The Kona International Airport (KOA), on Hawaii (The Big Island), is charming, but really very tiny. There are ten gates between two terminals and the waiting areas are outside, in small courtyards that offer limited shade.
Amenity-wise, there’s not much. Still, you’ll want to arrive at the airport early enough to spend some time at the Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center, located at the airport, between the two terminals.
This space center honors the memory of Ellison S. Onizuka, who was Hawaii’s first astronaut and one of the crew members who perished aboard the Challenger Mission in 1986. The center has dozens of interactive exhibits that tell the history of manned space flight, physics, and daily life in space. It also displays personal items that belonged to Ellison S. Onizuka; a moon rock, an Apollo 13 space suit and other items.
My favorite items: the packages of freeze-dried macadamia nuts and Kona coffee (with cream and sugar) that were prepared especially for Onizuka and which the museum director assured me are still available on the menu for modern-day astronauts.
We were disappointed that the freeze dried Kona coffee wasn’t available for sale in the well-stocked space center gift shop. But in the under $10 price-range that we seek out for Souvenir Sunday, we found freeze dried ice cream and plenty of books, stickers, and space-themed toys.
Have you found a great souvenir at an aiport? If it’s under $10, “of” the city or region, and a bit offbeat, please snap a photo and send it along. It may be featured on a future edition of Souvenir Sunday.