Planning a winter getaway or your next big trip for 2018? With countless mountain trails and 125 beaches, it's easy to stay active in the "Heart of Hawaii."

By Karla Bruning
December 05, 2017
Photo: Getty Images/M Swiet Productions

If you're looking to book a getaway this winter, look no farther than Honolulu, a destination with both a big-city vibe and outdoor adventure appeal. December is a busy time for active travelers to Oahu, with the Honolulu Marathon, XTERRA Trail Running World Championships, and Vans Triple Crown of Surfing taking over the roads, trails, and shores-just a few of the fit things to do in Honolulu. It's no wonder Honolulu is routinely one of the most popular holiday locations in the U.S., according to AAA, alongside Disney World and New York City (or that it sits at number three on our list of healthiest beach towns).

No matter what time of year you visit, it's easy to stay active in the "Heart of Hawaii." After all, unlike any other locale, you can you run one of the five largest marathons in the U.S., watch pros go head-to-head at the world championships of surfing, race on a world championship course yourself, and escape to rainforests, mountains, or pristine beaches, all within an hour's drive. Here, some of the best ways to take advantage of everything Honolulu has to offer. (Related: 2017 Shape Healthy Travel Awards)


Hit the road.

With 20,000+ finishers, the Honolulu Marathon each December is the fifth largest 26.2-miler in the U.S. It's also one of the most beginner friendly, with 35 percent of the field going the distance for the first time. The course-through downtown Honolulu, Waikiki, and around Diamond Head with oceanfront views-stays open until the last registrant finishes, usually after the 14-hour mark. The fresh malasada doughnuts at the finish line make it worth the effort.

Looking for a shorter race through paradise? Check out the 8.15-mile Great Aloha Run in February or Hapalua, the largest half marathon in Hawaii, in April.

If pedals are your thing, the Honolulu Century Ride and Aloha Fun Ride in September are, together, Hawaii's oldest and largest cycling event, with 4,000 cyclists tackling distances from 9 to 100 miles and traveling from Honolulu to the North Shore.

Year-round, take a tour with Bike Hawaii or Waikiki Bike Tours & Rentals to see Oahu from atop a pair of wheels.

Hit the trail.

The XTERRA Trail Run World Championship in December includes races for runners of all levels with half marathon, 10K, 5K, and adventure walking events. Known as the "crown jewel" of trail running, the courses take participants through the 4,000-acre Kualoa Ranch, the setting for Jurassic Park, Pearl Harbor, 50 First Dates, LOST, and many other Hollywood productions. The running weekend is one of the rare times the trails of the working cattle ranch are open to the public, treating runners to mountain, beach, rainforest, and sweeping valley views.

Feel like a hike? Climbing Diamond Head, the 1.6-mile round trip up Leahi crater's 760-foot volcanic cone, is a rite of passage for many Honolulu visitors. But if you want to get out of the city, head to Central Oahu's Aiea Loop Trail, perfect for a 4.8-mile run with tranquil views of Halawa Valley and the Ko'olau Range. The connecting 4-mile Kalauao Trail is a true steep hike to a waterfall. Want a bigger challenge? Experienced hikers with a permit can venture to the Ko'olau Range for shut-your-mouth views from the Poamoho Trail. Or lose yourself on one of the 40 other trails in Oahu's Nā Ala Hele, Hawaii's trail and access system preserving the runner tradition of ancient Hawaii.

For the wheel loving set, the North Shore Bike Park at Turtle Bay Resort offers 850 acres and 12 miles of mountain bike trails and sandy oceanside lanes. Trails range from easy to moderate, wide to single track, and include a practice pump track for perfecting your skills. The new Ragnar Trail Relay North Shore Oahu utilizes Turtle Bay's bike tracks for an overnight running relay, too.


Catch a wave.

Arguably the surf capital of the world, Oahu hosts the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing from November through December, when pros go head-to-head on the giant winter waves. The series culminates with the Billabong Pipeline Masters, where the sport's world champions are crowned at the famous Banzai Pipeline of Ehukai Beach, one of the most dangerous surf spots in the world.

The Triple Crown may be the most prestigious surf contest on earth, but with 112 miles of coastline you've got your choice of more than 125 beaches on Oahu. Take a surf lesson with Faith Surf School at Outrigger Reef or Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resorts. The lingering break at Waikiki makes it one of the best places to learn the sport. You'll be riding a wave all the way home by the end of your lesson. Already a pro? Book a personalized surf tour or try the uniquely Hawaiian sport of outrigger canoe surfing.

If you'd rather be in the water than on it, train for the Waikiki Roughwater Swim-a nearly 2.4-mile long race spanning Waikiki Bay. Or sign up for the Honolulu Triathlon, with Olympic, sprint, and relay options, plus 10K run, bike tour, and Run-SUP-Run courses.

Duke's OceanFest combines them all in a week-long summertime celebration of water sports, with swimming, longboard surfing, tandem surfing, surf polo, stand-up paddling, paddleboard racing, and beach volleyball competitions.

Photo: Na No'ola Spa

Find your center.

Active travel requires active recovery. And the 10,000-square-foot Na Ho'ola Spa at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa is a transformational experience, with ocean views and world-class treatments. Honolulu marathoners can treat themselves to a special marathon recovery massage, with peppermint, clove, and eucalyptus. Or try the Pohaku hot stone massage, which combines lava rocks with traditional Hawaiian lomi lomi massage-a healing art passed individually from one generation of practitioners to the next.

Looking to really dig into your inner self? The Wanderlust Oahu yoga festival at Turtle Bay Resort in March combines yoga, meditation, music, lectures, and more fit things to do in Honolulu in a three-day choose-your-own-adventure retreat.


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