When is the Best Time to Visit Hawaii?
Is there actually a best time to visit Hawaii? Hawaii is always a good idea, but depending on your expectations, budget and which attractions you’re hoping to experience, some times are better than others.
If you’re looking for all of this information (and more) you’re in the right place. This guide will help you figure out when you should plan your trip so you can have the best experience.
When's Best Time to Visit Hawaii?
Aerial view of Na Pali Coast; Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Blake Bronstad
The main factors to consider when planning the best time for your visit to Hawaii are weather, affordability, crowds, and any seasonal attractions or events you’re hoping to experience. We’ll break down the main differences between each part of the year here.
Hawaii really only has two seasons: a dry summer and a wet winter. The wet months are November through March and the dry months are from April to October. So, if you’re looking to maximize your time in the sun and avoid getting rained out, go during the summer.
That being said, many parts of the islands, such as the Kona side of the Big Island stay pretty dry all year round. Other parts, like most of Kauai, can receive a good amount of rain at any time of year.
Depending on the Island the amount of rain per month varies. For example, during the dry season the Big Island receives about a half an inch of rain per month whereas Kauai can receive two inches a month. Oahu and Maui fall somewhere in between. During the wet season, these measurements increase to between one and five inches per month. Keep in mind, however, that certain parts of each Island might receive much more or much less.
Temperatures on the Hawaiian Islands tend to correlate with the seasonal rains, however, you’ll find much more variation based on region. April to October are generally a bit warmer than November through March, but temperatures fluctuate more based on the altitude of an area.
During the deep winter months the summit of Mauna Kea, for instance, can be sub-freezing and snowy while sea level temperatures remain tropical. In fact, Hawaii is home to ten of the world’s fourteen climate zones.
Average temperatures at sea level don’t vary in Hawaii as much as they do on the mainland. From April to October, lows generally sit between the high 60s and mid-70s with highs in the mid-to-high 80s or low-90s. November through March, temperatures can get down to the mid-60s at night and up to the mid-80s during the day.
Trade Winds and Kona Winds
Much of Hawaii’s temperate climate is due to tradewinds which blow in cool air as well as increased precipitation along the islands’ eastern windward ridges. These trade winds are created by high-pressure systems that push northern air southwest across the Hawaiian Islands.
Occasionally, when a low-pressure system is within 500 miles of Hawaii, these winds reverse into what are called Kona winds. These Kona winds usually only last a few days, but they are something you should be prepared for during the winter months. During trade winds, you can expect higher levels of rainfall on the western coast and very strong wind gusts.
The above chart shows the rainy and sunny season and off, shoulder and peak travel seasons.
There are three peak seasons of travel in Hawaii: summer vacation, spring vacation, and the winter holidays. By month, the busiest times of year are December — especially around Christmas and New Year — sping break (whcih can be in March or April) and June through August. If you’re looking to avoid crowds, these are the months to skip.
Late April through early June, September through November and late January through March are considered the off-season and shoulder seasons when crowds are at their least dense.
If you’re looking to catch tickets at their cheapest, the best option is to travel just as a peak travel time is ending for a shoulder season or in the off season. You’ll find cheap tickets in the second half of January, for instance, when most people have just returned home from their winter vacations.
During the main off-season from April to June airfare also becomes cheaper. If you’re booking, note that early May receives a lot of tourists from Japan and, while ticket pricing from the mainland remains less costly, lodging costs spike again.
If you want to save some money on tickets and accommodation, here are some months to consider:
January (end of the month), February (avoid winter break), March, April, May (beginning of the month), Septemeber, October, and November.
These are roughly the same times that it is most affordable to fly inter-island.
RELATED: Flying to Hawaii, A Guide
Some of Hawaii’s attractions are best experienced during certain parts of the year. If there are particular sights you’d like to see, you’re in the right section. We’ll break down the best times to visit Hawaii based on some of the island’s most popular attractions here.
Surfing and Surfing Competitions
November to February is generally considered the best time for surfing due to winter swells, which create bigger, better waves. If you’re inexperienced, winter is also still a good time since many of Hawaii’s most accessible beaches such as Waikiki remain calm. There’s also a spring surfing season from March to May, where waves are excellent but more moderately sized.
If you’re looking to watch the pros or a big wave competition you’ll need to visit in the winter when Hawaii’s world-renowned surf contests are held. The famous Pipemaster competition occurs in mid-December. If you’re extremely lucky, you might witness the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational, which only happens if swells become large enough, but always during the winter.
RELATED: Winter on Oahu's North Shore
Beaches and Swimming
The best time for beaches and swimming is when swells are the lowest, which creates more beach real estate and better swimming conditions. During the winter, currents and waves can be pretty brutal at some of the islands’ most beautiful beaches. So, if you’re primarily going to Hawaii for some swim time, consider April through October for your visit.
You can whale watch from land or by boat on all of the Hawaiian Islands. The humpback whale watching season is from November to May, but you’re most likely to see them from January through March.
Hawaii has a host of major events throughout the year. If there's one you'd particularly like to check out, like the lantern floating ceremony in May or the Honolulu Festival in March you can find a list of major events here.
You should now have all the information you need to plan the time of your visit to Hawaii. If you have any questions about the best time to visit send us a message on Facebook or Instagram!
Shaka Guide has a total of 21 tours in Hawaii. Our self-guided audio tours allow you to explore the islands at your own pace, visiting the stops you want and skipping the ones you don't. Learn more about our tours here.