Kona International Airport: Travel to the Big Island, Hawaii (updated 2023)

Kona International Airport (KOA) or correctly named Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keāhole is one of two airports on the Big Island, the second one is Hilo International airport located on the east side of the island. The Kona Airport services all west Hawaii and the districts of Kona, South Kona, Kohala, Waimea districts in general. Kona is very unique an open-air style airport that feels comfortable, friendly and easy to maneuver around from check in, TSA and nice public lounge area and gate service. The airport has wonderful outdoor gardens and open-air plan with courtyards and waiting areas that feels very Hawaii, outdoors and laid back.

The best part is the easy and fast drive to Kona Town which is less than 9 miles from the airport to town.

Kona International Airport: Travel to the Big Island, Hawaii

About Kona International Airport

Most of the flights to Kona International Airport are from the main hub at Honolulu International Airport. There are some flights that arrive direct from the mainland with Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines and United Airlines, Delta Airlines, but the majority are interisland flights with Hawaiian Airlines being the major carrier in the area.

Once inside the general lounge area you’ll find an open court area with separate waiting gate stations, the standard food services, souvenir/general merchandise store and some wonderful art displays and sculpture around the outdoor lounge areas. Kona airport is the only airport service that allows passengers to walk on the tarmac and up ramp services directly on the planes instead of service gates are the terminals, making this a very unique and sensory experience for boarding and deplaning.

outdoor waiting areas at Kona International Airport to major destinations on island

What makes Kona International airport unique?

Kona International airport is unique to the other Hawaiian airports in that most of the airport is outdoors with outdoor/open air waiting pavilions, loading directly from the tarmac to waiting planes in a more friendly and wonderful airport experience that isn’t all indoors with gates leading directly to the planes. It really has a very old Hawaiian airport vibe and more relaxed in appearance and comfort.

Air departures and arrivals are prompt and done very efficiently probably because of the systematic the airport services from the various airlines that arrive at the Kona airport promptly from interisland or Pan Pacific flights to Kona.

About Kona International Airport

Transportation services from Kona International Airport

There is public transportation service at the airport with bus service from the airport to the main bus terminal in downtown Kona, check the Hele-on service website here for more information hele-on website.

There are rental car vendors at the island kiosks just across from the arrival area.

Also taxi service is available curbside or you can book ahead of time.

Uber and Lyft service are only available at designated parts of the airport for pick up or drop off service.

Also, there are prearranged ground transportations services from the airport to your final destination that you can book in advanced for pick up or delivery of passengers from the airport.

Most visitors do arrange for arrivals from the airport but there is also pick up services available at the airport with shuttle service or taxi/uber service.

Rental Car services

There are rental car shuttles pick up areas in the middle island of the airport with separate shuttles to various brands picking up directly and taking you to the rental car locations a few miles away from the airport.

Cross the walkway to the middle island and just wait for your particular rental car shuttle appears and stops at the pick-up areas.

** Check out our favorite discount car company here for securing great rates for your car rental.

Transportation services from Kona International Airport

Drive time from Kona International Airport to major destinations on island

From airport to downtown is less than 15 minutes

Waikoloa Village – approximately 45 minutes

Hualalai area – approximately 2 ½ hours

Waimea area – approximately 1 ½ hours

Drive time from Kona International Airport to major destinations on island

Further Reading visiting Kona Area

Check out things to do in the Kona Area

Easy to visit Kua bay from airport close by

If you have more time visit Hapuna Beach in the Kohala coast area

Visiting the Waikoloa area of the Big Island

Snorkeling around the Big Island

Have you flown into Kona International Airport?

Please share your thoughts and other recommendations in the comments below with your recommendations.

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Noel Morata this Hawaii Life

Meet Noel Morata

Noel Morata is the creator of This Hawaii Life along with a small team of contributors. Living on the Big Island and traveling regularly to the neighbor islands, Noel and team actively search and share the latest information and updates to Hawaii travel, food, adventure and various lifestyle activities on the islands for your planning and vacation. Aloha and enjoy This Hawaii Life.