With eight main islands and a total of 137 islands in the Hawaiian chain, the Aloha State offers you some of the most memorable landscapes found anywhere on earth.
While Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and others may not have famous international sports teams, there is still a lot for you to see as a sports and leisure tourist, or adventure sports fan.
Whether you are interested in watching a football game, rodeo, ironman, or tennis, there is something for you in Hawaii.
1. Surfing Events
Hawaii is the mecca of surfing, its traditional home, and the islands host several top-flight competitions every year.
Towards the end of the year, the north shore of the Hawaiian island of Oahu is home to some of the best waves on the planet.
Naturally, the best surfers around the world come to the island to compete in the Vans Triple Crown. The Triple Crown comprises three events, beginning with the Hawaiian Pro near the small town of Haleiwa.
Spectators line Ali’i Beach Park to watch the mesmerizing skills over the course of two weeks.
Attention then shifts to the iconic surf break, Sunset, where the Vans World Cup takes place. With waves rising as high as two stories, the fast-breaking walls test even the most talented surfer.
The final and third stop is the Billabong Pipemasters.
Over 40 of the top big-wave riders around the world show up to compete along the notorious Banzai Pipeline.
The incredible barrel waves make for entertaining viewing, with the surfers having to put it all on the line to win.
At the end of all three events, the men and women with the highest 6-ride total from all locations are crowned the champion.
A second famous event is the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational called. Named after Eddie Aikau, a legendary big-wave surfer himself, this event is the oldest and most prestigious big-wave competition in the world.
Because of the conditions needed to produce such surf, the event has no fixed date.
It can occur at any time between late December to the end of February.
Some years it may not run at all, however, when it does, crowds of up to 40,000 people flock to Waimea Bay to watch 24 of the best big-wave riders brave the giant breaks.
You can see if the event is going ahead when you are in Hawaii and stay up to date with future invitationals right here.
2. Golf Tournaments in Hawaii
With fantastic year-round weather and a landscape naturally lush and green, it should come as no surprise that Hawaii is home to many incredible golf courses.
Throughout the calendar year, golf legends, present stars, and future guns head to Hawaii to compete in a number of professional and amateur tournaments.
The biggest PGA event in Hawaii is the Sony Open.
A long-running tournament, the Open is also one of the biggest charity events in the state.
Since beginning in 1965, the tournament has been held at the Waialae Country Club near Honolulu on the island of Oahu.
The event was also a part of history in 2007 when amateur Tadd Fujikawa made the 36-hole cut at the impressive age of 16 years and 4 days old.
LPGA and Tournament of Champions
Other golf tournaments include the LPGA Lotte Championship held at the Ko Olina Golf Club in Kapolei on Oahu.
Another event you might want to consider getting tickets for is the Tournament of Champions, usually played at Kapalua Resort on the island of Maui.
The majority of major tournaments occur in the early months of the year, along with September and October.
3. Tennis Tournaments in Hawaii
Hawaiian Open Tennis
When it comes to tennis in Hawaii, the top option is the Hawaiian Open.
Held in the gorgeous surrounds of Honolulu, the open is usually one of the first tournaments on the calendar each year.
Despite only beginning in 2015, the Hawaiian Open still attracts some quality talent and often features some of the top-ranked players in the world.
Plus, under the balmy Hawaiian sky, there are few better places to kick back and watch some quality tennis.
Another way to watch some tennis in Hawaii is to attend the Champions Series event on the island of Hawaii aka the Big Island.
This event features legends of the past with big names such as Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, and Jim Courier playing in the past.
Not only will you get to see amazing tennis, but also the opportunity to watch some of the games’ biggest names compete in this tropical paradise.
4. Ironman World Championship
Held in Kona, the Ironman World Championship is the biggest ironman event in the world. Held annually since 1981, athletes head to the town of Kailua to complete the 236 km (146 miles) journey. The Ironman is the ultimate test of mind, body, and spirit.
An ironman is a triathlon pushed to the max and features a 3.86km swim, 180.25km bike ride, and ends with running a marathon.
Generally, there are cut-off times throughout the race and competitors must complete it all within 17 hours.
There are over 100 professional competitors who compete in the World Championship in Kailua, who are also joined by more than 2000 amateur athletes who want to push themselves to the limit and test their abilities against the best in the world.
5. American Football
Hawaii may not have any professional sports teams, but thanks to their local university, they have a top-flight college football team to support.
As you might appreciate college football attracts crowds as large as the professional NFL teams, in the U.S. College football is huge and a great way to experience American sporting culture.
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors compete in the NCAA Division for College Football and they offer you the best chance of watching some American Football during your time traveling through the Aloha State.
The college has played intercollegiate football since 1920 and found early success in that decade, going undefeated in back-to-back seasons.
While they never grew into a powerhouse, games still see between 20,000 and 30,000 fans.
The best way to secure your seat for a Rainbow Warriors game is on StubHub.
Hawaii also hosts a Bowl Game each year, called the Hawaii Bowl.
Held in December, this game features bowl-eligible teams from Division I College Football.
The football game is played in Honolulu.
6. The Stampede Rodeo
Hawaii may not be the first place that springs to mind when you think of cowboys and rodeos.
Yet their annual Stampede Rodeo is one of the best sporting events to witness when traveling through Hawaii.
Held in February each year, the three-day event has all the traditional rodeo competitions and flair.
You will also find some unique events that stem from the early days of ranching on the islands.
These include Double Mugging and the Po’o Wai U. The latter being the traditional Hawaiian way of capturing wild cattle and remains in use to this day.
Add in Bull Riding, Barrel Racing, and Bronco Bustin’, and the Rodeo has everything your inner cowboy needs. So polish off your boots and grab your tickets here.
7. Soccer (English Football)
The annual tournament is normally composed of teams from Canada, the USA, and Japan, and games normally take place at the Aloha Stadium.
Where to Stay in Hawaii
There are numerous great options although I tend to stay on the main islands and use that as a base.
Sports Travel Booking Resources
Traveling around the world to watch & experience sports, I tend to always use the same resources for booking trips. These are the ones I use most frequently and that I find to have great customer support and competitive prices.
- Sports Event Tickets – Tickets for all sporting events
- Get Your Guide – is an excellent site as a one-stop shop for booking attractions, local tours, activities, and excursions. Great customer service and an easy-to-use site.
- Booking.com – The best site I have found for hotel and accommodation bookings.
- Flights – are also now offered by booking.com and as I love the brand this is my first port of call now for flights.
- Safety Wing Travel Insurance – I love Saftey Wing as they cover everything I need to be covered and they have a simple-to-use site, and again, I have found their customer service very good, when I needed to ask questions.
- Hostelworld – Book backpacker hostel rooms around the world with Hostel World.