Winter Getaway to Kauai: Part 1 – Using Miles and Points to Get to Kauai

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Emily Jablon:   Daraius and I went to Maui, Hawaii in March 2013.  We loved Hawaii so much that we decided to return, but this time to Kauai.  Kauai is more laid back and less built-up than Maui. 

Winter Getaway To Kauai

Daraius and Emily at Waimea Canyon – the Grand Canyon of the Pacific

We went to Kauai over Valentine’s Day week, which made for a very romantic getaway.  Using our miles and points made it even better!

Winter Getaway to Kauai – Trip Report Index:


We got 2 travel books to help plan our trip:

The Ultimate Guide to Kauai was much more detailed and had a much wider selection of restaurants.  It became our preferred book on Kauai.

What to Pack

  • Lots of sunscreen
  • Shoes and clothes you don’t mind getting dirty or muddy
  • Bug spray
  • Clothes you can layer (I should have brought 2 sweaters)
  • Alcohol (if you want to drink and don’t mind the extra weight)

You can buy everything on the island, but it’s more expensive.  However, Costco has great prices (if you have a membership), and it’s near the airport.

Miles and Points

We flew coach to and from Hawaii.  Flying in coach saves our miles for longer trips in First Class to places like Hong Kong, Paris, India, or Bora Bora.  Daraius booked us on United Airlines using 20,000 miles each to Kauai.  He transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United Airlines.

We flew home from Kauai to Austin using 17,500 American Airlines miles per person.

We stayed at the Grand Hyatt Kauai, described in many guidebooks as the best hotel on the island.  I’ll share my thoughts on that in a future post.   We used 22,000 points (old Hyatt award chart rates) per night for 3 nights and used Points + Cash with a Diamond Suite upgrade for another 3 nights.  Currently, you pay 25,000 points per night at the Grand Hyatt Kauai.

Note:   When you use Points + Cash you have to pay hotel taxes and any resort fees.  So we paid the $25 a night resort fee at the Grand Hyatt Kauai plus the ~ 13% occupancy tax.

 Retail CostOur Cash CostMiles And Points UsedSources of Miles & Points
Two 1-way coach tickets from Kauai to Austin on United Airlines$812 per person ($1,624 total)$5 taxes and fees per person ($10 total)20,000 United Airlines Miles per person (40,000 United Airlines Miles total)- Transfers from Chase Ultimate Rewards
6 days car rental from Hertz~$413$041,295 Citi ThankYou Points- Citi ThankYou Premier card
3 nights at the Grand Hyatt Kauai
~$498 (~$1,494 total) $022,000 Hyatt Points per night (66,000 Hyatt Points total old Hyatt award chart rates)- Transfers from Chase Ultimate Rewards
3 nights at the Grand Hyatt Kauai in a Garden suite (Points + Cash)~$1,468 (~$4,404 total)$150 a night + $25 resort fee plus ~13% tax (~$596 total)
12,500 Hyatt Points per night + Diamond Suite upgrade (37,500 Hyatt Points total)
- Transfers from Chase Ultimate Rewards
Two 1-way coach tickets from Kauai to Austin on American Airlines$640 per person ($1,280 total)$5 taxes and fees per person ($10 total)17,500 American Airlines Miles per person (35,000 American Airlines Miles total)- American Airlines Credit Cards
Total~$9,215~$61640,000 United Airlines Miles, 41,295 Citi ThankYou Points, 103,500 Hyatt Points, 35,000 American Airlines Miles

United Airlines Coach Flight From Austin to Kauai

Daraius and I booked a 1-way flight from Austin to Kauai on United Airlines.  We flew coach to save miles and because the flights weren’t long.

We transferred 20,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points each to United Airlines.

Winter Getaway To Kauai

On our way to Paradise!

Hertz Rental Car

We used 41,295 Citi ThankYou Points to book an economy car.  Usually we get upgraded to a larger car because they run out of economy cars.  But not this time!  Using Citi ThankYou points saved us $413, even though we got a small car!

Winter Getaway To Kauai

Somebody Went Off-Roading

Grand Hyatt Kauai

We stayed at the Grand Hyatt Kauai.  We booked our room using a combination of points and Points + Cash.  We used 22,000 points (currently 25,000 Hyatt points per night) for 3 nights in a standard Garden View room.

And Points + Cash and a Diamond Suite upgrade for 3 nights in a Garden View suite.  This cost ~$596 and 37,500 Hyatt points.

It rains a lot in Kauai.  So they call it the “Garden Isle.”

Winter Getaway To Kauai

Leave the Umbrella at Home Because the Grand Hyatt Kauai Provides Umbrellas

It was a wonderful hotel with great swimming pools!

Winter Getaway To Kauai

The Waterslide Was Small Compared to the Grand Wailea

Canyons, Beaches, and a Dog?

We explored its many sights, including Waimea Canyon, beaches, and even adopted a dog for a day.

Winter Getaway To Kauai

Rain, Rain, Go Away

We drove to Waimea Canyon.  The weather didn’t cooperate so we didn’t go hiking.

Winter Getaway To Kauai

Next Time We’ll See the “Real” Grand Canyon

The Kauai Humane Society has a neat program where you can adopt a dog for a day.  The dogs get a “field trip” and you get canine companionship.  We got to see if we’d like being dog owners, because we only have a cat.  Although, she thinks she’s a dog.

Winter Getaway To Kauai

We Took Trixie to Kapaa Town

We also enjoyed lots of shaved ice, especially from Jo-Jo’s!

Winter Getaway To Kauai

Daraius Thinks Shaved Ice Is 1 of the 4 Food Groups

And a stop at Puka Dog’s was a requirement!

Winter Getaway To Kauai

It Doesn’t Look Like It, but Puka Dog’s Was Our Favorite Food in Kauai

The Lonely Planet book said Savage Shrimp was the place for shrimp.

Winter Getaway To Kauai

The Smell of the Garlic Shrimp Was Intoxicating

Flight From Kauai to Austin

We used 20,000 American Airlines miles each to fly on American Airlines from Kauai to Austin.

Winter Getaway To Kauai

We Had Enough Room

On our way back, we visited the American Airlines lounge in Los Angeles to see if authorized users can enter an American Airlines lounge with a Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®.

We had another layover in Dallas and got free access to the American Express Centurion Lounge in Dallas with The Platinum Card from American Express.  It’s nice to have cards that give airport lounge access.  

How You Can Do It Too!

We redeemed 20,000 United Airlines miles each and 17,500 American Airlines miles each for 1-way flights in coach to and from Austin and Kauai, Hawaii.  We could have redeemed our miles for First Class seats but we like saving those for longer flights.

We used 41,295 Citi ThankYou points to pay for our car rental.

Daraius transferred 103,500 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt points for 3 nights in a Garden View room. And for 3 nights in a Garden View suite (using Cash & Points) at the Grand Hyatt Kauai.

How Many Miles And Points You Need:

  • Coach: 40,000 United Airlines miles and 35,000 to 45,000 American Airlines miles
  • First Class: 100,000 United Airlines miles and 95,000 American Airlines miles

The American Airlines coach award tickets were 1-way off-peak awards which cost 17,500 to 22,500 American Airlines miles per person.

How to Get the Miles and Points:

The easiest way to get miles and points for Kauai is by applying for credit cards.

Earning United Airlines Miles

1.   United MileagePlus Explorer Card

You could get up to 50,000 United Airlines miles with the United MileagePlus Explorer card after completing the minimum spending.

Earning American Airlines Miles

1.   Citi American Airlines Executive Card

You get 100,000 American Airlines miles when you spend $10,000 within 3 months using the Citi American Airlines Executive card.   This is the fastest way to get a lot of American Airlines miles!

But spending $10,000 in 3 months might be tricky.  So here are some tips to make your minimum spending

2.   Citi American Airlines Cards

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® each get you 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 within 3 months.

Note:   You may be able to get 2 Citi personal cards within 65 days.  But you can NOT apply for 2 Citi personal cards at a time.  Apply for the regular Citi American Airlines card 1st.  Then wait 8 days before applying for the Citi American Airlines Executive card.

Tip:  If you do it in reverse, it will NOT work.

3.  American Express Starwood Cards

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express each get you 25,000 Starwood points when you spend $5,000 within 6 months.  As always, terms and conditions apply.

Starwood points transfer to American Airlines at a 1:1 ratio.  You’ll also get a 5,000 point bonus each time you transfer 20,000 points to American Airlines.

If you earn the bonus on both cards you will have 60,000 Starwood points (50,000 bonus points + 10,000 points from completing the minimum spending).

You can transfer Starwood hotel points to American Airlines miles.  60,000 Starwood hotel points transfers to 75,000 American Airlines miles (60,000 miles + 15,000 transfer bonus), more than enough miles to get to Kauai!

Earning Citi ThankYou Points

1.  Citi ThankYou Preferred Card

You get 20,000 ThankYou points after spending $1,500 within 3 months on the Citi ThankYou Preferred card.  So you’ll come up a little short on the ThankYou points you need for the car rental.

2.   Citi ThankYou Premier Card

If you have time before your Kauai trip, the Citi ThankYou Premier card gets you 50,000 ThankYou points.

But it’s spread out over 2 years.  You get 20,000 points after spending $2,000 within 3 months.  And you get another 30,000 points after spending $3,000 within the 1st 3 months of the 2nd year (but you also have to pay the 2nd year annual fee).

You might be better off using Ultimate Rewards points for your rental car.

Earning Hyatt Points

1.   Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

You get 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $4,000 within 3 months on the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to certain airlines and hotels at a 1:1 ratio.  So 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points becomes 40,000 airline miles or 40,000 hotel points.

2.   Chase Ink Cards

The Chase Ink Plus and Chase Ink Bold card each get you 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after completing the minimum spending.

Do you know the 3 ways you may qualify for a business credit card?

Note:  You can apply for 1 personal and 1 business card from Chase at the same time.  But you do NOT have to wait 6 months between Chase applications.

3.   Chase Hyatt Card

You can save some Chase Ultimate Rewards points and get 2 free nights at any Hyatt worldwide after you spend $1,000 within 3 months on the Chase Hyatt card.

Bottom Line

Daraius outdid himself with a romantic getaway to Hawaii.  Using our miles and points to get there and stay at the Grand Hyatt made it an unforgettable trip!  And Daraius didn’t work as much so we got to do lots of activities which you can read about in upcoming posts.

Having a dog for a day was fun.  Have you ever traveled with a dog?  

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48 responses to “Winter Getaway to Kauai: Part 1 – Using Miles and Points to Get to Kauai

  1. Adopting a dog for a day from the Humane Society was definitely one of our highlights as my wife loved Deputy, our dog for a day.

  2. Looks lovely. I couldn’t find a link for a Chase British Airways card on your site, heck I don’t even know if there is a card currently offered, but if not one could transfer Chase or Amex points to British Airways and use to book American Airlines flights. From the west coast its the absolute cheapest miles way to get to Hawaii…

  3. Please help me book my flight to HNL! I’ll fly from anywhere in California.

    I’m looking to take a family of 4 to HNL sometime in mid-may for anywhere from 4-7 days. I’m trying to make the flights and hotels alltogether as cheap as possible. I have about 40k in Alaska miles, 55k in United Miles, 35k in Delta miles, 18k in USAirways miles, 90k in HHonors points, 60k in AA miles. Thanks a ton!

  4. I’ve tried everything (including getting a new United Freq Flyer number) on the FT thread to get the United offer to show the 50k+ offer – I can never get anything beyond a 30k mile offer.

    It’s been over 2 years since I’ve had this United Card so I’m patiently awaiting a 50k offer so I can try and get this bonus again.

  5. Really looking forward to your review of the Grand Hyatt. I’m thinking of going next May, and I’d like to learn more about the beach options at the resort. From my understanding, you can lounge at the lagoon, and walk a bit toward the beach on the ocean… not sure if the beach is part of the resort and has lounge chairs, or if it’s just close and convenient.

  6. We have flown 4x to Europe with our dog. Paperwork is easy and you need a European chip implanted as well as up to date vaccinations. In Italy we can take our dog into all restaurants – you always ask first, of course. The most important thing is that your dog and travel bag cannot exceed 8kg and you must make a reservation on your flight since the airlines limit the number of pets allowed. Check with your airline about where you can fly with your pet in cabin.

  7. Your article states that you used 20k for AA and 17.5k for United. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? AA either charges 17.5k or 22.5k to HI.

  8. We were considering nearly this exact trip for next February! From the East coast, coach is far less appealing though.

  9. Don’t understand at all why you would use that many Citi Thank You points instead of renting through one of the discount Hawaii car rental websites like – it should have been half the price.

  10. Just started my miles journey last year and such a huge fan of your blog! I was beyond thrilled to read your post, in anticipation for my upcoming summer trip. I just finished booking and planning our family 5 night Kauai stay. We’ve planed 3 nights camping for adventure in various island locations- Kokee, Anini Beach and Lyndgate Campsite and 2 nights via Hyatt card. I got my super rental car deal through Hotwire (score- $221) which will be reimbursed by the Barclay Arrival, along with baggage fees. Also going camping a few days for the experience 3 different shores of the island as well as stay in the Kokee cabin…just for fun! Permits are anywhere from $5-13 a night and very easy to apply for online or through the mail, depending on where you go….but it’s probably not relevant, since I know you all probably are looking for a little luxury and not to haul your camping gear around! Still, Kauai is known for their camping and is my absolute favorite island to soak up nature! Thanks for sharing your wealth of experiences and recommendations. I’m looking forward to Kauai, even more eagerly!

  11. Hi Joe S, Thanks for the tip on car rentals! I’ve already planned a trip for next Feb to visit Maui and Kauai, and I’ll use your link for the car rental.

  12. @TryingFlying

    Your points are too spread out, unless you want to all fly separately on different airlines. You could try to get creative and book 2 tickets via AA if any saver rates are available, and then book 1 ticket on AA via Alaska. However, this being 2 weeks before your planned travel, I would not count on availability at the best redemption rates. At the very least, however, I think you can redeem 1 AA ticket using anytime awards for 80k points.

    As far as HHonors points go, you could probably get anywhere from 1-3 nights depending on which Hilton/DT/etc you are staying at. Don’t expect more than 1 from any of the popular hiltons though.

    In the future, I’d recommend planning about 2 months in advance at the very least to get the most options. Also, Avios is pretty good points currency for California->Hawaii trips, as you only need 12,500 miles each way. For a family of 4, that’s 100k miles, but they are exchanged for tickets possibly worth 3k+. That’s pretty good value. You can redeem avios either through BA cards or exchange from Chase/Amex rewards.

    I think at this stage though… you might be better off booking via Expedia or Travel Pony to get the best last minute rates. There’s always some sort of deal going on, and though it’s not the cheapest, I don’t think you’ll have that many options anyways. Book a package through them, but leave out a few nights lodging so you can redeem your HHonors seperately.

    Oh..and one last note… flights out of SD/SF seem to be the cheaper than LA. Only caveat to SD is most flights route through LA, but I’ve seen ticket prices 20~25% cheaper than the same exact flight on which you board through an LAX terminal.


    I think to be fair, if you are the type to plan ahead and sign up for an airfare tracker, you could’ve scored RT tickets for around $800 per person, possibly down to $750. Of course, even at 75,000 miles, you’re easily getting 2 cents per mile, which isn’t bad at all, but it’s not the type of crazy savings most people will get based on one way fares.

  13. I’ll second the discounthawaii car rental link. I’m in Oahu right now and used them for our trip and had no problem whatsoever with the reservation. I also used them for my Maui reservation next week. Hope you have have a great trip ToddC.

  14. I love the trip reports more so than any other postings you do. I saw the part about adopting a dog for a day and thought it was an awesome idea. We are going to maui and the big island next week, not kauai, but I passed on the link to a coworker who is going to kauai in a few weeks and she is definitely planning on doing it. Thanks for the great overview!

  15. kind of bummed that this is only going to be 13 parts.

  16. Going to Kauai and staying at GHK in 3 weeks, so this is perfect timing. Can’t wait to read the rest of your report.

  17. That rental car link is pretty awesome! Changing my car reservations now… 😀

  18. I’ve never heard of adopting a dog for a day, but that is brilliant! The humane society gets money, the dog gets to explore outside, and you get a canine friend. That sounds like a win-win-win situation.

  19. @Katie NYC. All beaches in Hawaii are public, so it doesn’t belong to the Hyatt per se. But, it’s right in front of the property, there are lounge chairs all around the lagoons all the way to the beach, but not actually on the sand. The beach is beautiful but the ocean is quite rough at that location, and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone actually swimming there. However, it’s very close to some of the best swimming/surfing/snorkeling beaches to be found, namely Poipu & Brennecke’s Beaches.

  20. I have issues with the airfare rate of $1452 R/T. Anyone that’s been in the ‘game’ would never pay that much money for a R/T to LIH. Using miles and points – Sure. No problem.

    I also think the hotel rates used are terribly misleading. Anyone that’s been in the ‘game’ would never pay those rates. They would use their miles or points to get a room.

    Overall, you still did good. I bet you spent more than $616 on food. 😉

  21. Pingback: Winter Getaway to Kauai: Part 2 - Saving ~$2,500 on 2 Flights From Austin to Kauai | Million Mile Secrets

  22. Darius & Emily– great article. Its something I’d like to do as well. I wonder tho, since you paid for the car rental with type, how are you covered in case of an accident? Eg you mentioned your personal auto insurance — does that cover collision damage to a rental??

  23. Don’t let the locals hear you say ‘shaved’ ice. It’s ‘shave’ ice! And so yummy. I like it with the beans and condensed milk.

    • @dhammer53 – That’s true, but it is also the retail price on the airline/hotel website! Not that I’d pay that…

      @scott – Our credit card covered the collision damage to the rental car and our personal insurance covers damage to others.

      @ Scot – True that!

  24. Pingback: Best of Million Miles Secrets - April 2014 | Million Mile Secrets

  25. Keep it up, I’m going on vacation every time you post one of your adventures! It’s lot easier than getting on a plane.

  26. Pingback: Winter Getaway to Kauai: Part 4 – Grand Hyatt Garden Suite for 87% Off | Million Mile Secrets

  27. Mmmmm….. Puka Dogs. Did you hit up Island Tacos, too?

  28. ShoNuffHarlem

    You don’t have to be a Costco member to go into Costco:

  29. Darius,
    Having been now to both Maui and Kauai, which island would you prefer to return to? My husband and I go to Maui every other year, and went for the first time to Kauai this year, in April. We did not have the rainy weather that you and Emily experienced….but overall, I think we’ll stick with Maui.

  30. Pingback: Winter Getaway to Kauai: Part 6 – Activities in Kauai | Million Mile Secrets

  31. Pingback: Winter Getaway to Kauai: Part 3 - Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa | Million Mile Secrets

  32. Pingback: Winter Getaway to Kauai: Part 7 - Adopting a Little Girl | Million Mile Secrets

  33. Pingback: Winter Getaway to Kauai: Part 5 – 3 Free Nights & a Partial Ocean View Upgrade at the Grand Hyatt Kauai | Million Mile Secrets

  34. Pingback: Winter Getaway to Kauai: Part 9 – Southside Eats | Million Mile Secrets

  35. Pingback: Winter Getaway to Kauai: Part 8 - The Breath of a Giant Lizard, the Many Pools of Grand Hyatt Kauai, and a Spa Treatment | Million Mile Secrets

  36. Pingback: Winter Getaway to Kauai: Part 13 – Conclusion and Blog Giveaway | Points Nexus

  37. Pingback: Winter Getaway to Kauai: Part 12 – Flight From Kauai to Austin | Points Nexus

  38. Pingback: Winter Getaway to Kauai: Part 13 – Conclusion and Blog Giveaway | Million Mile Secrets

  39. Pingback: Winter Getaway to Kauai: Part 12 – Flight from Kauai to Austin | Million Mile Secrets

  40. Thanks for your great trip reports . . . Trying to plan a Surprise 40th Wedding Anniversary trip to Hawaii for hubby for 2015 who has never been there (I have only been to Honolulu)! NEED HELP! Have plenty of US DIVIDEND miles to use . . . can you do a kind of openjaw to Hawaii?

    Have Hyatt points too! Want a beautiful luxurious experience . . . which Hyatt and Island would fill that request?

    Think Pearl Harbor is a must if we are flying that far (from New Orleans)! And one other island! Do you agree? Any help will be appreciated for two active seniors! Thanks!!

  41. Hello Daraius,

    Do you recall how far in advance you booked the stay in Kauai at the Hyatt? My wife and I are trying to book four days at the end of April next year and we are not able to use our two free nights from our Hyatt card or book a room using just points. The lady at Hyatt recommended I check back every so often to see if any rewards have become available. Just trying to determine if there is hope.