Transportation on the Big Island

With little public transportation, a network of long two-lane highways, and by virtue of its nature (it’s really big), the Big Island requires the rental of a car or motorcycle if you plan to do any serious exploring. The two-lane highways along the Kona Coast, Hamakua Coast and through the Volcano area are narrow, packed with tour buses and trucks, and the traffic flows fast. You’ll want to be behind either the wheel of a car or the handlebars of a motorcycle — or in a tour bus.

Circle-island tours are popular on other Hawaiian Islands, but on this one, we don’t recommend it. Although it’s possible to accomplish in one day, the 225-mile trip takes about six hours, leaving no substantial daylight time to explore the island’s many attractions. We recommend, instead, that you plan a series of shorter trips — maybe one per day — to destinations of your choice.

Note: Don’t underestimate how long it takes to get somewhere on the Big Island. Long distances and often traffic-clogged two-lane highways can slow you down.

Flights

The Big Island has two airports that accommodate major air traffic. Kona International Airport at Keahole, located seven miles northwest of Kailua-Kona on the leeward side of the island, accommodates domestic overseas, international, interisland, commuter/air taxi, and general aviation flights. Hilo International Airport, two miles east of Hilo on the eastern shore of the island, is used principally for interisland air carrier and general aviation operations.

Many flights into both Hilo and Kailua-Kona originate as interisland flights from O‘ahu’s Honolulu International Airport or other smaller airports in the Islands.

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