What to Expect at the Honolulu Marathon

Every year, 30,000-plus people holo (the Native Hawaiian word for “run”) the Honolulu Marathon. This makes it one of the largest, most popular marathons in the entire world. The race kicks off again this Sunday, December 10th, with people traveling to Oahu from around the globe to compete under the Hawaiian sun. Whether you’re cheering on an athlete, racing in the marathon yourself, or thinking of registering for the next Honolulu Marathon, it’s an unforgettable and beautiful course for everyone involved.


The 50-Year-Old Legacy Behind the Honolulu Marathon

The Honolulu Marathon was founded by Jack Scaff, Jr., a local runner and cardiologist who aimed to create an event that would showcase Hawaii and promote long-distance running. Scaff was inspired by the 1972 Olympic Games and his own belief in the health benefits of long-distance running.

The inaugural Honolulu Marathon took place on December 11, 1973. Since then, the marathon has gained popularity internationally, attracting runners from numerous countries (for example, in 2022, nearly 20% of the athletes were from Japan).


The Honolulu Marathon Offers Athletes and Spectators an Iconic, Beautiful Course

Held in December each year, Hawaii’s biggest marathon is especially popular for visitors because it’s the only warm and tropical marathon option for those from colder parts of the world. But even kamaʻāina (Hawaii locals) enjoy its unrivaled beauty:

  • A scenic route: The 26.2-mile marathon route traverses through Honolulu’s iconic landmarks. Runners and spectators enjoy breathtaking views of the city, the Waikiki Beach right in front of the Waikiki Resort Hotel, and notable sites like Diamond Head, the Koko Head volcanoIolani Palace, and downtown Honolulu’s Christmas lights

  • A connection to the ʻāina (land): The Honolulu Marathon integrates elements of Hawaiian culture and hospitality, making it a unique and memorable experience unlike most other marathons

  • A great cause: Each year, the Honolulu Marathon partners with various charitable organizations, allowing participants to run for causes and raise funds for important initiatives. 2023's participating charities include the Cancer Research Institute, the Children of Peru Foundation, To Write Love On Her Arms, and more.


How to Prepare for the Honolulu Marathon

Whether you’re in this year’s race or gearing up to join the Honolulu Marathon next time, treat your body with aloha and prepare ahead of time so you show up to the 5 a.m. start time feeling your best:

  • Registration: This goes without saying — you can’t run if you don’t register! Late registration for 2023 is available until December 9th, and pre-registration for the next Honolulu Marathon can be done online

  • Training: Ideally, you've trained adequately for the marathon distance, but thankfully, there’s no time limit and some people even walk the entire course. If you’re not ready for a full marathon, the Honolulu Marathon offers age- and ability-friendly alternatives, such as the Start to Park 10K and the Kalakaua Merrie Mile (a fun one-mile race that's child-friendly and takes place in the heart of Waikiki)

  • Packet pickup: Each year, packets are given out a day or two before the race. Pick up your running packet at the Honolulu Marathon Expo at the Hawaii Convention Center (1801 Kalakaua Avenue). The last day for pickups is Saturday, December 9th, and it’s critical to remember that there is no shipping option and packets are not handed out on the actual day of the Honolulu Marathon

  • Hydration and nutrition: Plan your pre-race meals and stay hydrated, as these are key for marathon safety and athletic performance. There are also 16 refreshment and hydration stations at regular intervals on the course

  • Start time and crowds: The marathon starts at 5 a.m., although your actual start time will be staggered and you’ll know your time when you pick up your packet. Expect a large number of participants and spectators, so plan ahead for traffic and parking in Waikiki

  • Weather: It can be warm and humid — check the Honolulu forecast accordingly. Expect a cool mid-60s temperature early in the morning, but keep in mind the average Honolulu winter temperature hovers around the 80s by 10 a.m.

  • The finish line: You'll receive a finisher's medal and a special shirt upon completing the Honolulu Marathon. There are also prizes, including a $25,000 grand prize for the first-place athlete. Don’t miss the delicious local food available at the finish line, including malasadas (a fried doughnut popular in Hawaii)

Over the decades, the Honolulu Marathon has evolved into more than just a race. It’s a celebration of athleticism, cultural diversity, and the spirit of Hawaii. Each year, it continues to attract people of all abilities who seek both a challenging course and a scenic journey through the heart of Honolulu. Perched right in the heart of Waikiki, the centrally located Waikiki Resort Hotel is the best place to stay this December whether you’re running the marathon or cheering the athletes on. Book your stay at the Waikiki Resort Hotel online or call us at 1-800-367-5116 to see why our location, friendly staff, convenience, and amenities give us top ratings among our guests (even if you aren’t a runner!).