Most visitors come to Hawaii when the weather is lousy elsewhere. Thus, the high season—when prices are up and resorts are often booked to capacity—is generally from mid-December to March or mid-April. In particular, the last two weeks of December and first week of January are prime time for travel to Hawaii. Spring break is also jam-packed with families taking advantage of the school holiday.
If you’re planning a trip during peak season, make hotel and rental car reservations as early as possible, expect crowds, and prepare to pay top dollar. The winter months tend to be a little rainier and cooler. But there’s a perk to traveling during this time: Hawaiian humpback whales are here, too.
The off season, when the best rates are available and the islands are less crowded, is late spring (mid-April to early June) and fall (September to mid-December).
If you plan to travel in summer (June–August), don’t expect to see the fantastic bargains of spring and fall—this is prime time for family travel. But you’ll still find much better deals on packages, airfare, and accommodations than in the winter months.
Because Hawaii lies at the edge of the tropical zone, it technically has only two seasons, both of them warm. There’s a dry season that corresponds to summer (April–October) and a rainy season in winter (November–March). It rains every day somewhere in the islands at any time of the year, but the rainy season can bring enough gray weather to spoil your sunbathing opportunities. Fortunately, it seldom rains in one spot for more than 3 days straight.
The year-round temperature doesn’t vary much. At the beach, the average daytime high in summer is 85°F (29°C), while the average daytime high in winter is 78°F (26°C); nighttime lows are usually about 10° cooler. But how warm it is on any given day really depends on where you are on the island.
Each island has a leeward side (the side sheltered from the wind) and a windward side (the side that gets the wind’s full force). The leeward sides (the west and south) are usually hot and dry, while the windward sides (east and north) are generally cooler and moist. When you want arid, sunbaked, desert-like weather, go leeward. When you want lush, wet, rainforest weather, go windward.
Hawaii also has a wide range of microclimates, thanks to interior valleys, coastal plains, and mountain peaks. Kauai’s Mount Waialeale is one of the wettest spots on earth, yet Waimea Canyon, just a few miles away, is almost a desert. On the Big Island, Hilo ranks among the wettest cities in the nation, with 180 inches of rainfall a year. At Puako, only 60 miles away, it rains less than 6 inches a year. The summits of Mauna Kea on the Big Island and Haleakala on Maui often see snow in winter—even when the sun is blazing down at the beach. The locals say if you don’t like the weather, just drive a few miles down the road—it’s sure to be different.
When Hawaii observes holidays (especially those over a long weekend), travel between the islands increases, interisland airline seats are fully booked, rental cars are at a premium, and hotels and restaurants are busier.
Federal, state, and county government offices are closed on all federal holidays. Federal holidays include:
• New Year’s Day, January 1
• Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, third monday in January
• Presidents’ Day, third Monday in February
• Memorial Day, last monday in May
• Independence Day, July 4
• Labor Day, first Monday in September
• Columbus Day, second Monday in October
• Veterans Day, November 11
• Thanksgiving, fourth Thursday in November
• Christmas, December 25
State and county offices are also closed on local holidays. These include:
• Prince Kuhio Day, March 26, honoring the birthday of Hawaii’s first delegate to the U.S. Congress
• King Kamehameha Day, June 11, a statewide holiday commemorating Kamehameha the Great, who united the islands and ruled from 1795 to 1819
• Admission Day, observed on the third Friday in August to mark the admittance of Hawaii as the 50th state on August 21, 1959
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.