Thousands of early risers will flock to the heart of Kailua-Kona Saturday to witness a grueling one-day challenge.
Scores of roads will be closed or restricted to accommodate the Ironman World Championship, which begins at 6:30 a.m. at Kailua Pier. Detours and traffic delays will also ensue as more than 2,000 competitors swim, bike and run their way through West Hawaii. Participants have 17 hours to finish the 140.6-mile journey.
The Hawaii Police Department advises motorists to be cautious of not just the triathletes, but also the more than 20,000 spectators, volunteers, Ironman staff and media. The public should also know the alternative routes and racecourse patterns beforehand, as well as plan accordingly, said Kona Patrol Capt. Randal Ishii.
The police department will have officers stationed at several major intersections and areas, where they’ll monitor and direct traffic. Several of the officers will work 18 hours or more Saturday, helping Hawaii Island visitors and residents reach their destinations and stay safe, Ishii said.
Just as important is being as mindful and careful the days leading up to race day, he added.
This applies as much to drivers as it does to the triathletes training on West Hawaii roadways and their entourages. Patience, caution and aloha are encouraged for all.
Various roads will be shut down, starting as early as Thursday morning. Although most West Hawaii main roads — except for Mamalahoa Highway — will be closed or restricted Saturday, several alternate routes are available.
Different areas along Queen Kaahumanu Highway between Palani Road and Kawaihae/Waimea Junction are restricted Saturday from as early as 7 a.m.
An alternate route for traffic between the hotels, Kona International Airport and Kailua-Kona is via Waikoloa Village Road, Mamalahoa Highway and Kaiminani Drive.
Those driving to Honokohau Harbor should arrive before 7 a.m. to avoid delays and travelers should leave at least an hour early to make airport connections. Drivers who work on Alii Drive, Palani Road or Kuakini Highway will either need to get to work early or park in an unrestricted area and walk. Those who park in areas impeding traffic will be towed.
Once the swim-to-bike transition is complete, traffic flow in town should be a little less congested. The public can anticipate it being difficult going anywhere on lower Palani Road during the first part of the bike course.
The following is a breakdown of road closures:
On Alii Drive:
c Kailua Pier and Kaahumanu Place will be closed from 9 a.m. Thursday to noon Sunday.
c The section of road between Likana Lane and Kailua Pier will be closed from 9 a.m. Thursday until noon Sunday.
c The section from Likana Lane to Hualalai Road will be closed from 9 a.m. until midnight Saturday.
c The southbound lane of Alii Drive will be closed between Hualalai Road and Kahaluu Beach Park from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday.
On Hualalai Road:
c The section of road between Alii Drive and Kuakini Highway will be closed from 6:30 a.m. to midnight Saturday.
On Kuakini Highway:
c On Saturday, the section between Palani Road and Makala Boulevard will be closed from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
c Traffic won’t be allowed on the stretch between Palani and Hualalai roads from 6:30 a.m. to noon with southbound lanes in the area remaining closed until midnight.
c The section of road between Palani Road heading south toward the Kahakai Estates subdivision will only be open to local traffic from 6:30 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
On Palani Road:
c The section between Kailua Pier and King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel will be closed from 9 a.m. Thursday to noon Sunday.
c The area between King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel and Kuakini Highway will be closed from 6 a.m. to midnight Saturday.
c The makai-bound lanes and one mauka-bound lane of Palani Road between Kuakini and Queen Kaahumanu highways will be closed from 6 a.m. until midnight Saturday.
On Makala Boulevard:
c The stretch of road between Kuakini and Queen Kaahumanu highways is closed from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
On Queen Kaahumanu Highway:
c Henry Street to Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority will be closed from 6:30 a.m. to midnight Saturday.
c From the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority to Kawaihae Road, the highway will be closed from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Those traveling to the airport should use Kaiminani Drive and those traveling to resorts should use Waikoloa Road.
c Akoni Pule Highway, between its junction with Kawaihae Road and Hawi, will be closed between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Access to Hawi is via Kohala Mountain Road from Waimea.
Road closure maps are available at the Kona police station during race week. Also, call the Ironman World Championship road closure hot line at 334-3400.