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By February 10, 2015 31 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 ab and on 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 isl and s!

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 underst and ing 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 underst and 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 isl and you’d like to work. If you find an assignment on Maui or the Big Isl and , 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 isl and ). However, the outer isl and s 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 isl and s, 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, isl and 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 isl and s.

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.

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

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  1. Kathryn


    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


    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


    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


    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


  12. Sarah


    I am curious if you have a family? I have small children and would live to try travel nursing while they are young. Do you have any advice on how to make it work?

  13. David says:

    Hey Sarah. I do have a young one and am soon going to be making some of these decisions also.

    The first consideration is how old your children might be. If they are not yet in school, things are slightly easier as the consideration there is in having someone to take care of them while you are working (you did not mention if you are married or will be traveling with someone who can take care of the children).

    If they are of school age, then you will likely need to look into home schooling. It’s simply too difficult to be pulling children in and out of school systems every time you take a new contract. Even if you plan to stay in the area for a considerable amount of time, things happen. The hospital or unit census could drop, and you could have a canceled contract (not a frequent occurrence, but it does happen).

    However, once again, you will need help at home with someone tending to the schooling while you are at work.

    The best advice will come from those that have first walked in these shoes. Therefore, hit the travel nursing forums and read what others have to say, firsthand.

    Some good travel nurse forums can be found at,, and the Delphi forum for traveling professionals (go to, look for the “enter search keywords box in the center, and type “travel nurses”, and the top result is a group called Travel Nurses and Therapists with over 50,000 members).

    Pan Travelers is also another good site with a forum. They have a free section and also a section where there is a charge to access information.

    You can also join Healthcare Travelbook (, which is a sort of Facebook style place for travelers, which also has a forum.

    You should be able to read all posts on the topic and if you sign up (I believe all are free to do so), then you can post if you have questions.

    These forums will best expose you to the travel nurses that have walked this road before and their successes, and failures, in traveling with a family.

    I hope this helps.


  14. Vicki


    Hi David!

    I see your recommendation for use of a recruiter. Was that through an outside company or a recruiter from the agencies want to hire you for assignment?

  15. Hey Vicki. I currently refer nurses to recruiters I use at four different travel nursing agencies. However, when someone expresses the desire for ONLY Hawaii assignments, I usually just refer them to the two agencies with which I have been to Hawaii.

    If you have any further questions or would like to make a connection with any of my recruiters, please feel free to email me at

    David Morrison

  16. Ellen D.


    Hi David,
    Can you provide me with Kamran’s info for a car rental. What Island is he on. I’m travel nursing to Hawaii in February. I’m looking for a rental for 6 months or more. Please send me an email or phone #. I gained a lot from your site

    Ellen RN

  17. David says:

    Hey Ellen. I’m sorry but Kamran never sent me his info, so I do not know from where he rents.

    Do check out any company with the BBB and read any online reviews that you can. Several less than reputable individuals rent cars on the islands and try to charge you excessive amounts when turning in the automobile.

    Finding a long term rental on the islands is a challenge and these individuals seem to prey off of those trying to find reasonable prices on car rentals.


  18. Ellen


    Hi David
    Thanks for your help. Would you have his email from the blog. Maybe I could contact him. You can send it to me privately

    Thanks again

  19. David says:

    Hey Ellen. I am not the moderator for this site, so I do not have access to any info from people posting on the site (I didn’t even have your email to privately message you).

    But I did send an email to my editor Sarah, so she should be contacting you to offer any assistance she can.


  20. Shannon Long


    Hi David…im traveling to Maui this month. I took the stipend and found a room in a big house in a nice area of Maui. Have u ever heard of any horror this safe?

  21. David says:

    Hey Shannon. I have never rented a room from someone, but I’m sure there are stories, both positive and negative, about doing this.

    My assumption is that when you say “nice area of Maui”, you have checked this out to see various factors (crime rate, etc) and have somewhat determined that the surrounding area is acceptable.

    The only other variable would be the person(s) from whom you are renting. Not having ventured down this road before, I suppose if I were doing this, I would want to have contacts of previous tenants to see if they had any issues.

    If this is their first time renting, I may consider doing a background check similar to the ones that many landlords require.

    Finally, you want to be sure the expectations are as stated. The best way to do this is a good rental contract. Even though this is just a room for rent, you want to be sure you are covered legally in the event there are any issues.

    The contract should spell out the intended rental period, price, expectations in regard to utilities, description of what is being rented and if other “house privileges” are included. You should also speak to parking and guest policy. Basically, think of any situation that could occur and address it before it does.

    Also speak to whomever you are renting from and discuss the possibility of extending your stay. Should you extend your contract, you want to be sure you continue to have a place to stay. Maui accommodations can be difficult to come by. It’s not like most places you travel to that will have many options for lodging.

    I hope this helps.


  22. Mark Moffitt


    Hi David, I graduated in 93 well! Bulk of my experience in critical care. I live in San Diego, and pay for me is >50$/hr. I would like to move to Hawaii and my wife is game, but she wants me to test the waters first with a 13 week assignment. It’s been awhile but I have done some emergent assignments in the BA, Stanford University Hospital, Summit in Oakland, and have worked in Seattle, Denver, New Mexico and El Paso Texas. I work step down etc. If there’s good pay, it’s slow or DT. I very a fair amount of incentive pay and DT here, where I float among the 5 hospitals in this chain. Do you know what the locals make on Oahu? Do the hospitals pay much incentive or mandatory DT? Are you allowed to work more than 36 hours a week or >4 days in a row? You mentioned the one agency above. Do you know about what I could make per hour doing registry? Did they ever offer you OT? And what do travel assignments offer in stipend pay? Thanks, and you have great writing skills! MM

  23. David says:

    Hey Mark. My apologies, but just about all the questions you posed would best be answered by someone with local expertise. With all the travel destinations for nurses, it’s impossible for me to keep up with all the rates.

    Additionally, you seem to be seeking staff rates for the facilities, which may differ greatly from what fellow travel nurses make.

    I would suggest reaching out to the company I mentioned above, Kahu Malama Nurses, on Oahu ( They should be able to give you the average local rates for your specialty as well as what they are seeing in regard to current offerings.

    When I worked on the islands, I was a travel nurse, but they (Kahu) offered OT shifts on Maui (where I was contracted) as well as shifts on other islands. I cannot tell you what to expect in the way of stipend pay because it would differ from company to company. But Kahu also does travel contracts, so they may also be able to enlighten you on what they pay on average for the different islands.

    Sorry I could not offer much on your questions, but I’m sure a local staffing agency will be able to help.


  24. Mike says:

    Hey David, my girlfriend and I are looking to rent a place out on Oahu for two months and try picking up shifts through agencies. In your experience would you say there are a number of nurses doing agency/registry in the hospitals you have worked at? Is pay for agency/registry nursing appropriate (considering that travel assignments aren’t, due to popularity). Just trying to gain insight to the agency angle since Hawaii travel contracts can be few and far between (and pay being not so great).

  25. David says:

    Hey Mike. It would be hard for me to speak to the Hawaii market as I have not been there in several years. Additionally, I worked on Maui, which would not see as many agency nurses as Oahu would.

    For agency work, Oahu would certainly be the logical choice as a home base. You could then always accept agency work on other isles (with your agency taking care of the travel flight).

    The best person to speak to would be someone who is currently staffing the islands. Try Kahu Malama Nurses on Oahu. You might even be able to find a travel contract through them.

    Hope this helps.


  26. Michelle


    Hi. I am still in school for my BSN; one more year. I am wanting to travel and know that I will need the time in first for the experience. I have family on Oahu so that is my goal. I am open to see where I fit in, although ideally, it would be postpartum. However, I know that would not be ideal for travel. Could you give me some insight as to which fields would be best to find travel positions? I have a nurse extern for medsurg, but would like to know what other areas would benefit a travel position job. I am choosing my capstone, and this would help me decide. Thanks

  27. David says:

    Hey Michelle. As you might already know, you will need at least one year of experience in the specialty in which you wish to travel. If you require additional training after nursing school, that will also need to be considered. For example, if you wanted to travel in the critical care specialty, and the hospital mandated a year of tele before transitioning to critical care, you would still need the full additional year of critical care to travel in that specialty.

    For travel, higher acuity units such as ICU or NICU, will be more in demand. However, you do see a fair amount of positions for tele, OB, ER, and L&D. I would steer clear of med-surg as those assignments go through dry spells with lack of available travel positions. Even tele would be a step up from med-surg and offer more opportunity. If you are leaning towards something dealing with OB, just be aware that not every hospital will deliver babies (outside of the ER), but most every hospital will likely have an ER, med-surg, tele, and critical care units. But if you plan to work in or around major cities, you really shouldn’t have a problem finding assignments in the OB specialty.

    Any type of advanced training once you specialize will help (like PALS).

    I would also say that it might be a good idea to call a few travel companies and ask to speak with a recruiter. While it is early in regard to travel, they are still the experts on what the industry is seeing in regard to assignment listings and the most prominent specialties for travel. So they could give you direct insight into the specialties they see posted most.

    I hope this helps.


  28. Michelle


    Hello David, thank you for replying. I was always under the impression that MedSurg would be the ideal area for travel. I can’t say exactly why I thought that. I didn’t think that there would be areas open for postpartum or L&D in travel the way that you say there is. I did contact Kahu Malama Nurses and am waiting for a reply to speak to someone there. You mentioned them in another post. I will also find a travel co to contact to ask more questions. I would love to do postpartum on Oahu. I have my grandbaby on Oahu, so being able to go on assignment there would be so wonderful. Are there travel assignments to VA hospital that is offered?

  29. David says:

    Hey Michelle. I do believe there are one or two VA facilities (or more) located on Oahu. Kahu Malama Nurses would be your best resource for that info as they are located on Oahu and do staffing for all the HI islands.

    Kahu is the company through which I worked my second assignment to HI. I believe they stopped doing travel assignments for a bit, but think the last time I looked, their website indicated they still did some travel contracts. But regardless, they would likely be a better resource for questions about island facilities (esp. Oahu).

    Hope this helps.


  30. Rene'


    I have a fully furnished 1 bdr/1 bath condo in the heart of Kailua Kona on the Big Island. It is newly renovated and just waiting for the perfect adventurous nurse!
    Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in this quiet Kona Kai condo on Palani Road..just up the street a bit from the Kailua Pier & the start of the Iron Man.

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