Kathleen Gaines, MSN, RN, BA, CBC
Kathleen Gaines, MSN, RN, BA, CBC
February 6, 2023 - 9 min read

Travel Nursing in Hawaii | Top Paying Specialties & Cities 2023

Hawaii is a top travel nurse destination and not because of the high salaries but because of the sun, sand, surf, and adventures. Hawaii is home to some of the world’s best surfing, crystal blue water, white sandy beaches, and massive volcanos.

Travel nurses will find contracts throughout the islands that seem to have high take-home pay, but unfortunately, the cost of living will bring your monthly salary down substantially. Most travel nurses do not take contracts in Hawaii for the pay but rather for the experiences. ATV adventures, surfing on the North Shore, rappelling down sheer cliffs, and visiting the historic USS Arizona monument are all possibilities in Hawaii.

What are you waiting for? The Aloha State is calling you.

Looking for open travel nurse assignments in Hawaii? Speak with a recruiter today!

How Much Do Travel Nurses Make in Hawaii?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nurses in Hawaii earn an average annual salary of $106,530 or $51.22 per hour which is more than the national average.

In fact, the top 90% of nurses in Hawaii earn $129,670. The lowest 10% earn an average salary of $75,380 which is just below the national average and still significantly more in some areas of the country.

Unfortunately, the BLS does not differentiate between staff nurses and travel nurses, though the compensation for travel nurses is usually higher and directly reflective of the ongoing need for nurses.

Hawaii is a highly desirable location for travel nurses, and salaries are reflective of that. However, remember that because Hawaii is SO desirable to travel nurses, the pay packages might be less than on the mainland because of the influx of interest in positions. It is important to note that the cost of living is also significantly higher in Hawaii which is reflected in the pay.

Indeed.com reports an average base salary of $2,673 per week or $62.61 per hour with top-paying locations in Waimea, Kailua, Hilo, Honokaa, and Kealakekua. Here’s how they break down:

Hourly WageWeekly WageMonthly Wage

Highest Paying Nursing Specialties in Hawaii

top 5 highest paying travel nursing specialities in Hawaii

The highest-paid travel nursing specialties depend on a variety of factors including location within the state, demand, and urgency of needs. In Hawaii, the pay is less in major cities for all specialties. The overall pay is based on demand, especially for specific specialties. As the demand for travel nurses increases, wages also increase.

Historically, medical-surgical nurses, long-term care nurses, and clinic nurses have seen significantly lower rates than other specialties in Hawaii. Travel nurses with additional certifications such as CCRN or RNC, and skill sets such as ECMO or dialysis training will earn higher wages. Travel nurses with BLS, ACLS, and PALS will not see a bump in pay as those are standard certifications that are needed for most nursing positions.

Generally, top-paying travel nurse specialties are:

  1. Intensive Care Unit (ICU)
  2. Labor & Delivery
  3. Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
  4. Operating Room (OR)
  5. Post-anesthesia Care Unit (PACU)

Find open positions today for your specialty.

Top 5 Hospitals in Hawaii

Hawaii has only 28 hospitals across all islands. Four meet high U.S. News standards and are ranked within the state. According to the U.S. News & World Report, these four hospitals were evaluated and ranked. The top five hospitals in Hawaii as of 2022-2023 were as follows:

1. Queen’s Medical Center – Honolulu

  • Location: Honolulu
  • Nationally Ranked: 3 Specialties
  • High Performing: 4 Specialties & 18 Procedures/Conditions

2. Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center

  • Location: Honolulu
  • High Performing: 1 Specialties & 8 Procedures/Conditions

3. Adventist Health Castle

  • Location: Kailua
  • High Performing: 7 Procedures/Conditions

4. Straub Medical Center

  • Location: Honolulu
  • High Performing: 7 Procedures/Conditions

Cost of Living for Travel Nurses in Hawaii

Hawaii has always had an extremely high cost of living because the majority of supplies including food need to be imported from the mainland. Because Hawaii is completely surrounded by water, all supplies need to either be shipped in or flown in which increases the costs exponentially. Additionally, because of its tropical location, investors continue to buy properties on the island which drives up housing costs.

Cost of living is defined as the amount of money needed to cover basic expenses such as food, taxes, healthcare, and housing. Despite all travel nurse companies providing a stipend for housing, at times it has shown to not be enough. Furthermore, depending on the location – hotels may not be a viable long-term solution.

According to Bestplaces.net, the overall cost of living in Hawaii is 65.7% higher than the national average. It’s important to remember that Hawaii has eight main islands and the cost of living is different on each island. For example, the cost of living in Maui is exponentially higher than the national average. On the other hand, Oahu has a lower cost of living than the national average.

Travel nurses do struggle at times to find housing in Hawaii because it is such a desirable location. Rent prices in Hawaii are significantly more than in other parts of the country. A studio apartment in Hawaii averages $1,457 per month while the national average is $949. A one-bedroom apartment will cost roughly $1,609 while the national average cost is $1,048.

Payscale.com reports on the cost of living in major Hawaii cities including the median home price, median rent, and monthly energy bill. As expected groceries are also significantly higher than the national average.

Home Price

Pros & Cons of Travel Nursing in Hawaii

With any career, there are pros and cons to the job. Travel nursing is no exception. It’s important to take into consideration your own personal circumstances:

  • Family obligations
  • Education career goals
  • Your specific reasons for wanting to be a travel nurse – some reasons that other nurses might see as a negative may in fact be a positive for you
  • Desire to travel and see other parts of the country

Pros of Travel Nursing in Hawaii

  1. Increased earning potential – Travel nurses have the ability to earn significantly more money than staff nurses, especially in Hawaii. Furthermore, travel nurses actually take home more after taxes due to reimbursements and incentives not being considered “taxable income”. Most travel nurses receive agency-provided housing or have a hefty monthly allowance to put toward housing expenses.
  2. Travel! – One of the main reasons travel nurses start this adventure is to experience different cities and states that they may not otherwise get to experience. It also is great for nurses who are not sure where they ultimately want to settle down. Hawaii is one of the most desired travel nurse locations year-round because of its location. Volcanoes, sandy beaches, and sunny weather leave it at the top of most travel nurses’ (and let’s face it, all tourists’) desired lists.
  3. Flexibility – You have the ability to take a contract when you want and where you want. If you really want to travel to Hawaii, you have the ability to find a contract that fits your needs. This can be ideal for travel nurses who are in school or want to be home for the holiday season. It is also easier to get a permanent staff position if there is a hospital that you eventually want to work at.
  4. Networking – Most don’t consider this a huge pro of travel nursing but it is! With an increase in the number of nurses that go on for an advanced degree, making connections with different hospitals, providers, and other nurses can be very important when trying to find preceptors for graduate-level clinical rotations.
  5. Avoid hospital and unit politics – Most don’t like to admit it, but bedside nursing comes with drama and politics. It can be as simple as a hierarchy based on seniority or something more serious. Being a travel nurse allows you to avoid all of this by not being fully invested in the unit but rather helping out for a very specific amount of time.

Cons of Travel Nursing in Hawaii

  1. Always the new person – Being new to a unit can be exciting but can also be frustrating or even lonely. Not knowing anyone on the unit can affect the type of help you will get within your work environment. Thankfully, Hawaii usually has a decent amount of travel nurses making it easier to form quick friendships and exploration buddies.
  2. Not the best assignments – Some hospitals will assign travel nurses patients just like any other nurse on the unit. Others will assign them the easiest patients, the hardest patients, or the ones that no one wants to deal with. This may not be ideal, but it is the reality of being a travel nurse, especially in a highly desired state.
  3. First to float to another unit – Despite being contracted to a specific unit, most travel nurses will have to float to other parts of the hospital within their skill set. Some travel nurses, depending on their specialty, will have non-float clauses in their contracts. This again will make you the new person which can affect how others perceive you as well as assist you throughout the shift.
  4. Finding a place to live – All travel nurse companies offer their nurses places to live during each contract. However, it is not always in the location that you want, or it may not have the amenities or perks that you’re looking for. Frankly, it may not fit your needs. Contracts will offer a housing stipend instead, which most travel nurses take, but then the work of finding appropriate housing falls on you.
  5. Changing health insurance policies – With each contract may come a new health insurance policy. This will be dependent on the agency that you work with. If you switch between multiple agencies, then there will most likely be a lapse in your health insurance. However, nurses can opt for private insurance and pay out of pocket. That way, when the assignment ends, you won’t lose your insurance. This can be important, especially if you are interested in taking time off between contracts or are interested in an extended travel break.

Things To Do on Your Days Off in Hawaii

Hawaii is a dream location for travel nurses. Nurses typically work three days a week which leaves plenty of time to explore the islands. There are sandy beaches, crystal blue water, some of the best surfing in the world, and insane landscapes.

National Monuments and Parks

Hawaii’s islands are known for some of the most iconic national monuments and parks including Pearl Harbor National Memorial, Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site, and Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. The highlight of the memorial is a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial which allows visitors the opportunity to view the historic sunken battleship that was targeted during WWII. Volcano National Park encompasses the summits of two of the world’s most active volcanoes- Kīlauea and Mauna Loa – and is a designated International Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Sandy Beaches and Massive Waves

Completely surrounded by water, Hawaii has no shortage of beaches. Travel nurses can spend days relaxing on white or black sandy beaches and catch some of the best waves in the world. The famous North Shore on O’ahu is more than seven miles and is famous for hosting the world’s premier surfing competition. Travel nurses interested in surfing will want to land contracts between November and February as waves can swell to almost thirty feet. But don’t worry – if you are new to surfing there are plenty of other beaches that are ideal locations to learn.

Nature Adventures

All of the main islands have plenty of outdoor activities but Kauai nicknamed the Garden Island is the lushest. Serving as the backdrop for Jurassic Park and other outdoor adventure movies, Kauai is considered a paradise on earth to many. Home to Waimea Canyon, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, can only fully be seen by aircraft. There are waterfalls, red volcanic dirt, and vibrant green scenery.


Hawaii’s islands have plenty of outdoor hiking trails for outdoor enthusiasts, but O’ahu has the best hiking trails that cover the two volcanic mountain ranges. Kauai has the famous Kauai’s Na Pali Coast trail which is ideal for advanced hikers because it is 22 miles long with multiple elevation changes on the edge of the cliffs.

Why Hawaii?

The real question is – why NOT Hawaii? Hawaii is the perfect location for adventure-loving travel nurses. Travel nurse salaries are higher in Hawaii, but that is also because the cost of living is higher than on the mainland. Most supplies and groceries have to be flown in, and rent is also higher than in most other locations.

Hawaii has the sun, sand, and nature. Nurses that are not typically into outdoor activities will still find Hawaii a desirable location. Unfortunately, because Hawaii is such a desirable location, travel nurses may find it difficult to find the perfect contract. Seasoned and newer travel nurses may have to accept a less-than-ideal contract, especially if Hawaii is a must on your travel nurse bucket list. But don’t worry – the excitement and adventure that awaits you in The Aloha State will make it all worthwhile.

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