Airports. They are a vital aspect of every kind of travel, whether you are going to Hawaii or any place in the world.
We focused earlier on the various ways you can travel to Hawaii, and we even recommended flying because it’s hassle-free and faster. Given that Hawaii is one of the most sought-after beach holiday destinations in the world, you can be assured that there are frequent flights to Hawaii as well.
When it comes to booking a flight, deciding which airport to use and flights to take occupies a considerable part of your holiday planning. So that’s what we will be focusing on in this article too.
Let’s start with the basics: Hawaiian Airports.
Hawaii has 5 major airports that accept both international and inter-island flights:
• Oahu – Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL)
• Maui – Kahului Airport (OGG)
• Kauai – Lihue Airport (LIH)
• Big Island – Kona International Airport (KOA)
• Big Island – Hilo International Airport (ITO)
While Hawaii has many islands, you can’t take a direct flight to all or most of them, so you could always arrive at one of the main airports and then take an inter-island flight to your chosen island destination.
But what exactly do you need to know about Hawaii’s Five Major Airports? That’s next.
1. Big Island – Kona International Airport (KOA)
The Ellison Onizuka Kona Airport definitely has a warm and welcoming ambience – the vibe is just on point with the chirping birds, the sea breeze and the open-air spaces.
It just makes you tingle with anticipation of the vacation ahead. You’ll find out directly that airport staff here takes hospitality very seriously. They are super polite.
Coming here for the first time, nothing caught us off guard more than discovering that the runway is constructed in the middle of the lava fields – which is not something many (or any) airports can boast about.
The airport infrastructure – which is built with an open-air pavilion is not something you see or experience in many airports.
It has parking with automatic ticket dispensers. Present the ticket when exiting to make payment (both cash and card are accepted.)
If you are arriving or departing, one of the first things you must go through is an inspection by the US Department of Agriculture. They are lovely and welcoming too.
Afterwards, you can check in (or check out) as you do in airports around the world.
You have to get through 2 security checkpoints (compulsory for both pre-check and non-precheck passengers).
The airport only has 11 gates and a few shops if you are looking to do some shopping.
What amenities and services are available?
- ATM Machines
- Smoking Areas
- Baggage Drop
- Postal Services
- Storage Facilities
- FedEx Ship Center
- Public Restrooms
- USDA Inspection Stations
- ID Office
- Visitor Information
- Lost & Found
- Smarte Carte
- AED and airline lounge
Does KOA offer shuttle services?
Yes. Speedi Shuttle is the most known service. You can make arrangements for your hotel/resort and any part across the Big Island of Hawaii.
But if you are looking for a less conventional way, you could always order an Uber or Lyft. However, the prices can differ due to surge pricing.
Fascinating facts about Kona International Airport (KOA):
- It occupies over 3450 acres
- The airport has 2 terminals
- The most frequently departing flight to Kona tends to route from Honolulu
- The longest flight to KOA departs from Chicago (ORD) – it’s an 8-hour long non-stop flight.
2. Oahu – Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL)
Fun fact: the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport was previously known as the Honolulu International Airport.
It is Hawaii’s biggest airport. It is impossible not to feel the tropical vibe as soon as you land and head to claim your luggage. The concourse is a little stuffy, but you’ll manage.
One of the most unique aspects of this airport is that it has an open-air path to connect the concourse to the main terminal, so you get in some of that Hawaiian sunshine and that sea breeze before you head down to claim your baggage.
The baggage area can be noisy and crowded (obviously) but if you are slightly claustrophobic, you might also not enjoy the interior as much with the heavy concrete architecture and low ceilings.
But as soon as you grab your bags. Rush to the departure levels for fresh air again!
Like all major airports in Hawaii, visitors are asked to go through an inspection by the Department of Agriculture to ensure they don’t carry any plants or pets without special permission.
This procedure applies when departing as well. The staff once again are warm in their interaction.
There are over 30 shops and restaurants to choose from if you are planning to do some buying before leaving.
And it has all the amenities expected of an airport of international standards – including recharging stations, so yay!!
Does HNL offer shuttle services?
Yes. Just like in Kona, Speedi Shuttle is the most known service here in Oahu.
You can arrange your shuttle service to transport your hotel/resort in any major city across Oahu, Hawaii – including Honolulu, Waikiki, Kapolei, Kailua, Kahuku, Ko Olina, Kaneohe, Waimea Bay, Ewa Beach, Mililani, Wahiawa, and more.
Or you can even order an Uber or Lyft. However, the prices can differ due to surge pricing.
You can also rent a car at the airport, but if that’s a bit beyond your budget, you’ll be happy to know that there are 3 bus routes serving Honolulu Airport – find more details here.
Fascinating facts about Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL)
- It is listed as the 30th busiest airport in the US
- During the COVID pandemic, the airport recorded a passenger drop to roughly – 6.6 million
- The airport has 3 terminals
- 4 runways – one which is built on a reef!
3. Maui – Kahului Airport (OGG)
At first glance, the airport looks very spacious – although it only covers an area of 1391 acres. The interior design has a tropical outdoorsy feel because of the open spaces that allow a lot of daylight to flow in – with some fresh breezy air.
After claiming your luggage, you have to get inspected by the State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture, ensure you are not carrying any plants or an animal that could be potentially threatening to the Hawaiian ecosystem, and you will have to fill out an Agricultural Declaration Form.
This is Maui’s primary airport, and it’s quite fascinating to walk around – if you have the time. Because it does have some cultural gardens and if you look out, you’ll be greeted by a few stunning mountain sceneries too. It sets the holiday mood straight away.
The seating arrangements in the gate areas require a little makeover – including the luggage claiming sector, but other than that, everything is great!
We were surprised to find fewer shopping places (there were about 5 – the DFS, a trading company, a Jewelry shop and a newsstand) and about 12 places to grab some food and beverages, so no complaints.
Like KOA, Kahului Airport has the same service options available, and as for its amenities, apart from the AED and the airline lounges, it also has Internet Stations.
Does Kahului Airport have shuttle services?
Yes. You can find really good and reliable shuttle services. The Maui airport shuttle counter is near the Baggage claiming space, and no reservations are required. (Definitely a plus)
Uber and Lyft transport is also an option you can go for.
Fascinating facts about Kahului Airport (OGG)
- It is listed as the 2nd busiest airport in Hawaii
- OGG provides commuter/air taxi facilities and even helicopter operations in some regions
- The airport has 3 terminals
- It has 2 runways
4. Kauai – Lihue Airport (LIH)
This airport has to be one of the most scenic airports to land in.
You get to witness its rugged mountainscapes as you head towards the runway of the Lihue Airport, and it is nothing short of heart-stopping. The blue sapphire-shaded ocean against the beautiful rocky mountains and the city of Kauai come into view as you descend.
Arriving at an island destination cannot get better than this.
The interior infrastructure looks spacious and clean while only occupying an area of 883.5 acres.
Like the Kahului Airport, it has a lot of open spaces allowing the natural light and breeze to come in. But the space does give out an 80’s vibe with a silent plea for an upgrade – luckily, an upgrade is already underway, which is said to complete in 2023.
There are about 5 restaurants if you are looking to grab a bite and drink after a long flight. Three shops – a market, a newsstand and a flower shop. Not many choices.
You will also find the same amenities and services you find at the lovely Kona International Airport.
Don’t forget to get your belongings inspected and fill in the Agricultural Declaration Form.
Does LIH offer shuttle services?
Yes. If you guessed Speedi Shuttle, then you are 100% correct. It is highly recommended and seems to have created a solid reputation in Hawaii.
As you already know, it can make arrangements for your hotel/resort and any part across the key cities in Kauai, Hawaii – including Lihue, Poipu, Princeville, Koloa, Kalaheo, Waimea and more.
Uber and Lyft are also readily available options for transport.
The option of renting a car at the airport is also there, but Kauai Bus transfers are available to Lihue downtown – find more details here.
Fascinating facts about Lihue Airport (LIH)
- LIH also provides commuter/air taxi facilities and even helicopter operations in some regions
- The airport has a single terminal and 10 gates
- It has 2 runways
5. Big Island – Hilo International Airport (ITO)
Yes, the Big Island has two major airports.
This airport does have a similar infrastructure resemblance to all the other major airports in Hawaii. It didn’t however, escape our notice that, despite the airport premises being surrounded by incredibly lush trees, they have made quite an effort to bring some of that lovely verdant charm in all sizes to the interior as well.
The open-space pavilion theme is a reoccurring one. It felt weirdly familiar and comforting.
The staff’s hospitality is sincere and warm. Despite being another major airport, it is small and occupies a space of 1391 acres of the eastern coastal region.
It does have a vast parking space for the public as well. And as you check in (or check out), make sure to fill in the Agricultural Declaration Form and get your bags inspected.
As expected, if you wanted to do some quick gift shopping, there are 3 shops available including – a gift shop If you have built an appetite or thirst (or both,) you have two options.
Does ITO offer shuttle services?
Yes! Here, we are offering a different option (surprise surprise!)- holoholo seems to be a prominent one here and has been recommended. They have fixed rates for pick-ups/drop-offs, and they can offer a comfortable ride to fit your budget.
The airport is obviously accessible by taxis and public transit.
Uber and Lyft are readily available options too (watch out for surge pricing)
Car rentals are also available.
Fascinating facts about Lihue Airport (ITO)
- ITO also provides commuter/air taxi facilities and even helicopter operations in some regions
- The airport has 2 terminals
- It has 2 runways.
- Since HIL (Shillavo Airport in Ethiopia) and ILO (Mandurriao Airport in Iloilo, Philippines) are already taken – Lihue decided on ITO