Big Island of Hawaii Airport

Hilo International Airport

The Big Island plays host to breathtaking black sand beaches, active volcanoes, rugged coastlines, and the absolutely lovely Hilo International Airport (ITO).

Located just 2 miles east of the city of Hilo (the largest city on the Big Island), Hilo International Airport has been described as having everything you could possibly want at an island airport: efficiency, convenience, comfort, and that Spirit of Aloha that permeates the Hawaiian Islands. So, let's a closer look into the origins of Hilo's airport and what makes it such a pleasure to visit.

In 1929, a single landing strip was opened just outside of Hilo, which was then expanded upon over the years. At the onset of World War II, the Army Engineers took over the Hilo Airport and constructed military installations and expanded the facility for military use. In 1943, the airport was renamed General Lyman Field, in honor of Brigadier General Albert Kualii Brickwood Lyman, the first United States Army General of Hawaiian ancestry.

After WWII, the Hilo Airport saw a steady decrease in military operations, and in 1946 the airport was returned to the Territory of Hawaii for use as a civil airport. However, it remained under U.S. Air Force administration until 1952; at which point it was returned to civilian control. Construction continued at the facility, and in 1953 the new terminal was dedicated. The airport was known as General Lyman Field until 1989.

Today, Hilo International Airport encompasses 1,391 acres along the eastern shore of the Big Island and plays host to air carrier, general aviation, air taxi, and military operations. Approximately 4,500 people per day utilize the airport. Most of these travelers arrive via Hawaiian Airlines, Ohana by Hawaiian (operated by Empire Airlines), or United Airlines. Cargo services are provided by Aloha Air Cargo and FedEx.

Visitors enjoy the airport's 'indoor-outdoor' concept and the friendliness and efficiency of airport staff. There is also an airport lounge, gift shop, lei stand, newsstand, and restaurant, all of which embody the laid-back and welcoming atmosphere of the facility. In addition, friendly and helpful information desks are ready to assist visitors with questions or concerns, and courtesy phones are available should the desks not be staffed during your visit. An ATM is also available in case you need some cash.

Although there is no public transportation service, there are seven car rental offices located directly across the street from the terminal. Numerous taxi cabs provide service right outside the baggage claim area, as well. There is ample public parking, a cell phone lot, and even a special area for electric vehicle parking (which is free for those cars with designated plates).

Hilo International Airport is readily accessible to visitors with disabilities, as is ground transportation. Porter Services are available on request, guide/service dogs are welcomed, of course, and TTYs are located at various points throughout the facility. Family restrooms are also provided for those travelling with the little ones.

While you wait, make sure to take time to admire the airport's pretty garden areas that feature beautiful native plants, and even some sculptures. There is a ceramic 'Lava Forest' lovingly created by sculptor Toshiko Takaezu in 1980 for the State of Hawaii Art in Public Places program.

You'll also want to check out the General Lyman Exhibit. The collection includes documents, photos, medals, and some of the General's personal items.

The Mauna Kea Virtual Tour should also be on your list. This dormant volcano located on the island hosts telescopes from many nations. Take advantage of this computerized tour and get a peek into what those telescopes and cameras see.

And, who doesn't love seashells? Stop by the amazing collection of Hawaiian seashells generously donated by Hikari and Henry Matsuda for everyone to admire.

As you can see, the Hilo International Airport will certainly do its part to make you feel welcomed and relaxed; whether you are newly arrived on the Big Island, or (sadly), having to depart. We hope you have the opportunity to experience the airport's Spirit of Aloha very soon. 

Hilo International Airport Map

Hilo Big Island, Hawaii Airport Map - Click to Enlarge

Hilo Big Island, Hawaii Airport Map - Click to Enlarge

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Article Edited/Contributed by: Victoria Derrick & Michele Lopez
Published/Updated:

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