Pro Tour Hawaii

The first Pro Tour of the 2016-2017 premier play season is Pro Tour Kaladesh in Honolulu, held on October 14-16. Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifiers are already underway, and anyone who scores a 13-2 record at a Grand Prix from now until the end of August also earns a qualification and airfare.

Honolulu has hosted several Pro Tours before, and I have fond memories of all of those trips. Not only because a Pro Tour offers high-level Magic competition and an exciting $250,000 prize pool, but mainly because Hawaii is an amazing location.

My trips to Honolulu would have never happened if it weren’t for Magic, so in this article, I’d like to use my personal travel experiences and photos to highlight a number of awesome places that you could visit before or after competing in Honolulu. I realize that the majority of my readers aren’t qualified yet, but I’d like to show you what a Pro Tour qualification could mean beyond the tournament itself, and I hope that it can give you the extra motivation you might need to crush your next PTQ or GP.

Let’s start with a short video from 2009, featuring a young Richard Hagon in a Hawaii shirt who visited a beach house. In that house, several Belgian players and I holed up in the week before the Pro Tour.

Banding together with a group of like-minded Magic players is a great experience, especially when you add some aloha spirit. Now, I can show you pictures of beaches, surfing, tropical drinks, and more, but I’m not much of a beach person myself. Instead, I prefer a good hike.

Diamond Head

If you also appreciate a good stroll but don’t have a lot of time in Honolulu, then head up the ancient volcanic crater known as Diamond Head.

Diamond Head from a distance
Diamond Head from a distance.

Diamond Head, a volcanic tuff cone, features a hiking trail that starts a couple miles from Waikiki, the likely location of your hotel during the Pro Tour. Bring a water bottle, reasonable footwear, sunscreen, and a cheerful attitude, and you can reach the summit in one or two hours. The trail features some steep staircases, but at the top, there is a World-War-II-era bunker and a coastal artillery observation platform with wonderful views of both Waikiki and the Pacific Ocean.

I’ve found it to be a good walk and a nice experience. If you go there early enough, you can be back for lunch and dive back into your Pro Tour testing. Or into the water. Whichever you prefer.

The view from the Diamond Head lookout
The view from the Diamond Head lookout.

Although you can have a great time around Honolulu on O’ahu island, you can make your trip even more special by adding 4-5 days on another island. Personally, I visited Kauai in 2009 and the Big Island in 2014, and I can recommend both if you have some days to spare after the Pro Tour. Inter-island flights are short and cheap.


Kauai is nicknamed the garden island because it features so much lush greenery. It’s not densely populated—there seemed to be more roosters than people—and there are no buildings taller than a coconut tree. Instead, the island is home to such natural wonders as Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali Coast.

My best memories come from hiking the Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali Coast together with a group of Belgian Magic players in 2009.

A typical view near the end of the Kalalau Trail
A typical view near the end of the Kalalau Trail.

In a nutshell, it’s a strenuous 11-mile trek to a secluded beach where you can camp overnight, shower under a waterfall, and walk back the same 11 miles the next day. The route is beautiful and takes you along valleys where you might expect a Velociraptor to jump out of the bushes at any moment (many parts of Jurassic Park were actually recorded on Kauai) and along huge cliffs with panoramic views of the coast. It was awe-inspiring.

On the second day, after packing up our stuff in the morning, we donated our not-so-lightweight tent and some spare strawberry jam to a topless hippie couple who lost their tarp in a storm a few weeks back. They were (illegally?) living in Kalalau valley year-round, only hiking out every few months to get food and supplies. Quite the life. Yet, they had never heard of Magic cards…

The river crossings are the easy part of the trail
The river crossings are the easy part of the trail.

All in all, the full Kalalau Trail is a serious hike, probably the most strenuous and dangerous I’ve ever done. The trail goes up and down around the coast, and you need to be prepared with permits, camping gear, water filters, and so on. Around the mile 7 marker, the trail turned into a narrow ledge, where one misstep could lead to a plunge hundreds of feet down the cliffs. So warnings are in order. But the scenery was stunning, so if you’re an experienced hiker, then I can wholeheartedly recommend it. Alternatively, you could marvel at Na Pali Coast from the sea or the air.

The Big Island

The Big Island, also known as Hawaii, is the largest island of, confusingly, Hawaii. I visited it together with several other Pro Tour competitors in 2014 after the Pro Tour, and the highlight was that I got to visit Volcanoes National Park, where I could see glowing fume clouds, witness the destruction and creation of new land, and walk across hardened lava lakes.

The Kilaueu Iki crater—a great place to take a stroll
The Kilaueu Iki crater—a great place to take a stroll.

Although there was no immediate danger—lava moves slowly—the Kilauea volcano is active and erupting. When we were there, lava was flowing toward a small town on the island, threatening to engulf homes and waltz over roads. That’s life on the Big Island.

In the park, you can drive along the so-called Chain of Craters Road, a 19-mile winding paved road, often with hardened lava on both sides. Lava has flowed over the road on multiple occasions, making for some unusual sights—the drive ends where a lava flow has literally overtaken the road.

Oh really?
Oh really?

Of course, there is more to Hawaii than hikes and volcanoes. Beaches abound, and on the Big Island there are several beaches with sand in peculiar colors. One tip, from experience: If you plan on visiting Green Sand Beach, which is several miles from the parking area, then don’t do that casually at 6 p.m. in the evening. Hawaii is somewhat close to the equator, which means that darkness falls almost instantly after sunset. Although Magic players are good at solving puzzles, finding your way back in pitch dark is not a skill that the game cultivates…

Looking Ahead

I haven’t heard the “play the game, see the world” slogan lately, but it still holds true. If you qualify for Pro Tour Kaladesh in Honolulu, then I recommend you take the opportunity to experience Hawaii in the best way possible. And if you don’t qualify, you could still make the trip—I know a number of people who have traveled there during a Pro Tour without a qualification, and they had a great vacation with fellow gamers.

Next season, the Pro Tour also revisits two other locations (Dublin and Kyoto) for the second time, and I am really looking forward to going to both again. I would be happy to offer similar sightseeing tips and experiences for Dublin and Kyoto if you want to see more articles like this. The full schedule for the 2016-2017 season Pro Tours is as follows:

  • October 14–16, 2016: Pro Tour #1—Honolulu, Hawaii
  • February 3–5, 2017: Pro Tour #2—Dublin, Ireland
  • May 12–14, 2017: Pro Tour #3—Nashville, Tennessee
  • July 28–30, 2017: Pro Tour #4—Kyoto, Japan

To qualify, you can find a list of PPTQ locations here and the GP schedule here. Hope to see you at the Pro Tour!

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