Sunday, February 28, 2010


Microeconomics is the study of how households and companies decide to spend their money. There are numerous factors that drive the choices that individuals and business managers make daily on how to spend their limited resources like price, availability, desire, access, awareness, etc. On the Big Island of Hawaii, these factors are affected by the island’s remoteness. We get advertisements on TV about products we can’t get and have limited local broadcasting to tell us about local products we do have. The prices for the same products vary widely from store to store and from one day to the next and if the container ships get delayed, the store shelves quickly become bare.

Like most people, we are motivated to get the most value for our money and we are willing to make significant changes to achieve that goal. We mentioned before we were studying the regional economies of the Big Island of Hawaii
and noticing the surprising change in costs between Kona on the west side and Hilo on the east side since our arrival to the island in 2007. Over the past two years, rentals and food prices have dropped on the west side. Last month we started calculating the costs of living on the west side, for the way we live. Our calculations showed that theoretically we could live in a place with far more amenities (heated pool, fitness room, hot tub, secure entry, no yard work, and walking distance to a sandy beach) for about 20% less! We felt sure these calculations were wrong, so we started visiting available Kona rentals to see if the lower prices were real. To our delight, we discovered the prices were real so we rented in a recently built condo complex with all the amenities at a net cost far less than our Pacific Heights rental house in Hilo. We are happy about being able to increase the quality of our living situation and decrease our cost of living at the same time as renters. Now we are finding stores in Kona that carry fresh fish, grass fed island beef, local vegetables and fruits equivalent to what we had available in Hilo. Kona has cheaper mainland product prices due to Target, Costco and competition among the many retailers in Kona. The move increased the value of our money which is our definition of Microeconomic Happiness.

Moving our location only 100 miles from the east side to the west side of the island has come with some culture shock. Kona has a faster pace, gridlock traffic, a tourist-centric orientation, dry, voggy days, and lots of people that look just like us. We made many wonderful friends and found treasured things to do in Hilo and we plan to return to Hilo often and continue our writing about the town. With the extra energy and time we have gained from not having to mow a tropical lawn and harvest bananas, we plan to write a book.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Walking along the Kona Coast at daybreak, we are inspired to see the large number of 60 and 70 year olds biking, walking, jogging, and even running along the road. Even more spectacular than the speed with which they move their bodies along Ali’i Drive is their exceptional fitness and health obvious from their muscled, fat free bodies.

A 2007 study by Rand Corporation
found that specific features in a neighborhood including having parks, business diversity, and strong community social bonds directly impact the obesity and fitness rates of the residents. Kailua-Kona has all the attributes mentioned in the report with abundant sidewalks and bike paths. The 5 mile length of Ali’i Drive between Kailua pier and Keauhou Shopping Center has wide areas along both sides of the street for bicycles and walkers and rewards those that walk it with spectacular ocean scenery, parks with places to sit and watch the waves, restaurants, coffee shops, farmers markets, curio shops, and stores of all types.

Kona is used to crowds of joggers, walkers and bicyclers; cars yield to them and make room on the road. When we walk folks greet us with smiles and “good morning"s. The community organized the Kailua Village Business Improvement District, funded by property and businesses owners, to provide security patrols, janitorial services, and landscape maintenance to keep the neighborhood safe and clean for residents and visitors.

Though we have worked diligently at our own fitness and weight loss for the past two years, we have not come close to the results achieved by the packs of active older folks we’ve seen along Ali’i drive. They are an inspiration to us.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


There has been great concern about the sharp downturn in tourism on the Big Island of Hawaii over the past year. Our trips to the west side of the island from November to January confirmed a disappointing high season. But something has changed dramatically this February. Kona is filled with tourists crowding the sidewalks along Ali’i Drive, the seats in restaurants, and the parking lots. We are seeing them driving around the island and filling the hotels where we had the swimming pools to ourselves this past November and December.

We ask them at every opportunity where they are from. They are not the Californian visitors that have come in the past years. They are from the mid-west and the east coast of the US, from Canada, Northern Europe and Australia. The couples and families we’ve talked to were mostly first timers to the Big Island and they were having a really good time. They were eager to be in Kailua (Kona) and get away from the cold snowy winter in the Northern hemisphere and everyone we talked to was dreading their return home.

We wonder if the global news coverage of President Obama in Hawaii over Christmas has finally had an effect. We wonder if people have confused Kailua (Oahu) with Kailua (Kona). And we are certain that the exceptionally frigid snowy winter of 2010 has encouraged people to escape to a warmer climate.

Our observations can’t be verified until the visitor statistics are released by the State of Hawaii in 60 days, but if they are true, we believe it may be due to the ”Snowbama Effect”.