Hawaii is the most expensive state in the USA, but what if I told you that you can live in Hawaii without ever paying for room and board? Living in Hawaii rent-free is simple if you find a farm or business that will provide you with housing and food in exchange for work.
To live in Hawaii for free, you can find a work exchange host to cover the cost of room and board. If you want to move to Hawaii, you can take advantage of work exchange programs while taking side jobs to cover your other costs, such as transportation and extra groceries.
If you want to move to Hawaii for free, this article is for you. I’ll tell you how to pull it off, give you some resources to help you find accommodations, and offer some tips for making your move to Hawaii work in the long term.
1. Find a Work Exchange Host in Hawaii
The best way to live in Hawaii for free is via work exchange. There are many work exchange opportunities on the Hawaiian islands, and some can be pretty comfortable for short-term and long-term stays.
So, let’s explore the different platforms, programs, and avenues you can take to find a place to stay rent-free in Hawaii:
Look for a Host on Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms
Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms is an international program that matches volunteers with farms from all over the world. Using WWOOF, you can find a farm that will host you rent-free on almost any Hawaiian island in exchange for some labor.
WWOOFing is ideal for people who want to stay in Hawaii for anywhere from one to six months, since many farms cap your stay to around six months. Hosts generally plan for short-term farmers, but some might allow you to stay longer if you develop a good working relationship with them and are comfortable living in their accommodations.
While most farms participating in this program only require 10-20 hours of labor a week doing tasks like landscaping, weeding, harvesting, and helping on building projects, every host is different.
However, every host on the website has an organic and sustainable farm that they could use some help managing. During your stay, you will get experience with organic farming and learn new techniques.
Amenities at each farm will also differ. In some cases, you’ll live in a tent on a covered tent pad with access to outdoor showers, kitchen areas, some areas of the main house, a stipend of rice, and fresh produce from the farm. In other cases, you might receive three meals a day, a private room or cabin, and a private bathroom. Often, you might have to share some of these spaces with other WWOOFers.
Since these farms are all very different, it’s critical to read each farm’s description and read the WWOOF reviews on the website. To see what farm stays are available and read their reviews, you can access the WWOOF listings here.
If you want to see what it’s like to work with WWOOF, here’s a review from Sights of Sara on Youtube:
Search for Other Work Exchange Programs on the Islands
While WWOOFing is the most popular way to live in Hawaii for free, there are tons of other work-stay options available.
If you have a particular skill, you will likely be able to find a long-term living arrangement at a farm via another website. People with semi-remote Hawaiian farms and homesteads or even businesses such as resorts, hostels, and retreats are always looking for people to help them keep up with and expand their properties.
Some desirable trades that you can offer to your work exchange host, depending on how they run their farm or business, include:
- Construction and building.
- Electrical work.
- Farming and gardening.
- Landscaping for businesses.
- Painting and arts.
- Yoga and meditation at retreats and resorts.
- Hospitality and cleaning at hostels, resorts, vacation rentals, and campgrounds.
- Marketing and social media.
Some other fantastic websites that will help you find a work-stay arrangement that fits your skill set and needs include:
2. Save Up for a Plane Ticket and Emergency Spending Money
After you find the ideal work exchange program, start saving money for your plane ticket and savings.
You will almost always have to pay for your airfare when participating in work exchanges, so start looking at travel prices!
After you have the funds for your plane ticket, you should make sure that you have enough savings to make it on your own for at least a week in Hawaii. Depending on your host’s amenities, you’ll still need to pay for your toiletries, bus fare and transportation, and extra food and drinks.
In addition, if your host has a stay limit, you may find yourself between hosts for a little while, so having some extra savings to lean back on can be incredibly beneficial.
3. Take Short-Term Jobs on the Island or Work Remotely
Although you won’t be paying for rent while in Hawaii, having some extra spending money can give you more opportunities.
A part-time side hustle is an excellent way to get enough funds to invest in a vehicle, purchase extra groceries, get some fun food and beverages, and buy bus tickets.
Since work exchanges generally only take up 10 to 20 hours a week, you’ll have plenty of time for other jobs while still having some time for exploring and relaxing.
Some common part-time side-hustles for work exchangers include:
- Selling handmade goods to tourists or online. Selling items such as handmade jewelry, art, flowers, seashells, and soaps is an excellent way to make some spending money. If you have access to a nearby town, you can flip items from bookstores or thrift shops for a profit on platforms like eBay or Etsy.
- Doing odd-jobs. If nearby locals need services such as housekeeping, repairs, landscaping, or help moving heavy objects, offer to help for a small fee.
- Working remotely. If you have a remote job doing things such as digital design, writing, marketing, tutoring, or any other type of freelancing, you can supplement your work exchange with part-time digital work. If you plan to do this side-job, you should ensure that your host has access to the internet and offers a place for you to plug in.
4. Set Realistic Expectations For Work Exchange in Hawaii
When applying for a work exchange stay, every host and work opportunity will be very different. That’s why it’s critical to do your research and understand what to expect from your time in Hawaii:
- Many work exchange programs are short-term. While most work exchange hosts limit how long you can stay at their farm or business, many also express that if they are happy with your work, you may be able to stay longer. Note how long you can stay at one place and arrange for the next in advance if you want to keep living on the island rent-free. Over time, you’ll gain enough experience to stay somewhere permanently.
- Look for a trustworthy and transparent host. When looking for a host, you want to find someone who clearly lays out their expectations. Knowing what they expect is the first step to finding a farm that will genuinely fit your availability and needs.
- You may not have reliable transportation. Some hosts will give you access to a vehicle or drive you into town when they have to run errands, but others might not provide any transportation at all. Select a host that will provide you with some transportation or bus accessibility. If your host does not offer rides, be prepared to hitchhike, which is very common among workers in Hawaii.
- Living in pairs is easier. Moving to Hawaii alone is a fantastic experience, but you may find that you will become lonely, especially if you end up working at a campground or farm far from other people. Traveling in a pair is usually more comfortable for people doing work exchange since you can pool resources and keep each other company.
- You won’t have money for food, toiletries, and other necessities. Unless you have substantial savings or get a job while you’re on the islands, you won’t have money for extra food. Be sure to look for a host that will provide food for you, even if it’s just unlimited rice and beans, and keep some money in a savings account in case you need it.
- Get another job if you want more amenities. Since most work-exchange farms and businesses only ask for around 20 hours of labor a week, finding a part-time job is a feasible option, especially if your accommodations are near a town. Working either online or at a local business will allow you to buy more groceries or rent a car during your stay while you take advantage of rent-free housing.
Living in Hawaii is like booking a permanent stay in heaven, but you must ensure that you’ve set yourself up for success here and chosen the right island, town, or city for you. If you want to hear more about what it’s like to live in Hawaii, you may want to read my honest review of what it is like to live in Honolulu.
Living in Hawaii rent-free is easy if you participate in a work exchange for a farm or business. Work exchange usually includes part-time labor, giving you plenty of time to explore Hawaii or take on side hustles to make your stay in Hawaii financially feasible in the long term.
There are hundreds of hosts looking for labor right now in Hawaii, so follow the steps above to take your next step towards living in paradise!