Getting to and Around the Hawaiian Islands

With its isolated location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the only way to get to Hawaii is via airplane. Most commercial flights to Hawaii are routed to the Honolulu International Airport (code: HNL, 300 Rodgers Blvd., 808/836-6411); however, some carriers provide direct service to neighbor islands. The Honolulu airport has three terminals: the Overseas Terminal accommodates international and mainland flights, the Interisland Terminal handles Hawaiian Airlines flights, and the Commuter Terminal handles the small interisland carriers. There is a free intra-airport shuttle service for getting around the airport. Ground transportation is available just outside the baggage claim areas on the lower level, along the center median. The airport is 10 miles from Waikiki and six miles from downtown Honolulu.

The gardens at the Honolulu International Airport.
Most commercial flights to Hawaii are routed to the Honolulu International Airport. Photo © Jason Riedy, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

The Big Island has two major airports. The Kona International Airport (code: KOA, 73-200 Kupipi St., 808/327-9520) serves international, overseas and interisland flights. It is the island’s primary airport, located on the west side of the island, seven miles from Kailua. The Hilo International Airport (code: ITO, Kekuanaoa St., 808/961-9300), on the east side of the island just two miles east of Hilo, serves interisland carriers.

In Maui County, the Kahului Airport (code: OGG, 1 Kahului Airport Rd., 808/872-3830) is the primary airport on Maui, a hub for overseas and interisland flights. Two smaller airports are serviced by only commuter airlines: Hana Airport (code: HNM, 808/248-4861) on the northeast coast and the Kapalua Airport (code: JHM, 808/665-6108) on the west side, a quick drive from Ka‘anapali and Lahaina.

The Moloka‘i Airport (code: MKK, 808/567-9660), located about seven miles northwest of Kaunakakai, is serviced by interisland and commuter planes, while the tiny Kalaupapa Airport (code: LUP, 808/838-8701) is serviced by commuter planes for residents and visitors touring the Kalaupapa National Historic Park. A permit from the Hawaii Department of Health (808/567-6924) is necessary prior to making air reservations. Lana‘i Airport (code: LNY, 808/565-7942), located three miles southwest of Lanai City, is serviced by interisland and commuter planes.

On Kaua‘i, the Lihue Airport (code: LIH, 3901 Mokulele Loop, 808/274-3800) is the primary airport on the island, handling domestic, overseas, and interisland commercial flights, including commuter and air taxis. It’s located on the southeast coast, about 1.5 miles east of Lihue town.

Air is the only commercial way to island hop, except for ferries between Maui and Moloka‘i and Lana‘i. Hawaiian Airlines (800/367-5320) is Hawaii’s leading commercial carrier, with the largest selection of flights between the main Islands. Mokulele Airlines (866/260-7070) utilizes a prop caravan service to ferry passengers to and from Moloka‘i and Lana‘i. Their small prop planes also service the smaller airports in Hana and Kapalua, Maui. Island Air (800/652-6541) has a fleet of turboprop planes that service routes from Kaua‘i, Maui, Moloka‘i, and Lana‘i to O‘ahu.

Everyone visiting Hawaii must fill out a Plants and Animals Declaration Form and present it upon arrival in the state. Anyone carrying any of the prohibited items, including fruits, vegetables, plants, seeds, and soil, as well as live insects, seafood, snakes, and amphibians, must go through an inspection at the airport. For additional information on just what is prohibited, contact any U.S. Customs Office or check with an embassy or consulate.

Before you leave Hawaii for the mainland, all of your bags are subject to agricultural inspection before you enter the ticketing line to check luggage and get your boarding pass. There are no restrictions on beach sand from below the high-water line, coconuts, cooked foods, dried flower arrangements, fresh flower lei, pineapples, certified pest-free plants and cuttings, and seashells. However, papaya must be treated before departure. Other restricted items are berries, fresh gardenias, jade vines, live insects and snails, cotton, plants in soil, soil itself, and sugarcane. Raw sugarcane is acceptable if it is cut between the nodes, has the outer covering peeled off, is split into fourths, and is commercially prepackaged. For any questions about plants that you want to take to the mainland, call the Agricultural Quarantine Inspection office (808/861-8490) in Honolulu.

Related Travel Guide