Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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Hawaii’s 137-island archipelago occupies an ideal position in the North Pacific Ocean. U.S. passports aren’t required to visit its tropical shores, yet it’s far enough away to feel like a true escape. In fact, it’s hard to believe that Hawaii is a state at all, what with its dreamy beaches, unique island culture, and near-perfect weather that remains warm and beautiful year-round.
Unfortunately, beauty comes at a price — especially during peak season, when paradise-seeking crowds pour onto its sands and fill up its resorts. Hawaii’s popularity and distance from the mainland mean a visit is rarely cheap, especially for those flying in from the East Coast.
That’s why the best time to visit Hawaii is during the season that fits your preference and a price you can afford. Every month has its pros and cons, so when you choose to go all comes down to your top priority, be it affordable rates, consistent sun, better chances at spotting wildlife, or stellar surfing conditions.
The Best Time to Visit Hawaii by Season
Hawaii’s weather stays relatively consistent year-round, so the state’s shoulder seasons also coincide with its low seasons. The arrival of spring marks Hawaii’s first shoulder season.
After the holiday excitement has come and gone, snowbirds head back to school and to work, trade winds and rain die down considerably, and daily temperatures begin to rise, spurring seasonal fruits and flowers — plumeria plants, jacaranda trees — to bloom once more.
Spring also means Hawaii’s whale-watching and surfing seasons are coming to a close. Winter’s big waves begin to calm down — ideal conditions for beginner surfers to test their legs — while luaus and spring festivals are equally immersive (if land-bound) ways to spend time on the islands.
Hawaii’s rainy season ends in March. Days are temperate while nights are cool, so pack a jacket. The tail-end of whale-watching season extends through the month, when breaching humpbacks can still be spotted off the coasts of Maui and Hawaii (known as “the Big Island”).
Although March is still considered low season in Hawaii, prices skyrocket around Spring Break. Schools unleash hordes of students and families taking advantage of their kids’ time off, causing flight and hotel rates to rise to meet demand.
If you’re on a budget, avoid early March as much as possible. By the end of the month, ticket prices should drop considerably and continue to do so through April and May.
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Hawaii’s best spring weather is often experienced in April and May, when the dry season officially begins and daylight hours are more consistently warm and sunny.
Despite these near-ideal conditions, April sees far fewer crowds than summer or winter, making it one of the quietest, most affordable months to visit any of the islands.
Like all holidays, inflated airfare and hotel rates coincide with Easter weekend as well as Golden Week — the last week in April is Japan’s peak travel time — though prices should level off again by May.
Even less rainy than April, May in Hawaii is glorious. The sun is out, the days are long, and the waters are calm — perfect conditions for snorkeling, diving, swimming, and spending as much time as possible by the beach.
Plus, crowds are few and far between, so hotel rates are low, reservations at oceanfront restaurants are easy to come by, and there’s lots of room on the beach to spread out.
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Hawaii heats up during the summer, and we’re not just referring to the humidity. Summertime is one of the busiest, priciest windows (barring the holidays) to fly to the Hawaiian Islands.
Days are hot and muggy — temperatures hover around the low 90s — but more importantly, school is out around the country, meaning both locals and vacationing families vie for prime spots on Hawaii’s beaches and book out its hotels in record numbers.
Yet despite how expensive and crowded summer gets, it’s impossible to hate on those endlessly sunny days. Hiking and snorkeling conditions peak during summer, when the trails are driest and the waters are calmest. This is also nesting season for sea turtles, which are a favorite sighting.
While dry season’s lack of rainfall is a blessing for some, waterfalls are at their weakest during the summer months. If snapping a selfie by a waterfall is on your bucket list, you might want to postpone your visit until the rainy season resumes, when cascades return in full force.
Sun-seekers love June. Hawaii’s driest month is bright and warm, free from humidity and heavy rainfall. The official start of summer also means airfare and hotel rates begin to increase as schools begin to close and vacationers scramble to log their first summer getaway.
That said, airfare in June is still more reasonable than what you’d find during winter, which might be why this month welcomes much larger crowds.
Similar to the Caribbean, June signals the start of Hawaii’s hurricane season, which lasts through November. Although rare, hurricanes and tropical storms do make landfall, so be sure to check weather reports and, if necessary, postpone your trip. The safest decision is the best one.
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By now, most schools are closed for the summer, which makes July Hawaii’s busiest month. If you’re looking to avoid crowds, you might want to skip Oahu (especially Waikiki) and Maui, whose resort-lined beaches fill up the fastest.
In July, temperatures across Hawaii are at an all-time high while beaches previously off-limits due to their rough winter conditions are now open for snorkeling, swimming, and surfing for beginners. Unlike June, humidity starts to become a factor, though, for many, that simply comes with the territory of spending time in a tropical climate zone.
Families planning a trip to Hawaii in August should book far in advance — this is the height of summer, when September (and school) is still out of mind. Temperatures peak, soaring into the high 80s, and crowds continue to pack beaches, making hotel rates surge.
If you’re looking for a deal, prices and crowds tend to drop later in the month as families head back home to prepare for the start of school.
Hawaii’s second shoulder season comes in the fall, when students resume classes and parents pack up the summer gear and return to work.
Although rain begins to fall more regularly, the weather has never been better, which is why fall is widely considered to be one of Hawaii’s most beautiful seasons. The ocean waters are the warmest they’ve been all year — an after-effect of continuous exposure to summer’s hot sun — while nights are cool and the dry season welcomes one cloudless day after another.
Aside from Thanksgiving, fall is also an affordable time to visit. Now that school is back in session, anyone that chooses to travel will have a better chance of finding fantastic deals. Keep in mind, though, that hurricane season peaks in August and September. Investing in travel insurance might be wise if you’re forced to move your travel dates.
September is beautiful — one of the best months to visit Hawaii, weather-wise, and when ocean temperatures peak at 81 degrees — but travelers should be wary.
Hurricane season is still in full effect, and jumps in airfare and hotel prices are known to happen at the beginning of the month, when vacationers try and squeeze in 1 last getaway before summer ends and school begins. After classes restart, expect the crowds to dissipate and flight and hotel rates to plummet — and remain low right up until the holidays.
Hot Tip: Check out our ultimate travel guides to Hawaii for more ideas on what to do and where to stay during your next Hawaiian vacation, including top attractions, recommended restaurants, and hidden beaches. We’ve got guides on Maui and Kauai and Oahu, Big Island, and Lanai.
The humidity of summer lifts in October, which brings clear, warm days — temperatures average in the mid-80s — and slightly cooler nights. Since Hawaii’s dry season is coming to a close, rain starts to occur more frequently in the forecast. Aside from Labor Day weekend, hotel rates in October also trend low.
One of the biggest draws of the month is the 3-week-long Hawaii Food and Wine Festival, which is held across the Big Island, Maui, and Oahu. Its big-ticket lineup of dinners, cooking classes, and parties celebrating Hawaiian cuisine draws foodies from around the globe.
With the exception of Thanksgiving week, November is one of the quietest months across the Hawaiian Islands. The last month of hurricane season also signals the start of rainy season, so days continue to get cooler and wetter.
Winter is also on the horizon, and surfers begin to emerge to take advantage of shorelines’ growing swells. In November, major surfing competitions start to take place on Oahu’s North Shore.
The holidays are an expensive time of year, and winter in Hawaii is no different. From as early as Thanksgiving through the New Year, it consistently ranks as one of the busiest and priciest seasons to book a flight.
Despite being Hawaii’s wettest and “coldest” time of year, with temperatures dipping into the high 70s, tropical paradise is an obvious escape from the snow and the cold back home. Better still that the kids are off from school and businesses are closed for the holidays.
Plus, what Hawaii lacks in less-than-perfect weather it makes up for on the water. Whale-watching is one of winter’s biggest attractions, while huge swells create some of the best conditions for big-wave surfing in the world.
The islands’ rainiest month is still a magical time in Hawaii. After all, what compares to celebrating the most wonderful time of the year in one of the most beautiful places on Earth? Unfortunately, many, many people agree, making December one of Hawaii’s busiest months of the year.
As crowds soar, so do hotel rates and airfare, which reach an all-time high in late December — particularly in the days between Christmas and New Year’s, when revelers come to celebrate the season and holiday breaks free up student and family time.
If your heart is set on a Hawaiian winter, do your wallet a favor and book reservations as early as you can manage. For many visitors, the reward is worth the money spent. This is especially true for whale-watching enthusiasts and surfers competing in the last legs of December’s Vans Triple Crown event.
With the holiday chaos in the rearview mirror, travelers use their winter woes (and extra pocket money) to start fresh — on the beach, that is — which is why January clocks in as one of the most expensive months to book a flight and a hotel.
Surfing season is still well underway and the whale-watching season kicks into high gear, when pods of humpbacks in the thousands migrate from Alaska to mate and give birth in Hawaii’s warmer waters. By January, you can spot adults and calves breaching offshore, particularly near Maui, the Big Island, and Lanai.
While February on the mainland can be snowy, rainy, and downright miserable, February in Hawaii is still enjoyably warm. Temperatures hang in the high 70s to low 80s and the rain continues to lessen as spring approaches.
While the ocean is the coldest it will get all year, water temperatures still average around 75 degrees and big waves remain a draw for experienced surfers. Generally, February is not a crowded month on the islands except for Valentine’s Day.
The month’s biggest draw is the whales — February marks the peak of Hawaii’s humpback whale season.
The Best Time to Visit Hawaii by Island
April, May, September, and October beat out all of the rest of the months on Oahu thanks to their great weather, minimal crowds, and affordable room rates.
June through August are Oahu’s driest months while December through February are its wettest. Trade winds that blow in during the winter result in high waves off the north coast — perfect conditions for the island’s world-renowned surfing competitions.
If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, stay away from high season (December through March) and Golden Week (the last week in April when travelers from Japan pour into Honolulu). Waikiki and Honolulu are perpetually busy year-round.
Events to Plan For:
- The Honolulu Festival (March)
- Lei Day Celebration (May 1)
- Prince Lot Hula Festival (July)
- Aloha Festival (September)
- Hawaii Food and Wine Festival (October)
- Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (November, December)
Weather-wise, the best months to visit Maui are April, May, September, and October, unless you want to see the whales. If that’s the case, go anytime between December and March and stick to Maui’s west coast — an area that humpbacks and their newborns tend to favor.
April and May are particular sweet spots for scoring more affordable hotel rates (Maui’s luxury properties tend to be pricier the rest of the year) as well as snorkeling. Since Maui is protected from trade winds, its water during the spring is as calm and as clear as it gets.
Events to Plan For:
- East Maui Taro Festival (April)
- Maui Film Festival (June)
- Hawaii Food and Wine Festival (October)
Nicknamed the “Garden Island,” Kauai is Hawaii’s lushest and rainiest island. Although the weather is generally better during the usual months of April, May, August, and September, summer is when rainfall is at its lowest, which increases your chances of sunshine while enjoying northern beaches like Princeville or hiking the island’s world-class trails.
Pack plenty of water and sunscreen before you tackle the Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali Coast, one of the most beautiful hikes in the country. Boat tours of the Na Pali Coast run during the summer and are a great way to take in its enormous scale from afar.
If multiple dreary days are your biggest vacation nightmare, you might want to avoid Kauai in the late fall and winter, when the island receives more rain than other islands (on top of Hawaii’s rainy season).
Events to Plan For:
- Waimea Town Celebration (February)
- Taste of Hawaii (June)
Island of Hawaii (“Big Island”)
There’s a reason why the Island of Hawaii is known as “the Big Island.” At 4,028 square miles, it’s more than twice the size of all the other Hawaiian islands combined and covers 8 separate climate zones.
Generally, low season — late April, May, September, and October — offers the best weather, fewer crowds, and affordability across the board. High season (December through March) coincides with whale season; sightings are particular spectacular near Hilo Bay and the Kohala Coast.
Summer’s higher temperatures make it an ideal time to stargaze on the summit of Mauna Kea (which experiences snow during the winter). Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, where you can see active lava flows plunging straight into the ocean, is busy year-round and is worth a visit no matter what month you go.
Hot Tip: Take a virtual drive to explore the beautiful Haleakala National Park or immerse yourself in a virtual tour of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park — both parks are featured in our round-up of 60+ Virtual Tours of Iconic National Parks Around the U.S.
Events to Plan For:
- Merrie Monarch Festival (April)
- Hawaii Food and Wine Festival (October)
The least-visited of Hawaii’s major islands, Lanai still retains its undiscovered vibe. It’s reachable via a direct flight from Honolulu or a ferry from Maui, though if you choose the latter, the journey can be rough during the winter. A trip anytime between the summer and November is ideal, when visitors can use the driest and warmest conditions on the island to their advantage.
Hot Tip: Planning on flying between islands? Learn about the best ways to redeem Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles.
Go for a bike ride along Lanai’s unique red-dirt trails, swim and snorkel near its pristine beaches, cliff-dive off Kahekili’s Leap on the island’s south shore, or explore the wreckage at famous Shipwreck Beach.
You won’t find many hotels on the island, though the Four Seasons Resort Lanai and its sister property, Sensei Lanai, are 2 of the most luxurious places to stay in all of Hawaii. Otherwise, a multitude of bed and breakfasts offer charming rooms, Wi-Fi, and a glimpse at local life.
No matter which island or month you choose to visit, a trip to Hawaii is sure to be one for the books. Between its famous golden beaches, award-winning resorts, delicious island cuisine, and laid-back lifestyle, it remains a top destination for celebrating life’s greatest moments — even if that moment is simply getting away from it all.
Summer is legendary, and even winter is warmer than the mainland. Yes, there is always a chance of rain, but because storms are localized and usually brief, you’ll find that sunshine is right around the corner. All you have to do is wait it out, or simply — as locals will attest — drive down the road!
Featured Image Credit: Ethan Robertson via Unsplash
Frequently Asked Questions
Spring and fall are Hawaii’s shoulder seasons, when fewer crowds mean less demand. You’ll generally find cheaper flights and lower hotel rates during these 2 windows.
There isn’t a bad time to visit Hawaii — at least, not where the weather is concerned. Hawaii’s tropical climate means it experiences warm, sunny weather year-round. Although the archipelago does experience a rainy season, tropical storms are few and far between, ensuring fun in the sun from January to December.
That said, if by “bad” you mean “expensive,” the winter months (December through March) tend to be the priciest times to visit and generally the worst in terms of available deals.
Hawaii’s rainy season corresponds with winter, officially beginning in November and lasting through the end of March, but don’t let that deter you from planning a visit during those months. Although multiple days of rain are rare during dry season, it is not uncommon to experience consecutive clear, sunny skies during a winter getaway.
Generally, the amount of rainfall differs by island, and even destinations on each island. On Oahu, for example, Hilo averages about 130 inches of rain each year, while Honolulu only receives about 17 inches. Do your research, but expect to experience some rain no matter when you visit.
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About Lindsey Olander
Currently based in New York, Lindsey spent her childhood in Connecticut dreaming of far-off places. Her first flight was to Disney World at age 11. Her second flight was for a high school field trip to Italy, though travel as a career didn’t stick until she studied abroad in London during college and discovered the true power of her passport. Since then, she’s worked as a travel editor at Jetsetter and Travel + Leisure, where she reported on everything from African safaris to hot hotel openings to, yes, Disney World.
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