A Complete Guide to Hawaii’s Airports

Before you even step foot on the islands, it’s pretty clear you’re not in Kansas anymore. The spirit of Aloha extends to every part of the Hawaiian Islands, from the sky above them and even to those dreaded transportation facilities known as airports. And while no one wants to spend their vacation at the airport, Hawaii’s airports offer up some of the most beautiful views, efficient experiences, and perfect locations to get your vacation started off right. So, if you’re ready to touch down and start your Hawaii adventure, here are the biggest and best Hawaii airports to fly into, plus some extras for your inter-island itineraries. 

Table of Contents

The Five Major Airports of Hawaii

Hawaii has five major airports located on its four biggest islands: Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island. So if you’re flying into Hawaii from the US mainland or internationally, these are the Hawaii airports where your tropical trip begins.

1. Oahu – Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL)

Reef Runway at Hawaii's Honolulu Airport

It’s fitting that Hawaii’s biggest and busiest airport is located on an island affectionately called “The Gathering Place.” And while its 4,520 acres don’t exactly measure up to the biggest airports in the US, HNL still manages to handle business, accommodating more than 10 million annual passengers at its peak. 

The Honolulu airport is often the best choice for flying into Hawaii due to its size and location. It has four main runaways for landings and takeoffs, including the 12,000-foot Reef Runway. Surrounded by water, it was the first major runway in the world built entirely offshore. The four runways accommodate flights from 21 airlines servicing international, domestic, and inter-island flights. 

Speaking of the latter, because of the airport’s location on Oahu, it serves as a perfect jumping-off point for your island-hopping adventures. But, of course, you’ll want to experience the wonders of Oahu first, and to that end, less than 10 miles separate visitors arriving at Honolulu International Airport from the bustling streets of downtown Honolulu and the sandy shores of famous Waikiki Beach. For an airport that lands you right in the middle of the action, there’s no better place to be than the Hawaii airport on Oahu. 

2. Maui – Kahului Airport (OGG)

Kahului Airport (OGG) on the island of Maui

The main airport on Maui is Kahului Airport in the island’s northern region. And despite the fact that it’s the second busiest airport in the state of Hawaii, like the Valley Isle itself, the Maui airport embodies island time. The laid-back atmosphere is apparent from the moment you touch down, mostly thanks to the easy-breezy, open-air design of the airport itself and the warm and friendly staff. If you want to start your Maui holiday off right, you can even reserve a lei greeting at the airport in advance. 

Kahului Airport is located just three miles east of Kahului, the famous start of the Road to Hana. But with its central location, visitors will find everything on the island easily accessible from the airport, from the awe-inspiring Haleakala National Park to the tranquil town of Lahaina. So, whether you’re hopping on a shuttle or getting a rental car at the airport, you don’t have to travel far to start enjoying the best Maui has to offer.

3. Big Island – Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole (KOA)

Control tower at Kona International Airport

Hawaii airports are one-of-a-kind, and the Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole is the perfect example. Located on the west side of the Big Island, the Kona Airport was built upon lava flows from the Hualalai volcano. So depending on which side of the plane you’re sitting on when you fly into Kona, you can get your first peak of the incredible lava flows before even stepping foot on the Big Island! 

Once you land, the airport doesn’t disappoint, with an open-air concept and outdoor gardens that feel distinctly Hawaii. Ten airlines fly into Kona, and while some fly directly from the US mainland, most arrivals here are inter-island flights from Honolulu. But no matter where you’re coming from, if you want to explore the glittering Kailua-Kona coast, then the Kona International Airport is where you want to be. With Kona less than 15 minutes away and popular beaches like Kekaha Kai State Beach even closer, you can go from sky-high views to toes in the sand in under an hour.

4. Kauai – Lihue Airport (LIH)

Aerial view of runways at Lihue airport on Kauai

Kauai’s main airport destination for many visiting the Garden Isle is Lihue Airport. Two runways support flights from seven airlines, most of which fly in from other Hawaii airports. Consequently, Kauai is an excellent island to visit in the middle of your Hawaii island-hopping itinerary rather than at the start or end. 

Among the major airports in Hawaii, Lihue sits on the smaller side, occupying only 879 acres of land. But its small size is what makes navigating the airport a breeze. It’s virtually impossible to get lost at Lihue Airport. And with the car rental counter directly across from baggage claim, it’s a simple affair to pick up your luggage and dive into the beauty of Kauai. From the Lihue Airport, it’s less than an hour’s drive to Princeville in the north and roughly 30 minutes to Poipu Beach in the south. 

Even though Lihue is reasonably busy for its size, it still offers one of the best airport experiences in the US, right alongside other Hawaii airports like Kona and Kahului. 

5. Big Island – Hilo International (ITO)

Runway at Hilo airport, Big Island, Hawaii

The final major international airport in Hawaii is also located on the Big Island but on the opposite side from Kona International Airport. Though Hilo International sits only a few miles east of the island’s biggest city, Hilo, it’s much smaller than its sister airport, with daily arrivals almost exclusively from inter-island flights. If you plan to fly into Hilo, you’ll most likely have to fly from Honolulu Airport on Oahu or the Kahului Airport on Maui. 

But there are perks to doing so, mainly putting yourself in the perfect position to launch directly into some of the Big Islands’ biggest adventures, including the breathtaking Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, just 45 minutes away, and stunning black sand beaches like Punaluu. 

More Hawaii Airports for Inter-Island Travel

Hawaii’s remaining airports don’t support international or even mainland travel, but they do serve some commercial purposes. For travelers looking to chart their perfect island-hopping adventure, these airports allow you to discover all of Hawaii’s islands, mainly through the services of Mokulele Airlines, the only airline to fly to all of these airports. 

Seaview from an airport runway on Maui

Molokai – Molokai Airport (MKK)

There is no direct flight visitors can take from the mainland US to Molokai, so to get to the island, visitors have to fly from another Hawaii island into one of two airports. Molokai is the bigger airport located in central Molokai. The airport has two runways that support both military and civilian flights. Mokulele Airlines operates daily flights between Molokai Airport and the Hawaii airports in Honolulu, Kalaupapa, and Kahului. 

Maui – Kapalua Airport (JHM)

Before the early 90s, Kapalua Airport was a private facility until the State of Hawaii acquired it in 1993. A single runway supports the flights into Kapalua in West Maui, many of which are from Honolulu via Mokulele Airlines. Arriving here puts visitors a short distance from two of Maui’s most popular resort destinations: Lahaina and Kaanapali.

Lanai – Lanai Airport (LYN)

Lanai Airport is the only airport servicing flights into Lanai. Like Molokai, there are no direct flights from the mainland US, so it’s necessary to get a connecting flight from either Honolulu, Kahului, or Molokai Airports, as the only other way to get here is via a ferry from Lahaina in Maui.

Molokai – Kalaupapa Airport (LUP)

Flying into the isolated Kalaupapa Airport is only possible from Honolulu via Mokulele Airlines. Still, if you want to experience the Kalaupapa National Historical Park, this airport lands you two miles north of it. But before you book your tickets, don’t forget to get your permit for the park—it’s required! 

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Sun shining over small airport field in Hawaii

Ready for your next trip to Hawaii? Whether you plan to hop from one island to the next or settle in for a week of bliss on your picture-perfect paradise, Hawaii’s airports are waiting to get you on your way to adventure. But first, you’ll need to get there. And for that, there’s Next Vacay. 

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