Survive and Thrive: Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii


We’ve all heard the saying that every base (and place) is what you make of it. Hawaii is no exception. Even though Hawaii may or may not be your ideal locale, there is so much to see and do and the islands’ natural beauty to enjoy, it is hard not to like it there.

When we first got orders to Hawaii, my excitement was quickly dampened by the many horror stories and negative comments we heard about living there. Some seemed possible (the locals don’t really like you) and some seemed outrageous (milk is $15 a gallon, on base!).

Luckily, we found out that neither of those tales, along with the myriad of others we had heard, were true. This is not to say that living in Hawaii doesn’t come with challenges, because it certainly does. I have many friends who love it there, and only a few who don’t. Those who don’t usually say they rarely spend time outside enjoying all that the island has to offer. So, to all those who think they may not enjoy it there, I say jump in and get your feet wet!

For me, Hawaii is nothing short of paradise and the list of outdoor adventures you can find yourself on is just about limitless. No matter what your budget or your adrenaline-seeking (or avoiding) tendencies are, there is something for everyone. Before you go, there are a few things to know:

  1. The temperature is warm, but typically not super hot. You are closer to the equator than most places, so sunscreen is a must, but the warm temperatures year-round mean you can be outside enjoying the weather all the time.
  2. There is an endless supply of outdoor activities. If this hasn’t been your thing in the past, consider trying it here. From hiking to scuba diving and snorkeling to swimming to surfing to biking and running to sky diving to watching sunsets–there is almost no better place to do it.
  3. Be friendly and respectful. Hawaii has a friendly culture and the locals can tell when someone is new to the island. Most people drive with ‘aloha.’ Coming from the Washington D.C. area, it was a huge adjustment to have people actually let me merge into traffic. Respect the culture is important in Hawaii, even though it may be very different from your own. This is the number one reason locals gave me for not always liking military families.
  4. Travel is still an option. Most of the grumbling I heard when I lived in Hawaii was that travel was impossible. But that’s just not true. It certainly isn’t as easy as hopping in the car and driving to your destination–you are on an island after all! Most travel does require a plane ticket and this can be pricey, but certainly not impossible. Some of the smaller inter-island airlines will offer deals and specials occasionally if you want to check out another island, which I definitely recommend. For trips to the mainland or elsewhere, be a savvy consumer. There are plenty of apps, tips, and blogs out there for how to score the cheapest seats. And don’t forget, Space A out of Hickam is still an option and they have a convenient Facebook page.
  5. Get involved. For many people who move to Hawaii, the biggest challenge is being far from family and friends. Some people cope well with this and some do not. The biggest common factor that I see in people who handle this well is that they are involved in something…anything. It could be volunteering, either on or off base. I chose to do both so I could connect with the local military community. Others attend and get involved with a church, play kickball on a league, get a job, or any combination of these.
  6. No man (or woman) is an island. Even though you might feel like you are alone, there are many others who are in your same shoes and there are many resources on each base.

Some of my favorite memories of Hawaii came from unexpected days when I was simply out enjoying nature, whether it was a stop at a scenic overlook on my way home, a drive to North Shore, a hike with friends, or some time spent on the beach. Not matter what your comfort zone is, I recommend trying something new in Hawaii and at the very least…get your feet wet!

Posted by Valerie Palmer, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer

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  1. 1
    Brittney N Aladetohun

    Your article makes me miss HI. I graduated from HS there when my dad was stationed at Pearl Harbor. Living there definitely has it challenges but it was great to me. However, as a high schooler I did get island fever and left my family to go to college in GA.

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