One of the most popular and largest marathons in the world, the Honolulu Marathon had over 20,000 participants in last year’s race. This travel guide will not only provide you with information on the event but also with plenty of useful information regarding travel, hotels, restaurants and sightseeing information around the island of Oahu. This travel guide is also useful if you are in the Honolulu/Waikiki Beach area for other running events such as the Honolulu International Triathlon and the Hibiscus Half Marathon.
Honolulu Marathon Travel Made Easy
Held during one of the cooler months in Hawaii, the Honolulu Marathon starts at 5 am at the corner of Ala Moana Boulevard and the Queen Street Extension, near the Ala Moana Shopping Center. The finish line is at Kapiolani Park, not far from Diamond Head, in Waikiki Beach.
The course itself is exceptionally beautiful with its grand views of Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, Koko Head and the Pacific Ocean. The marathon course is mostly flat but with the exception of some hills around Diamond Head. Please note that due to the humidity, of Hawaii, you must take necessary precautions regarding hydration, as the average low in Honolulu in December is 68 degrees and the average high is 82 degrees.
There is a free shuttle service to the Honolulu Marathon Expo at the Hawaii Convention Center, not far from the Ala Moana Shopping Center, from various points in Waikiki. Mandatory Race Packet Pickup will be at the expo. The Honolulu Marathon is also hosting a very affordable concert and luau on Friday, December 9th at the Waikiki Shell in Kapiolani Park.
There is no shuttle service on race day provided by the organizers so if you are not staying close by, please plan ahead. There may be additional public transportation service running on race morning but check the The Bus website as you get closer to race day.
Getting to Honolulu
- Honolulu International Airport: The only major airport on the island of Oahu is the Honolulu International Airport, which is also the Hawaii’s largest and one of the busiest airports in the United States. At the airport you can find public transportation, taxi services, and car rentals. There are also affordable Airport Arrival Transfer, Airport Departure Transfer and Airport Round Trip Transfer services. The only direct public bus line is Route 20 on The Bus, Honolulu’s public transportation system.
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Getting Around Honolulu
- By Car: Getting around by car is fairly easy but expect traffic congestion from the airport to Honolulu and Waikiki Beach, particularly along Kalakaua Avenue, the main street between the two communities. If you are looking for a great site that compares prices for car rental companies, go to RentalCars.com. From a personal standpoint, I think it is best to have a rental car while in Honolulu/Waikiki Beach.
- Cabs: There are plenty of cabs available but because of the inexpensive public transportation, it generally is not necessary to take a cab.
- By Bus: The public transportation system in Honolulu/Waikiki Beach is aptly named The Bus. While affordable, bus service can be slow at times, particularly along Kalakaua Avenue. And something you might not see anywhere else except in Hawaii is that the bus operators all wear Hawaiian shirts!
- By Train: Although there is currently no train service in Honolulu, future service has been approved and construction is now underway. Information regarding the train service can be obtained by accessing the Honolulu Rail Transit website.
Where to Stay for the Marathon: Honolulu Hotels
Most of the better hotels in the city center are in the mid to high-end range, but there are several great accommodations to choose from.
Hotels Near the Honolulu Marathon Start
There are too many great hotels in the Honolulu/Waikiki Beach area to mention but the following 4 hotels are 1 mile or less from the starting line. We recommend any of these fine hotels for those who desire proximity to the start of the race.
(high end) The Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach and Resort Spa: The Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach and Resort Spa is one of the finest hotels in the Honolulu/Waikiki Beach area. Despite being the furthest hotel of these 4 recommended hotels, there is no question it is the most luxurious. There are several dining choices on this resort and even has a traditional luau! You might recognize a portion of this resort by its rainbow colored hotel tower overlooking Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head.
(mid to high end) The Ilikai Hotel: The Ilikai Hotel is one of the most famous hotels in the Honolulu/Waikiki Beach area. If you are old enough to remember the original Hawaii Five-0 television series, you might remember seeing this hotel in the opening credits with the Five-0 character Steve McGarrett standing on the balcony of one of the rooms. Just .8 miles from the start on Ala Moana Boulevard, the hotel has several dining options, most notably the Sarentos Top of the Ilikai Restaurant, which is an excellent choice for your carbo load the night before. I’ve stayed at this hotel and am confident you will enjoy a stay here.
(moderate to mid) Aqua Palms & Spa: The Aqua Palms & Spa in Honolulu is a great choice for affordable accommodations close to the start and Waikiki Beach. This hotel is and 10 minute and .9 miles from the start.
(moderate to mid) Equus Hotel & Marina Tower: The Equus Hotel & Marina Tower is another hotel that isn’t far from the marathon start, .7 miles south on Ala Moana Boulevard. All rooms have free high-speed Internet access and a refrigerator.
Our Top Recommended Hotel Close to the Start:
(moderate – mid) Ala Moana Hotel: The Ala Moana Hotel is an excellent choice for accommodations in Honolulu and highly rated by guests. One of the closest hotels just a few minutes away from the starting line, this hotel borders the Ala Moana Shopping Center property. There are two affordable restaurants on site, and the shopping center has other great choices for dining.
Hotels in Waikiki Beach
The following recommended hotels are in Waikiki Beach, closer to the finish line at Kapiolani Park, next to the Honolulu Zoo.
(high end) The Royal Hawaiian: The Royal Hawaiian is perhaps the island of Oahu’s most famous hotel with its pink art deco exterior right on Waikiki Beach. I’ve seen a luau here but the hotel doesn’t appear to have them any longer. However there are plenty of other restaurants on the property. Of particular interest is the famed Azure Restaurant for fine dining. The Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center is close by and worth visiting if you have time. Here you might see some free live entertainment at their outdoor stage.
(mid to high end) The Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach: The Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach is another great hotel right on Waikiki Beach and just minutes away from the finish line. The Outrigger Canoe Club is literally right on the beach and is a personal favorite for dining.
(moderate to mid) Sheraton Princess Kaiulani: The Sheraton Princess Kaiulani is a great bargain if you are looking for a hotel right on Waikiki Beach. The Sheraton, which is .6 miles from the finish line is well known for its Creation- A Polynesian Journey live show. It is also right next to the International Market Place, which is a personal favorite attraction.
(moderate to mid) The Park Shore Waikiki: The Park Shore Waikiki is a great choice for a hotel and only a 5-minute walk from the finish line! This is an incredible price for this prime location in Waikiki Beach.
Where to Carbo Load in Honolulu
There are plenty of places to carbo load for the Honolulu Marathon. I’ve already mentioned one hotel and will mention it once more. The Sarentos Top of the Ilikai Restaurant is definitely a place worth checking out for the carbo load. Another great choice is located at the Ala Moana Center: the Assaggio. If you are on a budget, then I recommend going to the International Market Place right on Kalakaua Avenue. It is a very popular location for shopping and has several inexpensive options for dining.
Things to Do in Honolulu
If you have never been to Oahu or even if you have visited many times, it is always worth looking into a discount pass that will allow you access to many of the top attractions in the Honolulu/Waikiki Beach area.
- The Honolulu Power Pass is a great option with over 30 different attractions to choose from, including some of the more famous attractions such as the Pearl Harbor/Arizona Memorial and Iolani Palace.
- The Go Oahu Card is also a great option for discounts and free admission to many of Oahu’s main attractions.
- The Honolulu Hop-on Hop-off Tour is great way to see many of the attractions in Honolulu such as the Arizona Memorial, Iolani Palace, Aloha Tower and Chinatown.
Look at Specialized Tour Packages:
If you are looking for specialized tour packages, then Viator, a great sightseeing and tour company can provide you with a wide assortment of interesting sightseeing ventures throughout the city. Some of my personal favorites are listed below but please view the entire offering by going to the Viator site for Oahu Tours.
Suggested Tourist Activities and Key Honolulu Attractions:
- Pearl Harbor: Perhaps the most visited site in Honolulu is Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial. You start at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. From there, you can take a boat ride out to the USS Arizona and pay homage to those who perished during the attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
- Diamond Head: The island of Oahu’s most famous and possibly the most photographed site. There is a path that will take you all the way to the top of the crater but not recommended, unless you have had a few day’s rest from the marathon. If you do head up there, you will have some incredible vistas of the Waikiki Beach area and the Pacific Ocean.
- Waikiki Beach: This is perhaps the most famous beach in the world. As you would expect, this is a great place to relax and maybe even for a swim in the warm waters of the Pacific. I actually got on a surfboard for the very first time here at Waikiki. Average ocean temperature ranges from 76 to 82 degrees, which is approximately the average swimming pool temperature.
- Duke Kahanamoku Statue: If you are in Waikiki Beach, you’ll definitely see this famous statue right on Kalakaua Avenue, next to the Waikiki Police Station.
- Royal Hawaiian: Even if you aren’t staying at this hotel, it is definitely worth walking in and seeing the lobby and the adjacent shopping center. It is just a short distance from the Duke Kahanamoku Statue.
- Iolani Palace: Formerly the official residence of the King and Queen of Hawaii, this historic building is now a national treasure. In fact it is the only royal palace in the United States. It is only 1.5 miles from the Ala Moana Center.
- International Market Place: Located right on Kalakaua Avenue, you simply cannot miss this popular place in the Honolulu/Waikiki area.
- Aloha Tower: One of the most prominent structures in Honolulu, this is a great place for shopping and entertainment. You will pass right the tower on your way towards Ala Moana Shopping Center.
- Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay: This is one of my favorite destinations whenever I visit Oahu. Located just a few miles away from Waikiki Beach the snorkeling here is really worth seeing!
- Polynesian Cultural Center: This interesting attraction is on the north shore of Oahu so if you don’t have a car, then consider taking an all day tour to this popular Hawaiian destination.
- Oahu Grand Circle Island Day Tour with Dole Plantation: A great full day tour of the island of Oahu and includes a visit to the Dole Pineapple plantation!
- Parasailing at Maunalua Bay: Located just before Hanauma Bay, Maunalua Bay gives you a spectacular view of the eastern side of Diamond Head. Parasailing in Waikiki is also another personal favorite and you are bound to have a great time!
- Waimea Falls: Another personal favorite, this beautiful park requires a car as it is about an hour’s drive from Honolulu. But it is worth it as you will feel as if you are in a literal paradise.
Useful Honolulu Travel Links
- Viator Oahu Tours
- Honolulu Power Pass
- Go Oahu Card
- The Bus
- Honolulu Marathon
About the Author: Randy Yagi is an endurance coach living in California. He is also a freelance writer working for Elance.com.