of completion is 2019. Ride times from Kapolei to Ala Moana are expected to be 43 minutes. Visit Honolulu Rail Transit Project for further updates and details.

Additional Resources

Military OneSource - invaluable resource for PCS moving info.

State of Hawaii's Interactive Newcomer's Guide - access everything related to your move to Hawaii!

MyBaseGuide.com - is an affiliate of HI Military and also maintains a very handy APP you can use on your mobile device to quickly research base info, services phone directory, nearby local attractions, current weather conditions, even compare local gas prices! Their website also connects you to the handy relocation guides.

Great Life Hawaii - is Oahu MWR's website. This webpage features a ton of great information that will help make your move go smoothly. Information on entertainment events, equipment rentals, and vacation cottage rentals are also featured.

Space Available Flights - The Air Force's Air Mobility Command offers space available flights on their transiting mobility aircraft to military members and their families year-round. Visit the provided link for direct Facebook page access to the airmen at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam's Space Available Terminal Passenger Service Center. Furthermore, details on obtaining a Command Sponsorship letter (if a spouse plans to travel without the military member) can also be found by contacting Passenger Service Center personnel before traveling.

Military Directory - Oahu's military phone operator (808.449.7110)

Find Your Hawai'i Life

Find Your Hawai'i Life on the island of Oahu


I hope this guide was helpful in preparing you and your family for your upcoming PCS. If you have any further questions about PCS'ing to Oahu, HI,  are interested in exploring your island home purchase, or selling options, please contact Hawaii Military Life!

hawaii life military logo

*information in the post is subject to change. This is not an official DoD publication.

Find a Military Relocation Professional at Hawaii Life

A few years ago the National Association of Realtors developed a new certification course, the Military Relocation Professional (MRP), after recognizing military buyers and sellers need agents who speak the language of military permanent change of station (PCS) moves, and understand military families’ unique needs and interests. This was old news to Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers, as we had already developed a team of agents with personal military experience to serve the military market, the Military Specialized Team. Military_Team

Monica Schaefer, Jason Fieldman, and Alison Wisnom from the Hawaii Life Military Specialized Team

The demand for military experienced agents is particularly evident here in Hawaii where, on the small island of Oahu, all services are represented. The Navy and Air Force are based at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The Army is located at Schofield Barracks and Wheeler Army Airfield. The Marines are based at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe and also operate out of Camp Smith, and Sand Island is home of Coast Guard Base Honolulu.

Shaun, Ashley, and Scott Kays bought their home in Ewa Beach with Hawaii Life

Real estate agents on Oahu without personal military experience should absolutely earn the MRP, to at least become familiar with the market.

While earning the MRP certification provides a basic level of understanding by requiring a reading assignment, a one-day classroom or online course, and two hours of webinar viewing to orient agents to the processes and procedures involved in a military relocation and how these impact service members’ relocation and housing choices, those qualifications do not come close to the level of real-life experience faced by Hawaii Life’s military veteran or dependent agents.

We have personally lived the PCS process, understand the limitations of your TLA, PTDY, BAH and COLA, and know how to assist your family with getting back into a normal routine in an entirely new place. We’ve been there, done that, and will expertly guide you along the way.

IMG_2650 JP Iraq 2008

(L) Alison Wisnom; (R) Jason Fieldman, serving in Iraq

Here to Serve You

Since there are many agents on Oahu who have authentic military experience in addition to the Military Relocation Professional certification, military families PCS'ing to Oahu can be comfortable requesting a higher standard of service in Hawaii, beginning with Hawaii Life.

HL military logo

Our Military Specialized Team allows agents to showcase their experience in the military on our website filled with agent bio pages, blog articles, maps, base information, and other resources, so clients PCS'ing to Hawaii can choose the best agent match. Check it out!

PCS'ing & Need An Out-Of-State Real Estate Agent?

Receiving orders for a new station change can be stressful. There is tons to do and figure out, one of which is finding a new property for your PCS. Most of the time you have a short window to find the new property and start work. The question is: how can you make this easier while in your original location? Akaula Moving day

Moving day

Being a Hawaii Life agent with the Military Specialized Team, I can help. We are part of a referral network that can help find and interview agents anywhere in the world. This gives us the ability, at times, to help sell your current property while we find you a new agent out-of-state. We can set up in advance for an agent to start sending listings to you for the new location. This way, when you do get to the new destination, a path has been set and a plan is in place.

The listings and appointments can be prearranged to fit your needs and budget. Most people know that we can help buy and sell a property, but don't realize we can also help find you a new agent anywhere in the world. It makes sense while you are in the current location to look forward to the new station change. You definitely are not alone in this process. I can help find you an agent that fits your needs and understands your military lifestyle.

More Information

Feel free to contact me with any questions.

Hawaii Military PCS Moves - Shipping Your Unaccompanied Bags (UAB)

Most military members understand that once you get PCS orders the government will pay for your household goods (HHG) to be moved, but what about the stuff you need now?

What will you need before your HHG arrive?

Depending on your station change, a move specifically to or from Hawaii can take many weeks for your household goods to reach the intended location. Most do not have the luxury to wait weeks for items such as computers, towels, coffee makers, and just the basics to create a livable home while you wait for your military-moved items.

What Can You Ship?

In many cases, you are authorized to ship up to 2,000 pounds, but there may be lower limits in some cases, such as overseas moves.

You are able to ship items with businesses such as The UPS Store, who can pack and ship either UPS or USPS so that your unaccompanied baggage arrives ahead of your move. This generally includes clothing, electronics, and essentials needed prior to the HHG arrival.

You must keep all your receipts with the potential out-of-pocket expenses and submit for reimbursement. At times, the expense and weights for your UAB may vary based on rank, number of dependents, and regulations.

It's always best to clear this with transportation in advance to stay well informed. This is usually a stressful time, so it is nice to have some of your personal items in the new location immediately to help make the transition more comfortable.

More Information

If you need some tips on packing and shipping your HHG, please contact me. I am more than happy to help.

Pearl Harbor 75th Commemoration

As we quickly approach another year's end, we first must remember December 7th, 1941. This calendar year is the 75th remembrance of the attack on Pearl Harbor. There seems to be a large amount of events, gatherings, and tributes surrounding the infamous date. Pearl Harbor

As a member of the Hawaii Military Specialized Team and a resident of Oahu, it is with a heavy heart we remember such a tragic anniversary. So many brave men and woman lost their lives on this surprise attack on Pearl Harbor so many Decembers ago. With all the "events" in place for the month, it is important to think of all those lives lost. It is an honor to be able to visit such a historic site as the memorial, but it is also surrounded with a deep sadness in the air.

As so many gatherings are planned, it is important to remember the reason for the day and to honor the memory of our fallen soldiers. We also need to pause and give thanks to all the brave members of our armed service still out protecting us daily, both here and abroad.