It’s that time of year again, Kona time. For many people, Kona is the pinnacle of hours, days, months and years of training.
Touching down on the Big Island is akin to landing on hallowed ground, and the atmosphere is electric. I doubt anywhere in the world has such a concentration of fit, tanned, lycra-clad bodies in the world than Hawaii in October!
You’ve made it. You’re looking out onto the turquoise waters, taking in the raw beauty of the home to the world’s toughest endurance events. Your bike arrived unscathed (yay- and phew!) and your bags are sitting in the corner of your hotel room, ready to be unpacked. So what now? You don’t need any more race day tips, but you DO need to know; where is the best coffee and food in town?!
The Kona experience is mostly about the big race day, but there is so much to do in the lead up which just adds to the Hawaiian experience. And it is so fun to share with family, friends and supporters.
Just be sure to save your feet for race day 😉
1. Basik Cafe: I cannot recommend this little Acai shack along Ali’i Drive enough! Their cold and delicious Acai bowls are amazing for a post training re-fuel. For the uninitiated, these bowls are essentially a thick fruit smoothie, loaded with yummy toppings. Unfortunately, they’re not open race day, so get in before and after – the perfect recovery fuel!
2. Island Lava Java is an awesome cafe that adds a special Ironman race week menu with big bowls of rice and veggies and healthy options (this can be tricky to find with lots of ‘american style’ cafes serving burgers and chips!). Their turkey burger and sweet potato fries are amazing too.
3. Huggo’s on the Rocks is also a very casual (and yummy) cafe with a great menu and cocktails for the days after the race!
4. Loko Wraps – fresh tasty healthy island style Mexican food
5. Da Poke Shack – awesome selection of poke bowls – these are Hawaiian rice bowls full of super fresh fish and colorful toppings.
6. Longboard Legends Pizza – huge delicious pizzas perfect if you are looking for extra carbs!
Daylight Mind coffee in Kona looks out over the beautiful swim course and serves fantastic coffee. It’s pretty hard to beat! There is also a great spot – Cafe Hawi – at the bike turn around.
If you have a support crew with you, tell them to park themselves at Kona Haven Café. It’s right on Ali’i drive and has plenty of chairs to relax in, ice-cold lattes, fans, and shade. A great viewing spot to watch all the crazies sweating it out on course for 10 hours or more!
DIG ME BEACH
Dig Me beach marks the start of the Ironman swim (at the Pier) and the week before the race they have the course marked out for anyone to swim. You’ll see lots of pros out doing their final swims and there are always lots of people out swimming, which makes it feel very safe. The ocean is amazingly blue and there will be a good chance you’ll see a pod of dolphins up close. The best bit though has to be the coffee boat! Yep, there really is a boat out in the ocean that serves free coffee! Just swim out and grab a brew- take a GoPro for some incredible photos along the way too!
Out of town a bit is a place called ‘The End of The World’. It is just off Ali’i Hwy (where it turns into Mamalahoa Bypass Road). The End of the World lives up to its name. Made up of volcanic rock that drop straight into the ocean, these cliffs are not for the fainthearted! The contrast from black rock to bright blue is amazing. If you are game you can jump off the rocks, you are likely to see lots of pros and others doing this post-race. I would recommend good swimmers/climbers do it. Please be safe!
For those interested in history of the island, The End of the World is also the place of the Lekeleke/Kuamo’o Burial Grounds. These grounds mark the graves from a battle that took place in 1819 between two Hawaiian tribes over changes to their religious system influenced by Westerners. It is an interesting spot for a battle, considering its rocky, unforgiving terrain, and it’s difficult to imagine how a big battle happened in such a challenging location.
Ali’i Drive is the place to run to take in the general vibe for training runs and to play #protriathlete spotting! If you keep going along Ali’i drive the road winds its way up and the views when you turn around are amazing. In the week leading up to race day, there are pop up aid stations all along the road, so you can try new products or get a well needed drink as you train.
Manta Ray tours are a must. These can be booked anywhere in town and are good to do after racing. You swim at night, just off shore, with massive manta rays and it will be an unforgettable experience.
For those triathletes with any cash left over after buying out the IM merchandise store (!) think about booking a helicopter tour of the volcano. It isn’t often you can fly over an active volcano, and the Big island is one of the best places in the world to do it! I’d do this post-race, as the best place book it from is on the other side of the island.
Well, they are our favourite things to do in Kona…. other than RACING!!
What a beautiful island, and if you take the time to soak it all up you will be truly filled with the spirit of aloha before you stand on Dig Me Beach for the biggest race of your life.
Most of all, we want to wish every single athlete racing all the very best.
Stay hydrated, fuel well, race hard, and enjoy every minute!!