The Best Time to Visit Hawai‘i

Want to take a road trip in O‘ahu or snorkel in Moloka‘i? This is when you should consider visiting the Aloha state.


Time your Hawai’i vacation for the best possible beach opportunities.

Photo by Erin Kunkel

There isn’t exactly a bad time to visit Hawai‘i. But while its islands enjoy year-round sun and consistently warm temperatures, other factors like hotel prices, crowds, and your itinerary can determine a more ideal time to visit the Hawaiian islands. Humpback whale migrations take place from December to March, making that the perfect time for snorkelers hoping to hear their calls. Meanwhile, those trying to catch (or watch) those totally-gnarly-dude swells also may want to come in the winter, when 30- and 40-foot waves hit the North Shore.

Peak crowds arrive in December and January and on a lesser scale during the summer as people migrate for the holidays and school vacations, offering the argument that the best time to visit Hawai‘i is during the shoulder seasons of April to May or September to November. During this period, the crowds thin out and the state experiences less rainfall (though topography, like whether a location is on Hawai‘i’s leeward or windward side, can affect precipitation amounts).

While the summer’s wildfires damaged several Hawaiian islands, including Maui, and recovery is ongoing, Hawai‘i is welcoming visitors. Ilihia Gionson, public affairs officer at Hawai‘i Tourism Authority says the community is “asking for respectful, compassionate, responsible travel to the island at this time.”

So take a look at your itinerary—or dream up an ideal one—and read on to figure out the best time to visit Hawai‘i.

The best time to visit Hawai‘i for a road trip

  • Best month(s): April–May, September–November

Where and when you venture through Hawai’i’s roads dictates the adventure conditions. Head from November to March during Hawai’i’s rainy months to the eastern, windward side of Hawai’i’s islands and the sights will be even more lush and prone to rainbow appearances. (This is due to the trade winds blowing in from the northeast, which forms condensation as it interacts with the hills and mountains of that side.) However, this season also brings winter storms, so make sure to be prepared for possible national park closures and hazardous conditions in the event of a sudden downpour.

Therefore, the shoulder seasons between April and May as well as September to November offer the best of both worlds: These periods not only bring fewer visitors, but they also offer milder weather conditions. (Keep in mind that weather in Hawai’i can change in an instant and can be dramatically different from one side of the island to the other.) Especially for drivers eager to experience popular routes like the 64-mile stretch between Kahului and Hana in Maui (also known as the Hana Highway), the shoulder season is a great time to hit the road.

The best time to visit Hawai‘i for the beaches

  • Best month(s): March–September

Hawai’i’s summer period from March to September also brings its dry season, where temperatures across the archipelago reach daytime averages of 85 degrees Fahrenheit and instances of storms reach yearly lows. At this time of year, your beach adventures have the best chance of avoiding a random storm. Again, keep in mind that where you decide to stake your spot in the sand will also determine the likelihood of rain. Head to the windward side of an island and the random downpour might interrupt your beach nap. An island’s leeward side, meanwhile, has a more consistent dry spell during the summer—so maybe look to western beaches like Wailea Beach in Maui for your beach plans.

Man surfing blue curling wave in the daytime.

Come to Hawai’i during the winter and you can see your favorite surfers compete in the Vans Triple Crown surfing competition.

Photo by Vince Cavatio/Age Fotostock

The best time to visit Hawai‘i for surfing

  • Best month(s): November–April

Depending on one’s surf skills, the best months for surfing will vary. The archipelago’s iconic hang-10 waves appear November through April, when Pacific storms push high swells toward the islands. Beaches on many island’s north side especially get high-surf conditions during this time, but sometimes north swells extend to west shores. The tail end of the year is when Vans Triple Crown of Surfing event takes place on O‘ahu’s North Shore, where surfers from around the world compete in the Hawaiian Pro, the World Cup of Surfing, and the Pipeline Masters. Alternatively, hit beaches Sandy’s or Makapu‘u in the winter to try bodyboarding, and discover Hawai‘i’s other coolest sport.

Blue sky over green mountains. Kuliouou Ridge Trail, Hawaii, Oahu

Hike the Kuliouou Ridge Trail for incredible mountain views.

Photo by Roman Khomlyak/Shutterstock

The best time to visit Hawai’i for hiking

  • Best month(s): April–May, September–November

The spring and fall shoulder seasons are a hiker’s best bet. From April to May and from September to November, travelers can experience mild temperatures and blooming flowers, making these months a fine time to explore Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park’s 150 miles of hiking trails or Honolulu’s Kuliouou Ridge and Lanipo trails.

 Hula dancers marching along a street

If you attend the Aloha Festivals, expect a showcase of Hawaiian tradition and culture.

Photo by Yi-Chen Chiang/Shutterstock

The best time to visit Hawai‘i to learn about Indigenous culture

  • Best month(s): All year

More than a thousand years before Captain Cook made contact with Hawai‘i in 1778, native Hawaiians created a culture filled with unique craft specialties (the kapa cloth is a prime example), mythology, and artistic pursuits. Many of these Indigenous practices and values are still observed today, and attending one of Hawai’i’s many celebrations can create a greater understanding of the islands. During the spring, the city of Hilo hosts a weeklong cultural festival that draws thousands for its three-day hula competition. In September, head to the islands for the Aloha Festivals, an archipelago-wide celebration (with major events taking place on the island of O‘ahu) that includes an opening ceremony with Hawaiian royalty representatives.

Green sea turtle in water at Olowa

The sea turtle is just one of the many creatures found in Hawai’i’s waters.

Photo by Michael S. Nolan/Age Fotostock

The best time to visit Hawai‘i for snorkeling and scuba diving

  • Best month(s): All year

Slather on reef-safe sunscreen and keep an eye out for tiger sharks and sea turtles—with the opportunity to go night snorkeling with manta rays and hear humpback whales as they migrate, Hawai‘i is a year-round destination for scuba divers and snorkelers. Different times of year offer their own advantages: September through November will likely bring ocean explorers significant discounts; the winter period of January to March offers the best chance to hear whales while underwater. But no matter when you go, expect to swim comfortably in warm waters: Throughout the year, water temperatures remain a consistent 75–80 degrees Fahrenheit. Consider doing a excursion with family-owned and operated Tropical Guides & Outfitters in Maui, which shares information about ocean conservation in addition to its snorkeling tours, and embrace the feeling of Aloha ‘Āina (the Hawaiian term that roughly translates to “love of our lands”).

Chloe Arrojado is the associate editor of destinations at AFAR. She’s a big fan of cafés, dancing, and asking people on the street for restaurant recommendations.
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