Big Island Airports – Which One is Best?

Getting to and from the Big Island seems to getting easier every year especially for those who are arriving for the North American continent and points beyond. Many large airlines have discovered the Big Island and continue to expand non-stop service from the continent on a regular basis.

Larger than al the other islands put together, the Big Island has become the only island in Hawaii with two airports with runways fit for jet aircraft. For passengers making plans to Hawaii Island, it is important to know which airport is best for a multitude of different purposes. The two airports are distinctly different and are three hours apart by car.

The oldest of the larger airports is Hilo International Airport. Known as General Lyman Field when it was originally built in 1953, the name was changed in 1976 when the airport received an international designation by the Federal Government. Many may think that Hilo airport is a bustling airport filled with dozens of arrivals and departures a day and a buzz of security lines and airport staff. Nothing could be further from the truth. The two story terminal has just eight gates and arrivals and departures consist of mainly narrow-bodied inter-island flights. As from time to time, Hilo will attract larger airlines that speculate on Hilo as a destination even if only sporadically.

After years of planning and contraction, this under-utilized airport has been a disappointment to the State of Hawaii who supports the facility. However, what disappoints the officials makes for an especially enjoyable passenger experience. The airport is quiet, virtually line and hassle free. Security lines are short and getting to and from the gates are simply un-complicated. Parking fees are less expensive and rental car lots are easily accessible. Hilo has all the typical airport services and other more unique services including lei greeters and fresh pineapple kiosks.

With the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park just a 40 minute ride away, Hilo is the best airport to use when planning a day trip to visit Kilauea Crater. In addition, there are several helicopter companies that offer volcano flights from the airport, which makes an aerial tour an easy addition to a day of adventure and excitement on the Big Island.

On the leeward side of the island is the Kona International Airport at Keahole. This airport replaced the Old Kona Airport which was located closer to Kailua-Kona seven and half miles south of the present airport. Dedicated in 1970, it offers the longest runway on the island. The11,000-foot runway positioned parallel to the coastline and is built on ancient lava flows. Arriving passengers always remark that landing at Keahole is like landing on the moon. The dramatic transition from the azure blue ocean to crashing white waves and black lava rock is just a prelude to the natural beauty this Big Island has in store for visitors.

Although Keahole (KOA) is much busier than Hilo (ITO) airport, it shares that same uncluttered and unhurried feel. The airport is located on one level consisting of several clusters of buildings in an open-air setting. Keahole has all the expected services that an international airport is expected to have without all of the stress.

Many will find that Keahole International Airport is the airport of choice for those who have accommodations arranged for the mega-resorts at Waikoloa and the Koahala Coast. In addition, it also is the most convenient for those staying in condominiums and resorts in Keauhou and Kailua-Kona.

Regardless which airport is used, arriving on the Big Island is occasion to enjoy the wide open uncluttered spaces of Hawaii’s largest island. Filled with anticipated and unexpected experiences that will last a lifetime.