Finally, it's time to book your flights to Hawaii! Now the real fun begins! You know you're coming and you're ready to start exploring.
First things first: did you realize there is more than one Big Island airport? You have a choice between booking your Big Island flight into the Kona airport (KOA) on the west side of the island or Hilo International Airport (ITO) on the east side. The majority of travelers to the Big Island fly into Kona since the best beaches and most of the top resorts are found on the west side, although there is typically very little difference in Big Island airfare between the two airports. If most of your exploring will be in the rainforest or near the active volcano, by all means fly into Hilo.
Hawaiian Airlines offers non-stop flights to Hawaii from New York City (JFK), Seattle (SEA), Portland (PDX), Sacramento (SMF), San Francisco (SFO), Oakland (OAK), San Jose (SJC), Los Angeles (LAX), San Diego (SAN), Las Vegas (LAS) and Phoenix (PHX) into Honolulu with convenient Big Island flights connecting to Kona and Hilo.
Hawaiian Airlines also offers non-stop international service from Seoul (ICN), Sapporo (CTS), Tokyo (HND), Osaka (KIX), Fukuoka (FUK), Manila (MNL), Sydney (SYD), Brisbane (BNE), Pago Pago (PPG), and Papeete (PPT) into Honolulu with easy connections to the Big Island. New service from Auckland, New Zealand (AKL) is scheduled to begin in March, 2013.
When flying from the mainland or international destinations, it is sometimes cheaper to book your flight to either Honolulu (HNL) or Maui (OGG), and purchase a connecting flight to the Big Island separately on Hawaiian Airlines. Hawaiian Airlines offers many daily flights between the Big Island and both Honolulu and Maui.
Five airlines provide direct flights into the Kona airport (KOA) from the US mainland:
Several carriers offer international service to Kona with connections through Honolulu. Seasonal nonstop service is available between Kona and Vancouver, BC via Air Canada.
Only United Airlines provides direct service to Hilo International Airport (ITO) from the US mainland. American, Delta, Hawaiian, and US Airways offer connecting service to Hilo through Maui and Honolulu.
Four carriers provide interisland flights into the Kona airport: Hawaiian Airlines, Island Air, Go!Mokulele and Pacific Wings. From the Hilo airport, only Hawaiian Airlines offers interisland flights.
When is the best time to fly to Hawaii? When is Big Island airfare the cheapest? Great questions. Flights to Hawaii are notoriously expensive due to Hawaii's popularity as a vacation destination. With no less than six airlines flying to the Big Island, they are all competing for your business. There are fewer seats available today as airlines have been forced to reduce flights, so you won't see as much fluctuation in Big Island airfare from one month to the next as you might have in the past.
Flights to Hawaii are most expensive during the winter holidays. Airfares go through the roof in December and January when many students and family originally from the Big Island fly home. During the summer months when kids are out of school and many families are traveling, airfares tend to be higher as well. You'll probably want to avoid Kona in early October unless you are participating in the Ironman World Championship. Because of the Ironman triathlon, hotels fill up, rental cars are hard to find, and flights are more expensive.
Try to arrive and depart mid-week. Mondays and Fridays are typically busiest, with correspondingly higher fares. We've watched as the fare for a particular flight skyrockets, increasing several hundred dollars literally within minutes, only to drop back down the following day. If you see a great fare, grab it, but be patient enough to wait if it seems too high.
What better way to be greeted on the Big Island than with an authentic Hawaiian flower lei greeting? When flying into Kona, be sure to make arrangements in advance of your trip for your loved ones to enjoy this traditional welcome to Hawaii.Plan ahead. If you can be flexible with your schedule, and research different carriers, you can save a bundle on Big Island airfare. Sometimes a package flight/hotel deal will produce some savings as well. Depending on where you plan to explore, you might consider flying into either Kona or Hilo, and flying out from the other side of the island, although round trip tickets are generally cheaper than one-way.
Getting here can be half the fun! In addition to flights to Hawaii, several cruise ship companies offer a Hawaii Island cruise that includes stops in Hilo and Kona. There are weekly departures from Honolulu, and periodically throughout the year cruises sail from mainland US ports, Vancouver, BC and Ensenada, Mexico. For an altogether different perspective of the islands, consider a Hawaii Island cruise!