Beautiful Kona Inspires the Toughest Competitors
The Ironman World Championship is the pinnacle competition of the Ironman sports world. Just qualifying to participate in this event is a true accomplishment for any athlete. The Ironman was started as a challenge among a group of Navy SEALs, then evolved into one of the most respected and recognized endurance events in the entire world.
The Ironman World Championship Course
In order to compete in the Ironman World Championship, athletes must pass one of the 28 qualifiers. The championship course consists of swimming 2.4 miles through open ocean; from there, the athlete bikes 112 miles and then completes a full marathon (26.2 miles).
There is no other course in the world like the one at Kailua-Kona. This particular course is grueling and challenges even the toughest of athletes. Originally, the Ironman course was held in Waikiki, but in 1981, it was changed to the barren lava fields of Kona. Black lava rock dominates the landscape, and the athletes have to battle each other, the very nature of the course and the Island itself. The hot sun averaging 95-degreese and the prevailing crosswind known as the “Ho’omomuku” combine to increase the already-significant challenge.
World Ironman Championship Course Location
Kailua-Kona is in the North Kona District on the Big Island of Hawaii. Because there is a larger Kailua, located on the windward side of Oahu, the locals just call this locale “Kona.” (Make sure, when planning your travels, not to get the two confused; specify “Kailua-Kona” as your travel destination so you end up in the right place!) When you arrive, make your way to Kailua Pier, the starting point of the Ironman World Championship.
Besides welcoming the Ironman World Championship every year, Kona also hosts the annual Kona Coffee Festival and the Hawaiian International Billfish Championship. Ali’i Drive is Kailua’s main downtown oceanfront street, which starts or ends, depending on your direction of travel, at the Kailua Pier.
While at Kailua-Kona, you’ll want to take time to visit some of Hawaii’s most historic attractions. You can head north from the Kailua Pier to see the royal residences of Kamakahonu, Ahu’ena Heiau and Hulihe’e Palace, which was in use by the Hawaiian Royal family until 1914. You can also visit the Mokuaikaua Church, which was built in 1820 and is recognized as the first Christian church in Hawaii.
Local area parks include the La’aloa Bay Park and the Kahalu’u Bay Park. The La’aloa Bay Park offers one of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii, if not in the world, earning it the moniker “Magic Sands Beach.” If you want world-class snorkeling, then Kahalu’u Bay is your go-to destination.
Kona also offers great vacation rentals. Make reservations well in advance to be assured of availability during the Ironman World Championship. A vacation rental is a great way to stay during an event like the Ironman Championships - see more about planning your race trip lodging in a rental.