Hawai Caroline

How I traveled to Hawaii using points

To the point Here is my experience of using credit cards rewards points to go to the Hawaiian Islands with my spouse!
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Our trip to Hawaii

This was our first trip paid for with points and miles. We certainly still have a lot to learn. We have earned all the points for this trip in one year.

To celebrate 25 years of married life, my husband and I were lucky enough to take this wonderful pre-COVID-19 trip in February 2020.

At that time on Oahu, the temperature was cooler, occasionally below 20 degrees, with occasional rain and wind. On the other hand, the weather on Big Island was beautiful. Here is our detailed itinerary and budget, to make you dream until you can travel again.

Hawai Caroline

Visit Oahu

Day 1 - Departure to Oahu

7:00 am, departure from Montreal on a United Airlines flight with a stopover in Chicago. Scheduled arrival in Honolulu at 3:55 pm.

Because of the weather, our flight was delayed for over an hour. We had a short stopover, but the carrier was waiting for us in Chicago. We still arrived on time.

Upon arrival, we picked up our Avis rental car at the airport.

Afterwards, we checked into our hotel room at the Residence Inn Oahu Kapolei. Brand new hotel, which opened in October 2019. Quiet and well soundproofed place.

A bit far from the center, but we had breakfasts included and a kitchenette. This allowed us to make good savings on restaurants. The service was very good, we recommend it! We were able to book it with Marriott Bonvoy points.

Hawai Caroline
Hawai Caroline
Hawai Caroline
Hawai Caroline
Hawai Caroline

Day 2 - Hanauma Bay

Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay in the morning. Very beautiful place, but also very touristy. Arrive early so you don’t wait in line.

We brought a lunch bought in a local grocery store, we had planned an inflatable cooler in our luggage (bought at Decathlon). It was very useful during the trip.

Hawai Caroline

In the afternoon, walk and sunbathing at Turtle canyon and Magic Island. Really nice and quiet place.

Dinner at Duke’s Waikiki (excellent meal and Mai thai … WOW…) I highly recommend this restaurant.

Hawai Caroline

Day 3 - Diamond Head

Hike to Diamond Head, with a bonus view of Waikiki. At the exit, we tasted the famous Dole whip… pineapple sorbet… too good!!!

Hawai Caroline

Then we hiked to Manoa Falls, a small trail of 1.29 km that we did in the mud. Unforgettable experience and breathtaking scenery.

However, the waterfall is tiny and there were too many people. It’s hard to enjoy the peace and quiet of nature at these times.

Hawai Caroline

We ended the evening at Cuckoo coconuts in Waikiki. Food is pretty mediocre, but the atmosphere is really great. Perfect to spend a very nice evening with a local band and drink some Mai Thai… I recommend it to music and dance lovers.

Day 4 - Sandy Beach and Waimanalo Beach

We spent a wonderful day at the beach: Sandy beach and Waimanalo beach.

Then we had booked, through Groupon, a dinner at Ka Moana Luau. Great evening. Excellent traditional food buffet and a wonderful show on Hawaiian customs.

We made flower necklaces, played the Ukulele and learned a lot about the customs and habits of the place. I recommend all travelers to do a Luau during their stay, it is beautiful.

Hawai Caroline
Hawai Caroline
Hawai Caroline

Day 5 - Pearl Harbour and North Shore

We didn’t do the full tour, as it takes a full day. We took the ferry to visit the USS Arizona and tour the site with the museums.

Quite impressive, history buffs will definitely love it.

Hawai Caroline

Then road trip to the North shore to see the huge waves hit the beach. Very impressive. Of course, we couldn’t swim or even go near the sea. It’s too dangerous at this time of year.

Hawai Caroline
Hawai Caroline

Day 6 - Big Island

9:21 am: Departure by plane to Big Island, arrival at 10:00 am.

Picked up of our rental car at the airport. We chose a Jeep, highly recommended on this island.

Check in at the Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. Very well located hotel, excellent service and nice little beach. Breakfast was not included and quite expensive.

However, there are many restaurants and shops within walking distance. A hotel also booked with Marriott Bonvoy points.

Hawai Caroline
Hawai Caroline
Hawai Caroline
Hawai Caroline

We exploreed a bit and took the opportunity to buy some groceries for the next few days.
Dinner at Kona Brewing Company. Great terrace and good food.

We had a wonderful time.

Hawai Caroline

Day 7 - White Sand Beach

Day at White Sand Beach.

In the evening, we had booked an excursion to swim with the manta rays with My Kona Adventures.

Extraordinary experience. On the other hand, plan some Gravol, because the waves can stir you up quite a bit! Easy to get nauseous. But it’s really worth it. We booked the whole thing through Groupon.

Day 8 - Hapuna Beach

We spent the day at Hapuna beach. WOW WOW and WOW, the most beautiful beach that we could see of our whole trip. Long sandy beach, very few rocks, which is rare in Hawaii!

We came back rested and sunburned, despite regularly applying sunscreen.

Hawai Caroline
Hawai Caroline

The day ended with a dinner at Huggo’s: excellent food, nice terrace, delicious cocktail and singer… A very nice evening!

Hawai Caroline

Day 9 - Mauna Kea

Relaxing morning at the hotel beach.

At 3:00 pm, we left to ascend Mauna Kea: a breathtaking view! A must do. It is the highest peak in Hawaii.

Hawai Caroline

Please note that almost all car rental companies forbid the ascent to the summit, as the road turns into a stretch of gravel that is still quite hard. The slopes are very steep at times, but the climb went very well for us. For this reason, we had rented a Jeep.

We had checked with our insurance company in Quebec to see if such a climb was covered and they said it was. (Note that our insurance in Quebec usually covers vehicle rentals throughout Canada and the United States, so there is no need to pay extra to the rental company!)

Hawai Caroline

We also need to talk about the effects of altitude on your body. We wanted to stay for the sunset at the top of the volcano, but due to the effect of the altitude on our bodies, we unfortunately decided to go back down before time. We felt migraine and dizziness. But it was worth it, the view is simply extraordinary, above the clouds.

Hawai Caroline

Day 10 - Volcano Park and Hilo

Direction Volcano park and Hilo.
We were a little disappointed with the Volcano park, obviously, we had seen breathtaking landscapes the day before.

But still, it is impressive to see thousands of kilometers of burnt earth. Nice day all in all.

Hawai Caroline
Hawai Caroline

At the end of the day, we went to Hilo, where we went to Carl Smith beach, a small beach, but so impressive with its huge turtles swimming around us. We saw three of them!!!

Wonderful experience, and free of charge too!

Hawai Caroline

Day 11 - Departure

For our last day, we chose to enjoy our last moments at the beach and do a little shopping before leaving. And of course, one last Mai Tai!

Our flight leaves KOA at 22h00.
Stopover in Los Angeles, return to Montreal at 4:25 pm

Hawai Caroline

In summary

We spent 5 nights on Oahu and 5 nights on Big Island.

Total budget in points and dollars:

  • Flight YUL-ORD-HNL AND KOA-LAX-YUL: $1,256.60 CAD for two people (plus $30 CAD per bag on the way there and $30 USD per bag on the way back) (approximate total: $1,394 CAD)
  • Car rental in Oahu: 35,803 Aeroplan points (no additional charge)
  • Residence Inn Oahu Kapolei: 140,000 Marriott points (plus $125 USD 5-day parking fee) ($162 CAD)
  • Inter-island flight with Hawaiian Airlines: $57.60USD for two people (plus $30USD per checked bag) ($152CAD)
  • Jeep rental: 69,322 BMO Rewards points ($64.55 USD fee, as there were not enough points to rent a Jeep) ($84 CAD)
  • Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel (Big Island): 100,000 Marriott points + $126.46 USD booking fee (plus $257.35 USD room and parking fee) (total $500 CAD)

Approximate total: $2,300 CAD

Credit cards used

Our recommendations for keeping costs down on the Hawaiian Islands

  • Limit restaurant meals by bringing a good cooler.
  • Grocery stores have different prices for locals and tourists.
  • Ask to join their loyalty programs: often it can be done only with your phone number. Very simple and you can benefit from discounts of up to 30% or even 50% off the price for non-members.
  • We also shopped the packages on Groupon, we got great savings for the Luau and the manta rays.

In addition, all beaches in Hawaii are free. All you have to do is find a parking space, often free along the road, to take advantage of it. The hotel can lend you beach chairs that you can take outside the hotel. It was much appreciated.

If possible, we suggest taking at least 15 days to visit Hawaii. We would have liked to do the island of Maui, maybe next time.


In the end, we estimate the total cost of our trip at $4,200 CAD for two people for 10 days. It’s the same price as an all-inclusive, but a thousand times better (if you like adventure of course)!

I hope to have given you the taste to visit this beautiful region, to see once in his life!

Thank you, Milesopedia, for the tips and tricks to travel for less.

Come to discuss that topic in our Facebook Group!
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