This article was edited at 3:55 PM ET July 4th to reflect a correction by Lisha in the comments and to add links to relevant Anatomy of an Award posts I’ve written about using AA free stopovers, Avios, and Hawaiian miles.
Hawaii is one of the best places in the world to visit, and judging by the number of inquiries I get about booking awards to Hawaii, it’s clear that many people agree. There are a number of cheap ways to get there that I’ll list in order.
1. American Airlines Award Free Stopover- The cheapest way to get to Hawaii is for free. Regular readers know that American Airlines allows free stopovers on international awards at the international gateway city. (There are three other rules to comply with.) Honolulu is an international gateway for several AA partners including Japan Airlines, Qantas, and Hawaiian.
That means on awards to Asia, Australia, or the Pacific, you can get a free stopover on the way to Honolulu or the way back. For instance, imagine living in Boston and taking a free stopover in Hawaii on the way to Japan. Something like BOS-JFK-HNL//HNL-NRT//NRT-BOS on one AA award on a combination of AA, Hawaiian, and Japan Airlines planes. (And of course you can get a free oneway from BOS to somewhere else in the USA, Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean at the end.)
See this Anatomy of an Award post for a step-by-step breakdown of an award I booked for my brother with AA miles that includes a free stopover in Hawaii en route to Australia. Since my brother lives in Hawaii, the Las Vegas to Honolulu legs were a free oneway for him. But imagine he lived in Las Vegas. In that case, the same flights, LAS-HNL//HNL-SYD, would just be giving him a free stopover in Hawaii on the way to his Australia vacation.
2. Allegiant Air $358+ roundtrip- Allegiant Air is a super-low cost carrier that announced flights to Hawaii that will start in November. Flights to Honolulu from Bellingham, Eugene, Fresno, Las Vegas, Monterey, Santa Maria, and Stockton; and flights to Kahului from Bellingham begin in November. The flights are as cheap as $308 roundtrip, but a carryon will cost $50 roundtrip and a checked bag is $70 roundtrip. Additionally if you want to select your seat or board early, you have to pay extra.
But if you live in one of the cities serviced by Allegiant, don’t mind a middle seat for five hours, and can travel with only one bag, $358 roundtrip to Hawaii is the second best deal in my opinion.
One key caveat is that Allegiant flights don’t earn any frequent flier miles or credit of any kind. Since normally flying from the west coast to Hawaii earns about 5,000 miles, and I value 5,000 miles at around $85 depending on the carrier, Allegiant flights must be $85 or more cheaper than the legacy carriers for this to be a good deal. Since the legacy carriers want $600+ from the west coast to Hawaii right now, Allegiant easily meets the criterion.
3. Avios Award 25,000+ Avios and $11+ roundtrip- I love that Avios is a distance-based award chart. Flights like the west coast to Hawaii cost only 12,500 Avios each way plus taxes. For 25,000 Avios and $11, you can fly on AA planes from LAX to the four major Hawaiian airports.
Alaska Airlines has way more gateways on the mainland to the four major Hawaiian airports. For 25,000 Avios and $36, you can fly from Anchorage, Bellingham, Oakland, Portland, San Diego, San Jose, and Seattle to Hawaii. The extra $25 on Avios awards comes from the fact that awards on Alaska Airlines can’t be booked on ba.com, and calling BA incurs a $25 phone fee.
Avios is also the best option for anyone who lives close to one of the airports mentioned in this section, since a short hop flight only adds 4,500 Avios and $2.50 to the price each way. That means Tuscon to Los Angeles to Lihue roundtrip would be 34,000 Avios and $16.
Avios can be used for oneway awards at half the price of a roundtrip award, which means that if you can’t get the Avios deal both ways, it’s still a good idea to go oneway for 12,500 Avios and use another oneway deal.
See here for an Anatomy of an Award post for a step-by-step breakdown of the time I booked a oneway award from Honolulu to LAX with Avios.
4. Hawaiian Airlines Award 35,000 miles and $5- Hawaiian Airlines awards start at 35,000 miles for Hawaiian Airlines branded card holders. The normal price is 40,000 miles. While this price is no cheaper than an American Airlines off peak award to Hawaii, I think it’s a better deal because Hawaiian Airlines miles are worth less than most programs’ miles. (The reason Hawaiian miles are worth less is their lack of partners, junk long haul first class product, and lack of destinations.)
Hawaiian also has the only direct flight from Honolulu to JFK, which at 35,000 miles and $5 is a fantastic value in terms of low cost and getting a direct flight. The other flights Hawaiian operates from Honolulu to the mainland go to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle.
Hawaiian miles can be used for oneway awards at half the price of a roundtrip award, which means that if you can’t get the Avios deal both ways, this can be combined with a oneway Avios deal.
See here for an Anatomy of an Award post for a step-by-step breakdown of the time I booked a oneway award from LAX to Honolulu with Hawaiian miles. The post also includes information on the very useful mile pooling allowed by Hawaiian.
5. United Airlines Award 40,000 miles and $10, including a free oneway- With east coast fares to Hawaii exceeding $1,000 on many routes these days, 40,000 miles is a good value. What makes this a top-five value is that United awards to Hawaii can include a free oneway!
The linked post shows one example–LAX-HNL//HNL-LAX//LAX-JFK. United’s free oneway rules are very liberal. The only rule is that your routing can’t exceed the maximum permitted mileage between the start and end of the routing in either direction by more than 15%. That means even people at small regional airports can take advantage of the free oneway.
Bonus: Accrue Southwest Points or a Southwest Companion Pass in Anticipation of Their Future Flights to Hawaii-Southwest has purchased planes and is seeking the ETOPS certification necessary to fly to Hawaii. They won’t start this year, but I expect them to start flying to Hawaii at some point.
When Southwest begins to fly to Hawaii, their fares will be competitive and their awards from the west coast will undoubtedly be very cheap since Southwest awards are based on the cost of the cash fare on the route. Plan on getting your Southwest Companion Pass or Southwest points now to take advantage of Southwest’s future entry.
Bonus: Forget the Delta SkyMiles- Delta almost never releases low-level award space to Hawaii. For instance today, I couldn’t find a single flight from LAX-HNL for the entire eleven-month booking window with low-level space. Since medium-level space to Hawaii costs 65,000 miles roundtrip, Delta miles are best used elsewhere.