Tips for Watching Ironman

Each year in October, Kona is transformed by the arrival of elite athletes from around the world. The prestigious Ford Ironman World Championship takes place this coming Saturday, October 8, providing the biggest forum for professional and amateur triathletes to compete on the world stage.

If you are visiting Kona during Ironman, there are many ways to enjoy the event. Some visitors volunteer to become part of a “Kokua Crew,” working at aid stations along the route that provide water, hydrating sponges, or in the case of late-night finishers, glow sticks for safety after dark.

The race starts at Kailua Pier at 6:30 in the morning with the 2.4-mile swim that spans to the Royal Kona Resort and back. Arrive early in Kailua Town to find a place to park. Easy parking can be found up Palani Road near Hilo Hatties, or up Walua Road near Royal Kona Resort. The swim is one of the most exciting occasions in sports, with 1,800 competitors in the water vying for position. Spectators can get a good vantage of the swim anywhere along the seawall in downtown Kailua.

Once they complete their swim, competitors return to the pier to commence the bike portion of the event, a 112-mile trek from Kailua-Kona to Hawi and back. After most of the field is gone on their bikes, things become a lot more low-key in town. This is a good time to grab a bite to eat at any number of great restaurants, such as Thai Rin, Splashers, The Fish Hopper or Lava Java.

Starting around noon, the top of the field begin returning to the pier on their bikes, where the transition to the run portion of the event takes place. The 26.2-mile run begins at the bike transition at pier and heads south along Ali‘i Drive to Keauhou and back down Ali‘i Drive to Palani Road, up to the Highway to the Natural Energy Lab by the airport and back to town. Now is the time for spectators to find a spot anywhere along Ali‘i Drive, settle back in your beach chair with umbrella, and enjoy cold beverages and snacks while watching the runners go by. Helicopters track the top male and female runners. When you see a helicopter approaching, you know that one of the leaders is fast approaching. As 2 p.m. approaches, you might want to head back to the pier for the exciting result of the first-place finishers. Town is packed with cheering people from around the world waving flags, clanging bells and slapping inflatable cheersticks and other types of noisemakers.

Even after the top athletes have finished, there’s still plenty of Ironman action to enjoy, as amateur competitors continue pour into town up until midnight. Some of the most emotional Ironman moments can be witnessed long after the top winners have been determined. Wheelchair athletes, competitors with disabilities, older competitors and local favorites all have personal stories that inspire.

Located just a five-minute drive from downtown Kailua-Kona, Holualoa Inn is the ideal place to stay during Ironman. Our Big Island bed-and-breakfast inn provides a relaxing setting on a 30-acre coffee estate overlooking the Kona Coast. Ask our friendly ohana for more tips on watching Ironman, or how to avoid the crowds if you have another itinerary in mind.

Innkeeper Holualoa Inn