Kona International Airport

Souvenir Sunday at Kona International Airport

It’s Souvenir Sunday, the day StuckatTheAirport.com celebrates the fun, inexpensive items you can find  in airport shops.

This week our souvenirs come from the souvenir shop at the Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center, which is located right next to the charming, open-air terminals at Kona International Airport.

Ellison Onizuka

The center is part museum/part education center and is dedicated to the memory of Ellison Onizuka, who was Hawaii’s first astronaut and one of the crewmembers who perished aboard the Challenger Mission on January 28, 1986.

Space Suit at Onizuka Space Center Kona Airport

The Onizuka Space Center is jam-packed with hands-on activities that explain space and space concepts as well as a wide variety of displays that include a piece of a moon rock, an Apollo 13 space suit and memorabilia that includes the freeze-dried macadamia nuts and Kona coffee NASA developed for Ellison Onizuka so that the Hawaiian astronaut would feel at home in space.

Onizuka freeze-dried macadamia nuts for space

Onizuka's freeze-dried Kona Coffee for space

The museum is just a 30-second walk from the main part of Kona International Airport and is a much better way for you and your kids to spend your time than sitting out in the sun in airport’s post-security area.

Even if you don’t want to explore the space center’s exhibits, consider stopping in to check out the gift shop. It’s has a carefully selected assortment of space-related books, games and space-related souvenirs.

That’s where I picked up these cool, inexpensive and easy-to-carry fashion accessories: glow-in-the dark, Space Shaped Rubber Bands.

Silly banz space shaped

souvenir sunday pick

If you find a great souvenir while you’re stuck at the airport, please snap a photo and send it along.

The favorite souvenirs here at StuckatTheAirport.com are inexpensive (around $10), “of” the city or region and ideally, a bit offbeat. And if your souvenir is featured on Souvenir Sunday, you’ll receive a special airport or airline-related souvenir.

Love the layover: airport adventures on Oahu and the Big Island

Snowstorms, mudslides, rain, more rain, and tornadoes.

Sounds like a good time for a trip to Hawaii.

If you go, or just want to dream a bit about going, be sure to check out the slide-show I put together for MSNBC.com – Cheap and Offbeat Oahu – about activities that are free, cheap or bit offbeat.

Included: the tale of the fish auction that takes place 6 days a week, beginning at 5:30 am;

Information about a free exhibit at the Hawaii State Art Museum that’s filled with historical objects and photographic portraits that tell the history of Hula,

(These pot holders are not in the exhibition, but you can buy them at the airport..)

And a reminder to travelers that there are a trio of tranquil cultural gardens – Japanese, Chinese and Hawaiian – inside the Honolulu International Airport (HNL)

If you’re going to go to Oahu, you should also pop over to the Big Island.  And if you do, you’ll be able to visit the Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center at the Kona International Airport.  On January 28, 1986, all seven crew members were killed when NASA’s Space Shuttle Challenger exploded less than two minutes after launch. One of those crew members, Ellison S. Onizuka, was Hawaii’s first astronaut.

To space center has oodles of fun, hands-on activities as well as exhibits that include a moon rock from the final moon landing of Apollo 17 in 1972, an authentic NASA space suite, and personal items that belonged to Ellison Onizuka.

My favorite items in the collection are the freeze-dried macadamia nuts and the freeze-dried Kona coffee that NASA created especially for Onizuka. Today’s astronauts can still choose these items from the space menu.

Souvenir Sunday: space stuff from Kona International Airport


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.

KONA - macadamia nuts

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.

KONA ONIZUKA ice creamKONA Onizuka astronaut

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.