How to Live on Kwajalein Island

Kwajalein is the largest and southernmost island in the atoll.
Kwajalein is the largest and southernmost island in the atoll. (Image: tropical island beach image by Elke Dennis from

Kwajalein Island is the largest and southernmost part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). Nicknamed Kwaj by the locals, this island is inhabited mainly by U.S. government contractors, employees and their families. Kwajalein Island is very similar to many small American towns. The biggest difference, however, is the fact that supplies are limited and can be difficult to come by. Lodging, mail service, vehicles and family and pet accompaniment is are largely determined on an individual basis. If you love warm, tropical island conditions, cycling, and you do not mind intense humidity, this could very well be the place for you.

Things You'll Need

  • Passport
  • Vaccinations
  • Resume
  • Birth certificate
  • Insurance

How to Live on Kwajalein Island

Consider your situation. Moving to Kwajalein Island is a big step. There will be five hours of air flight between you and Honolulu, the nearest location with full amenities. Supplies are limited, optometrists, orthodontists and other specialized services are only available at certain times, and your home is chosen for you. In addition, Kwajalein Island allows for 110 dogs and 240 cats. When this maximum is reached, a wait list is created. If your pet has a chronic illness, it may not thrive on the island since vet services are very limited. There are also certain restrictions with regard to breed of animal.

Find a job. Kwajalein's main source of employment are maintenance and service jobs. You can choose between the following contractors, departments and agencies: Alutiq (Kwajalein Police Department), Department of Defense, Continental Travel Agency, Kwajalein Range Services, Department of Energy, Lincoln Laboratory, the Asian Division of the University of Maryland, PRC Kwajalein and San Juan Construction.

Spouses and other family members are often hired to fill "dependent-hire" positions. These are not available to "off-island" applicants, and they do not include housing or benefits.

Find a home. Employers are in charge of housing assignment. They make their decision based on whether or not you bring family, the size of your family, and the availability of homes. Homes receive routine maintenance. In between occupancy, living areas are repainted and thoroughly cleaned.

Pack your bags. Be careful in choosing what you need immediately, and what can wait. Shipping overseas can take 60 to 75 days. U.S. mail service takes about two weeks. Daytime temperatures are in the 80s and nighttime is usually in the 70s. Pack accordingly. Lightweight raingear is also an essential Kwajalein item that is not readily available on the island. Sunscreen and cleaning products are available on the island, but sometimes supplies run low, so be sure to bring a small starter kit of personal care items.

Upon arrival, families receive a hospitality kit, consisting of plates, cuts, bowls, glasses, saucers, pots and pans, silverware and kitchen utensils, a coffee pot, a toaster, sheets, towels and blankets. Single residents are provided with pillows and linens only. Be sure to include an alarm clock, camera, small radio, a 30 to 90-day supply of any necessary prescription drugs and a copy of the prescription itself, sunglasses, passports, birth certificates, insurance information, and a hair dryer in your luggage so that you have immediate access to these items.

Prepare travel arrangements to Kwajalein Island. In addition to housing, travel will be prepared by your sponsor. They will discuss hotel reservations and flight options with you. Travel time from the West Coast to Hawaii is about six hours. Travel time from Honolulu to Kwajalein is another five to six hours. Kwajalein time is four hours and one day ahead of West Coast time--Kwajalein Island is on the other side of the International Date Line. Also, do not forget your passport. All employees and their families must present a current passport to enter the flight from Honolulu to Kwajalein Island.

Tips & Warnings

  • The U.S. mail is a great way to ship items you want immediately upon arrival to Kwajalein Island. The size and weight limits are 108 inches (length and girth combined) and 70 pounds. Shipments can take up to two weeks to arrive.
  • If you would like to bring your boat to the island, obtain a copy of the SPI 1090RI and SPI 1091, recreational and maintenance forms, or contact the Small Boat Marina supervisor at 805-355-3643. Permission mainly depends on space available during your move.
  • Formal wear is encouraged, as the island holds various parties and celebrations throughout the year, but the general dress code is informal.

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