Flying into Hawaii will fill every traveler with excitement and happiness. Aloha awaits as soon as you touch the ground, and the islands are filled with beaches, perfect weather, and endless opportunity to enjoy this lush tropical paradise. No matter where you are coming from, hours over that Pacific expanse will stoke the imagination and get you primed for an island experience.
All of the Hawaiian Islands have airports, and if you want to catch an inter-island flight during your stay, it’s good to know how to navigate to the Big Island and beyond. Below we will look at all of the Hawaii airports you might travel to or through during your trip. Traveling here is pretty straightforward, but it’s good to know about each airport ahead of time so you can make the most of your trip.
There are five major airports in the state of Hawaii and a handful of smaller strips to catch a flight from between islands or to access more remote locations. If you are coming from the mainland US, you can choose where you want to land between the major islands. The last leg of your flight will most likely depart from a big west coast city like San Francisco or Los Angeles. If you are an international traveler, you will probably land in Honolulu International Airport on Oahu, the busiest airport in Hawaii. From here, you can catch inter-island flights to whatever island you’d like.
Big Island Airports
There are two major airports on the island of Hawaii, commonly called the Big Island. If you are planning a trip here, the Big Island is not to be missed. Many of the top attractions, like Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Mauna Kea, can be found here. Getting to the Big Island from any other Hawaiian island is pretty straightforward.
Both of the major airports here are a short 35-40 minute flight from Honolulu. Depending on which side of the island you want to explore, you may want to choose one of the Big Island’s airports over another. If you are headed to a northern destination like Kohala or Waimea, either option on Hawaii island will be about the same distance away.
Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole (KOA)
Kona International Airport (KOA) is the largest airport on the Big Island and where most visitors arrive. It’s found on the western side of Hawaii, and the runways are in the middle of a lava field, making for an impressive ”welcome to the islands” moment if you have a window seat. This airport has a rustic throwback vibe in that you’ll step off your plane and into the fresh island air from stairs that descend to the tarmac rather than a jetway. KOA is just north of the town of Kailua-Kona, a great starting point for your stay.
Hilo International Airport (ITO)
Hilo International Airport (ITO) is on the east side of Hawaii. This airport doesn’t see as much traffic as Kona but has many daily flights that arrive and depart from or to the other Hawaiian islands. It doesn’t have as much charm as KOA but will still give you all of the basics you’d expect in a modern airport. ITO has two runways, a large terminal, and easy access to Hilo and the surrounding areas.
Oahu is the most populated island in the state of Hawaii and sees the highest number of visitors. Honolulu is the largest city here and is a central hub for travelers, whether they stay on this island or catch a quick flight to any of the others.
Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL)
Also often called Honolulu International Airport, HNL is the largest airport in the islands. It sees incoming and outgoing flights around the globe daily. You will see amazing views of Oahu’s southern side and famous landmarks such as Diamond Head as you prepare for landing here. If it’s your first time in Hawaii, you’ll most likely have a least a pit stop in Honolulu, so be sure to check out all of the great attractions that Waikiki and the surrounding areas have to offer.
There are three airports on Maui – one major and two smaller options. Unless you are island hopping or on a sightseeing flight, you will probably only visit the largest of the three (OGG). Kapalua Airport (JHM) serves the northern portion of Maui, while Hana Airport (HNM) serves the remote southern part. You’ll find everything you need in Kapalua but be sure to plan ahead if you fly to Hana as car rentals and other amenities are in limited supply.
Kahului Airport (OGG)
Kahului Airport is the second busiest airport in Hawaii, but you will feel anything but rushed when you first arrive here. Both international and inter-island flights are served at OGG, and there are plenty of amenities, including extensive rental car options, restaurants, and gift shops. It feels small but has everything you need and offers the islands’ immediate charm that every airport here seems to possess.
Kauai is the least populated of the major islands but still a great destination that offers rugged beauty and untouched coastlines. It’s a popular spot for the adventurous type and will give you a glimpse of wild Hawaii.
Lihue Airport (LIH)
The only larger airport in Kauai, LIH is found in a picturesque landing location that gives you a glimpse of this amazing island as you get ready to land. It has been remodeled in recent years but still has an island aesthetic that respects the history and culture of Hawaii and its people. It’s small and rural, just the surrounding areas you will visit here.
Smaller Island Airports
The two lesser-visited islands of Molokai and Lanai each have their own airports. These are smaller and don’t see many flights during a single day. They also serve smaller planes and charters as part of inter-island travel. Molokai Airport (MKK) is centrally located on the island and provides breathtaking views of the steep mountains that dominate the island. Lanai Airport (LNY) serves the residents and visitors who live and travel here. It’s a few miles southwest of Lanai City.
Getting to the Big Island
You can access the Big Island of Hawaii by either a direct flight to one of the major airports here or by an inter-island option. There are some direct flights from various locations across the world that will drop you off at Kona International Airport, and if you are flying from the mainland US, you can usually fly direct to the Big Island. If you are on a budget flight or coming from an international location, you might have a short connecting flight from Honolulu.