One of the hallmarks of the holiday season in Honolulu is the annual Honolulu Marathon. Taking place on the second Sunday of December each year (December 14, this time around), the run-up to the event is as much of a familiar sight during the holidays as the Honolulu City Lights display in Downtown Honolulu or throngs of shoppers clamoring for deals at Ala Moana Shopping Center.

The Honolulu Marathon is one of the largest in the world, with many thousands of runners from all over the world arriving on Oahu every year to run the challenging 26.2-mile course that runs from Ala Moana Beach Park into Downtown Honolulu before heading out to Hawaii Kai at Oahu’s southern tip and then back into Waikiki to finish at Kapiolani Park.

And although event organizers and City officials do a good job of minimizing the race’s impact on traffic congestion along the marathon’s route, snags are inevitable. Oahu visitors will do well to mind a few tips to avoid wasting a precious vacation day sitting in traffic (and they’re all precious).

Virtually the entire race route takes it along arterial surface streets, and all of them will see multiple lane closures. That means that a handful of popular visitor (and resident) destinations will be harder to get to on the day of the race. It runs along Ala Moana Boulevard, which means that Ala Moana Center and the retail areas of Kakaako and Ward Avenue will be even more hectic than a normal day at those places on a Sunday during the holidays (which can be pretty hectic anyway).

Hanauma Bay is certainly one of the most popular destinations on Oahu, and with lane closures along Kalanianaole Highway, the only way into or out of southeast Oahu, getting there by rental car or City bus will take significantly longer than normal. Plan on at least one hour from Waikiki if you’re determined to get there. And another hour back into Waikiki.

Of course, the best way to avoid snarled traffic along the Honolulu Marathon’s route is to avoid it altogether, as many residents do. Plan a trip to Windward Oahu or the North Shore, both parts of the island offering myriad experiences of the true paradise that Hawaii is. Or simply spend the day on the beach in Waikiki.

The Honolulu Marathon is truly an amazing spectacle, however, and many visitors make an effort to take it in. It’s important to know that there really is no ideal place to watch the runners stride past (or lumber or crawl) if you don’t have a house or a friend with a house along the route. Driving around looking for one is a lost cause. But if you do want to take in the 2014 Honolulu Marathon, your best bet is join the crowd at the finish line at Kapiolani Park at the foot of Diamond Head and cheer the runners on, and avoid traffic altogether.

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