As the rest of the country returns from summer vacations and outdoor activities start to dwindle on the mainland, Hawaii is just gearing up for its most active seasons.
The Aloha State's tropical location means some of its biggest sporting events, from championship canoe races to the Ironman World Championship and PGA golf tournaments, occur in the fall and winter. Hawaii plays host to several tournaments and major events in the coming months that draw spectators eager to see budding stars from the college ranks, athletes at the top of their sport and some events unique to the Islands. In the last three years the Hawaii Tourism Authority has also launched partnerships with the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers and NFL's L.A. Rams to hold preseason games in the state and promote the Islands.
Here are some of the most exciting spectator sports coming to Hawaii in the coming months.
The Ironman World Championship: The first Ironman triathlon was run on Oahu in 1978, and the event moved over to Hawaii Island in 1981. More than 2,000 competitors will hit the Kailua-Kona area on Oct. 12 to test their limits in the grueling, 140.6-mile journey. Qualifiers start with a 2.4-mile swim, then mount their bicycles for a 112-mile ride, before topping it all off with a marathon.
Molokai Hoe: First run in 1952, this 41-mile outrigger canoe race from Molokai to Oahu across the Kaiwi Channel is considered the world championship of men's long-distance outrigger canoe racing and attracts more than 1,000 paddlers from around the world each year. This year the race begins at 8 a.m. on Oct. 13 at Hale O Lono Harbor on Molokai and finishes at Duke Kahanamoku Beach in Waikiki. The first canoes typically arrive around 12:30 p.m. to cheering crowds.
Vans Triple Crown: Winter, when big swells hit Oahu's north shore, is peak surf season in Hawaii, and these three events spread through the final two months of the year draw professionals vying for surfing's top prizes and plenty of spectators. The Triple Crown started as a grassroots local competition run by local Hawaiian surfers, and the first official three-event series was held in 1983. The Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa kicks things off on Nov. 12, followed by the World Cup of Surfing at Pupukea on Nov. 25 and capped by the Pipe Masters, featuring 60 of the best surfers in the world competing for more than $500,000 in prize money, at the famed Banzai Pipeline break on Dec. 8.
Maui Invitational: This popular NCAA preseason tournament has called the Valley Isle home for more than three decades. Held at Lahaina Civic Center from Nov. 25 to 27, the event features programs with championship aspirations, including Michigan State and Kansas, who are joined by other top programs such as UCLA and Virginia Tech.
Hawaii Open: Started as a Women's Tennis Association event in 2016, the Hawaii Open expanded in 2018 to include a men's bracket as well. The combined event will be held Dec. 26 to 28 at Honolulu's Neil S. Blaisdell Arena and features top players Sam Querrey, returning champ Kei Nishikori, Angelique Kerber, Danielle Collins and Misaki Doi.
Hawaii Bowl: Bowl games are as much about the destination as they are the competition, an excuse for college football fans to seek out sunny locales in the doldrums of winter. Even if your team takes a loss in the game, Oahu's beaches, hikes and destination dining options will make the defeat easy to stomach. The bowl, held at Aloha Stadium on Christmas Eve, pits one team from the Mountain West Conference against a team from the American Athletic Conference.
PGA Tournaments: Golfers set their sights on the Islands in the winter, with three pro tournaments held within the first three weeks of the year. It kicks off with the Sentry Tournament of Champions (Jan. 1 to 5). The event invites only winners of tournaments from the previous season, and is played at Maui's Kapalua course, which is undergoing a major renovation in 2019 to be unveiled in time for the 2020 tournament. The Sony Open follows Jan. 9 to 12 at Oahu's Waialae Country Club, and the Mitsubishi Electric Championship (Jan. 16 to 18) closes out the trio of January golf contests at Hualalai Golf Course on Hawaii Island.