Hawaii Airports Guide: Everything You Need to Know
Flying can be the most stressful part of a vacation. On top of being forced to sit in a small seat for long hours, getting to your things is a nightmare, and the food is expensive. Additionally, flying to the middle of the Pacific Ocean will take at least six hours, so you’ll need to prepare yourself for the long haul if you’re coming to Hawaii. And don’t even get us started on navigating airports!
But a little bit of preparation can go a long way when it comes to travel. So, to ease what will probably be the most difficult part of your vacation, we've created the ultimate Hawaii airport guide.
Oahu is by far the most visited island in Hawaii, and it also has the most residents. This is to say, the Honolulu airport is quite heavily trafficked. In addition, even if you’re traveling to a different island, you’ll usually fly through Oahu before jumping to your final destination since the central airport hub of the Pacific is located in Honolulu.
Honolulu Airport — Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL)
Tony Webster / Flickr; CC-BY-2.0
The Honolulu Airport is by far the largest in Hawaii. Flights from Honolulu can connect you to almost anywhere in the world. Or, if you’re just looking to island-hop, Honolulu Airport can service your needs quickly. Flying from Honolulu to another Hawaiian airport can take as little as an hour and a half from check-in to taxi.
Luckily for visitors, the terminals at Honolulu Airport go through both enclosed and open-air pathways which are decorated with island art and tropical plants. Unlike most airports, you can really tell HNL was built to be part of the city and islands it services.
Uber/Lyft, Taxis, and Shuttles from the Honolulu Airport in Oahu
Uber/Lyft and taxis have long fought over passenger pickups and drop-offs from airports in Hawaii's capital. For a long time, rideshares were not allowed to use the normal passenger loading and unloading areas outside the airport.
Today, Uber and Lyft drop-offs and pickups are allowed at Honolulu International Airport. Schedule your ride once you've claimed your bags -- it usually takes about five minutes for a car to arrive. You'll have to walk to the second floor of the airport (there are elevators) and cross the street to the median to meet your ride. Rideshares pick-up in both of the airport's terminals. You can expect to pay about $30 before tip for a rideshare to Waikiki.
There are also buses that can connect you with almost anywhere on the island along the Queen Liliuokalani Freeway near the cellphone waiting lot. The bus fare is $2.75 with one free transfer. The bus takes about an hour to get to popular lodging spots in Waikiki.
Honolulu Airport also has options available for shuttles to popular hotel neighborhoods. You can schedule a shuttle to Waikiki and most resorts from inside the airport near baggage claim. Shuttles are $17 to Waikiki hotels and resorts, $28 to Honolulu resorts, and $94 to Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore. Two bags under 50 lbs and a carry-on are free on the shuttle, but surfboards are an additional $25. Otherwise, taxis are quite easy to hail from outside the airport and cost about $45 to get to Waikiki.
Rental Cars at the Honolulu Airport
Rental Cars can be booked at Honolulu Airport with ease. There are several car rental agencies in and around the airport. You can find rentals for between $60 and $300 per day after fees, depending on what type of vehicles you'll be interested in. Prices are about $40 higher if you are under 25 years of age.
How Long Does It Take to Get to Honolulu Airport from Your Hotel?
You’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to get through security, since this large airport can get crowded, especially during peak travel seasons. Generally, an hour and half is enough time if you're traveling to and from the mainland. To this end, make sure that you leave yourself enough time to get to the airport from your hotel. Here are a few travel times from popular resort and hotel areas on Oahu:
- Waikiki: 30 minutes
- Ko’olina Resort: 35-45 Minutes
- Turtle Bay: 1 hour
- North Shore: 45 minutes
- Downtown Honolulu: 15-20 minutes
Related: Shaka Guide has six tours on Oahu, check them out here.
Big Island of Hawaii Airports
Due to its size, the Big Island requires two airports. Both are international airports, so you can usually find direct flights to the island. However, it is often much more affordable to book with a layover in Honolulu before jumping to one of the Big Island’s airports.
Kona International Airport (KOA)
Ken Lund / Flickr; CC-BY-SA-2.0
If you’ll be staying primarily on the western side of the island, you’ll probably want to fly into the Kona airport. This goes for anyone who’s staying in Kailua-Kona or resorts in North Kona and South Kohala areas.
Kona’s isn’t a huge airport, and some of the airport’s practices might seem a bit foreign to people flying in for the first time. For instance, the Kona airport is one of the few left in the United States to rely entirely on walk-up ramps to board and deplane passengers. Luckily, it’s pretty much always nice out in Kona, so hopefully, you won’t mind the brief walk to and from your plane.
Although Kona’s airport is a relatively small hub, the buildings aren’t all connected and sprawl out across a larger area than you might expect.
Terminal 1 is split into two parts by the Onizuka Space Center and houses gates 1 through 5. Note that the two parts of terminal 1 have different security checkpoints, which you’ll need to clear if you are going to cross between the two halves of the terminal. Be sure you're headed into the correct security point if you don't want to end up going through two! Terminal 2 is an open-air building that houses gate 6 through 10. If you’re arriving rather than departing, baggage claim A services traveler from terminal 1, and baggage claim B is for terminal 2.
The Kona Airport is located at 73-200 Kupipi St, Kalaoa, HI 96740.
Uber/Lyft, Taxis, and Shuttles from the Kona Airport in Big Island
Uber and Lyfts are available for pick up and drop off at the Kona Airport. You can estimate your rideshare prices here. Rides usually take about five to ten minutes to arrive.
You can also get a taxi from the Kona airport in front of baggage claims A and B. They will run you between $25 and $5o to get to most of the surrounding accommodations and lodgings. There is also a shuttle counter in the baggage claim area, which will cost about $20 per person.
Car Rentals at the Kona Airport
There are only a couple of car rental agencies inside the Kona airport, which are Avis Kona and Dollar Rent A Car. However, if you leave the airport from Keahole Airport Road, there are several more available to your left along Paoo and Halalu Roads. Depending on your preferences, rental cars will run you between $60 and $200 a day, with extra fees for those under 25 years of age.
Hilo International Airport (ITO)
Simon Allardice / Flickr; CC-BY-SA-2.0
Hilo airport is quite easy to navigate. This small airport has ticketing, baggage, food and beverages, and gates all sharing a single building. To get to the terminal, once you get through security, pass through the large waiting area and head up the stairs across from security. All of the gates are along the open-air walkway at the top of the stairs.
Flying into Hilo is also quite a bit different than what you might be used to at other airports. When you deplane, you’ll immediately feel the Hawaiian heat and humidity in this open-air airport. Hilo International Airport usually uses jet bridges to board and deplane, but you might also use a ramp depending on the size and type of plane you’ll be taking or deboarding from.
The Hilo airport is located at 2450 Kekuanaoa St., Hilo, HI.
Uber/Lyft, Taxis, and Shuttles from Hilo Airport in Big Island
Uber and Lyfts are always available from the Hilo Airport, which usually arrive about five to ten minutes after you order them. You can check your estimated rideshare fare here. There are also taxis available for about $15 if you're lodging in Hilo, $25 if Keaau, and $75 for the town of Volcano. Shuttles are also available, but you need to arrange them by phone. You can find contact information for shuttles here.
Rental Car from Hilo Airport
There are several rental car agencies available near the Hilo airport baggage claim and across the pick-up and drop-off lanes. An economy rental car from Budget will cost about $70 per day. You can expect to pay about $40 more if you are under 25.
Related: Shaka Guide has five tours on the Big Island, check them out here.
Maui has two airports, but the main entry point is Kahului Airport. The secondary airport is located in Kapalua, however, this is used mainly for private flights. The few commercial flights that do go to Kapalua are generally several hundred dollars more expensive than those flying into Kahului.
Kahului Airport (OGG)
redlegsfan21 / Flickr; CC-BY-SA-2.0
Maui’s airport is located in Kahului. If you’re flying to Maui, you’ll most likely stop at the Honolulu Airport for a layover before continuing to Kahului Regional Airport, but there are some direct flights to the island. The airport uses both jet bridges and ramps. A good trick to know is that odd-numbered gates at the Kahului airport have jet bridges and even number gates have ramps, which also serve as emergency exits.
The airport is split into two main terminals: north and south. The southern terminal has gates 1 to 16, and the northern terminal houses gates 17 through 39. Be sure to check your ticket to know which terminal you should be headed for.
Updates have been planned for the Kahului airport to allow it to serve as Hawaii’s fourth international airport, which will allow more flights to the mainland US, Canada, and Japan. You may soon need to plan around navigating the construction phase of this expansion. For now, though, just keep the two terminals in mind, and you won’t have any problems.
The Kahului Airport is located at 1 Keolani Pl, Kahului, HI 96732
Uber/Lift, Taxis, Rental Cars, and Shuttles from Kahului Airport in Maui
There are rideshares available from Kahului. These will usually take around five to ten minutes to arrive after ordering. There is also a shuttle counter available in the baggage claim area which offers transportation to Honokawai, Ka’anapali, Kahana, Kahului, Kihei, Lahaina, Makena, Napili, and Wailea lodgings and accommodations.
Taxi services are available, however, you'll need to contact a company directly. You can find contact numbers here, and courtesy phones and taxi dispatchers around the baggage claim and pickup areas. There are also several car rental agencies across Lanui Circle outside the airport. Cross the pickup and drop off lanes and you will see them to the left.
Related: Shaka Guide has six tours in Maui, check them out here.
Kauai’s Primary airport is located in Lihue on the Island’s south-eastern coast.
Lihue Airport (LIH)
If you’re flying to Lihue, you’ll usually pass through Honolulu Airport first, however, there are flights to and from the mainland -- mostly connecting to Los Angeles.
The Lihue Airport is almost completely open air. Check-in and ticketing are even done completely outside. It’s a unique airport experience in this way, but it certainly adds to the island charm of Lihue. Arriving at this airport should immediately put you into vacation mode. Luckily for those boarding, gates are indoors and air-conditioned.
The address for Lihue Airport is 3901 Mokulele Loop, Lihue, HI 96766.
Uber/Lyft, Taxis, Rental Cars, and Shuttles from Lihue Airport in Kauai
Uber and Lyft both operate on Kauai and around the Lihue Airport. Taxis are available via dispatchers, but you probably won't be able to hail a cab. Shuttles can get you to and from most popular accommodations and lodging areas around the island, and some hotels offer routine shuttles. You can check what's available, make shuttle reservations, and see rates here. There are also several rental car agencies across the Mokulele Street pick-up and drop-off area, and many more in the surrounding area.
Related: Shaka Guide has four tours in Kauai, check them out here.
Tips For Flying to Hawaii and Navigating Airports
If you’re coming to Hawaii, you’ll be asked to fill out an agriculture and tourism form before you land. This is to ensure that no foreign, potentially invasive plants or animals make it into Hawaii, which would be devastating for the isolated ecosystem. Be sure to pack a pen to fill out the form, many airlines don't have extra on hand.
Before you check in at a Hawaiian airport, you’ll be asked to put your baggage through agricultural inspection, which functions much like security. The inspection is usually very quick, but be sure to plan an extra five minutes to get through the additional checkpoint. You are not allowed to take fruit from Hawaii to the Mainland, so you'll be asked to dispose of any that are found.
Inter-island Flights and Standby
Flying interisland can be both extremely convenient and affordable. If you’re flying from Oahu, you can get to any destination with a total of two hours of travel time from check in to landing. But if you’d rather save money than time, there are also stand-by flights for very reasonable prices. For instance, during certain parts of the year, Mokulele Airlines offers $35 one-way interisland standby flights. You can keep up with Mokulele Airlines' offerings via their Twitter.
If you're looking to fly standby on Hawaiian Airlines, however, you're out of luck. The airline only allows Pualani Platinum members, Pualani Gold members, and corporate customers to fly standby for same-day flights -- and they must already have a ticket too.
Recently, Southwest Airlines started operating interisland flights in Hawaii. These can run between $29-$70 one way, depending on the day.
Rent a Car in Advance
If you want to save, be sure to book your rental car in advance. Renting at the airport can cost you, whereas if you book before you arrive there are loads of affordable options.
If you’re feeling stressed, don’t! You’ll soon be in paradise. Although flying can be stressful, the experience can also be whatever you make of it. Think of yourself as a globe trotter heading to their next big adventure! And in Hawaii, there's plenty of adventure awaiting.
When you’re in Hawaii, we ask that you act respectfully towards the locals, land and wildlife. Please pick up your trash; never touch any marine life, plants, or other animals; and avoid spots that are unsafe. Hawaii’s natural resources are precious, it’s up to all of us to help preserve these resources.
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