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Best Time to Visit Hawaii

Written by Lavanya Sunkara
Jul 23, 2020

The state of Hawaii, made up of eight gorgeous islands in the Pacific Ocean, is wonderful all year-round. The best time to visit Hawaii depends on your interests, whether it's a family vacation or an adventure-filled getaway you are seeking. Only six of these isolated islands are open for visitors: the Big Island, Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Molokai, and Lanai, and each has its own charm.

Peak season runs from mid-December to March, with plenty of happening events, festivities, and activities at resorts and popular attractions. While the winter months remain busy with tourists, the summer months see a lot of vacationing families. Those looking for a cheaper way to enjoy these idyllic islands can visit in the low season, from April to June and September to mid-December, when hotels offer deals.

The Aloha state experiences two seasons: the dry season, running from April to October, and the wet season, from November to March, with temperatures ranging from 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime and 10 degrees lower at night.

Hurricane season lasts from June to November, although storms are rare. The peak season coincides with the rainy season, but you don't have to worry about weather interrupting your travel plans — rain is usually localized, and you can always find a sunny area.

Each of the islands has a leeward side and windward side, with the leeward side (west and south) getting the least amount of wind. This side tends to be warm and dry as opposed to the windward side's cooler northern and eastern parts. A perfect example is the sunny shores of Lahaina compared to the lush and windy Hana on Maui.

Keep reading for details on the best time to visit Hawaii for a variety of fun things to do, along with information on the cheapest time to go and things to keep in mind for a vacation to remember.

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Best Season to Visit Hawaii

The Mokulua Islands and Lanikai Beach on Oahu

Spring (April and May) is the best time of year to visit Hawaii, followed by fall (the September after Labor Day to November), when temperatures range from the high 60s to mid 70s Fahrenheit. The season sees fewer tourists, offers good bargains, and is free of storms.

Spring is also the cheapest time to go to Hawaii, so long as you avoid spring break, Easter, and Golden Week in Japan (the last week of April, when the Japanese celebrate three holidays).

Many visitors travel to Hawaii for excellent hiking, water sports, and diving opportunities. Although summer is arguably the perfect time to enjoy water activities, spring tends to be just as good. The surf is less intense compared to winter, and the water is warm enough.

You can even catch sightings of migrating humpback whales as they begin to make their way back to Alaskan waters after breeding and calving in the warm Hawaiian waters from November to April.

If you are cruising to the Hawaiian islands, the optimal time to go is in April and May when there is a better selection of ships to choose from.

Although there's a slight chance of storms, fall tends to be another good time to be in Hawaii, which also has agreeable weather and lower airfares. If you find yourself in Hawaii during the fall, don't miss the week-long Aloha Festivals, a giant cultural celebration with traditional music, dancing, and display of Hawaiian traditions. Some of the highlights include the opening and presentation of the Royal Court at The Royal Hawaiian, a ho'olaule'a giant gathering, and a memorable floral parade, all held in Honolulu.

The Queen Lili'uokalani Canoe Race, held in September, celebrates traditional Polynesian outrigger canoeing with long-distance racing events along the Kona Coast on the Big Island after Labor Day weekend.

For those looking to hit the trails, Hawaii arguably has some amazing hiking, featuring stunning vistas, gushing waterfalls, and towering cliffs. The Valley of Kings on the Big Island, Wai`anapanapa State Park in Maui, Alaka'i Wilderness Preserve in Kauai, and Halawa Valley in Molokai are some of the most appealing places in the state for hiking.

A good time to enjoy the trails and scenic vistas is during late spring and fall, when the days are cooler. Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island is also less busy during spring and fall, and those planning to hike its popular trails (Kilauea Iki Trail or Halema'uma'u Crater Trail) are rewarded with spectacular views when starting the day early.

Best Month to Go to Hawaii

Palm trees and picturesque coastline on the Road to Hana, Maui

The quietest and the best month to visit Hawaii is May. The snowbirds have retreated to the mainland, the weather is gorgeous, and rainfall is nearly non-existent. You can spend pleasant days exploring the islands' many natural attractions; hiking its mountains; catching the tail-end of the whale-watching season; and relaxing on gleaming, palm-fringed beaches.

Hotels and resorts tend to sell out for Memorial Day, so book your accommodations months in advance if you are looking to travel around this time.

Worst Time to Travel to Hawaii

Rainbow Falls in Hilo, Hawaii

The summer months are the worst time to travel to Hawaii, given that schools in the United States are out, and lots of families head to the Aloha state, crowding popular attractions, resorts, and beaches.

Airfares and accommodation are also at their highest during this time. But if you do find yourself on vacation with your family during summer, there's still plenty to do, given you keep hydrated and use reef-safe sunscreen during water activities.

Summertime is the high season for seeing green sea turtles. Laniakea Beach, known as the Turtle Beach, on the North Shore of Oahu, is the best place to go for sightings of plenty of green sea turtles, when they come to the beach to nest in June and July. Other popular spots to see turtles in the water and basking under the sun are Maluaka Beach and Black Rock on Maui, and Punalu'u and Kohala Coast on the Big Island.

Another time to avoid traveling if you don't like crowds is December during the holidays and around the Honolulu Marathon, which attracts visitors in the thousands. Book your reservations at least four to six months in advance if you plan on going around these busy periods.

However, if your idea of a Hawaiian vacation revolves around the surf, winter is an optimal time to go, especially to the North Shore (also known as the "Seven Mile Miracle") of Oahu, which attracts professional and avid surfers to its famed shores. The smaller waves of the south coast are ideal for beginners.

The North Shore has several competitions throughout the season. Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (late October to December), Vans Pro (October to November), Billabong Pipe Masters (December), and the Eddie Big Wave Invitational (December to February) are some crowd-pleasing festivals happening in the winter. Be sure to bring your own shade, binoculars, and a telephoto lens to capture wave riders.

You will also find great surfing locations on other islands, including Maui (Kaanapali, Lahaina, and Kihei), Kauai (La'aloa Bay and Honoli'i Beach Park) and the Big Island (Banyans and Honolii).

Best Time to Visit Maui

Little Beach, Maui

Maui boasts some of the most idyllic beaches in the world, and these golden-sand beaches can be experienced sans the crowds during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall. Here, you can not only sunbathe anywhere along 30 miles of beaches (ideally at Ka'anapali, Wailea, Hamoa or Kapalua beaches), you can also venture into the waters for snorkeling among colorful fish and turtles.

Water temperature begins to rise in May, swells are smaller, and winds are minimal. Molokini Islet, Black Rock Beach, and Honolua Bay are some popular spots for snorkeling in Maui. If you are hoping to find sea turtles, the summer months are ideal, but you can see them year-round in calmer waters.

Temperatures will be from 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the daytime, making outdoor adventures like hiking, ATV riding, and mountain biking a pleasure. Nature lovers can rent a car to venture on the snaking Road to Hana through a dense rainforest, stopping every now and then to enjoy spring-fed waterfalls, refreshing swimming spots, and more.

In April, celebrate Hawaii's staple crop, the taro, during the East Maui Taro Festival. Visit the farmers' market, enjoy delicious local food, hula dancing, music, and other cultural activities at the Hana Ballpark in Hana.

In mid-May, the free, three-day celebration of the Maui Steel Guitar Festival entertains and educates with performances, workshops, and presentations. The event takes place at the Queen Ka'ahumanu Center in Kahului and Shops at Wailea.

If you are visiting in May, book a whale watching tour to see humpback whales, as Maui has some of the best whale watching in the entire state.

Best Time to Visit Kauai

Spectacular cliffs along the Na Pali coast, Kauai

The dramatic Na Pali coastline alone draws visitors to the "Garden Isle" of Kauai. You can admire the island's beguiling beaches; be awed by the beauty of Hanapepe Valley, Waimea Canyon, and Jurassic Park Falls on helicopter tours; and go on hiking adventures almost any time of the year.

However, the desirable time to experience all that Kauai has to offer is from April to May and September to October. Low humidity and pleasant weather allows you to enjoy the natural attractions without breaking too much of a sweat.

Keep in mind that rainfall is what gives this paradise a lush feel, so expect to have some rain somewhere on the isle regardless of the time of year. When visiting Kauai, opt to stay on the east side, in Lihue, Wailua, or Kappa, where accommodations tend to be less expensive.

When visiting in the spring, don't miss two of Kauai's annual events: The Spring Fantasy Orchid Show, taking place in the United Church of Christ in Hanapepe, puts on a vibrant display of these exotic tropical flowers for your enjoyment.

The Taste of Hawaii Ultimate Sunday Brunch, happening on the grounds of Smith's Tropical Paradise, gives visitors a chance to taste local food and beverages, while enjoying live music.

In September, the week-long Kauai Mokihana Festival in Kapaa entertains with a hula competition, music, and cultural presentations. Chocolate lovers can plan their trip around the Kauai Chocolate and Coffee Festival in Hanapepe, where there will be plenty of tasty samples, delicious coffee, and live music.

Throughout the year, travelers can browse local art, jewelry, and woodwork at the Princeville Night Market (every second Sunday of the month) at the Princeville Shopping Center and the Hanapepe Friday Night Festival & Art Walk on Fridays.

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Where to Stay in Hawaii: When planning your trip to Hawaii, there are a multitude of resorts on popular islands catering to families, adults, and budget travelers. Check out our guide to some of Hawaii's top-rated resorts, including family-friendly properties. For information specific to each of the islands, our helpful roundups of top-rated hotels on the Big Island (mostly along the Kohala Coast and near Kailua-Kona), Oahu (Waikiki and Honolulu) are a good place to start.

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