TriNews Special: Traveller’s Guide To Staying In Kona, Hawaii, During Ironman World Championship Week

May 22, 2017
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Headed to the Big Island? Then take a listen. Our buddy Thorsten Radde is FINALLY making the trek to Kona this year so we dedicate this show to discussing travel plans and questions he had for being in Hawaii during Ironman, including:

  • What’s the “best” location to stay in Kona? What’s the layout like and pros and cons of being walking distance to the pier vs. driving distance? Tawnee shares insight on places she’s stayed over the years and what you get based on where you stay:
    • The “best” location just depends on the environment that appeals to you and the level of action you want (or lack thereof) outside your door. If you want to be totally in the mix and like hotels, look at the King Kam (host hotel) or Seaside Inn (Seaside is right on Palani). Uncle Billy’s is another popular one within a mile of the finish.
    • If you want to be a bit further from the finishline area but still in a popular area and within walking distance from town, check out places further down Ali’i drive—a mix of hotels, condos and house rentals. Starting at the Royal Kona (about .8 miles from the pier) there are decent places. I’ve stayed at the Wyndham and Aston Kona By The Sea and liked both (probably prefer the Wyndham); both are within 2 miles from the pier on Ali’i Drive.
    • Anything beyond mile marker 2, and you’re going to want transportation (car rental) for sure. It gets quieter but every day it will still be packed with runners and cyclists all week long, as well as houses rented by popular companies like GU, Clif Bar, Training Peaks, etc.
    • If you want a nice hotel a bit further down Ali’I look into the Sheraton.
    • In my time, I’ve started staying farther away and only doing VRBO rentals (vacation rental by owner). I’ve fallen in love with the Coffee Belt and the neat little houses you can find and rent for really cheap ($100/night for nice 2 bd places with kitchen)—great as long as you don’t mind staying 10-15 miles from the Pier.
    • Or you could go the opposite way and head north and check out resorts like Mauna Lani and places in the Waikoloa area—a 25-30 mile trek from the Pier but some people wouldn’t stay anywhere but these places, and I can see why. Gorgeous. Quiet. Ultimate Hawaii.
    • Last tip—while hotels are nice, you can usually find a VRBO.com house/condo or privately owned rental for cheaper and with more room and more amenities, like a kitchen. Personally, we stock up the fridge and make breakfasts in our place, which saves us money and justifies eating out for lunch and dinner for days and days. This is also nice when you’re staying for an extended time—hotel rooms are cramped!
  • Is there a place to rent a bike? Both to “travel around town,” but also for riding parts of the course? For most of us NOT racing, it doesn’t make sense to bring our own …
    • Tawnee’s take: Easier said than done when it comes to bike rentals during Ironman week, but I also haven’t had much time to do riding in Kona due to work and other obligations so I haven’t dug that deep to find a bike. Call Bike Works (in Kona) well in advance to ask about reservations. For beach cruisers, often hotel/condos will have spares to borrow (Wyndham has this), ask when reserving. Otherwise, I think rentals are scarce.
  • Timing – when do you ideally want to be there and how early before the race? Also island hopping options pre or post race.
    • If you really want to get the full experience get to Kona on or around Monday before the race (race is second Saturday of October always). Any earlier not really necessary. I’d definitely stay the week after the race too—tons to do on the Big Island and since it’s the biggest island it takes longer to get places—shocking revelation, I know 😉
    • Island hopping can take a good chunk of time so plan for at least 3-5 full days on another other island(s) if you plan to visit—fewer than 3 full days is not enough in my opinion (you’re already there so find the time, you won’t regret it!). There’s always so much to do no matter what you’re interested are.
    • Thorsten is planning a lot of island hopping time!
    • John and I have only gone to one island at a time post-Kona but that’s because we can’t really take more than 2 weeks away from home. If you have more time, go for it. I’d say you’ll have your fill if you do 3 islands and stay for 3 weeks. Each island is SO different—I’d say Maui and Kauai are my top picks after the Big Island.
  • Tawnee’s Favorite Restaurants
    • Driving Distance
      • Da Poke Shack – you cannot skip this place, best poke there is!
      • Coffee belt – Rebel Kitchen, Keei Cafe, Kaya’s, Donkey Balls
      • Kona Brewing (walking distance for some)
      • Kenichi Pacifc for Sushi – in shopping center
    • Walking distance from pier
      • Umeke’s (not as good as da poke shack IMO)
      • Daylight Mind Cafe
      • Huggo’s – Fine dining or on the rocks – best sunset view
      • Basik Cafe
      • Lemongrass Bistro
      • Krua Thai Cuisine
      • Lava Java
  • Grocery shopping
    • For health nuts check out Island Naturals market!!!
    • Also a Costco, and big supermarkets all in town, easy drive
  • Must get gear
    • Get a souvenir shirt or two from Big Island Running Company

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