Ironman Kona is a HUGE deal for the triathletes (okay, you too some of the time) and they will be quite preoccupied leading up to the race. This means that you, trisupporter, need to find activities to do to occupy your time. You can easily find the most popular tourist things to do and in fact, you can find them right here on the TriWivesClub. We have done multiple articles on Kona with things to do, places to eat, and spectating tips. But, we thought you might like something off the beaten path, along with your tourist attractions.
We have a good friend who actually lives on the island and has for many years, so is helping us with some local tips. Plus, my in-laws have been visiting for years. We will be sharing both what we didn’t get to last year and tips from the locals. Take advantage of our insider knowledge and read our series on Beyond Ironman Kona…
TIP 1 – North Kohala
This tip is part tourist/part insider and requires a car. There is much to do in the North Kohala area of the island. You can either try and cram everything in one day or make a plan to visit over several days. Either way, to get there, head out of Kailua-Kona on Highway 19 (also known as Queen K) and take Highway 270. This will also let you see what the bike course is all about! As you get further north, you’ll notice a big change in the terrain, from lava fields to lush green and undeveloped pastoral fields. To the end of the road is about 60 miles. You will find multiple options of things to do in this area. Here are some of our favorites:
TAKE A HIKE (literally)
Go past Hawi on 270 to the end of the road, seriously. It’s about 8 miles. Here you reach Pololu Valley in North Kohala. You can take a 2 1/2 – 3 hour hike, depending on if you stop and enjoy the surroundings, which you should. You are on The Big Island and who knows when you’ll be back!
The valley has a black sand beach, but the surf is pretty rough, so it’s not recommended for swimming. You can hike down into the valley, pass the beach, and then go up and over another mountain, where you end up on a bench that seats two at the top of the mountain. You can still enjoy even if you’re by yourself….You can also hike further and then reach a waterfall, if it has recently rained. This is known to be one of the most spectacular views on the island. Be sure to carry a backpack with goodies to munch on, water, and sunscreen. You will also need sturdy shoes.
STOP FOR LUNCH
Somewhere along your journey in North Kohala, a MUST stop is at Gill’s Lanai in Kapaau, about 2 miles past Hawi. It is a fish and chips shop, Mexican restaurant, and hot dog joint rolled into one. The lobster tacos have been described as THE BEST EVER! It is owned by a friend of my sister-in-laws, who fulfilled a life long dream and moved to the Big Island with his wife. We all think about it, but they actually did it!! Teri claims she is being unbiased and that Gill’s Lanai is absolutely delicious and I have to say, after I checked some reviews, I agree. Kapaau is a cute little town with some interesting stores with local wares. The restaurant is located at 54-3866 Akoni Pile Hwy and open from 11am – 5pm. Oh, tell Jim, the owner, that Teri and the TriWivesClub sent you….
OTHER NORTH KOHALA ATTRACTIONS
- King Kamehameha’s statue in Kapaau – stop and see after lunch….
- Puukohola Heiau, which is a National Historic Site and home to the largest restored temple (heiau) in Hawaii. It is also part of the National Park System.
- Kahua Ranch if you want to bring out the cowboy in you and go for a horseback ride.
If you haven’t been to Hawi before, be sure to stop by and visit. It’s not very big, so it won’t take long, but hey, it’s where the bike turn around takes place for the race. They have many cute shops and restaurants. We always eat at the Bamboo Restaurant and Gallery.
We love to zipline and our favorite is Kohala Zipline, also in Kapaau. Jodi, Dana, and I all did this one a few years ago, so are speaking from experience. You will not only love the adventure, but receive an education while you’re doing it. This is the birthplace of King Kamehameha after all, so filled with Hawaiian history and the guides give you a history lesson while you’re up in the trees! We definitely felt safe and in good hands and had a ball. If you’re thinking about doing this, please make sure to call for reservations.
So, we hope you are able to take advantage of this tip and get out of Kona for a day or two. There is so much to see and do. Be sure to check back for TIP 2. If you need help with ANYTHING on the island, please contact our friend, Kathy Boyd, and she will be more than happy to help you out…
I also came across some great tips by fellow Traveling Mom, Kim Orlando, on the Kohala Coast should you want to explore more…