The best ways to use credit card award-night certificates in Hawaii

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It’s Hawaii Week at TPG! The Hawaiian Islands have so much to offer travelers, from the sprawling city of Honolulu to quiet, black-sand beaches and restaurants serving inventive island cuisine. And it’s possible to pull off a visit to the islands using miles and points. It just takes savvy planning, and we’ll show you how. Visit TPG’s Hawaii destination hub for links to more stories about getting to the islands, staying on the islands and what to do while you’re there.

There aren’t award-travel vacation goals more popular than Hawaii. And for good reason. It’s domestic, so you don’t have to worry about passports, visas, extra taxes or international cellphone plans. It’s also magical. Think: epic sunsets, soft sand, calming waves, whales, mountains and mai tais — oh my!

With six major Hawaiian islands to choose from, there’s no shortage of activities, either. Whether you want to go sightseeing in Oahu, on an adventure in the Big Island or enjoy one of Maui’s gorgeous beaches, there’s something for every traveler on the islands.

But Hawaii is increasingly popular and can be pretty darn expensive if you aren’t strategic, especially since this isn’t usually the type of place you want to just go for the weekend. Spending at least a week in Hawaii is our recommendation, and build in more time if you want to island hop.

To keep costs under control, Hawaii is a smart place to redeem the credit card free-night awards that are burning a hole in your virtual wallet. Here are our top recommendations on where to use your hotel credit card free-night awards in Hawaii.

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Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria property

(Photo courtesy of Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort)
(Photo courtesy of Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort.)

The Grand Wailea is a Waldorf Astoria property on Maui. This top-tier resort hotel has a water elevator, nine pools on six levels, a waterslide, waterfalls and beachfront location in upscale Wailea. The downside to this perfection-on-paper resort is the number of points (or dollars) it costs per night — it can run 95,000 Hilton points per night for a standard room. But this means that using a weekend award night from a Hilton credit card such as the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express is a fantastic redemption.

Related: How to redeem Hilton points for a Hawaiian vacation

In case you aren’t familiar with how Hilton weekend-award-night certificates work, here are the details: Free-night certificates that you can earn on Hilton American Express cards are valid for weekend nights only, defined as Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights. You’re also restricted to standard room types (defined property by property), which may not always be available.

In addition, Hilton Amex cards award these certificates in slightly different ways.

  • Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express: This card has a welcome bonus of 150,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of the account opening. You receive one free weekend night upon opening the card and each year after your account renewal. You also have the ability to earn a second free weekend night by spending $60,000 on the card in a calendar year.
  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: As part of the limited-time offer, you can currently earn 125,000 bonus points after after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Both new and existing cardholders can also earn a free-weekend-night certificate by spending $15,000 on the card in a calendar year.
  • The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: New cardholders can currently earn 125,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the card within your first three months of card membership. Both new and existing cardholders can also earn a free-weekend-night certificate by spending $15,000 on the card in a calendar year and another certificate by spending an additional $45,000 on the card (for a total of $60,000) in that same time frame.

Related: How to choose the best Hilton credit card for you

Westin Moana Surfrider

Westin Moana Surfrider (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Westin Moana Surfrider. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.)

The Westin Moana Surfrider in Honolulu dates all the way back to 1901. A 20-minute drive from Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) and right on Waikiki Beach, it features a beautiful pool, beach and spa. It’s also steps away from the main dining and shopping area, so you can easily get the best of both worlds here. Just beware: There are tourists galore.

If you can find off-peak award availability, rates at this Category 7 property start at 50,000 Marriott points a night. If you have the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, this is a stellar option for your 50,000-point award-night certificate.

Wailea Beach Resort

(Photo courtesy of Marriott Wailea)
(Photo courtesy of Marriott Wailea.)

The Wailea Beach Resort recently completed a $100 million redesign, cementing its place as one of Maui’s premier resorts and one of our favorite ways to redeem hotel credit card award nights. A room here will cost you a 50,000-point Marriott award night certificate, available each anniversary with the  Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card during standard or off-peak nights.

The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas

Westin Princeville (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Westin Princeville. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.)

It’s no wonder they call Kauai the Green Jewel of Hawaii. The Westin Princeville, on the north shore of the island, is no exception to the island’s reputation for natural beauty. It’s under a 10-minute drive to Hanalei Bay, with golf courses to boot. Here, you’ll find guest villas separated into different low-rise building spread out over 18 acres of pure beach bliss.

While standard rates start at 60,000 points per night, off-peak awards are 50,000, making it another prime contender for your Marriott 50,000-point award-night certificate if the dates align. You’ll have to do some digging for dates, but it’s worth it for the views.

Bonus tip: Even if you don’t book with points, you’ll be pleased to know there’s no resort fee at this property.

Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach

Photo courtesy of Hyatt Centric Waikiki/Hyatt
(Photo courtesy of Hyatt Centric Waikiki/Hyatt.)

If you’re using World of Hyatt points in Hawaii, places such as the Grand Hyatt Kauai (25,000 points) and the Hyatt Regency Maui (25,000) are great choices, but if you’re looking to use the Category 1 to 4 award from the World of Hyatt credit card, your best bet is the Category 4 Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach that normally goes for 15,000 Hyatt points per night. The nearby Hyatt Place Waikiki is another option for redeeming your free-night award, but since it’s available for 12,000 points per night, it may be better to use points there and save your award for a Category 4 property.

Better yet, you can actually earn two annual free-night certificates, thanks to the World of Hyatt card: one with your account anniversary and another after spending $15,000 on the card in a year.

The Hyatt Centric itself overlooks beautiful Diamond Head Island in the heart of Waikiki. You’ll have to walk a bit to the beach, but that might not be a huge downside for some.

Sheraton Kauai Resort

Sheraton Kauai (photo courtesy of the hotel)
Sheraton Kauai. (Photo courtesy of the hotel.)

Some would argue that Kauai is the most visually stunning of all the Hawaiian Islands, and it’s certainly an island you don’t want to miss — especially if a free night is in the cards. The Sheraton Kauai is a Marriott Category 5 hotel, with off-peak rates starting at 30,000 points per night and standard rates clocking in at 35,000 points per night.

Translation: This is a great opportunity to use your Marriott 35,000-point award night on standard or off-peak nights.

The best part? It’s pretty easy to rack up Marriott 35,000-point awards from cards such as the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit card and Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, since they’re awarded at each account anniversary, too.

Holiday Inn Waikiki and Kailua-Kona

(Image courtesy of IHG Hotels.)
(Image courtesy of IHG Hotels.)

Though IHG doesn’t have a large footprint in Hawaii, budget travelers will be happy to know the chain has Holiday Inn Express properties in both Waikiki and Kailua-Kona.

If you hold the IHG Rewards Club Premier credit card, you receive an annual anniversary night certificate worth up to 40,000 points. Luckily for you, both of the aforementioned properties fit into this description. Room rates at each property go for 40,000 points per night, making them both within range. A night in paradise for free is always a win in our book.

Feeling inspired and ready to book your flights? Your best option might be to fly to paradise in a lie-flat seat for 40,000 miles on Hawaiian Airlines. Or you could just grab a cheap round-trip ticket on Southwest out of California. Plus, if you go that route and have the airline’s coveted companion pass, you’ll get a year’s worth of buy one, get one free flights for your favorite travel buddy.

You’ll be on the beach drinking a mai tai before you know it.

Featured image by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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