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Your Hawaii Area Guide

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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. Additionally, there are ten active military bases in Hawaii. 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 can't go wrong when it comes to exploring and enjoying all the island has to offer. Before your big move to one of the military bases in Hawaii, be sure to check out base housing photos, neighborhood reviews and more at PCSgrades.com.


Hawaii is the most recent state to join the United States, and it is the only U.S. state located outside North America. It is also the only one composed entirely of islands and located approximately 2,000 miles southwest of the U.S. mainland.



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 also located in central O'ahu. Nearby towns include Wahiawa and Mililani.

Click Here to check out housing photos and neighborhood reviews of Wheeler Army Airfield and Schofield Barracks

Fort Shafter

Listed as a National Historic Landmark, Fort Shafter is the oldest military base on O'ahu. It is also 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

Easily distinguished from a distance due to its pink exterior, Tripler Army Medical Center sits 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.


All Navy Housing Hawaii is privatized. Although there is an inventory of over 4,500 homes, the wait can be long depending on the neighborhood. 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.


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 is on neighboring Ford Island.


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 is designated a National Historic Landmark for its role in the World War II Pacific campaign. There is one school, Hickam Elementary, located on base. Hickam has a flat terrain, wonderful for walking and biking. There are open playgrounds located throughout the base. Behind Wright Brothers Cafe, there is a paved path which runs along the Pearl Harbor channel, where you can often see ships and submarines coming and going. Just down the road from Wright Brothers is Hickam Harbor Beach. The southeast corner of Hickam backs up to Honolulu International Airport.


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. 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 Base Honolulu

U.S. Coast Guard Base Honolulu supports routine and contingency operations in the 14th District of Responsibility. This district has over 1,100 active duty men and women and covers over 12 million square miles of land and sea.


One of the great things about Hawaii is being able to live just about anywhere and still have a [semi] reasonable commute to a military installation. 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.

Click Here to check out off-base neighborhoods and local Realtors


The BAH for Hawaii tends to be on the high side, similar to the Washing D.C. area. Island living, in general, tends to be pricey because everything has to be shipped in. The median sales price for a single-family home on O'ahu in 2018 was $800,000. 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!


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.

Click here to read more about the Housing Market in Hawaii


All of the military bases in Hawaii have the usual amenities: Commissary, Exchange, gym, community pool, etc. Check with the individual installation for details.

Public schools are part of the Hawaii Department of Education. If you have school-age children, a great place to start in finding a school is to contact the School Liaison Officer for your respective branch. The SLO can assist in getting your child registered. Hawaii does not have any DoD schools, but there are many 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 to enroll.


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 Hawaii during the winter. Kitchen items and small appliances that can be used in temporary housing, and small electronics are also a good idea to include in the express shipment. This is an excellent 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 arrive after the main HHG shipment occasionally, so be sure to plan accordingly!


Will you be PCSing with pets? Check 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. *as of August 31, 2018- the new waiting period time is now 30 days.

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.


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.


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 Hawaii. 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, botanical gardens are abundant throughout O'ahu!



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.


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!


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.


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.

With a little planning and making use of great resources such as PCSgrades.com, moving to Hawaii can be a breeze, and before you know it, you can begin to enjoy island life! Read or submit your reviews today! Together, we can truly make a difference.

This post sponsored by PCSgrades.

Stephanie Wade/U.S. Transportation Command

In military life, there is really nothing more stressful than a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). Deployments are a close second, but a PCS takes the cake. Combine a PCS with a deployment and not only do you want to eat all of the proverbial cake, you want to guzzle copious amounts of wine, too. We see you. Cheers.

One company, PCSgrades, is trying to make the PCS process feel more like a three-letter acronym than a four-letter expletive. Founded by veteran Todd Ernst, PCSgrades is the epitome of the military community taking care of its own. "PCSing has an emotional connotation," said Ernst. "We use it as an adverb, adjective, a noun and even as a cuss word."

Ernst started PCSgrades in 2015 after seeing friends struggle with unethical real estate agents and being taken advantage of by moving companies who knew DoD would be a paying customer no matter how poorly the companies treated their clients - us.

Here are 4 resources PCSgrades provides that you need to make moving easier:

1. Housing reviews

Does it get any more stressful than finding out where you're going to be stationed, Googling base housing at that station and getting results from 15 years ago (if you find anything, at all)? Nope, no it doesn't.

PCSgrades is changing the game on that by having military families who live in an area provide honest, candid reviews of their housing so incoming families can benefit. With reviews of both on and off base locations, families can finally get the truth about housing, whether it has black mold or the best views in town.

2. Moving company reviews

Great, you've figured out where to live; that's half the battle. The other, larger, more complex half? Figuring out how your stuff is going to get there. Knowing someone else will be handling your personal property and driving away with it for the foreseeable future is stressful enough. But not knowing what that company's background is, well that's a whole different ball game.

PCSgrades has countless reviews of moving companies provided by military families who have used them. Let's be honest: You wouldn't try a new Chinese delivery place without looking at reviews … why should picking a moving company be any different?

3. Area guides

The giant Google machine can only get you so far in life when you're researching your new duty station. We know you're busy and you want one-stop shopping on the interwebs. What you really need is aggregate data of things like schools to attend, restaurants to try, day trips to take and neighborhoods to avoid.

Introducing Area Guides, which offer exactly that: a holistic view of where you're moving and what to do once you get there. The best part? These are written by military families who have done it, for military families who are doing it.

4. Network of realtors and resources

PCSgrades has a nationwide network of A-graded realtors who know and understand the military and veteran lifestyle. Many of the realtors are veterans or spouses themselves, which takes the empathy to a whole new level. Having a realtor who gets the pressures of PCSing and the challenges of a military move is key to finding the right home for your family.

"I have friends who are hundreds of thousands of dollars upside down after bad home choices," Ernst said. "Housing choices can be pretty limited. Our moves are way more expensive than the typical civilian move." This is why Ernst created a way to alleviate the pain points for military families through PCSgrades.

In addition to a network of realtors, PCSgrades partners with "HomeScout," which allows you to search up-to-date home listings nationwide. Simply create an account with PCSgrades and the realty world is your oyster.

Whether you're looking for a new neighborhood, trying to find a vetted realtor, need a PCS checklist (let's be honest, is it on your radar to look at the expiration date of your military ID card two months before you PCS? Yeah, we know the truth; download the checklists here), or you're just wanting to know more about where you're heading, PCSgrades is making moving easier for every military family. Pay it forward by leaving reviews and be sure to take advantage of their excellent resources, today.

This post sponsored by PCSgrades.

7 airplane travel hacks with kids


Yeah! You got orders to (insert foreign country overseas)! You can already picture your kids in the international school, speaking with cute little accents and wearing local garments. Adorbs. You've got your housing picked out, adventures planned and passport photos taken. You're ready for your epic move ... except for that 13 hour plane ride. Have you wrapped your head around that yet? Before you grab for a paper bag and start hyperventilating, use our travel hacks to help make the emotional turbulence you're experiencing a little lighter.

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We've all said it: "We'll drive. It won't be that bad." We picture the adventure, the memories, the nostalgia of car trips when we were younger.

But if we're really being honest with ourselves, think back to those car trips. Someone was crying. Someone was puking. Someone was whining. That person very well may have been your poor mother. True story, my mom once got out and walked along the highway when all six of us kids wouldn't stop fighting. A long car trip can be daunting, but with our tips and tricks they don't need to be.

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Nordwood theme, Unsplash


Name the most disgusting item erroneously packed by your movers… for me it was used coffee grounds and of course, trash. For others, I've heard everything from wet towels to dirty diapers. I've caught movers raiding my fridge, lounging on my mattress in my front yard, and throwing out items that they've broken. Raise your hand (or have a drink) if you ever had packers show up late (or not at all). Ever had packers get into a shouting match among themselves as they were packing your china? Or have you caught your movers throwing boxes down the stairs to the basement? That would be me!


With each military move, there are "lessons learned". For instance, I won't go into great detail but let's just say after watching one packer go directly from using the restroom back to packing my kitchen without washing his hands, we now use gigantic ziplock bags to "pre-pack" all my kitchen utensils. A packers' bare flesh has never again touched one of my kitchen utensils.

My family's last military move was by far the shortest, only 1½ miles up the road. We were moving from a rental to a home we purchased. It was by far the worst in terms of damage and overall angst. I think because we were only "moving up the road" the pack job left a lot to be desired. I found one box of dishes which had not one piece of wrapping paper! Instead two throw pillows from my family room were used as a buffer! Amazingly, nothing was broken! Go figure!

When I heard glass shatter in the moving truck, I asked one of the guys what shattered.

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There are any number of reasons why in a given situation renting might be better than buying or vice versa. For military families, it might make more sense to buy at one duty station and then rent at the next. Up for consideration with each PCS is whether to buy or rent, to stay on-base or off. In making these decisions, there are numerous pros and cons to consider.


  • Purchasing the right home can be a great financial investment that can grow in value over time.
  • Tax deductions such as mortgage interest and property taxes can greatly reduce your overall income tax burden if you itemize.
  • Being a homeowner can give you pride of ownership and a sense of stability, rare in the military life which can seem nomadic at times.
  • A mortgage payment that is lower than your BAH can result in a boost to your savings.
  • You can decorate however you want! Goodbye white walls! Hello, Color!
  • Anyone can stay with you at any time. So it is not a problem when your Mom or sister comes for an extended stay during a deployment or following a PCS.
  • You can do (almost) whatever you want….host a late night party, plant a garden, knock a wall down!
  • There are no security or pet deposits when you buy a home.
  • You have the opportunity to become a landlord when military orders arrive and you have to move. Your home can become an investment property, providing a source of income which can partially or totally offset your mortgage, taxes, and insurance payments.
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