Great Runs in Honolulu

Karin Emanuelson
Jul 12, 2016 · 9 min read

Honolulu is the vibrant epicenter of Hawaii. Here you’ll find everything from historic landmarks and treasured monuments to world-class shopping and a flourishing arts and culture scene. The city is also a major hub for international business, military defense, as well as famously being host to a diverse variety of east-west Pacific culture, cuisine, and traditions.

Honolulu is home to some of the most beautiful running routes, and the good weather makes it ideal for year-round training. The running scene centers around the water. Highlights include the famous Waikiki Beach and the Diamond Head volcano. Most of the running routes are concentrated around Waikiki, which is accessible from the main downtown hotels.

Honolulu’s TheBus system operates 107 routes serving Honolulu and most major cities and towns on Oahu. The Honolulu International Airport (HNL) is located 10 miles from Waikiki, and six miles from downtown Honolulu.

Honolulu has a hot, semi-arid climate with a mostly dry summer season, and a more humid winter season. Average rainfall of 17 inches occurs mainly from October through April in tropical downpours. Temperatures vary little throughout the months, with average high temperatures of 80–90 °F and average lows of 65–75 °F. Honolulu has an average of 278 sunny days and 90 rainy days per year.

Iconic Runs

  1. Waikiki Beach
  2. Kalanianaole Highway
  3. Diamond Head
  4. Ala Moana Park and Magic Island
  5. Ala Wai Canal

Waikiki

4.85 mile loop Start/End: Waikiki Aquarium

If this is your first time in Honolulu, this is a must-run route! This route tours you through Waikiki Beach, Honolulu’s beachfront neighborhood, with views to the water, crashing surf, and the Diamond Head Volcano. Many hotels are located in the area. Our run begins in the well-used Kapiolani park. From here you will follow Kalakaua Ave, to continue along the coast with views of the crowded 2 mile long beach full of surfers, and the high-end stores and tourist shops. After about 1.3 miles take a left turn onto Lewers St. and then a right onto Kaila Rd. at the T intersection. Continue to run around Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon and return back towards the start along the Fort DeRussy Boardwalk. If you’re looking to add an exercise circuit into your run, stop in Fort DeRussy Park and visit the outdoor gym. It is possible to run on the beach but the sand is soft and it can get crowded. This route has been formulated to see all the sights while staying on paved pathways and sidewalks. The beach is 2 miles in length.

Paid parking ($1/hr) is usually easiest to find around Kapiolani Park or the Zoo parking lot.

Kalanianaole Highway

16.9 miles out-and-back Start: Fort Ruger Park

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This route is inspired by the Honolulu Marathon. Beginning in Fort Ruger Park on Diamond Head Road, the route passes through residential and commercial areas of Kahala then merges into Kalanianaole Highway. Along the highway, you will be running in the bike lane. This route will get you away from the tourist sites of Waikiki and open your eyes to Honolulu’s hillside communities. Enjoy views of side roads that curve steeply up the mountains and expensive homes perched precariously on cliffs.

In the seventh mile, runners turn left onto Hawaii Kai Drive through residential Hawaii Kai and around an inland waterway. The course turns right back onto Kalanianiole Highway at Maunalua Bay Beach Park. In your view for this part of the loop is Koko Head, a volcanic crater eroded on one side by the ocean into the popular snorkel spot, Hanauma Bay. At mile 14, the course turns left onto Kealaolu Avenue and winds you pass the Waialae Country Club through a neighborhood of luxury homes, back to your starting point.

Because this route is located along a highway, I would recommend this route only during the weekends when numerous runners and running groups flock here to train. That said, don’t let the highway scare you away. This route was recommended by various local runners and running stores, and there is a wide shouldder. If you’re not up for the distance, adjust the out-and-back to your desired distance.

Diamond Head

3.95 mile loop. 206 foot elevation. Start: Kapiolani Park

This is a great big loop around Honolulu’s most iconic landmark, Diamond Head. The route also leads up a hill which opens to sweeping views of the East side of Honolulu. Along this run, you’ll see high-end homes, beautiful city parks, surfers on the beaches below, and migrating humpback whales if you’re there at the right time of year. It’s hilly: 200 feet elevation gain in just under 4 miles.

Begin your run along Paki Ave and continue straight onto Diamond Head Road until you get to Fort Ruger Park. Take a left to continue on Diamond Head road and back down the hill to Kapiolani park. Look for the water fountains by the lookout, Fort Ruger Park, and by Kapiolani Community College. At the end of your run, you pass a number of eateries on Montserrat if you want to reward yourself with a coffee or snack. Another great add-on for this route is to time it with the at Kapiolani Community College.

If you really want a work out, add in a visit to the Diamond Head State Monument ($1/person to walk in) and climb the 99 stairs to Diamond Head’s scenic overlooks. The hike takes about 40 to 60 minutes to reach the 760-foot summit of Diamond Head, a volcanic tuff cone. With all the visitors here, you will not be able to run to the top. No worries however, the steep incline will keep your heart rate up!

There’s paid parking in Kapiolani Park along Kalakaua Ave and free parking around Fort Ruger Park and some of the surrounding neighborhoods.

Ala Moana Park and Magic Island

3.o mile loop Start: Ala Moana Blvd. + Opp Atkinson Dr. Bus Stop

Ala Moana Park contains a beach and grassy area that is routinely flooded by Oahu athletes on evenings and weekends. The park is 3 miles east of downtown and 2 miles west of Waikiki Beach. A network of sidewalks allows you to run along the beach, throughout the main park, and throughout Magic Island. This 3 mile loop is flat and paved. You can park free within Ala Moana or in to the marina, but you may have to wait for a spot as they are popular with surfers.

Ala Wai Canal

3.66 mile loop. Start/End: Ala Wai Community Park

This is a pleasant waterside run just north of Waikiki Beach. The Ala Wai Canal and park parallels the river on the Ala Wai Boulevard. It’s popular among local runners for its light traffic and a well maintained path. Watch paddlers in their outrigger canoes while you work up a sweat. It’s a nice add-on to Waikiki Beach for those who want a longer run.

To run this loop, begin running through Ala Wai Park past the elementary school until you reach Date Street. Turn right, run along the golf course until you hit Kapahulu Avenue, where you should make a right. Finally, run along Ala Wai until you turn right onto McCully Street to cross the Ala Wai Canal and complete your loop. The path begins as an asphalt bike path and turns into a cement sidewalk on Kapahulu Avenue.

Further Afield

  1. Lanikai Loop, Kailau
  2. Kailau Marsh Trail and Beach

Lanikai Loop

3.4 mile loop Start/End: Kailua Beach Park

An easy, flat course through the upscale neighborhood of Kailua takes you along beach access roads to enjoy beautiful views in a quite part of town. Park at the nearby Kailua Beach Park and run south pass the Lanikai Monument. After the monument, bear right onto Aalapapa Dr. follow this road to the end where it loops left onto Mokulua Dr. This loop has only a few short hills and light traffic. Along the route you will be running on a well established bike path, where cyclists and runners share the road. After your run, head down any of the beach access roads on Mokulua Drive to relax on the picturesque sandy shore. The beaches in this area are not to be missed!

Kailau is about a 35 minute drive from Waikiki. Free parking is available at Kailau Beach Park. To access this route by public transit, take the bus Route 57A Kailua — Keolu Drive from the intersection of Mahukona St and Atkinson Dr in Waikiki, until the Kailua Rd and Hahani St stop.

Kailau Marsh Trail and Beach

5.88 mile loop Start/End: Kaha Street

Also in Kailau, is the Kawainui Marsh Trail. This trail travels through Kawainui Marsh, which encompasses over 800 acres of beautiful wetlands. Along your run, you will get incredible views of the majestic Ko’olau Mountains, as well as spot some endangered birds and wildlife. The 1.3 mile (one-way) half-paved/half-gravel path is quite popular among the locals and seemingly the preferred running, walking and biking route in the area. You may just want to run out and back on this trail or incorporate it into the loop mapped above.

To run the loop, take a right onto Kailau Rd. at the end of the path. Follow this road until you reach N Kainalu Dr, where you should turn left. Run along through residential neighborhoods until you reach Kaha St. Turn left and complete the loop. Parking is available at the end of Kaha St. To get to this route by bus take Route 56 — Kailua-Kaneohe from Ala Moana Center, until the intersection of Oneawa and Kaha Street. Walk less than half a mile to the end of Kaha, the trail is on the right.

Stay

If you want to be at the heart of all the action, then Waikiki is the place for you. There’s an abundance of hotels within walking distance of the beach. All of the iconic routes (Ala Moana Park and Magic Island, Waikiki Beach, Kalanianaole Highway, Diamond Head, and Ala Wai Canal) are easily accessible if you chose to stay in this area.

Running Stores and Group Runs

Kapahulu Avenue. A Store for Runners… By Runners.

Kamehameha Hwy. Weekly Run on Tuesdays at 5:30 PM at Runner’s Hi.

Organized by the Department of Parks & Recreation this training group meets on 6am Sunday mornings.

Kapiolani Blvd. Largest specialty running store in Hawaii. Host 4-7 mile group run every Tuesday 5:30PM.

University Ave. Family-run shoe store with sporty & informal brand-name selections.

Ala Moana Blvd. Top quality foot products, with expert advice and service. They specialize in helping runners with injuries and ailments.

Kailua. About a 20 minute drive from the city of Honolulu, but the outstanding customer service you’ll receive from owners Jeff and Lisa make it worth the time and gas.

Events

Running events in Honolulu tend to draw smaller and more international crowds. Experience the running community by joining a race!
.

Some of the major events are:

December.

April. Half Marathon.

February. 8.15 mile run from Aloha Tower to Aloha Stadium

May. Hawaii’s wackiest race where participants chase life size bananas around the beautiful Ala Moana Beach Park and Magic Island.

April.

March. Women only event around Diamond Head and through Kahala and returning to Kapiolani Park.

May. Run through the hills of beautiful Wahiawa and the surrounding pineapple fields. Don`t forget to pick up your free pineapple at the finish!

Great Runs

Ultimate Guide to the Best Places to Run in the World's…

Karin Emanuelson

Written by

Great Runs

Ultimate Guide to the Best Places to Run in the World's Major Cities and Destinations. www.greatruns.com @greatruns by Mark Lowenstein

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