If you’re here to race and you’d rather not stay in the hot, expensive, touristy crush of Kailua town, please consider joining us here in South Kona. Sixteen miles south of Kailua, South Kona is still a peaceful, quiet, rural farming community with gorgeous nature and pristine water.
Looping Napo’opo’o, Middle Keei, Painted Church, and Keala O Keawe by foot and/or on the bike provides a stunning and difficult hill workout. These quiet country roads are lined with lush tropical plants, giant old trees, and cattle pasture. Swimmers can enter Kealakekua Bay via lovely little local Manini Beach, and enjoy clear water, pretty coral, and a stunning backdrop of golden cliffs. Captain Cook Monument trail is two steep miles offering up dramatic views of the whole South Kona coastline you can add to a Bay swim (Kealakekua is one mile across) or a Napo’opo’o run for more hill work. If you want a longer ride, you can always head south on Highway 11 towards Miloli’i and Oceanview, through cooling green forest for a change of pace from the hot Queen K.
There are plenty of restaurants in South Kona as well as a nice supermarket. We enjoy Manny’s Mexican, The Fishbowl, Annie’s Burgers and Beer, Strawberry Patch, Loko Wraps, Manago Hotel, Poke Shack, Big Jakes Island BBQ, Circle J’s, and Teshima’s.
I am passionately in love with South Kona’s tremendously scenic roads. Every time I get to go out I feel lucky to live here. There is no better way to get to know a new area than on foot. I was reminded of this during our recent family vacation when I took a little extra time to explore our temporary neighborhood on a series of long, slow, meandering runs, taking in the sights (cool local architecture), sounds (birds that are new to me), and scents (the unique local mix of flowers and trees). We always encourage guests to take things slowly on the Big Island, to walk, run, hike, swim, bike, or simply sit and get to know this beautiful place. Below is a detailed description of our neighborhood running routes. You can also of course bike all these roads. For a longer bike loop, we usually add an additional scenic southern loop following Highway 11 south towards Miloli’i.
Pu’uhonua, level-ish, hot, 8 miles: turn right out of driveway and head to the bottom of Napo’opo’o Road. The road will T at this point and you’ll be facing Napo’opo’o pier, turn left and head out Pu’uhonua Road.
First you’ll wind through a little village, then the road will open up and you’ll be surrounded by a desert microclimate with lots of acacia trees and black lava. The view uphill is beautiful, broad and vast across acres of raw land used as dairy cattle pasture. You’ll probably hear lots of birds and maybe a cow, see yellow butterflies flitting, perhaps hear a mongoose rustling in the dry leaves beside the road.
This route is the most level of the routes around here, but it gets very hot, and of course you have to come back up hill to our house (the toughest .8 mile ever). From our house to about the entrance to Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Park (road will begin to go uphill), is an 8 mile roundtrip run.
Painted Church: 7-8 miles, winding, shaded: take a left out of our driveway and head uphill to the stop sign, turn right onto Middle Ke’ei Road, follow Middle Ke’ei to the next stop sign at Painted Church, turn right and follow Painted Church. The first couple of miles of this run are the hardest, being steep, hot, and exposed. But once you get to Painted Church the hills will be rolling and you’ll mostly be in shade since this is a farming road with lots of old trees. The Painted Church itself is almost to the end of this road. If you go to the end and turn back, you’ll be just over 7 miles roundtrip. If you want 8, head up Keala O Keawe for about another .5 mile or so (just past the field on your left of barking border collies and a yellow fire hydrant). Painted Church is gorgeous. There are always birds on this route, usually a lovely soft ocean breeze, and tons of beautiful flowers (fragrant plumeria, hibiscus, ginger) and trees (coffee, mango, etc.).
Middle Ke’ei Road: 6 miles, winding, steady (easy), climb: Middle Ke’ei is quieter than Napo’opo’o and Painted Church (Napo’opo’o is a main drag for residents and Painted Church has a lot of tourists and tour buses at times because of the famous church). It is also a rural farm road, very beautiful with a huge breadfruit tree near the beginning, coffee fields, and mac nuts. You can connect Middle Ke’ei via Highway 11 with Keala O Keawe and Painted Church (going either way) for about a 12 mile loop if you want to go longer. Middle Ke’ei is quiet and often a bit overcast. If you are on your bike, Middle Ke’ei is the easiest road to take to get to Highway 11 to head south.
Napo’opo’o Road: 7 miles, steady winding hill climb, dramatic ocean views: Because Napo’opo’o is windy the climb isn’t bad. There are lots of twists and turns that offer up huge views of the ocean, mountain, and sky, especially on the way back down. Napo’opo’o is my favorite loop because of all the gorgeous plants and trees, fragrant flowers, singing birds, and the stunning views as you descend.
Keala O Keawe loop: 10-12 miles, long steep climb: You can head down Napo’opo’o, across Pu’uhonua, up Keala O Keawe, and turn in at Painted Church for 10 miles, or go up to the top of Keala O Keawe (where it meets Highway 11), and back to Painted Church for about 12. This is a long, hard run and feels like it should be more like 16 or 18 miles. Keala O Keawe is definitely more fun on the bike. It’s a long, steep hill with little shade. You are surrounded by cattle pasture and acacia trees, so it’s very scenic, but definitely hotter than the other roads. If you want an 18 mile run you can follow it to Highway 11, run up the highway to Napo’opo’o, then return down Napo’opo’o to the Inn. Running along the highway isn’t that fun, so I usually prefer loops on the lower roads.
Captain Cook Trail: 4 miles, steep, hard, gorgeous: You can combine it with the Napo’opo’o run but you may want to take some water. The trail is steep so it’ll take awhile if you add this on. The trail is shaded at first with huge trees and cane grass, and then opens up. You’ll be running on hard packed dirt, then lava rock. The views down into Kealakekua Bay are fantastic, and you can even get in the water at the monument if you feel up to it. Make sure you run back up the correct trail. I made a mistake once and followed a ranch trail north along the shore and went way off course. The run up the trail is hard but short.
Konaweana High School track: 5 miles from the Inn, turn left onto Highway 11 from Napo’opo’o, turn right onto Konawaena School Road and head uphill, track is on the left. You can keep running up this road for a seriously hard hill workout.