This post was last updated on: Thursday, December 1, 2019
Is there such a thing as a wrong time to visit Hawaii? Seeing as how the islands are a tropical paradise, with beautiful year-round weather and flowers that never stop blooming, we’re going to have to go with a hard “no” on that.
Hawaii is a beautiful destination, regardless of which time of year you travel.
However, the islands do offer different experiences throughout the year, depending on when you go. This concise, yet thorough, guide will walk you through the best time to go to Hawaii based on your weather preferences, availability of discounts and deals, or preferred activities.
If you’re looking for the best place to stay in Waikiki, we have a separate article dedicated to that here.
The Overall Best Time to Travel to Hawaii
It’s tough to choose an overall “best” time to visit Hawaii because the islands have so much to offer all year long. That said, there are some sweet spots. Early November and late March will give you some of the island’s best prices without sacrificing much of summer’s sunny weather.
But ultimately, the best time to go to Hawaii will depend on what you want to do there. Read on to find out more!
The Best Weather in Hawaii
Hawaii’s summer months are the driest and warmest, so if that’s your idea of the best weather, then summer it is! Of course, all the seasons have their charm, and all of them offer a wonderfully warm and lush tropical experience.
The Peak Season to Visit Hawaii
Hawaii’s busy seasons are during winter and summer—winter for the snowbirds, and summer for families when the kiddos are out of school.
The Cheapest Time to Visit Hawaii
You’ll be able to pinch more pennies if you visit during the off-season: spring and fall.
The Best Time to Go to Hawaii by Activity
We’ll break down the best time for you to visit Hawaii depending on what you plan to do—surf, fish, hike, whale watch, and more!
What Is the Best Time to Travel to Hawaii?
Hawaii in January
Hawaii’s a bit cooler in January than it is the rest of the year, with temperatures as low as the high 60’s. You might encounter a bit of rain, but no worries—there won’t be heavy storms. You will see some fantastic waves, however, with large swells in both the north and the west.
So, it should come as no surprise that this is also a great month for surf.
The North Shore Surf Competitions take place this month. If you’re not all about the surf, there’s plenty of fun to be had on the turf as well, with Chinese New Year often falling in January!
Hawaii in February
Like January, February is on the cooler side for Hawaii, with temps ranging from the high sixties to high seventies. You’ll encounter a bit more rain and plenty of big waves. Whale watching is big this month as it coincides with World Whale Day.
Learn more about Hawaiian and other cultures during POW! WOW! Hawaii. This festival features arts, music, and different cultural experiences from around the world. It’s a great month to visit if you enjoy live art, gallery installations, music, and educational and cultural experiences.
And of course, if you’re looking for a romantic vacation, why not schedule for Valentine’s Day?
Hawaii in March
March’s temperatures are in the same range as February’s temperatures. But you won’t need your umbrella quite as much. The northern and western waves will still be impressive, but not quite as remarkable as they were over the winter months.
If you’re ready to immerse yourself in Hawaii’s unique and colorful culture, you’re in luck. This is the month of the Honolulu Festival on Oahu. This is a great opportunity to learn all about what makes Hawaii’s cuisine, dance, music, and arts so distinctive.
For beer lovers, the Kona Beer Festival is a fantastic opportunity to try some new brews while you enjoy a hula show, live music, and much more!
Hawaii in April
If you didn’t know that Hawaii was obsessed with SPAM—yes, SPAM!—you’d quickly see for yourself if you visit in April. Check out the Waikiki SPAM JAM on Oahu. Don’t like SPAM?
Reserve your judgment until you’ve encountered the lovingly unique ways Hawaii’s chefs prepare this salty meat block. (Don’t forget to donate a can of this Hawaiian delicacy to the Hawaii Food Bank if you attend this free event!)
Need something to wash down that salty spam? Make sure to reserve a ticket to Oahu’s Honolulu Brewers Festival, too! Sample over 100 craft beers from around the world, and dine on cuisine from Oahu’s top restaurants.
Hawaii in May
May Day is Lei Day! Hawaii’s famous symbol of friendliness and hospitality is celebrated throughout the islands with lei competitions, live music, and Hawaii’s signature dance, the hula.
More somber, but just as beautiful and culturally significant is the Lantern Floating Ceremony on Memorial Day. Tens of thousands of people float paper lanterns carrying messages and prayers in honor of those who have fallen.
By now, the weather is quite sunny and dry. So, if you’re planning to relax on the beach, hike, or take part in any outdoor activities, May is a great choice.
Hawaii in June
June is the peak of sunny and dry weather, and there are also plenty of opportunities to learn about local culture and enjoy some Hawaiian celebrations.
The Pan Pacific Festival on Oahu celebrates the art, dance, cultures, and cuisines of the entire Pacific Rim. There are over 100 different performances, and of course, a beautifully executed parade.
To show some love that’s a little more Hawaii-specific, take part in King Kamehameha Day. This public holiday honors King Kamehameha the Great, who is best known for uniting the Hawaiian Islands. Take in the beautifully dressed pa’u riders on horseback, floral parades, and other celebrations!
Hawaii in July
Despite what you might have learned from the movies, surfing is much more than just a way for bleached-haired beach-goers to entertain themselves. Learn about the cultural significance of the art of surfing at the Honolulu Surf Film Festival on Oahu.
If you’d rather learn about hula, you’re in luck there too. The Prince Lot Hula Festival is the world’s largest non-competitive hula event. You’ll get to see some of the best dancers Hawaii has to offer, showcasing the island’s traditional dance.
Japan hosts the world’s largest sake tasting event—but Oahu has the second largest! If you’re a fan of the inebriating rice wine, the Joy of Sake tasting event on Oahu is right up your alley.
Hawaii in August
If you couldn’t make it to the Prince Lot Hula Festival, don’t worry. The Na Hula Festival in August is Oahu’s longest running non-competitive hula festival, and it’s free to get it! Just head over to Queen Kapi’olani Park to experience this cultural event.
August features Hawaii’s highest temps, and you probably won’t need your galoshes since rainfall is practically non-existent. Waves are picking up to the South, East, and West, too.
Hawaii in September
Waves are medium to large on all shores, and the water is the warmest it gets all year round. So, if you want to visit the islands to revel in the surf, September is a wonderful month to go. That is, as long as you don’t mind a little rain.
There are also two fantastic festivals this month: the Aloha Festival on Oahu, which brings in over 100,000 attendees, and the Okinawan Festival, which celebrates the culture of Okinawa.
The Aloha Festival celebrates all things Hawaiian, with plenty of opportunities for cultural enrichment, delicious food, and of course, impressive parades.
At the Okinawan Festival, you can enjoy taiko drumming, martial arts demonstrations, lion dancers, and of course, even more delicious snacks.
Hawaii in October
You’ve probably realized by now that delicious food is a constant theme in Hawaii, and October is no different. The Hawaii Food and Wine Festival on Oahu is no small event. Spread out over three days, it gives locals and visitors alike the chance to enjoy tasting rare wines, see a cutthroat ramen showdown, and enjoy an urban luau.
You can even learn about the infamous history of cocktails. Did know there was one? Well, prepare to find out!
It’s still warm in October, although the rains are coming in a bit heavier than they were over the summer. Autumn has fully arrived!
Hawaii in November
Temperatures are still pleasant on land and in the sea in November, though you’ll want to have some rainy day back up plans.
Oahu hosts three of the world’s most iconic surfing competitions this month, the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. The events run into December due to how they are structured.
Hawaii in December
If you love football, check out the Hawaii Bowl at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu! This college football battle in paradise is one of the most anticipated sporting events of the year.
Hawaiians love a parade. One of the most whimsical and fun parades of the year takes place in December—the annual Honolulu City Lights Public Worker’s Electric Light Parade. If you think it’ll be tough to get into the holiday spirit surrounded by beaches and palms, think again!
When Is the Best Time to Visit Hawaii Weather-Wise?
Frankly, there isn’t a wrong season to visit Hawaii if you’re planning your visit based on the weather alone.
Of course, that depends somewhat on what your plans are. A rainy day or two might matter a lot more to someone who’s planning a mountainous hike versus a visitor who wants to indulge in the state’s incredible selection of top tier restaurants.
It’s also worth noting that tropical weather conditions, while generally very pleasant, are very different than weather patterns on the mainland. So, you’ll probably want to familiarize yourself with what to expect, if for no other reason than planning what to pack.
In this section, we’ll give you an overview of Hawaii’s overall weather patterns, as well as some detailed information on the islands’ rainy seasons. We’ll also address when you can expect tropical storms or hurricanes.
We’ll inform you about the temperatures you can expect for your visit, whenever you plan to go. But most of all, this segment should reassure you. Regardless of when you visit Hawaii, know that it’s called paradise for a reason—you won’t be disappointed!
What Is Hawaii Weather Like Overall?
One of the most common blunders tourists make when visiting Hawaii is relying on mainstream weather platforms like the Weather Channel or the NOAA. Take a glance at the Weather Channel, and you’ll see what we mean immediately.
Here’s a guess: It says it’s going to rain today, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that, regardless of what time of year you check.
What gives? Is it true?
Well, technically, these forecasts are correct. But that’s because Hawaii is a tropical island. It probably will rain all of those days, but that rain may last only five or ten minutes. And practically all of that rain, even during the rainy season, falls overnight or during the early morning hours.
Check out GoHawaii for reliable Hawaii weather forecasts.
That’s not to say that you won’t experience some afternoon showers on occasion, especially during the rainiest months of the year. Still, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the short duration of these cloudbursts, compared to what you might be used to on the mainland.
That’s because you’ll mostly be in the lowlands, where the majority of rainfall can be attributed to “trade wind showers.” These showers usually come and go in a few moments. Powerful winds cause trade winds from the north.
Not only are the rains short, but they’re also usually isolated in a small area.
So, even if you’re “rained out” in one spot, there’s often a sunny area just a hop, skip, and a jump (over a puddle!) away. And while the trade winds are to blame for the islands’ frequent showers, be glad that they’re there! They’re the very reason that Hawaii’s weather is so paradisiacal. Cool breezes come from the north.
That means that even on higher temperature days, it’s nearly always comfortable outside. The rare exception comes when the trade winds slow or stop, allowing stormy or hot, humid weather to briefly blanket the area.
Islanders refer to this hot, sticky weather as “Kona weather,” which references the south, the direction that this weather comes from.
As far as temperatures go, there isn’t a lot of variation. The temperatures range from “good” to “great” and are one of the islands’ most significant selling points as a vacation spot.
You can expect lows of 65 degrees to 72 degrees, based on the time of year, with the lowest temperatures from January to March. Highs range from around 80 degrees to 86 degrees. The warmest months are August and September. You probably won’t need to put on a jacket during the afternoon any time of year.
The one exception to this has less to do with the time of year than what part of the island you’re visiting—specifically, the elevation of the spot you’re visiting. You may need to bring a jacket if you plan on hiking in higher elevations (like the summits of the volcanoes). It can get chilly up there!
Compared to the mainland, it’s tough to point out any period when Hawaii has “bad” weather. However, for those who live there or visit frequently, the “best” weather occurs in spring (April and May) and autumn (September and October).
That’s when the trade winds have calmed down, so there’s less of a chance of daytime showers, and the surf is significantly calmer. That said, if it’s your first time visiting the islands, you’re almost guaranteed to be pleasantly surprised by Hawaii’s idyllic weather, no matter what time of year you choose to visit.
Overall, you’ll want to pack clothing that’s appropriate for warm, summery weather. But a light jacket, light trousers, and an umbrella wouldn’t be a bad idea either!
When Is the Rainy Season in Hawaii?
Hawaii gets an impressive amount of rain each year—about 70 inches! That’s to be expected for a tropical climate. The island’s cool mountainous regions influence much of this rainfall. That’s also where the majority of the rain falls. So, don’t let that daunting number scare you off!
Rain is so localized that there can be a difference of 25 inches of yearly rainfall in two areas no more than a mile apart.
That said, if you want to avoid getting rained out while you’re on vacation, you’ll be interested to know that the rainiest months of the year occur during the winter—specifically November, December, and January. The least rainy months of the year are during the summer, with May through September being (relatively) rain-free compared to the other months of the year.
As we’ve already mentioned, however, Hawaii’s rain patterns are distinctly unique in terms of times of the day. These diurnal rainfall patterns mean that showers are typically concentrated during early morning and overnight hours.
There’s just one caveat to this.
As is often the case in tropical climates, the amount of rain in Hawaii can vary enormously from year to year. So, you might get surprised by a particularly rainy June, even if that’s not supposed to be a stormy month in the islands.
When Is Hurricane Season in Hawaii?
Hurricane season in Hawaii usually begins in June or July and ends sometime between September and November.
Historically the islands rarely experience hurricanes or severe tropical storms, however. The last hurricane to hit one of the state’s significant islands was Hurricane Iniki, back in 1992.
The most recent hurricane to come close was Hurricane Lane, which didn’t hit the islands, but did cause some damage from strong winds and heavy rain.
You’re more likely to encounter a tropical storm than a hurricane in Hawaii. These weather phenomena are mostly associated with heavy rain.
The reason Hawaii tends to be lucky with regards to hurricanes is the dry air, clear ocean water, and wind shear around the islands. These factors weaken storm systems, causing them to dissipate before they can seriously threaten the islands. Some of the islands haven’t been touched by hurricanes for over a century!
However, it’s worth noting that shifts in climate can affect Hawaii just as much as they can any other part of the world. Forecasters are expecting a bit more storm activity during the hurricane season in 2019, for example.
El Nino conditions may increase water temperatures, which may lead to an increase in cyclonic storms in the region. So, it’s a good idea to check long term forecasts if you’re planning to travel to the state during the months when storm activity is likely to occur.
When Is the Peak Season to Travel to Hawaii?
Hawaii has a great deal to offer visitors no matter what time of year you visit, but some months are still more popular than others.
Hawaii’s “high” travel season is from mid-December to March, with peak travel around the winter holidays, from Christmas through the New Year.
You’ll find that there are more likely to be minimum stays at hotels, which will also require more significant deposits and stricter policies with regards to changes and cancellations.
Rental cars will also be in high demand. So, if you do plan to travel any time between December and March, you’ll want to set up your itinerary well in advance. Book your flights early, and plan your trip months in advance. This way, you can make sure that you have accommodations and transportation. Plan and book well in advance so that you can be prepared!
Summer (mid-June through August) is also a hectic time in Hawaii. This is the peak time for families to travel since the kids are out of school. You may find that hotels and rental cars are in short supply; family-friendly attractions like beaches are also likely to be packed.
There won’t be as many discounts and deals available, aside from a few that are aimed at families specifically.
Spring and Autumn are the “low” or “off” season in Hawaii. April through mid-June, and September through mid-December see the fewest tourists. This can result in a wider variety of options for you when it comes to hotels, transportation, and attractions.
When is the Cheapest Time to Go to Hawaii? (Avoid Crowds!)
It probably comes as no surprise that going during the off-season can help you in more ways than one. Not only will you find locales less crowded with other tourists, but you’ll be able to choose from more options when it comes to hotels and rental vehicles. You’ll also pay less than you might during other months.
Cheapest Times to Fly to Hawaii
Airfare peaks during January, and it’s higher than typical all winter long. Summer airfare is also on the expensive side.
If you want to pinch your pennies, the best times to buy a ticket are in late November and early March—right in line with the islands’ “low” seasons for tourists.
However, no matter what month you plan to fly to Hawaii, the most important thing you can do is book early. And by early, we mean 2-4 months out. A last-minute ticket during the off-season isn’t going to be that much cheaper than a ticket you bought a few months in advance for a high season flight.
Cheapest Times to Stay in Hawaii
Hotel prices mimic airfare in that peak-season rooms are likely to be much more expensive than those during the off-season. However, they can vary more than airfare, depending on the location.
For example, in Honolulu, the most expensive month is January and the least costly month is April, by a wide margin. The same hotel room could cost up to 22% more in January versus April in Honolulu. So if you were looking for deals on hotel rooms, April is the month to go.
In Lahaina, February prices are nearly a third more expensive than prices in September, for identical rooms.
While you can generally bank on more deals during the off-season, you may want to do a bit of investigation into the price ranges specific to the city in which you plan to stay. As with any state, you may find unique fluctuations depending on particular events scheduled during that time of year.
What is the Best Time of Year to See Humpback Whales in Hawaii?
Hawaii is one of the best places on EARTH to whale watch! If you’re planning to visit, a whale watching tour is a must. If you’re going specifically to see these incredible behemoths, then you’ll want to plan your visit when they’re migrating to the area.
If that’s the case, late December is one of the best times to go. If you would prefer to skip the busy season crowds, however, don’t worry! You can also catch pods of about 1,000 humpback whales off the coast of Hawaii in early April.
What Is the Best Time of Year to Go Snorkeling in Hawaii?
You can undoubtedly snorkel year round in Hawaii, as long as you stick to the areas where the surf is calmer. However, if you’re eager to experience the island’s famously warm and temperate seas while you do so, we heartily recommend summer to take a peek at the deep!
What Is the Best Time of Year to Go Hiking in Hawaii?
Hiking is one of our favorite activities in Hawaii. The incredible vistas and lush tropical landscape provide a hiking experience, unlike any other in the United States.
You’ll enjoy a Hawaiian hike no matter when you go, but we favor late spring and early fall. The weather is a bit cooler than summer and a bit drier than winter.
What Is the Best Time of Year to Go Fishing in Hawaii?
Summer is extremely popular for fishing in Hawaii, for locals and tourists alike, due in large part to the fact that many of the more popular species of fish will be nibbling at your hooks, including skipjack and ono.
Fall and spring are popular for catching mahi-mahi, and in the winter, you’ll find snapper and tuna on the menu as well.
If it’s marlin you’re after, well, you’re in luck! These guys are in season all year ‘round!
What Is the Best Time of Year to See Turtles in Hawaii?
Hawaii’s green sea turtles are around all year long, but if they’re going to be the highlight of your trip, we have to recommend going during the summer. That way, you’ll increase your odds of seeing these peaceful fellows on land as they prepare for nesting season.
What Is the Best Time of Year to Go Surfing in Hawaii?
Some of the state’s islands are suitable for surfing 12 months a year, including Oahu. But various times of the year might be more or less suitable, depending on your skill level.
One of the best things about the surf in Hawaii is that the wave patterns are relatively predictable. So, if you do want to plan your vacation around catching some waves, it’s pretty easy to do.
During the winter, you’ll find excellent waves on the north coast of the islands, with the southern beaches being calmer. The opposite is true in the summer.
Winter (November through February) tends to attract the most extreme and advanced surfers. For more novice surf enthusiasts, the milder waves at the southern coasts are just right during these months.
What Is the Best Time of Year to Go Stand Up Paddling in Hawaii?
If you’re not entirely keen on the idea of surfing, stand up paddle boarding is another quintessentially Hawaiian water sport that might appeal to you. It has a relatively easy learning curve, so you don’t need to be very experienced to enjoy it.
Spring and fall are the most popular times to go paddle boarding, but really, you need a relatively calm sea to enjoy this peaceful activity. No matter what time of year you visit the island, you’ll be able to rent a paddle board or even take a stand up paddling lesson.
There’s no wrong time to visit the beautiful islands of Hawaii. You’ll have the time of your life!