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

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Update:   One or more card offers in this post are no longer available.  Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.  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 spending $3,000 in the first three months.

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.

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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?

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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