Travel tips for Aussies heading to the Hawaii Ironman

Heading to Hawaii for the Ironman Triathlon World Championships? You are probably counting down the days!

Cocktails by the poolFor Australians, the flight to Hawaii isn’t too long compared to hopping off to Europe. Once in Honolulu you may get an instant connecting flight or be stopping over for the night (or two). It’s great to see Honolulu if you haven’t  but personally we prefer the other islands – and we particularly love the Big Island!

Any overseas trip means a fair bit of planning, and more so when you are travelling with a triathlete, maybe kids or even a larger group of friends and family all heading over as your support crew.

We have been to Kailua-Kona twice. Once with kids (2010) and once without (2012) –  and have travelled overseas for other races. Experiences from the past always teaches us new tricks, so this post  is a list of all those little things that you may not think about, or need to know about, if travelling to the Big Island for the Hawaii Ironman World Championships.


  • Take your race nutrition. Yes you can get stuff there but if you have trained using a certain brand you can’t be guaranteed it will be available in Kona – but there is a lot of options if you are not fussy (including brands we don’t have in Oz)
  • Tell the triathlete to not take too many t-shirts. By the time competitors get one at registration,then freebies over race week, plus you end up buying one or two, you will have too many and regret bringing so many from home.
  • You do not need jeans or a jacket or jumper – do not even bother to take them! If you happen to need them once there, you can buy them cheap from Walmart – but you won’t.  You also don’t need anything fancy – Hawaiians lead a laid- back beach lifestyle and you are amongst triathletes. There is no dressing up. Everyone is relaxed and/or sporty even when out for dinner!

In transit…


  • Australian’s need to get a visa waiver to enter the US. This needs to be done for all travellers including kids. Do not forget to do it ( print it out for check in) as they will not let you on the flight without it! Here’s the link.
  • Weigh and re-weigh your luggage. Make sure they airline knows you are travelling with a bike. Sometimes the bag allowance changes between your main flight and the inter-island transfer (on a much smaller plane), so check how many bags you are allowed and at what weight.
  • If you a have a transfer on the same day, give yourself a good hour between the flights. You have to get through US customs and then walk with all your luggage to the domestic terminal. Then you jostle with locals on a self-serve check-in with no-one much around to help! Be prepared to miss flights and get used to Hawaii time.
  • Once you arrive, your bike may not turn up at the same time. Seems with so many people  travelling on the smaller planes with bikes  overloads their systems. We had to wait at the airport until the next flight arrived with our bike!
  • Don’t forget the compression sox for the flight – and hydration tablets for the triathlete.
  • Remember you can’t fly with CO2 cartridges. You will be able to buy them in Kona and return them before you  fly again.

Once you get there…


  • If you are staying in Kona for a short time, then you can do without a car as you walk everywhere. However if you are staying out of town or if you want to explore the island, get a car. You need a car to get up to the large supermarket and WalMart for supplies also if  you are staying somewhere where you cook for yourself. A car is a good idea with kids too. You could manage with bikes to get around if you are just a couple, or mopeds.
  • Sort out your international roaming on your phone before you go. I spent hours on it in Kona and regretted not getting my head around it beforehand.Some accommodation has free wifi and you can find free wifi in some cafes but if you are a social networking type like me and want to keep everyone posted on Facebook or Twitter, then you don’t want a huge bill when you get home. I ended up unlocking my iPhone and buying a US sim card for $40 for a month unlimited and this worked OK. Not that fast but did the job. There is a phone shop behind Lava Java.
  • If you are taking kids think about how you will move around with them. For babies, take a small fold up umbrella style pram. The pavements are narrow. The big jogger prams we use in OZ don’t work. You could also buy one cheap in Walmart on arrival. For kids 4 or up, consider taking a scooter (or maybe they can skate?). There is a lot of walking. If they can whizz around without complaints you will all be so much happier! We also know spectators who bought cheap bikes at Walmart and then gave them away in Kona before leaving. However, you need to ride on the road – no room on the pavements. Whatever you chose just be prepared to walk a lot!

Hoping that these notes I made myself help you when planning for your first trip to The Big Island for this special event.

Have you been to the Hawaii Ironman or are you heading there this year? Do you have any tips you can add?

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  1. Thanks for the travel trips Lisa. I’m hoping to do massage support for some local athletes going to Kona & doing a lot of research (its my first time).
    Accommodation is a challenge… travel agent, airbnb etc etc? Any tips on who to trust, terms & conditions to watch for? Regards Di

    • Hi Diane – thanks for reading! We have just been going through the process of finding accommodation,etc. as we will be heading to Kona again this year. I am actually writing a post on it – out soon! Get booked as soon as you can as it does book out. We book online and have found the best website for condos to be or – they require a deposit then pay closer to travel date. Beware tax and other fees on top mean it all adds up and it’s THE most expensive time to stay in Kona. If you can spend the extra we like to stay as close into town so you can walk everywhere. You could also get some quotes from travel companies like Hope this helps and will post more advice soon so keep an eye out! Lisa 🙂

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