7 Hawaii Ironman race week experiences you don’t want to miss

So you have made it to the Hawaii Ironman. You have seen the photos, dreamed about being there and now it’s reality.

The Hawaii Ironman race week is full of scheduled activities, sightseeing opportunities and race planning – and hopefully lots of rest time for the competitors.

However, if you are a first-timer at the Hawaii World Championship there are a few unique experiences that are a “must do” to really feel you have had the “Hawaii Ironman” experience. 

These are the 7 experiences you all triathletes and supporters don’t want to miss!

Visit Dig Me beach in the morning

Dig Me beach by the Kona Pier is the place to be seen and to spot the pros. It’s where the race starts and all week triathletes flock here to swim the course and soak up the atmosphere.

The buoys are out. The Kona coffee boat is moored. Lots of filming, live intereviews and brand giveaways – it’s all happening here and it happens early!

By Thursday and Friday it gets crazy busy, so go earlier in the week to enjoy it without the large crowds.

Even if you aren’t competing, hop into the beautiful clear warm water and swim some of the course – there a plenty of fish to see!

As suggested in our travel tips, if you aren’t a big swimmer (supporters), use flippers so you can get to hang off the edge of the coffee catamaran and enjoy a short black before swimming back to shore – an experience you won’t forget!  

Peak hour at Dig Me Beach 2014

Run (or walk) along Ali’i Drive

Since the whole town is over run by triathletes you can imagine how early the activity gets going in Kona over the week. The centre of it all is Ali’i Drive which runs through the town.

Even if you aren’t a competitor tapering down, if you like a jog (or even a power walk) head out of Kona town and along part of the run course by the ocean. It gives you a feel for island life and there will be “pinch me” moments when suddenly a familiar face passes (most likely a professional triathlete you feel like you know!).

TIP: Make sure you are prepared for the heat with hat, sunscreen and water.

The view along Ali'i Drive, Kona
The view along Ali’i Drive, Kona

Hang at Lava Java.

Island Lava Java is known as THE café where all the triathletes hang. This is a great place for pro spotting and watching all the activity on Ali’i Drive. It has moved since we visited but still sits on Ali’i Drive and looks like it has more space, still offering the famous Kona coffee, juices, smoothies and healthy meals all day. Sit outside (if you can find a seat), enjoy a magical sunset, often some live music and just take in everything that passes you by.

Drive or ride down the Queen K.

Another iconic road which is part of the Hawaii Ironman course is the Queen K. You drive on it as you arrive into town from the airport but try to get out on it again to really understand what it is like for the triathletes.

If you are a competitor, drive out to a spot with your bike and ride some of the course. Ideally get out to Hawi and experience the climb and winds before race day.

For spectators, even just a drive along it is an experience. The rolling hills, the lava landscape either side with the ocean in the distance. It has a real moonscape feel and the heat is relentless!

The barren lava "moonscape-like" views on the Queen K - Kona, Hawaii
The barren lava “moonscape-like” views on the Queen K

Experience “Breakfast with Bob” live at Huggos

My husband was particualry excited about seeing Bob live. After listening to Bob Babbit interview triathletes from around the world every year, its quite surreal actually being there. Check out their interview schedule HERE which runs all week.

The interviews are held at Huggos which is one our favourite places to stop for a coffee, cocktails and meals anytime of the day.

Huggo’s is a classic Hawaii style eatery by the ocean with tables and chairs sitting on sand. Just visiting this place is essential let alone being there for the interviews. Of course, Poncho man on the Ukelele is the icing on the cake!

Take part (or at least enjoy watching) the Underpants run

This is a tradition during Hawaii Iroman race week taking place at 7.30am the Thursday before race day. The event rasies money for great local charities and is supported by many of the professionals. “Its good, clean fun. All for charity.” as their website explains.

Interesting fact – the event began as a protest against the amount of Speedos (undies) that were popping up in inappropriate places during race week. Chris Danahy, Tim Morris, and Paul Huddle conceived the idea in 1998 to make people aware of how crazy it looks for them to be walking around in their “underwear” during race week.  They felt it was disrespectful (and rightfully so) to the local community and they didn’t want any animosity to develop towards the Ironman Community when they arrived every year and engulfed the small town of Kailua-Kona.

So now this the place were Triathletes and all other buffed (or not so buffed) bodies can parade around in their underwear. Lots of fantastic costumes (grab some fun photos too) – cheer them on and get into the spirit at this Kona community focussed event.

Fun had in your underwear at the Undies Run in Kona!
Fun had in your underwear at the Undies Run in Kona!

Soak in some history at the King Kam Hotel.

If you are aren’t staying at the King Kamehameha Hotel then make sure you wander through it’s main lobby and corridors. There is so much history to this place and you can read all about it in the displays they have scattered around.

This is also the base for the Ironman team over race week and it’s where the professionals come for media interviews and sponsor events, so if you hang out long enough you are likely to spot a pro or two.

TIP: The beach in front of the hotel is a public beach and a great one to take the kids and still feel part of all the action. Over the week you will see the pier transform into transition which is an exciting experience too!

The King Kamehameha Hotel in Kailua Kona
The King Kamehameha Hotel in Kailua Kona

Share with us what you enjoy on your first visit to Kona for the Hawaii Ironman. Or if this isn’t your first time, share what are your essential must-do’s during race week?

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