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If you’re planning a trip to the idyllic Garden Isle of Kauai, you’ll need to fly into one of the island’s two airports. With stunning beaches, mountainous landscapes, and small-town charm, determining the most convenient airport for your Kauai travels is an important first step.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Most visitors to Kauai fly into the Lihue Airport, located in the center of the island. It offers the widest selection of flights and rental car options.

Getting to Know Kauai’s Airports

Lihue Airport Overview

The main airport on Kauai is Lihue Airport (LIH), located just 3 miles from downtown Lihue. As Kauai’s primary commercial airport, Lihue Airport offers connections to destinations across Hawaii, the mainland United States, and select international cities.

In 2021, over 2.5 million passengers traveled through Lihue Airport.

Lihue Airport has a single runway and terminal building with 6 gates. Major airlines flying out of Lihue include Hawaiian Airlines, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines.

Flights connect to Honolulu, Maui, Hawaii Island, and many West Coast hubs like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.

The airport offers amenities like free Wi-Fi, rental car counters, an information desk, restaurants, shops, and even a small museum on Kauai history. Travelers recommend arriving 60-90 minutes before flights for the security and check-in process.

Port Allen Airport Overview

In addition to Lihue, Kauai has several smaller private and public airports. The main secondary airport is Port Allen Airport (PAK) on Kauai’s south shore, which serves private flights and island-hopping charters.

As a small airport meant for general aviation, Port Allen has a 3,000 foot runway but no control tower or commercial passenger terminals. Still, it sees over 55,000 takeoffs and landings per year! Key tenants and services at Port Allen include:

  • Island Air – charter flights to other Hawaiian Islands
  • Helicopter tour operators – scenic tours of Kauai
  • Skydive Kauai – skydiving adventures
  • Flight schools – flight instruction and plane rentals

In addition to Port Allen, Kauai has local airports in Princeville, Kokee, and Waimea that cater to private aviation and offer incredible views.

Airport Runways Passenger Flights Amenities
Lihue Airport 1 runway Yes Free Wi-Fi, rental cars, shops, restaurants
Port Allen Airport 1 runway Charters only Flight schools, tours

Whether arriving on a commercial flight into Lihue or soaring over emerald valleys on a charter from Port Allen, Kauai’s airports offer easy access to the Garden Isle. With direct routes from across Hawaii and North America, visitors can easily experience Kauai’s incredible natural beauty and aloha spirit.

Comparing Flight Options and Airlines

Airlines and Destinations Serving Lihue

There are several major airlines offering flights into Lihue Airport (LIH) on Kauai. Lihue Airport serves as the main gateway for visitors flying to the island. The airport saw over 2 million passengers in 2021, indicating a steady recovery for tourism after the COVID-19 impacts (source).

The main airlines flying into Lihue Airport and the destinations they serve include:

  • Hawaiian Airlines: Honolulu (HNL), Kahului (OGG), Los Angeles (LAX), Oakland (OAK), Portland (PDX), Sacramento (SMF), San Diego (SAN), San Francisco (SFO), San Jose (SJC), Seattle (SEA)
  • Alaska Airlines: Los Angeles (LAX), Portland (PDX), San Diego (SAN), San Francisco (SFO), San Jose (SJC), Seattle (SEA)
  • United Airlines: Denver (DEN), Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO)
  • Delta Air Lines: Los Angeles (LAX), Seattle (SEA), Salt Lake City (SLC)
  • American Airlines: Los Angeles (LAX), Phoenix (PHX)

As can be seen, the majority of flights come from West Coast hubs like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland. There are also select flights from inland cities like Denver and Phoenix.

Limited Options at Port Allen

Besides Lihue Airport, Kauai does have a small secondary airport located in Port Allen near Hanapepe and Waimea. Port Allen Airport (PAK) serves commercial tours and chartered flights.

Currently, only a few smaller commuter airlines offer scheduled service into Port Allen:

  • Mokulele Airlines has daily flights to/from Honolulu (HNL)
  • Southern Airways Express operates flights a few times per week to/from Honolulu (HNL)

So options are extremely limited into Port Allen. And the airport lacks most standard facilities found at larger airports. Still, it does offer an alternative landing point besides Lihue Airport on the eastern side of the island.

Airport Main Airlines Destinations Served
Lihue Airport (LIH) Hawaiian, Alaska, United, Delta, American Major West Coast hubs, select inland US cities
Port Allen Airport (PAK) Mokulele, Southern Airways Express Very limited flights only to Honolulu

Rental Cars and Ground Transportation

Abundant Rental Car Choices at Lihue

The Lihue Airport on Kauai offers abundant rental car choices from a variety of major companies like Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, and Thrifty. There are rental car counters located right in the Lihue Airport terminal building making pickup and drop off very convenient.

According to the official Lihue Airport website, there are around 12 rental car companies operating at the airport with a fleet of over 2,000 vehicles. So whether you just need an economy car for tooling around the island or a luxury SUV for the whole family, you should have no problem finding a good rental car option.

Rental rates are very competitive, often starting as low as $30 per day for compact cars. If you plan to do a lot of exploring, a rental car is highly recommended as public transportation on Kauai is limited. Many visitors rent a car for at least part of their trip.

Just be aware that some remote coastal roads may require a 4-wheel drive vehicle.

Limited Rentals and Public Transit from Port Allen

If you are arriving via the inter-island ferry into Port Allen rather than flying into Lihue Airport, your ground transportation and rental car options will be much more limited. There are no rental car desks at the Port Allen ferry terminal and just a couple off-airport companies nearby.

Additionally, while Kauai does have a public bus system, the routes are limited and infrequent. The buses do not serve major resort areas well. So getting around without a rental car may prove frustrating unless you plan to spend most of your time at a single resort.

If arriving at Port Allen without a car, your best bet is probably booking transfers through your hotel. Or local taxi and ride-hailing services like Green Taxi Kauai are available to transport you to the main resort regions.

Just expect to pay a premium over typical cab fares due to long distances between destinations.

Location and Convenience Factors

Lihue’s Central Island Location

Lihue Airport is located on the east coast of Kauai, making it a very convenient and centrally located option for visitors. It’s only about 10 minutes away from popular destinations like Kapaa and Lihue, which contain lots of shops, restaurants, and hotels.

Many first-time visitors choose to stay on the east side of the island since it provides easy access to both the North and South Shores.

The airport is also not too far from famous spots like Wailua Falls and Opaekaa Falls, which are about a 20-30 minute drive away. This allows travelers to quickly get out and explore the island’s magnificent natural scenery without spending too much time in the car.

According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Lihue Airport served over 2 million passengers in 2021, making it by far the busiest airport on Kauai. With several major carriers like United, Alaska, and American offering multiple daily flights, it provides the most options for getting to the island.

Port Allen’s West Side Location

Located on Kauai’s West side, Port Allen Airport primarily serves commuter planes coming from other Hawaiian islands. It’s a smaller regional airport that offers flights to and from Honolulu, Molokai, and Lanai.

For those planning to spend most of their time on the popular South and West Shores, Port Allen can be a decent option since it cuts down on drive time to places like Poipu and Waimea Canyon. However, it has far fewer flight options and generally costs more since the planes are tiny commuter aircrafts.

In 2021, Port Allen saw about 95,000 passengers, which pales in comparison to Lihue’s traffic. So while it’s definitely more convenient for accessing the Southwest side, Lihue is generally the best airport for most visitors due to its central location, abundance of flights, and affordable ticket prices.

Navigating Kauai’s Roads and Highways

Main Highways from Lihue Airport

The primary highway on Kauai is Route 50, which loops around the perimeter of the island. From Lihue Airport, you can take Kaumualii Highway (Hwy 50) north to reach popular destinations like Hanalei Bay and the Na Pali Coast, or south along the coast towards Poipu.

Parts of Route 50 along the north and east sides of Kauai are quite winding and narrow. Allow extra driving time if you are headed to remote areas. The speed limit ranges from 25-55 mph.

For travel to the west side, take Highway 51, known as Kuhio Highway, north from Lihue. This road cuts through the center of the island, over mountain passes and through rainforests and pasturelands. Sections of Hwy 51 are quite narrow and lack shoulder space.

Use caution when driving and allow time for slower vehicles. Watch for one-lane bridges in some areas.

West Side Roads from Port Allen

From the small boat harbor at Port Allen, you can take Highway 50 north to reach Kekaha and Waimea. This is an enjoyable coastal drive that hugs the shoreline for stretches and provides scenic views. The road passes by beaches and oceanfront residences.

Exercise caution when pulling over on the narrow shoulders.

Kaumualii Highway continues west and then turns inland at Eleele, leading into Waimea Canyon State Park. This is the main road offering access to Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Park. Sections of the road contain switchbacks and steep grades when climbing up into the interior mountains.

Allow time for travel and use caution. The canyon and mountain roads are subject to temporary closure due to mudslides, falling rocks, and other weather impacts.

For current Hawaii road conditions and warnings, see the state DOT website at Drive carefully and allow extra time when navigating Kauai’s scenic yet sometimes challenging roads.


With more flight options on more airlines, plus extensive rental car choices right onsite, Lihue Airport is the preferred and more convenient gateway for most Kauai visitors. Its central location also makes accessing attractions across the island straightforward.

But for travelers wanting to focus exclusively on the island’s west shores, Port Allen provides a viable alternative, albeit with fewer amenities.

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