Sporting activities in Hawaii's Big Island

They did not nickname Hawaii’s Big Island the Island of Adventure for nothing. From game fishing to canoe paddling, from horseback riding with cowboys to teeing off at one of the many sprawling golf parks, name it and the Big Island has it for you. You can surf the waters off the Kona Coast and trek around Kilauea Volcano, the world’s most active volcano. Or you can take a hike up the snow-capped Mauna Kea, the world’s tallest mountain as measured from the ocean floor. You can also scuba dive with manta rays at night. Only on Hawaii’s Big Island can you find all these exciting activities.

The Ironman World Championship

With the Big Island’s diverse landscape and climate conditions, it is no wonder that it is home to the Ironman Triathlon World Championship. Known also as Ironman Hawaii, it is a yearly sports competition put together by the World Triathlon Corporation. The championship has been hosted by the state of Hawaii since the competition was established in 1978. Ironman Hawaii is the grand finale of the qualifying races held all over the globe. Living up to its name, the triathlon is best known for its extensive TV exposure, austere race conditions, and grueling length. Typically, participants to the Ironman triathlon would need to swim 2.4 miles, bike a distance of 112 miles, and run a 26-mile marathon without as little as a pause for a break.

The marathon for the championship leg ends on Alii Drive in Kona, and Hawaii’s Big Island takes much pride in that. The Ironman triathlon championship used to be held in Oahu, but the race was moved to the Big Island in 1981, as the latter provides a more suitable venue for the race considering that Oahu has become a highly urbanized place. In a very particular order, the race begins in Kailua-Kona Bay with the 2.4-mile (3.86 km) open water swim, followed by the 112-mile (42.195 km) bike race across the Hawaiian lava desert to Hawi and all the way back. Before crossing the finish line on Alii Drive in Kailua-Kona, the triathletes would need to make their run along the Big Island coast from Keauhou to Keahole Point.

The Ironman Triathlon World Championship is a big event every October not only for the tourists and residents of Hawaii’s Big Island but among sports enthusiasts all over the world as well. The most recent Ironman champions were Craig Alexander from Australia for the men’s division and Chrissie Wellington from Suffolk, England for the women’s division. They competed in the 2008 Ironman Triathlon World Series which ended on October 11, 2008. The 2009 series kicked off with Ironman Wisconsin on September 7, 2008, and the championship is set on October 10, 2009.


With an Ironman tradition to boast of, the Big Island has its own marathon association. The Big Island International Marathon Association is based in the district of Hilo. The group organizes runs and other fitness programs on the island. An event will have you running miles along the coastline of the Orchid Isle, while enjoying the panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean. Both seasoned athletes and fitness buffs can work on their pace as they run past cascading waterfalls, through lush tropical rainforests and quaint fishing villages, and over single-lane bridges. As you break into greater speed, your huffs and puffs will be drowned by the sound of the rushing water of the river below. Big Island marathons usually finish at the remarkable Hilo Bay Front, and the certified course is among the most picturesque runs in the world. There are also interesting activities before and after the actual event, so even if you are not a participant, you can feel like one. There are health and fitness expos and energy-building carb dinners. However, registered participants get complimentary massages and other freebies given by a host hotel in Hilo. The annual event has three main categories: marathon, the half marathon, and the 3.1 mile run/walk. Each category has a male and female division. The schedule for the next run, the 13th Annual Big Island International Marathon, is on March 31, 2010. If you are a runner who happens to be planning a trip to the Big Island or one who has the intention of participating in the next run, you can go to the marathon association’s website ( for more details. You can fill out the entry form online as well.


Another highlight for sports aficionados on a holiday at the Big Island is golf. It is regarded as the Golf Capital of Hawaii. If you are into golf, you can tee off at the 18-hole Hualalai Golf Course in Hualalai Resort, one of the top resorts in the state. The golf course is a Jack Nicklaus Signature Design, but is exclusive to registered guests of the Kona Village Resort and the Four Seasons Resort.

You can also check out the unique designs of two Kona Country Club golf courses. One is the Alii Mountain Course, which used to be a playground for Hawaiian royalty. The 18-hole golf course design, which climbs into foothills and opens to a panorama of the coastline below Kona, is a challenge to avid golfers because there are more natural obstacles to encounter. Hole No. 7, for instance, is a 446-yard par 4 that will have you hitting a rock wall in a short shot—not to mention getting the ball into the lake fronting the green. On the Alii Mountain Course, a round of golf is a sightseeing experience by itself. The sights of rock walls constructed a long time ago by the Hawaiian people, wild goats grazing, and other spectacular views are just among its perks. The Ocean Course was designed by William Bell and has been open since 1967. Although it is longer than the Alii Mountain Course, it is the simpler and the more picturesque of the two. Golfers of any skill level will enjoy scoring on this course, which has the front nine sweeping down the Pacific. To the right of Hole No. 3 are waves breaking against the lava rock. The Kona Open is among the largest local golf events in Hawaii. Held in May of each year, the event is a 36-hole stroke play in both courses and is open to pros and amateurs with a handicap of 6.6 or lower.


If you are a tennis buff,you will be happy to know that the Seaside Tennis Club at Mauna Kea Resort in the Kohala Coast district holds daily clinics and round robin tournaments. The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is located on Mauna Kea Beach Drive in Kamuela. At the resort, you’ll find 13 tennis courts, all with a fascinating view of the ocean. Other tennis facilities include a full-service Pro Shop, matching service, plus a ball machine that you can use during practice sessions.

Water sports

If you’ve had enough of running, golf, tennis, and trekking, there’s still plenty of sporting activities that you can check out. Sport fishing is also popular in the Big Island. You’ll find a number of charter services in Kailua-Kona where you can book a sport-fishing boat which have been inspected and certified by the Coast Guard. You can do this for fun or for competition. All the necessary equipment will be provided by the chartered boat, and yes, you’ll get to keep your catch.

If you want the authentic Hawaiian water sport experience, surf at Lymans Bay on the west side of the island. Only Hawaiian royalty surfed there in the past. If you’re an advanced surfer, you’ll love Hapuna Point. If you want to put sports and history together, you can engage in the old sport that Hawaii’s earliest settlers were known for—outrigger canoeing. The Polynesian seafarers paddled their way to Hawaiian shores on outrigger canoes. Today, outriggers are used mainly for sports and recreation. There are plenty of outrigger excursions in the Big Island, so you can paddle a canoe with a seating capacity of 6 people and enjoy a view of the island from the sea. You can also rent a kayak to explore the waters all by yourself or with a partner, but it is better to go on a guided tour. Aside from being much safer that way, a guide knows where you can get to the best sceneries along the coast. For kayak and snorkeling tours, check out the website of Adventures in Paradise ( Their service is ideal for beginners, as even children as young as seven and the elderly up to the age of 80 can go on their guided tour of Kealakekua Bay and of the Captain Cook Monument. The trip is inclusive of kayaking and snorkeling instruction, snacks, drinks, gear, and transportation. For the big boys, Kona Boys ( takes pride in their laidback, island style surfing, scuba diving, and kayaking services. With the tagline, “you derive a good paddling,” Kona Boys allows you to choose from a half-day private tour to group tours, as well as sunset kayaking and overnight kayak trips

The waters of Hawaii’s Big Island are a big, exhilarating playground for “children” of all ages! You’ll never run out of sporting activities on the island. You can go deep-sea fishing, sailing, snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, body surfing, body-boarding, wind-surfing, kite-surfing, and parasailing, to name only a few.

Other sports you can do