Kona International Airport: Your Gateway to Hawaiian Paradise (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. Or you can easily visit Waimea town or the Waikoloa area quickly by rental car, public transport or arranged services.

Kona International Airport:, Big Island Hawaii airport
Kona International Airport:, Big Island Hawaii airport

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 Hawaii 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 -a Big Island Hawaii airport
Outdoor waiting areas at Kona International Airport -a Big Island Hawaii airport

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 -a Big Island Hawaii airport
Kona International Airport -a Big Island Hawaii 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, A Big Island airport
Transportation services from Kona International Airport, A Big Island 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

HIlo town – approximately 1.25 hours

Kona International Airport, A Big Island airport
Kona International Airport, A Big Island airport

Weather and best time to visit Kailua Kona

Kailua-Kona, located on the western coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, boasts a tropical climate with warm temperatures year-round. The best time to visit Kailua-Kona depends on your preferences:

Dry Season (December to April): This is generally considered the best time to visit Kailua-Kona. During these months, the weather is typically drier and sunnier, making it ideal for outdoor activities, water sports, and exploring the beautiful beaches. The temperatures are warm, with daytime highs ranging from the mid-70s to mid-80s Fahrenheit (24-29°C).

Wet Season (May to November): The wet season in Kailua-Kona sees more frequent rainfall, especially during the afternoon and evening. While the mornings are often sunny, you can expect occasional rain showers. Despite the rain, it’s still a great time to visit, and the landscape becomes lush and green.

Hurricane Season (June to November): Kailua-Kona is occasionally affected by hurricanes during this season. While direct hits are rare, it’s a good idea to stay informed about weather conditions if you plan to visit during these months.

Temperature: Kailua-Kona maintains warm temperatures throughout the year, with minimal temperature variations. Daytime temperatures usually range from the mid-70s to mid-80s Fahrenheit (24-29°C), while evenings are slightly cooler.

Crowds: The dry season tends to be the busiest time for tourists in Kailua-Kona, so if you prefer fewer crowds, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons (late spring or early fall).

In summary, the best time to visit Kailua-Kona depends on your weather and crowd preferences. For dry and sunny conditions, plan your trip during the dry season from December to April. However, Kailua-Kona is a great destination year-round, so you can enjoy its natural beauty and outdoor activities whenever you visit.

In summary, the best time to visit Kailua-Kona depends on your weather and crowd preferences. For dry and sunny conditions, plan your trip during the dry season from December to April. However, Kailua-Kona is a great destination year-round, so you can enjoy its natural beauty and outdoor activities whenever you visit.

Places to visit close to Kona Airport
Places to visit close to Kona Airport

11 Details and tips to traveling to Kona International Airport

Here are some tips to keep in mind for arriving or departing at Kona International Airport:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the airport layout.
  2. Check arrival procedures and required documentation.
  3. Stay hydrated and well-rested before or after your visit to airport.
  4. Keep travel documents easily accessible.
  5. Follow signage for baggage claim and ground transportation.
  6. Travel back to the mainland requires agricultural check in before you go to the airline checkin desk
  7. Retrieve your baggage at the designated area.
  8. Arrange transportation in advance.
  9. Explore airport amenities during downtime.
  10. Stay connected and have necessary apps or contacts.
  11. Seek assistance from airport staff if needed.

Places to visit close to Kona Airport

Kona Town

If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii’s Big Island, Kona Town is a must-see spot that you simply can’t miss. This beautiful town has something for everyone, from water sports to cultural experiences and everything in between. Imagine exploring the crystal-clear waters of the Pacific, trying out snorkeling or deep-sea fishing, or simply relaxing on the stunning Kona coastline. And when you’re ready to take a break from all the outdoor fun, you can explore the town’s charming shops, historic landmarks, and unique restaurants. Kona Town is the perfect destination for families, couples, or solo travelers, and you’re sure to make memories that will last a lifetime. So come and experience the magic of Kona Town for yourself – you won’t regret it!

Check out our post on visiting Kona here and the top attractions in the area to visit.

Fun beaches around Kona area to explore

Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaii, is home to some of the most breathtaking beaches in the world. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day soaking up the sun or an adventurous afternoon of surfing, Kona’s beaches have something for everyone. From the black sand beach at Punaluu to the white sands of Hapuna Beach, the beaches in Kona offer unparalleled beauty and natural wonder.

Imagine walking along the shoreline, feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin, and the cool ocean water lapping at your feet. Or, maybe you prefer exploring the vibrant coral reefs and colorful sea life that inhabit the crystal-clear waters of Kua Bay. Whatever your beach-going preferences, a visit to Kona’s beaches is an experience that will stay with you forever.

Check out our post about visiting the local Kona Beaches here which are close to the Kona International airport.

Visit the Waikoloa Village area

The Waikoloa development has a full range of shopping, dining, resorts and outdoor adventure activities. You’ll enjoy visiting or staying in this development and exploring the beaches and outdoor experiences close by.

Check out our post to visiting Waikoloa Village here for more information and cool attractions in the area.

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.

Conclusion to visiting Kona International Airport

Kona International Airport provides a practical and convenient entry point to explore the wonders of the Big Island of Hawaii. With its well-designed facilities, helpful staff, and efficient services, the airport ensures a smooth and hassle-free arrival experience. From here, you can easily access transportation options, such as shuttles or car rentals, to reach your destination comfortably. The airport’s amenities cater to your needs, whether it’s grabbing a bite to eat, shopping for essentials, or simply relaxing before continuing your journey. With Kona International Airport as your starting point, you can dive into the island’s natural beauty, rich culture, and exciting adventures without any unnecessary obstacles. Get ready to embark on an enjoyable and practical exploration of the Big Island from the moment you step foot into Kona International Airport.

Thanks for visiting today and checking out this post on Kona International Airport I hope you are inspired to plan a visit and enjoy these wonderful attractions. If you enjoyed the images and post, could you please share it with any of the social media buttons located around the post.

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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.