The Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport is one of the two major airports on the Big Island. The Airport serves most of West Hawaiʻi and receives inter-island, international and overseas flights. The other major airport is on the East coast of the Big Island in Hilo (ITO).
You are most likely to arrive at this airport from your inter-island flight or your flight from the mainland. Regardless, you will most prbably really appreciate the very Hawaiian look and feel at this airport. The Kona airport has no large and sterile hallways or multistory buildings. It looks just a collection of huts that makes you feel at home in paradise immediately!
You can find the official website of the Kona International Airport here.
Renting a car at Kona Airport
Renting a car at KOA is easy but should be planned ahead. Most big car rental companies are represented, as well as some local ventures. You can find their offices in front of the airport (see map above).
Local companies often offer the best rates. We recommend to book your car in advance, because the car supply on the Big Island is limited and easily runs out during mid-size and large events such as the Ironman Triathlon and the Merry Monarch Festival.
Getting to and from the Kona airport to Kailua Kona: Car, Bus, Taxi or Shuttle?
Kona International Airport is located 7 miles from Kailua Kona. If you have no interest in renting a car (which can be done easily at the airport) you can get to Kailua Kona several other ways:
- First of all, the Hele-On bus operates a (limited) service between the airport and Kona (outbound link to hele-on airport service).
- You can also make use of a shuttle service. Some hotels offer a free shuttle service. If this is not the case, expect to pay between $20 and $30 one way. Have a look at the RideFly Kona website for an example.
- Finally, you can call a taxi to get you into town. You can find a list of local taxi providers here. Taking a taxi on the Big Island is expensive, and we recommend to only use them for getting to and from the airport.
Using the bus is the cheapest but most inconvenient option, renting a car is by far the most convenient option for local transport. If renting a car is not an option and you are hesitant about using the bus, you can discover the Big Island using tours. Just choose a hotel close to the Kona city center and book your tours from there. Booking a tour often comes with transport to and from the tour location.
Kona airport lies between Kailua Kona (15 minutes driving to the South) and the resorts of Waikoloa and the Kohala coast (30 minutes driving to the North). If you have rented a car, the driving times from Kona International Airport to several landmarks on the Big Island are:
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: 3 hrs 15 min
- Kailua Kona: 15 min
- Kealakekua Bay (Captain Cook): 45 min
- Waimea: 1 hr
- Hilo: 2 hrs 15 min
Tips to make the most out of your visit to the Big Island
Did you know that many people on a tight time-budget regret using the same airport to fly to and from the Big Island? Especially if you want to see both the West (Kona) and East (Hilo) side of Hawaii and have less than seven days to spend it is a good idea to arrive and depart from different airports. Have a look at our suggested itineraries if you are on a tight schedule.
For example, try flying into Hilo and staying there two days, then get a cozy vacation rental with hot tub in Volcano Village to explore the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for another two days, and conclude for three days in sunny Kona for great beaches, snorkeling, and much more.
This can save half a day and quite some ‘return the car in time’ stress from your itinerary. Most rental agencies on Hawaii allow you to drop off your rental car on the other side of the Big Island without extra fee, but it is best to check yourself.