The Big Island of Hawaii is known for its vast stretches of rugged terrain, active volcanoes, delicious Kona coffee, and miles of shimmeringly scenic coastline. If you want to see what treasures Hawaii Island holds for yourself, you’ll most likely have to come through Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport on the west side in Keahole. This is the Big Island’s busiest airport—as opposed to the Hilo International Airport on the opposite side of the island—and it serves domestic, international, and transpacific flights.
The two-terminal airport is famous for easy navigation with a comfortable atmosphere, which may be to do with its open-air design and old Hawaiian-style architecture. Most visitors report smelling the faint yet pleasing aroma of Plumeria flowers and the salty ocean air upon exiting the plane, providing the perfect jumpstart to a Big Island vacation.
Life moves a bit slower on the Big Island, and the airport is no exception. So, if you’re traveling during the busy season, give yourself a little extra time, be patient and enjoy one of the last historic, completely open-air airports left in the United States!
Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport Code, Location, and Contact Information
Know Before You Go
Kona Airport is considered a small airport, so getting around is generally fast and easy. There are only two terminals, but keep in mind that they have separate security (meaning that changing terminals requires going through security again). This airport serves only 10 airlines: Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Japan Airlines, United Airlines, Westjet, Mokulele Airlines, and Southwest Airlines.
The layout is great for people who may have flight anxiety or tend to get uncomfortable or claustrophobic in contemporary airports since it doesn’t feel like you’re in an airport at all. This is due to the open-air plan, old-fashioned style, and laid-back feel of the structure. Not to mention, this Kona coast airport often recruits live musicians and hula dancer there to entertain and greet travelers. While most travelers will find the open-air design charming, if you’re easily affected by humidity or sun, then keep your eyes peeled for the number of shady spots and benches located throughout the area. You can also hit up the cafe or restaurant for some air conditioning and a refreshing drink.
Due to the design of the Kona Airport, passengers disembark and board by using portable airplane stairs rather than a jet bridge. There are boarding lift services available for travelers with disabilities, though they must be pre-arranged with the airline ahead of time.
The Kona Airport offers a Visitor Information Program to assist travelers, with booths located throughout the airport and staffed from 7:45 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. If you need information during non-booth hours, use the courtesy phone at a VIP desk or call (808) 329-3423.
Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport Parking
Parking is available at the public parking facility across the street from the terminals. Retrieve your parking ticket via the automatic ticket dispenser at the entrance and keep it with you to show the cashier when you exit. As of December 2019, the first 15 minutes are free, then the cost of parking is $1 for 16-30 minutes, $3 for 31-60 minutes, $5 for up to 2 hours, $7 for 2 to 3 hours, $9 for 3 to 4 hours, $13 for 4 to 5 hours, and $15 for 5 to 6 hours. $15 is the daily max for 24 hours, and monthly parking is also available for $160 per month. Call the parking lot attendant office at (808) 329-5404 if you need assistance.
For passenger pickup, there is a cell phone parking lot near the International Arrivals Building (IAB) off the airport loop road (follow the signs towards “Cell Phone Parking”). Vehicles can not be left unattended, and there is a one-hour time limit for the lot.
The Kona Airport is located about seven miles northwest of Kailua-Kona and 25 miles from the Kohala Coast resort area. To reach the airport, travel either north or south on Queen Kaahumanu Highway/HI-19 and turn toward the ocean on Keahole Airport Road. After about .3 of a mile, turn right onto Keahole Street and follow the signs into the airport. Those returning a rental car will want to turn right into the rental car subdivision from Keahole Airport Road.
Public Transportation and Taxis
Since the public bus runs minimal routes to and from the airport, it is best to rely on a taxi, rental car, or shuttle service instead. Car rental companies, including Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, and Thrifty, can be accessed via shuttle from the center median across the street from baggage claims A and B. Taxis can also be found in the curbside space in front of the baggage claim areas A and B. Typically, a taxi to Kailua-Kona town will cost about $25. If you are staying on the other side of the island (consider flying into Hilo International Airport instead), you will want to arrange transportation ahead of time either with a service or your hotel to avoid high last-minute fees. SpeediShuttle is the primary shuttle service serving the airport area, with counters located inside the baggage claim area.
Where to Eat, Drink, and Shop
There is a snack shop located just outside the terminals and security with limited hours from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., as well as Laniakea Cafe in Terminal One and Laniakea Restaurant in Terminal Two. The restaurant is open from 6 a.m. and the cafe opens at 11:30 a.m. Each terminal has two options for lei or flower stands, a newsstand, and a gift shop. Be warned if you are arriving or departing at night here with tired or hungry families, as eateries and shops are not likely to be open past 10:30 p.m.
Wi-Fi and Charging Stations
Visitors should be aware that there are no designated charging stations at Kona International Airport. However, there is free Wi-Fi available. Select the network “KOA Free WiFi” to connect.
Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport Tips & Facts
- Ellison Onizuka, who the airport is named after, was an American astronaut born on the Big Island of Hawaii in Kealakekua. He was the first Asian-American in the United States to go to space and flew on the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985. Onizuka died in the infamous Space Shuttle Challenger explosion just a year later in 1986, along with all crew members who were on board. His body is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific on Oahu.
- The airport has only one runway, and it is 11,000 feet long.
- The Kona Airport has an elevation of just 47 feet above sea level.