A plane taking off, travelling to Hawaii

When is the Best time to travel to Hawaii?

You’ve decided you want to go to Hawaii for one of the greatest holidays you’ll ever have. And it’s not a bad decision at all because Hawaii gives you a lot of beautiful experiences, adrenaline, sunsets, water sports and relaxing on its mesmerizing beaches. But it’s good to know when is the best time to travel to Hawaii for the kind of holiday you are planning.

Therefore, you should know some things about the state Hawaii, which actually includes the entire volcanic Hawaiian archipelago; this means that hundreds of islands are actually waiting for its tourists, out of which the main islands are the following: Niʻihau, Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, Kahoʻolawe, Maui, and the Island of Hawaiʻi – selected in geographical order, from the northwest to the southeast. The last one is often called ‘The Big Island’ in order not to confuse it with the state or the archipelago.

Located at the edge of the tropical zone, Hawaii has two seasons, both warm: the dries season corresponds to summer, from April to October and the rainy season (big waves and more rain) is represented by winter, from November to March.

Oahu Beach - ocean view in Hawaii
Oahu Beach – ocean view in Hawaii

Generally, Hawaii doesn’t have noticeable differences concerning the temperatures; being located close to the Equator, during summer months temperatures vary between middle to upper 30°C when it’s daytime, and then in winter months they are between 20°C-30°C. An important aspect of rainfall in Hawaii is that usually, rain falls overnight than during the daytime, so you shouldn’t be worried about it that much.

The rainy season is supposed to last during winter time, from November to March; but there are barely some daily showers which last for a few hours and the sun brightly returns. Usually, tourists from the northern parts of the USA escape the cold with a planned holiday in Hawaii. But remember that a little rain can happen any time of the year in Hawaii for a short period of time, no matter the area – obviously, certain parts of every island get more rain than others!

As a general rule, the leeward (western and southern) sides of the island in the Hawaii state are warmer and drier, while the windward (northern and eastern) are cooler and wetter.

If you are concerned about the prices for tourists, Hawaii makes no exception considering the interdependency between prices and crowds. Therefore, the high season implies that the more tourists that come, the higher the prices.

Usually, the best months for travelling to Hawaii – in terms of fewer crowds, weather and best price deals – are May and September, but also the end of April and the entire October; the beginning of June is also recommendable before kids finish school. Beware of the ‘Golden Week’ in Japan when a lot of Japanese tourists take a vacation in Hawaii.

If you want to visit a certain island, it’s really important to know the conditions each main island presents.

Hawaii palm coconut island

Kauai

You should know that Kauai, also called ‘The Garden Isle’, has pretty stable weather, even during the wettest months, starting from late November to March. For example, in January, highest daytime temperatures reach average 25°C, while August seems to be the warmest month, with average evening lows of 23°C and daytime highs of 30°C.

On the subject of the rain periods, it seems that the driest months are between April and September; anyway, rain showers are brief and immediately followed up by the sunshine, so it shouldn’t ruin your holiday, especially since rainfall helps the waterfalls flow.

No matter the time and the temperatures, don’t hesitate to plan a vacation in Kauai during winter. For example, throughout this time of the year humpback whales migrate to Hawaii and it’s a perfect time to book a Whale Watch Cruise!

Kauai | Hawaii
Kauai | Hawaii

You should also keep in mind that not only seasons influence the weather, but also different parts of the island. Therefore, North and East Coasts are wetter than the rest of the island, while the driest locations are in South, near Poipu, or further West. Keeping that in mind, if you plan a vacation during a wetter month, you can go to drier areas.

Even though the average humidity is about 70%, the prevailing trade winds from the North helps; furthermore, staying in a room with an air conditioner is a good solution, along with light clothing.

Considering the best deals, you should plan your vacation to Kauai during April-May or September-early December, without including the Christmas time, since it will be really crowded!

Oahu

One of the most preferred islands in Hawaii by tourists, Oahu not only has great weather year-round, but it also has some of the most beautiful sceneries. Summer months’ temperatures go from low to mid 30°C, with July, August, and September as the hottest months, while the winter months’ highest temperatures are around 30°C, with January and February as the coolest months. Take a sweater or jacket with you for cooler winter or spring evenings!

Concerning the rain, usually, autumn and winter bring more precipitation to the islands, making it greener. As with Kauai, after the brief sometimes stormy showers, the sun always appears in the sky. Usually, the North Shore gets a little more annual rain, while the driest regions hold two large areas with hotels on the beach.

During winter months, especially the Eastside sees more rain. If you already think about accommodation, throughout April-May and August-November, the best deals wait for you in Oahu, since it will be the lowest season. Winter months are also great to visit in the winter months, from December to mid-February, if you want to surf. Humidity in Oahu is around 64% and there are several ways you can fight it, already mentioned in the Kauai case.

Maui

Maui makes no exception from the other islands, being warm throughout the entire year. Cooler months, like January and February, might require you to wear a jacket to keep you warm in the evenings, when temperatures drop to about 17°C.

The temperatures during the day are about 27°C, while summer days present an average of 30°C. Maui also has cooler regions, like Kula, which shows lower temperatures. The more you climb towards the summit of Haleakala, the colder it gets.

The rainiest months in Maui are December, January and March. But don’t let yourself be fooled – there are plenty of sunny days. However, there are rare times when the weather becomes really unpleasant, whenever a winter storm covers the island with cloud and rain. The sunshine following the rainfalls can sometimes lead to rainbows, which represent a sign of good luck, meaning for visitors that they’ll one day return.

It’s good to know that the resort areas from the West and South of Maui will be the sunniest; therefore, during winter is better to stay in the South which is much drier compared to the East. The good news is that Maui is always good for water sports and swimming throughout the year.

The Big Island of Hawaii

Like the other islands, The Big Island of Hawaii is perfect for visiting at any time of the year. However, there are better months, like for example April and June or between August and early November, when you can find better deals due to the small number of tourists.

Busy times are Christmas holidays and summer months when families come with their children. Also, beware of the big events, like the Merrie Monarch and the Ironman competition, because they always mean crowds of tourists start visiting the island.

Due to the fact that it’s the closest to the Equator, the temperatures vary even less throughout the year; for example, evening temperatures go from 15°C in the winter to 20°C in the summer. This is the situation for major beaches, but higher elevations, like for example Volcanoes National Park involves cooler temperatures.

If you want more sunny days during your vacation, the best choices are Kohala Coast and Kailua-Kona. On the other hand, Hilo is the wettest city on Hawaii Island. If you’re wondering which special activities await you on this specific island, remember that during winter months you get to see humpback whales which migrate annually from Alaska, and you can also book a guided tour of the island!

Lava flowing  - active volcano
Lava flowing – active volcano

An interesting fact is that at the summit of the mountain Mauna Kea people can ski and snowboard!

If you think about hurricanes, the hurricane season lasts officially from June to November; the last hurricane damaged Kauai in September 1992, being named Iniki. Water temperatures stay close to 23°C, while during summer, they can get to 27°C.

Hawaii by month

January

January, one of the cooler months in Hawaii, has an average high of 26°C and the lows get to 20°C. Evening temperatures require clothes to keep you warm and you should also take an umbrella with you for rainier days. It’s recommendable to go in the North and West if you’re looking for enormous waves perfect for surfing and although rain falls often, it is not heavy. The big waves in the north of Oahu are the right fit for surfing tournaments held throughout January.

But don’t worry, because even in January, plenty of sunny days wait for you! Hawaii is less busy with crowds after the beginning of January, when the holiday season ends – immediately, prices drop as well; also, keep in mind that the holiday for Luther King Jr. Day, on the third Monday of this month might also bring more visitors.

Among the events that take part during January, one of Hawaii’s top golf tournaments takes place in Maui. Furthermore, the Chinese New Year is celebrated on all the islands from mid-January to mid-February, but if you want to be impressed, go to Honolulu’s Chinatown neighbourhood.

February

Compared to January, February presents a little heavier rain, but it mostly happens at nights. Anyway, bring your quick-drying clothing and an umbrella, for the worst case! However, the weather is still warm and suitable for beach time.

Expect the huge waves to hit the North and the western shores, with average high temperatures around 26°C. February is also a good time for travelling to Hawaii since there are fewer visitors, and therefore, lower rates – only the Valentine’s Day can shortly overcrowd the islands, which means that prices start to increase.

February is a month with a lot of events. The Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival (a celebration of the Hawaiian and Japanese cultural heritage, with hula, origami, food, music, tea ceremonies etc.) and the Laupahoehoe Music Festival take place on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Kauai awaits you with the (8 days of activities which include an ice cream eating contest), while (which purpose is to raise awareness for the protection of humpback whales) has various events from the end of January through February. The surfing competitions are still held on Oahu’s North Shore, as they did in January.

Hawaiian hula dancers
Hawaiian hula dancers

March

Compared to February, March has less rain, but pretty much the same temperatures, with less big waves in the northern shores – the western ones may be a little bigger, actually. You should only be worried about the crowds of visitors that may arrive if Easter falls in March.

If you want to come during spring break or Easter time, then plan your holiday in advance. Humpback whales are still an attraction for tourists since they continue their winter birthing and breeding.

If you want to take part in one of the festivals held in March, go to Oahu for the Honolulu Festival – it represents a celebration of Hawaii and the Pacific Rim, with food, dance, arts and a parade at the end –, or in Kauai for the Prince Kuhio Celebration.

The Big Island of Hawaii holds the Annual Kona Brewers Festival, which opens with hula and entertains people with a home brewer’s competition and live music.

April

In April the water is starting to warm up, although the waves decrease in size from flat to medium. The average high temperature is about 26°C and the rain drop off significantly.

Generally, the number of visitors during this month is below average, unless the Easter holiday falls in April – then you should plan your holiday in advance. Therefore, April is actually averagely less expensive concerning the accommodation costs and it represents the perfect time for snorkelling.

The Merrie Monarch Festival, held on the Big Island, is a three-day festival with arts, hula shows and competition and a parade; most events are free to the public, only the competitions require tickets.

The Waikiki SPAM JAM in Oahu celebrates Hawaii’s pride about SPAM, where great chefs come with new SPAM (the only meat that gets cooked in a can) recipes. Another event in Oahu is the Honolulu Brewers Festival which brings together over 100 craft beers.

Surfer surfing outdoor

May

The outstanding weather conditions in May make Hawaii a good time for visiting – temperatures continue to heat up, with average highs of 27°C. This month is sunnier and drier, with lower rainfalls; therefore, surf is still small to medium generally.

May is one of the least crowded months in Hawaii, but there are periods of time when it gets busier. For example, Waikiki Beach brings together a lot of Japanese people for Golden Week, from the end of April, for a week.

May is a month rich with festivals; even the first day of the month represents the Lei Day, a celebration of the Hawaii lei and culture. Oahu hosts the Mele Mei, a celebration of the music in Hawaii and also the Lantern Floating Ceremony, in memory of the fallen soldiers, when people float paper lanterns with messages and prayers onto the waters.

On the other hand, Maui hosts The Celebration of the Arts Festival, the East Maui Taro Festival (it celebrates Hawaii’s staple food, with taro pancake breakfast, farmers market and more) and the Maui Onion Festival.

The Kauai World Challenge Canoe Race is held along the Kauai coast, at a distance of 36 miles. In Molokai, the birth of the hula is celebrated during the Ka Hula Piko Hula Festival, while a 39-mile canoe relay race takes place from Molokai to Oahu during the Kaiwi Channel Relay.

June

With average highs of 28°C, June awaits its visitors with the best surfing places on the south shores. The weather is sunny and dry, with the least rainfall levels. It’s worth knowing that June and July are perfect for long hikes and sight-seeing trips since daylight hours are the highest during these months.

In what tourists are concerned, the first part of the month is less crowded than the second, when the summer holiday starts; therefore, the more visitors that come to the island, the higher the rates.

June has also many festivals, for example on June 11th there’s the King Kamehameha Day, which honours King Kamehameha the Great, who united all the Hawaiian Islands.

The Pan Pacific Festival in Oahu hosts over 100 performances which celebrate the art, performance, and cuisine from the Pacific Rim.

In Maui, there are two festivals: The Maui Film Festival, which includes foods, panel discussion and film screenings in the Wailea resort area and Kapalua Wine & Food Festival.

July

Weather in July is the typical summer weather, with bigger waves in the South; compared to June, July has a little more rain. If you plan to visit the Haleakala Crater or to take a helicopter tour, you should also have a jacket with you.

You should expect a lot of families visiting the island in July, but don’t be worried since a lot of tourists who went to Hawaii mentioned that even during most crowded times, the presence of other people is not uncomfortable.

The week of July 4th is the most expensive time of the month, but it’s worth giving it a try since it has a lot of events and fireworks. Beware of the flights, because they tend to be more expensive in July!

Navy helicopter flying over scenic area
Navy helicopter flying over scenic area

The Prince Lot Hula Festival in Oahu is the largest non-competitive hula event and you can enjoy the dances from different hula groups. In Kauai, the Koloa Plantation Days celebrates Koloa, which is the first sugar plantation in Hawaii. There’s also a Pineapple Festival in Lanai, while in Oahu there is also the Honolulu Surf Film Festival and the largest sake tasting event, named Joy of Sake.

August

In August Hawaii awaits its visitors with the highest temperatures and lowest rainfall rates. A good recommendation is to visit the islands of Aloha.

For surfers, the southern shores are the best at this time, the northern waves are still flat, while the west and east waves are picking up in size. One of the top three months with the most visitors, August hotels’ rates are higher than average, but at the end of the month, they start to drop.

During the Annual Ho’oku‘ikahi Establishment Day Hawaiian Cultural Festival, on the Big Island, which celebrates ancient Hawaiian culture, visitors are asked to learn at least one craft. The Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament is a fishing competition in Kona, while Kauai hosts the Heiva I Kauai International Tahitian Dance Competition.

Ko Olina Oahu Lagoon | Hawaii
Ko Olina Oahu Lagoon | Hawaii

September

As mentioned earlier, September is perfect for visiting Hawaii. Keeping the warmest temperatures from August, with medium to large waves on all shores, it is also less crowded and therefore, a less expensive month. However, it rains more, but not as much as during winter months.

Because September follows up two dry months, the waterfalls are less spectacular, since the lack of rain lessens their flow. It can get a bit crowded during the Labor Day weekend when Americans take weekend trips to the islands.

September is the time when many festivals happen in Hawaii: in Oahu, the Aloha Festival, on the Big Island, the Hawaii Island Festival or the Taste of the Hawaiian Range and Agricultural Festival and in Maui, the Maui Half and Full Marathon.

October

In October, the last really warm month in Hawaii, take a jacket with you, since rainfall levels increase a little. Temperatures cool down slightly, and the northern and western waves get bigger than the ones from the other shores. One of the cheapest times of the year, October is also less crowded than in other months.

Concerning the festivals, Hawaiian people always find a reason to celebrate. For example, the Coconut Festival in Kauai celebrates the coconut fruit, while the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival takes place on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island, in different specific ways for each region.

The Ironman Competition on the Big Island allows competitors only by qualification and represents the world’s biggest triathlon.

November

In November you should bring an umbrella since it is the rainiest month in Hawaii; however, the average temperature is 27°C, so it’s still a good month for travelling to Hawaii. North and western waves are large again, perfect for surfers.

One of the least visited months, November gets a little more crowded during its final week, when it’s the Thanksgiving holiday.

Thanks to the huge waves, in Oahu, takes place the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, when three surfing competitions happen on the North Shore Beaches. The Kona Coffee Cultural Festival in the Big Island takes place over 11 days and celebrates the Kona region’s history, coffee, and arts.

In Maui, there’s a children’s hula competition, named Hula O Na Keiki and a college basketball tournament, Maui Invitational.

Sunset, beach, Hawaii
Sunset, beach, Hawaii

December

The first weeks of December, excluding the Christmas and New Year’s Eve holidays, are very quiet and inexpensive. Although temperatures reach the winter lows, the average temperature is still 26°C. Take some clothes to keep you warm especially in the evenings. It seems that excepting the Big Island, December is the wettest month for all the other islands.

In December it’s worth taking part in the Festival of Lights in Kauai or in the Moku’ula by Moonlight, in Maui, which is a free night of slack key and ukulele music. There are also amazing celebrations of the winter holidays all over the islands, while the Wailea Village Mochi Pounding held on the Big Island is a community tradition in which everyone takes part in making rice cakes the old way, for good luck in the New Year.

The worst time to visit Hawaii

If you worry about your budget and don’t want to spend too much on your holiday, winter months are worse than the others. The accommodation is more expensive and also more crowded. This is the period when most of the travellers seek the sunny islands to escape the winter cold on the mainland.

Talking about crowded and pricey, it is better to plan your trip to avoid special days as Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Labour Day and Easter holiday. Also, you need to take in account when schools are breaking up for holidays, as prices tend to go up.

If we take into consideration the weather, the worst time to spend your holiday in Hawaii is the rainy period that occurs during the months of November to April. Of course, rain can come at any times and sometimes if on one island is pouring down, you may find it’s sunny on another.

Other things to consider are the local events such as King Kamehameha Day, the Aloha Festivals, the Triple Crown of Surfing when, again, can affect your spending budget and choice of accommodation.

Bad weather in Hawaii
Bad weather in Hawaii

Conclusion

Hawaii gives its visitors plenty of opportunities for a wonderful holiday. Surfing, snorkelling and swimming – especially during summer months, hiking – recommendable on Kauai, whale watching, seeing the Volcano Kilauea on the Big Island, fishing, skiing/snowboarding Mauna Kea – usually during February and March, taking part in inter-island cruises – you can enjoy all these activities and many more if you decide to plan your vacation in Hawaii.

Therefore, remember that no matter the weather or how much it rains, Hawaii is always perfect for planning a trip, no matter the month. The variations consist only of the type of activities you want to do and the regions more suitable for them!

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