Six different islands in Hawaii are open to tourism. Most first-timers planning a trip to one or more than one island have numerous questions relating to where exactly to go and how exactly to get there. This primer will answer those questions.
All interisland flights are through Hawaiian Airlines, Aloha Airlines, or Island Air. Best prices will usually be through the website or through your mainland flight company.
Oahu is the hub of Hawaii transportation. Most mainland and International flights will fly into the Honolulu International Airport (HNL). Travelers heading on to another island may have to deplane and get on an interisland flight to reach their final destination. The airport is located on the outskirts of Honolulu, about a 20 minute drive to Waikiki, and about a 45 minute drive to the North Shore. There are no ferries from Oahu to any other island.
Maui has three airports. The major airport is Kahalui Airport (OGG) which allows direct flights from the West coast of the U.S. mainland. The drive from the airport to Kihei or Wailea is less than half an hour, but can take an hour to Lahaina or Kaanapali. Much closer to the Lahaina area is Kapalua Airport (JHM) but you can only fly there from Honolulu. Hana (HNM) also has an airport if you don’t want to drive, but you’ll be taking a very small plane. Check with Pacific Wings. You can normally find day ferries from Maui to Lanai and Molokai.
The Big Island (named Hawaii, but called the Big Island to avoid confusion) has two airports, Hilo International Airport (ITO), and Keahole Airport (KOA). These two airports are a 2.5 hour drive from each other. Hilo is closest to Honokaa, Kapoho, and Volcano. Keahole is in Kailua-Kona which is closest to all of Kona, Puako, Kohala, Waikoloa, and Waimea. There are direct flights from the mainland only to Keahole. There are no ferries from the Big Island to any other island.
Kauai has one airport, Lihue Airport (LIH), in Lihue, and you can find direct flights from the mainland on some carriers. Lihue is about halfway to everything on the island – but a bit closer to Poipu than Princeville. There are no ferrys from Kauai to any other island.
Molokai has one airport, Molokai Airport (MKK) in central Molokai. You will probably have to take a small airplane in, usually no bigger than a 20 seater. Island Air will fly you in from Honolulu or Kahului. Small commercial boats will ferry you from Maui to Molokai.
Lanai has one airport, Lanai Airport (LNY), near Lanai City. Lanai airport also only accepts small airplanes. Island Air will fly you in from Honolulu. Small commercial boats will ferry you from Maui to Molokai.
By 2007 Hawaii Super Ferry should be operating between all the islands and will hopefully revolutionize our current expensive and inefficient interisland travel systems. Until then, book your flight online and early.