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5 Places to Run In…Honolulu

Hawaii's largest city offers breathtaking options for runners.

Welcome to paradise.

Honolulu, Hawaii is a picture-perfect tourist destination on the island of Oahu, and with gobs of scenery and beautiful tropical weather year-round, it’s also a great place to go running.

For some advice on must-run routes in Hawaii’s capital city, we reached out to Yovo Stefanov. He’s the Honolulu Manager of City Running Tours, a business that offers a variety of options to combine running and tourism—one-on-one personalized runs that take clients to whatever they want to see, personalized group runs, and scheduled group runs that visit the city’s most well-known attractions.

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Here are some of the spots that have proven to be a hit with Honolulu locals and those visiting Oahu.

Diamond Head

Near the famed Waikiki Beach is Diamond Head, the iconic volcanic cone that’s a staple of the Honolulu skyline. This is a popular spot for runners with a couple of different options. You can circle the base of Diamond Head via Diamond Head Road, or add to it by running through the Diamond Head crater and running/hiking to the top.

“The pictures from the top of Diamond Head will most likely make the cover of your Hawaii trip album,” Stefanov says.

Circling the base of Diamond Head totals about 5 miles. Adding a trip to the top increases it to about 8 miles with some serious climbing.

Historical Downtown Honolulu

Starting at Waikiki, runners can head toward downtown Honolulu and become immersed in the culture of Hawaii and its largest city. Downtown Honolulu features the King Kamehameha statue, Iolani Palace, the State Capitol, the Honolulu Financial District and the Aloha Tower, among other landmarks.

“There’s not a lot of the exotic beaches and tropical sites (on this run),” Stefanov says, “but a great dive into Honolulu’s history, culture and diversity.”

A round-trip run hitting these sites can total 7 to 8 miles.

Lanikai Pill Boxes

About a 30-minute drive from downtown Honolulu on the windward side of Oahu is the renowned Lanikai Beach. Near that is the Lanikai Pill Boxes trail, about a 5-mile loop with stunning views of Kailua and Waimanalo Bays.

“Trail running the entire ridge could add an optional 3 to 4 miles,” Stefanov says.

Manoa Falls

It’s hard to beat a run that passes a tropical waterfall. Just a few miles from downtown Honolulu is Manoa Falls, which drops 150 feet and is surrounded by tropical rainforest.

This run can be a blend of road and trails depending on where you start. While the trail itself is about 2 miles round trip, the waterfall is about 6 miles away from Waikiki.

Makapuu Point Lighthouse

The trail to this lighthouse was recently repaved, and runners can head up by the 100-year-old lighthouse that sits on a 600-foot sea cliff overlooking Makapuu Beach. On clear days, the islands of Molokai, Lanai and perhaps even Maui can be seen.

The run is only 2 to 3 miles, but it “pays off with breathtaking views and one of the best whale-watching spots on Oahu,” says Stefanov. Whale-watching season is December to April.

A few bonus spots

Here are a few additional spots that Stefanov recommends:

Koko Head Trail Challenge: “Test yourself against Koko Head Crater Hike’s 1,048 stairs, gradually increasing to 1,028 feet elevation in just 0.7 miles. The view at the top will make every step worth the effort.”

Tantilus and Roundtop Drive: “This 10-mile loop goes up over 1,000 feet elevation but features beautiful paved road through a tropical forest on the way up and amazing views of Honolulu on the way down.”

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