By February 10, 2015 11 Comments

Ask a Travel Nurse: Does Travel Nursing in Hawaii pay well?

Travel Nurse in Hawaii

A Travel Nursing assignment in Hawaii is a great opportunity to work and play!

Ask a Travel Nurse Question:

My co-worker and I have decided to break free from our local hospital and try a Travel Nurse contract. Even though it is expensive, we thought Hawaii would be a nice destination. My question is, does Travel Nursing in Hawaii pay well? How do we make this work so that we are not broke and are paid well?

Ask a Travel Nurse Answer:

Bottom line, Hawaii is expensive. It’s a coveted destination and because of this, they do not really need to pay TOP dollar to continue to attract nurses. However, you do still find Hawaii assignments which means they still have needs and must pay enough for nurses to make it worth their while.

The first notion you must abandon is in making money (or coming out ahead) when taking a Hawaii assignment. The best that you should hope for is to break even. Hawaii is not a place you travel to in order to make money, it is purely about the experience of the islands!

So you must also forget about the “paid well” part. You get paid what they are paying. If you don’t accept that, there are other nurses that will. The variable in all of this, that you can control, is the “not going broke” part. To accomplish this, you must have a monetary strategy and a budget that allows you to pay all your monthly expenses and hopefully have some “play money” left at the end of month.

Ask most seasoned Travelers and they will tell you the easiest way to make money on an assignment is by taking a housing stipend. While this can be a good way to pocket some extra money, it does leave you to find your own housing. This is something that you may or may not want to take on. If this is your first travel assignment, I always caution nurses to take the company provided housing as this is one more burden that you do not want to have to be responsible for on your very first outing. I have actually NEVER taken a stipend when I was away from home because housing is just not something about which I want to worry when starting a new assignment.

However, you are in the unique position of traveling with someone, so that does allow a creative way to have the stability of company provided housing, and make a little money by taking a stipend. The way this works is that one of you opts to take company provided housing with the understanding that you will require a two bedroom apartment. Now the travel company will charge you extra for this (in most places a few hundred dollars a month, but in Hawaii, who knows?), but then you will both have a company provided place with your own bedroom. The other person will take the housing stipend and out of that, will pay the extra money charged for the additional bedroom, and then split the remaining money.

This situation allows both of you to have the safety and security of company provided housing while still earning some money through a stipend. As with any other earnings when traveling, but sure to understand the tax implications on money that is received for a housing stipend but not expressly used for that purpose.

The reason I like this approach, as opposed to both of you taking a stipend, is that the company is responsible for arranging your housing. On one of my Hawaii trips, housing was tight and I had to stay in a one bedroom apartment for about a month before moving to a condo. A few months later, the owner of the condo decided she was not making enough off the rental and I then had to move to another unit in the same complex. The thing was, all of this happened behind the scenes and the only thing I was responsible for was packing my things and moving. I didn’t have to worry about looking for a new location (twice), paying security deposits, paying rents, completing rental paperwork and signing leases, etc. That assignment would have been a nightmare if I had taken a stipend.

Another additional thing to think about is on which island you’d like to work. If you find an assignment on Maui or the Big Island, while these may be less “touristy” areas and have a bit more beauty to them, you will also have to deal with no public transportation (i.e. buses). On Oahu, you can get around quite a bit without an auto (although you may need to rent one on days when you wish to visit the more remote parts of the island). However, the outer islands have little to offer in the way of public transit (or at least that was the case the last time I was there, about six or seven years ago).

On the outer islands, you will have to consider the cost of a rental car, or, if you plan on staying a while, the cost of shipping your auto to Hawaii (which I did the past two times working on Maui). This may certainly affect your bottom line and once you are out there, island hopping is easy to do and not very costly. So Oahu may be the best bet if looking to minimize costs.

One other thing you can do to make a little extra cash is to join local agency or registry while out there. There are several agencies on Oahu and I actually did work for Kahu Malama Nurses on Oahu on my second trip to Maui. You can even pick up extra shifts on neighboring islands.

Hawaii is one destination where you cannot really think about making money, but rather, have to come at it from the perspective of trying not to spend too much while enjoying paradise.

I hope this helps.


About the Author:

Hello everyone. I’m a travel nurse originally from Ohio who graduated in 1993 from Mount Carmel School of Nursing in Columbus. I completed a critical care fellowship at Riverside Methodist Hospital in 1994 and started traveling in that specialty a year later. My first travel assignment was in Maui and since that time I have completed close to 40 different contracts in various states with multiple travel companies. I am the author of Travel Nurse’s Bible (A Guide to Everything on Travel Nursing), in addition to my writings here and in the pages of Travel Nursing publications such as Healthcare Traveler Magazine and American Nurse Today. I am presently on assignment in Phoenix, AZ and travel anywhere from six to eleven months of the year.

11 Comments on "Ask a Travel Nurse: Does Travel Nursing in Hawaii pay well?"

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  1. Kathryn says:

    Hi, I’m a seasoned travel nurse. I will be going to Maui on my next assignment. I’ve never been. Your articles are very helpful to me.
    Thank you

  2. It is extremely expensive to ship your car to Hawaii. We moved last year and we prefer to buy just a new one. This was the cheaper option. Greetings!

  3. Ramona, I’m not sure where you checked as far as shipping, but I just plugged my new 2015 Chevy Silverado 2500HD into Matson’s website and for me to ship from L.A. to Maui (where I have completed three travel assignments), it was quoted as $1075.

    Now, this may seem like a lot of money to some, but certainly not when compared to the price of renting a car for the time I normally stay and certainly not price restrictive enough to justify buying a new car on the island. The prices of new cars on the island are likely higher than the mainland anyway due to their cost to get them there.

    I averaged about nine to ten months on the island each time I went. The lowest current price for which you can likely rent a car for an entire month would be in the $600/month range (and that’s being extremely conservative). So at ten months, I would be at $6000 to rent a car that entire time. The last time I was there, Maui did not have any mass transit in place and even now the buses would not allow for a twelve hour work shift.

    So on Maui, it is EXTREMELY convenient, if not necessary, to have a car. Even if I only rented a car half the time I was there, that’s still about $1000 more than shipping my truck ($3000 for rental car versus $1075 each way for shipping the vehicle).

    Plus, this is speaking of a travel assignment. If you were to move to the island, I cannot imagine NOT being willing to pay $1075 for the convenience of not having to purchase a new car.

    If buying something else ended up being the cheapr option for you, great. I just needed to be sure that the readers had the facts on the actual rates they could expect to encounter on Hawaii assignments for trasportation.


  4. Kamran Milani says:

    Im an automobile broker in Hawaii and can offer inexpensive and reliable vehicles, I can further assist in rent a car on O’ahu for $450 a month! For small to mid size sedan.
    I live in Hawaii Kai part of Oahu, and have a 3 bedroom 2/5 bath Townhouse that I’m planing on renting out fully furnished to travel nurses, this is a newer construction with full aminities such as central AC, Washer & Dryer, Dish washer and of course private room and bath and parking stall, I would appreciate your guidance on companies to contact to inform about my rental, Mahalos!


  5. David says:

    Hey Kamran. As far as housing for travel nurses goes, I often advise nurses to look to Craigslist as this is the widest known outlet. Specialty sites offering travel nurse housing are out there, but hard for the average traveler to find.

    As a renter, I’m sure you want to find the most exposure possible and certainly would not steer you away from sites like airbnb (or others), but those are not typically the sites to where I direct nurses seeking their own housing.

    If you’d like to send me the details (, I could certainly pass along any info you can provide on rental car availability.


  6. moriah says:

    What’s the best travel nurse agency?

  7. David says:

    Hello Moriah. Sorry to disappoint, but there is no “BEST” company with which to travel. While it may seem trite, there is only the company that is best for YOU.

    Most companies receive the same dollar amount from the facilities for your assignment. The difference is in how they allocate that money. So while one company may have a higher pay rate, one better housing, and another better benefits, no single company will have the best of all worlds. If there were such a company, there would only be one travel company, and EVERYONE would travel with them.

    You need to decide what you deem important and then choose a company that allocates the most toward that or those aspect(s). Thoroughly research companies in which you are interested or about which you have heard good things. Find out what they offer in terms of healthcare insurance and other benefits (i.e. dental, travel and license reimbursement, 401k, etc). It’s not unheard of to request specific information on the company’s health care plan or 401 k offerings before even considering whether or not you wish to travel with the company.

    After joining a company, the only real way to see determine their allocation toward pay rate is to get quotes on specific assignments and compare them to quotes from other companies. When possible, try to compare apples to apples on the same location, or better yet, same facility. I have had two different companies quote me rates on the exact same assignment (same hospital and even same unit) and yet have $400/month difference in the housing stipend.

    You will also have to take into account the benefits package offered as no one aspect of an assignment can be considered by itself. For example, if your pay would be $200/month higher with a certain company, but they then charge $300/month more for the health coverage you need, are they really the better company with which to travel? Again, no single aspect of a contract can exist in a vacuum.

    I believe that once you find a company that allocates the contract monies the way that is most beneficial for you, it is ALL about finding a great recruiter with whom to work. A great recruiter will have worked with you and know you personally when issues do arise (which in most cases, is the best time to find out how good the service is in your company). In these instances, your recruiter can be your advocate within the travel company. Sometimes your travel experience is not even about the company, but rather, how great your recruiter might be.

    I hope this helps.


  8. Lindsay says:

    What are some travel nurse agencies that have job postings in Hawaii often?

  9. David says:

    Hey Lindsay. I have traveled to Hawaii three times with three different agencies. There is likely no ONE agency that will have more Hawaii listings than the others.

    The one exception to this may be the company with which I made my second trip to Hawaii, Kahu Malama Nurses located on Oahu. However, they are more of an island staffing agency and I do not know if they still contract travelers.

    With over a hundred agencies out there, I simply cannot know which agencies contract Hawaii assignments with the greatest frequency. I use a handful of agencies and anytime I have wanted to go to Hawaii it has been hit or miss with regard to the assignment offerings. However, I don’t ever recall having to wait for an extended period of time to secure a contract.

    If you would like to make a connection with the recruiters I use and trust with my travels, please feel free to write me directly at


  10. Catherine says:

    Hi David,
    my name is Catherine as previously stated. I just started travelling within the states and currently on my second assignment. really looking forward to taking an assignment in Hawaii. I see you have some experience. pls would like some suggestions, recommendations and advise. thanks.

  11. David says:

    Hey Catherine. My advice from above still applies. Some agencies will staff Hawaii on a regular basis, some occasionally, and some not at all.

    Even the companies with which I have traveled to Hawaii do not always have openings for the islands. It’s persistence and a numbers game, being on file with several agencies that staff the islands and hitting at the right time.

    But again, I simply cannot know which agencies contract Hawaii assignments with the greatest frequency. I use a handful of agencies and anytime I have wanted to go to Hawaii I have communicated that intent to several agencies and the first one to get what I want, wins my business.

    If you would like to make a connection with the recruiters I use and trust with my travels, please feel free to write me directly at


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