Hawaii is a great year-round destination, but there are certain times of the year that are more suitable for you than others, depending on what you want to do. We'll help you understand this by reviewing the different factors that can influence your travel dates and the best times of year for each.
We will end this article with a summary so that you can determine the ideal dates for your trip to Hawaii.
1What is the best season to come to Hawaii
Let's start with the weather. There are only two seasons in Hawaii: summer from April to October and winter from November to March. There is also a hurricane season from June to November. However, for several years there has been a higher concentration of hurricanes from July to September, with a peak of activity in August. Nevertheless it is quite rare that the Hawaiian Islands are directly hit by a hurricane (the last one was Lane in August 2018).
The temperatures are homogeneous all year round and fluctuate between 18°C and 32°C (65°F and 90°F) on the coast. Average afternoon temperatures range from 26°C to 29°C (79°F to 84°F). Finally, the average water temperature varies between 22°C and 27°C (71°F and 81°F) depending on the season and the islands (exposure to currents).
Next, let's talk about rain. We will inevitably find more humidity during the winter which is also the season the most favorable to floods (sudden and fast floods). Summer is drier but it is mainly the relief of the islands that will determine the weather on the spot. Indeed, most of the islands have dry and arid sides. This is also reflected in the islands, the island of Kauai will also be much wetter than Big Island.
We've explained it all in detail in an article dedicated to the weather so you can better understand Hawaii's weather patterns.
2When to go to Hawaii to relax
Hawaii's pleasant climate makes it an ideal year-round vacation destination, but summer is the best time of year due to less rainfall and a calmer ocean. The beaches are at their most beautiful in the summer, when the water is smooth, bringing out the postcard colors.
Note that the islands have dry and wet coasts, the experience of lazing around will be more pleasant on the side of the dry areas which are mostly in the west.
So even in the dead of winter, the weather is still great for relaxing by the water on the West Coast of Big Island.
3When to go snorkeling in Hawaii
Hawaii has no lagoons protected from the waves, so your snorkeling conditions will depend on the quietness of the ocean. The ocean is calmest in the summer. The closer you get to the heart of summer, the calmer the sea becomes. On the contrary, it becomes more and more agitated as soon as we get closer to the heart of winter.
By the way, some sea kayaking and boating trips are sometimes not offered during the winter in windy areas like Kauai's Nā Pali Coast.
This is also why you will have completely different experiences whether you come in summer or winter.
Some beaches on Oahu are closed to swimming during the winter because of the presence of large waves, while during the summer you can observe an oily and turquoise sea. So be careful with the pictures you see because the atmosphere is quite different in winter for the exposed beaches.
But don't worry, you can still snorkel if you decide to come in winter. You will just have to choose the spots protected by a coral reef, which will reduce the impact of the waves. However, you will be a little more tossed around in the water than in the summer.
4When to go surfing in Hawaii
Unlike snorkeling, surfing conditions are best in winter, when the waves are at their peak! The heart of winter, between mid-November and early February is the best time to go surfing in Hawaii and it is during this period that surfing competitions are held.
In summer, big waves are generally absent and monster spots like Jaws in Maui are ridiculous. However, you can still surf during the winter on small waves or by going to specific spots where the seabed relief helps to build waves.
The most famous islands for surfing are Maui and Oahu.
5When is the best time to whale watching in Hawaii?
Whales can be seen in the Hawaiian archipelago from end-November to early May, but to be sure to see them, we recommend that you come from January to March, the best month for whale watching being February.
We did not see any whales in March-April 2017. On the other hand, they were present as early as October 2019 in Maui (although we missed them every time...).
The island of Maui is the most interesting for whale watching. During the peak season, they can be easily seen from the shore. They are mainly found on the west side of the island, along the southwest coast, and mostly in the area between the islands of Molokai and Maui.
The whales are also visible from the other islands of the archipelago and excursions are organized during the high season.
6When to see turtles, dolphins and manta rays in Hawaii
Turtles are present all year round in Hawaii, but they prefer calm waters. It will be easier to approach them during the summer. Nevertheless, you can see turtles even in winter as they are so numerous in Hawaii!
Turtles can be seen on all islands, but the best places to see and swim with them are on Maui and Big Island.
Dolphins are also present year-round in Hawaii. There are no seasonal constraints to meet them, except to find them.
The best islands to go dolphin watching are Big Island (the West Coast) and Kauai (at the Nā Pali coast).
Finally, manta rays are also present all year round, whatever the weather! It is even possible to approach them by snorkeling from one of the northern beaches of Kona, but this is quite rare.
The only excursion spot to meet them is in Kona on Big Island.
7When is the best time to hike in Hawaii?
Hiking is possible all year round in Hawaii, although the most pleasant season is the driest, when it is least muddy. But this is quite difficult to predict. One might be tempted to say that summer is better because it rains less, but we have found that the roads are quite muddy in summer because the rains are more intense, even if they are shorter. The humidity level is also higher in summer.
Of the 3 years we have been to Hawaii, March-April 2017 was when we had the best hiking conditions, as the spring was drier that year. Whereas in 2018, the spring was exceptionally wet, causing many landslides.
Finally, if you want to hike to the summits of the volcanoes (Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa and Haleakalā), keep in mind that above 3000m there can be snow in the dead of winter (usually around December/January). Blizzards are rare but sometimes there are several centimeters of snow as was the case in 2021, but it never lasts long.
We would like to tell you that there is really no perfect season to hike in Hawaii, except maybe to aim for summer for Kauai and have the least risk of rain, the only thing being to have the right equipment. One thing is for sure, be prepared to get mud and dirt on your shoes!
8What is the least touristy season in Hawaii
Hawaii is a moderately touristy destination, which has the advantage of having a smoothing of the influx throughout the year. For example, visitation varies from -25% to +22% depending on the month (according to 2019 statistics).
The least touristy months are April, September, October, and November, with September being the least popular, with a 25% drop in visitation, even though it is an excellent month to visit Hawaii. On the other hand, March, June, July, and December are the busiest months, with July and the Christmas holidays being the peak months.
Prices are fairly consistent throughout the year, with an increase from July to mid-August and during the Christmas period, which lasts until early January.
Finally, it should be noted that the number of visitors is not the same for each island. The most visited islands are in order: Oahu, Maui, Big Island and Kauai. Life on Big Island and Kauai is calm and peaceful, nothing to do with the effervescence of Oahu and especially Honolulu!
9When is the best time to see the flowers in Hawaii
Because Hawaii is a lush, tropical destination, most plants and flowers bloom year-round without a specific bloom time! But according to the guides at the Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden on Big Island, it seems that the most important blooming time is during the month of July, as a majority of plants prefer the sun and warmth to open. It is at this time of the year that, according to them, their botanical garden is the most beautiful...
10Our summary table: find the ideal dates for your trip to Hawaii
To conclude, here is a summary table of the best times for each of the topics discussed above, hoping that it helps you plan your trip to Hawaii!
The weather data shown in this table are monthly averages for Honolulu.
I will end this article with a little personal note.
We were lucky enough to be able to go to Hawaii in March, April, September, October and November and each time we were able to enjoy it to the fullest, with beautiful general conditions, but we never had the chance to see whales ;-)