How to Travel to Honolulu on Points and Miles

Visiting Hawaii can add up quickly, but getting there with travel rewards can help you save some cash.

June CasagrandeMay 4, 2021
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Honolulu is two vacation destinations in one — a vibrant, cosmopolitan city on the shores of one of the most beautiful islands on earth. Plus, your visit there doesn't have to break the bank. If you participate in travel loyalty programs or earn rewards through a travel credit card, you can find cheap and simple ways to get to Honolulu using points and miles.

From flights to hotel bookings, here’s our go-to advice on how to travel to Honolulu with points and miles.

When to visit Honolulu

The most expensive times to travel to Hawaii are when kids are out of school: winter, summer and spring breaks. It’s easier to find points redemption deals in Honolulu for the rest of the year. Chances are you’ll get plenty of sunshine no matter when you go, but the risk that rain will ruin your vacation is greater if you travel between November and March.

For the lowest rates, the most beautiful weather and the warmest ocean temperatures, the best times to visit Honolulu are around May and October.

Getting to Honolulu

Nearest airports

When you’re planning your trip to Honolulu with points and miles, there’s only one airport on the island of Oahu that can be reached nonstop from the U.S. mainland: Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. This airport is on the southern coast of Oahu, about nine miles from Honolulu’s main tourist area, Waikiki. You can also get there nonstop from other Hawaiian islands, including Maui, Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii.

Major airlines flying into Honolulu

Nearly two dozen airlines fly into Honolulu from the Americas, Asia and the South Pacific. The major U.S.-based carriers flying into Honolulu are:

  • American Airlines.

  • United Airlines.

  • Delta Air Lines.

  • Southwest Airlines.

  • Alaska Airlines.

  • Hawaiian Airlines.

With so many major airlines flying so many routes to Honolulu, it’s easy to use miles from one frequent flyer program for your inbound flight and a different airline for your flight home. For travelers who don’t have enough miles in any one program for a round-trip award flight, these one-way redemptions can get you a Hawaii trip even sooner.

Here are the best points and miles for cheap flights to Honolulu.

Flying to Honolulu on points and miles

American Airlines AAdvantage miles

American Airlines AAdvantage members can find one-way economy class flights for 20,000 miles if you stumble on an off-peak MileSAAver seat, though seats at the 22,500-mile MileSAAver rate are much easier to find. AAnytime rates cost 40,000 or 50,000 miles each way in economy. Business class seats to Honolulu from the U.S. mainland cost anywhere from 55,000 to 110,000 AAdvantage miles each way.

American is an especially good choice for East Coast- and Midwest-based travelers since these travelers pay the same number of miles as those from the West Coast.

United MileagePlus miles

United Airlines MileagePlus is another good option for East Coast and Midwest travelers headed to Oahu. A one-way United economy class ticket often costs 22,500 MileagePlus miles whether you’re traveling from New York or San Francisco. East Coast travelers may have a harder time finding award seat availability, but travelers with certain United-branded credit cards will have more flights to choose from; the airline makes some award flights available only to cardmembers.

Business class flights to Honolulu usually range from 40,000 to 95,000 United miles each way.

Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles

Hawaiian Airlines doesn’t serve as many mainland airports as the big carriers. Historically, most of their routes to Honolulu have been from western cities like Seattle, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix. But Hawaiian keeps rolling out new routes reaching farther inland: You can now fly nonstop to Honolulu from New York; Boston; Austin, Texas; and even Orlando, Florida.

Departing from the West will cost fewer HawaiianMiles than you’ll need if you’re departing from somewhere farther east. Nonstops in economy from the West Coast start at just 17,500 miles. In first class, you could pay as little as 40,000 miles.

Central and Eastern U.S. flights have separate award prices, which you can see on the handy chart on Hawaiian Airlines’ website. The lowest-cost East Coast flights start at 26,250 HawaiianMiles, while Central zone travelers can book economy flights starting at 22,000 miles.

Nerdy tip: Know someone who will be flying Hawaiian Airlines anytime soon? Ask them to grab you a special-offer application for a Hawaiian Airlines credit card. The flight crew often hand out paper applications for credit cards with special welcome bonuses you can’t get without that piece of paper. For example, the official Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® had this welcome bonus: Limited Time Offer: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 90 days. But the onboard offer via the paper application included a 60,000-mile bonus after just one purchase in any amount. 

Southwest Rapid Rewards points

Southwest flies nonstop to Honolulu from California destinations including Long Beach, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland and San Jose. The number of Rapid Rewards points you’ll need for a flight to Honolulu fluctuates with demand, mirroring Southwest’s famously low cash fares. Flexible travelers can find nonstops for less than 10,000 Rapid Rewards points each way.

Chase, AmEx or other bank-based points

If you collect travel rewards currencies like Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, you already know that you can book flights directly from the Chase website travel portal. Members in American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou, Bank of America® Travel Rewards, Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards and Capital One can also book travel through these programs’ booking sites.

But don't book a flight in your bank’s own travel portal until you’ve considered transferring your points into a partner airline program — especially an international partner airline that doesn’t fly to Hawaii. The reason: Partnerships between airlines can sometimes offer amazing “sweet spots” that can save you a ton of points.

For example, if you want to fly American Airlines from Los Angeles to Honolulu, you could spend about 45,000 AAdvantage miles. Or you could convert just 26,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points to British Airways, then book a round-trip economy class flight on American for a total of 26,000 British Airways Avios.

Get to know the airline partners for your transferable points currency program and learn where their sweet spots are to find deals.

Hotels on points in Honolulu

Hawaii hotels are notorious for exorbitant resort fees and guest parking rates. Think: a daily $50 (plus tax) resort fee at Hilton Hawaiian Village, plus another $49 per night for parking. Many properties, including Marriott Bonvoy hotels, will charge these fees even if you pay for your room with points or a free night certificate. Budget for these costs in advance to avoid an unpleasant surprise.

Hotel loyalty program members in Honolulu can redeem points at Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Wyndham, Prince Resorts and Best Western hotels. There are no Radisson Rewards- or Choice Privileges-participating properties on Oahu. Travelers with Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, American Express Membership Rewards and other bank-based points have an even wider selection of accommodations to choose from, including Hawaii-specialist hotel groups like Outrigger and Aqua-Aston.

Here are some solid-value hotels to book with points in Honolulu.

Honolulu Marriotts

Marriott Bonvoy members have 10 hotels to choose from, including the stunning beachfront Royal Hawaiian Resort, a Category 7 Marriott Bonvoy property costing from 50,000 to 70,000 points per night. At the other end of the points price spectrum, there’s the modest but charming Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, a Category 5 property costing between 30,000 and 40,000 Bonvoy points per night.

Got a Marriott Bonvoy free night certificate earned with a Marriott credit card? Use it at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, the only Category 5 Bonvoy property on Oahu and the only place you’re likely to find a night bookable with your certificate. But you don’t have to spend your whole vacation there. Waikiki is extraordinarily walkable. So if you don’t want to base your entire trip at the very modest Sheraton PK (as regulars call it), you can use your certificate for one night in this humble three-star hotel, then walk to a half dozen other Marriott Bonvoy properties, including the historic Moana Surfrider, the dreamy Royal Hawaiian or the resort-fee-free Courtyard by Marriott Waikiki. Not feeling brand loyal? Sheraton PK guests can also walk to Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, Hyatt Regency and dozens of other properties sometimes starting as low as $60 a night.

Hiltons in Honolulu

Hilton Honors members have eight properties to choose from on Oahu, not counting multiple vacation condo buildings that share the same resort property as the Hilton Hawaiian Village. There’s an Embassy Suites with free made-to-order breakfast and an evening poolside reception. You can sometimes find suites here starting at 64,000 Honors points per night. The DoubleTree by Hilton can be found starting at 39,000 points, and the world-famous Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort sometimes starts at 60,000 points per night. Don’t confuse this sprawling beachfront resort with the more modest Hilton Waikiki Beach, which is several blocks away and on a more crowded stretch of shoreline. At Hilton Waikiki Beach, rooms sometimes start at around 39,000 Hilton points per night (and carry a lower resort fee of $30 per night).

Photo courtesy of Hilton Hawaiian Village

Honolulu World of Hyatt hotels

Photo courtesy of Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa

World of Hyatt members have three properties to choose from, all within walking distance of each other and the beach. Across the street from a popular stretch of sand, the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa is a Category 5 World of Hyatt property with rooms for 20,000 points per night. A few blocks from the beach, Hyatt Place Waikiki serves free breakfast with rooms available for 13,000 points per night. The fresh, modern Hyatt Centric is a Category 4 World of Hyatt hotel with rooms starting at around 15,000 points per night.

IHG Rewards in Honolulu

Since the Holiday Inn Beachcomber resort left IHG to join the Outrigger family a few years ago, there’s just one IHG property on Oahu: the Holiday Inn Express Waikiki. It’s set back from the busy parts of Waikiki, yet still easily walkable to the beach, Hilton Hawaiian Village and lots of restaurants and shops. Basic rooms are tiny, but they come with free hot breakfast. Plus, there’s a cute pool deck with a hot tub, mini golf, shuffleboard and a human-size chess board. An award night here goes for 35,000 IHG points plus the $29 nightly resort fee.

The bottom line

Using points and miles to book an affordable Honolulu trip makes your vacation in paradise even more enjoyable.

Be sure you search for different dates, even if your dates are set, to travel to Honolulu on points and miles. Comparison shopping will give you an idea of whether you’re getting a good deal for your redemption, and whether you should wait to book or reserve your Honolulu flight and hotel right away. It will also help give you an idea of how the rates vary at different properties you might be considering.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

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