Flying time to the Big Island is about 10 hours from New York, 8 hours from Chicago, 5 hours from Los Angeles, and 15 hours from London, not including layovers. Some of the major airline carriers serving Hawaii fly direct to the Big Island, allowing you to bypass connecting flights out of Honolulu and Maui. If you're a more spontaneous traveler, island-hopping flights depart daily every 20 to 30 minutes or so.
Although the Big Island's airports are smaller and more casual than Honolulu International, during peak times they can also get quite busy. Allow extra travel time getting to all airports during morning and afternoon rush-hour traffic periods. Due to increased security measures and inadequate staff, TSA screening can often become backed up significantly. Plan to arrive at the airport 90 minutes before departure for interisland or domestic flights. If your interisland flight is part of an international itinerary, then you must check in to your interisland flight at least two hours prior.
Plants and plant products are highly restricted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, both upon entering and leaving Hawaii. When you leave the Islands, both checked and carry-on bags will be screened and tagged at the airport's agricultural inspection stations. Pineapples and coconuts with the packer's agricultural inspection stamp pass freely; papayas must be treated, inspected, and stamped. All other fruits are banned for export to the U.S. mainland. Flowers pass except for gardenia, rose leaves, jade vine, and mauna loa. Also banned are insects, snails, soil, cotton, cacti, sugarcane, and all berry plants.
You'll have to leave dogs and other pets at home. A 120-day quarantine is imposed to prevent the introduction of rabies, which is nonexistent in Hawaii. If specific pre- and post-arrival requirements are met, animals may qualify for a 30-day or 5-day-or-less quarantine; this includes service animals.
Airline Security Issues
Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Hawaii. 866/289–9673; www.tsa.gov.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. 808/326–1252; www.aphis.usda.gov.
Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) is the main gateway for most domestic and international flights into Hawaii. From Honolulu, interisland flights to the Big Island depart regularly from early morning through mid-evening. From Honolulu, the travel time is about 35 minutes. From Maui, it’s about 20 minutes.
Daniel K. Inouye International Airport
Hawaii's major airport is Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, on Oahu, 20 minutes (9 miles) west of Waikiki. To travel to the Big Island from Honolulu, you will depart from either the interisland terminal or the commuter-airline terminal (also called the "old interisland terminal" by locals), located in two separate structures adjacent to the main overseas terminal building. A free shuttle bus, the Wiki Wiki Shuttle, operates between terminals, or stretch your legs with a short walk.
Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL). 300 Rodgers Blvd., Honolulu, Hawaii, 96819. 808/836–6413; hawaii.gov/hnl .
Big Island Airports
Those flying to the Big Island regularly land at one of two fields. Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole, on the west side, serves Kailua-Kona, Keauhou, the Kohala Coast, North Kohala, Waimea, and points south. There are Visitor Information Program (VIP) booths located by all baggage-claim areas to assist travelers. Additionally, the airport offers news and lei stands, Laniakea By Centerplate, and a small gift and sundries shop. A modernization project launched in 2017 aims to join the two terminals (now separate) so that baggage and passenger screening can be streamlined and retail options enhanced.
Hilo International Airport is more appropriate for those planning visits based on the east side of the island. Here, you'll find VIP booths across from the Centerplate Coffee Shop near the departure lobby and in the arrival areas at each end of the terminal. In addition to the coffee shop, services include a Bank of Hawaii ATM, a gift shop, newsstands, and lei stands.
Waimea-Kohala Airport, called Kamuela Airport by residents, is used primarily for private flights between islands, but has recently welcomed one commercial carrier with a single route.
Hilo International Airport (ITO). Hawaii. 808/961–9300; hawaii.gov/ito.
Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole (KOA). Hawaii. 808/327–9520; hawaii.gov/koa.
Waimea-Kohala Airport (MUE). Hawaii. 808/887–8126; hawaii.gov/mue.
Check with your hotel to see if it runs an airport shuttle. If you're not renting a car, you can choose from multiple taxi companies serving the Hilo Airport. The approximate taxi rate is $3 for the initial 1/8th mile, plus $3 for each additional mile, with surcharges for waiting time (40¢ per minute) and baggage ($1 per bag) for up to six people. Call or calculate online for fares to popular destinations. The local Hele-On county bus also services the Hilo airport. Uber and Lyft serve Hilo, but they are not allowed to operate at the airport. You may have to walk some distance to catch one.
At the Kona airport, taxis are available. SpeediShuttle also offers transportation between the airport and hotels, resorts, and condominium complexes from Waimea to Keauhou. Uber or Lyft are not available on the west side of the island yet.
SpeediShuttle. Hawaii, 96740. 877/242–5777; 808/329–5433; www.speedishuttle.com.
Serving Kona are Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Japan Airlines, Mokulele, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and Westjet. Hawaiian, Mokulele, and United fly into Hilo. Airlines schedule flights seasonally, meaning the number of daily flights—and sometimes the carriers themselves—vary according to demand.
Air Canada. Hawaii. 888/247–2262; www.aircanada.com.
Alaska Airlines. Hawaii. 800/252–7522; www.alaskaair.com.
American Airlines. Hawaii. 800/433–7300; www.aa.com.
Delta Airlines. Hawaii. 800/221–1212; www.delta.com.
United Airlines. Hawaii. 800/864–8331; 800/241–6522; www.united.com.
Westjet. Hawaii. 888/937–8538; www.westjet.com.
Should you wish to visit neighboring islands, Hawaiian Airlines and Mokulele offer regular service. Prices for interisland flights have increased quite a bit in recent years, while flight schedule availability has been reduced. Mokulele now serves Waimea. Planning ahead is your best bet.
Mokulele Airlines. Hawaii. 888/435–9462; www.mokuleleairlines.com.
Hawaiian Airlines. Hawaii. 800/367–5320; www.hawaiianair.com.
Big Island Air, in addition to offering air tours of the Big Island, offers on-demand service between all the islands via a Cessna Caravan. Nine passengers can ride comfortably, and the charter has plenty of room for luggage.
Big Island Air. Hawaii. 808/329--4868; www.bigislandair.com.