The best time to visit Hawaii depends on what you plan to see. This guide includes top attractions for each season and tips on the cheapest time to fly there!
While Hawaii may be a warm, tropical oasis year-round, deciding when to visit is not always easy. Each season brings with it unique weather patterns and activities, and tourism fluctuates greatly throughout the year.
Winter tends to be a popular time to visit, with many northerners escaping their snowy realities for tropical climes. Spring and fall are generally peaceful times to visit, with accommodation prices becoming most affordable and it’s usually the cheapest time to fly to Hawaii — although you can often find flight deals year-round. Summer is when Hawaii is at its warmest, so if you love the heat and humidity, a summer vacation is for you!
See below to learn about the best seasons to see Hawaii’s most popular sites!
The Best Time to Visit Hawaii
Visiting Hawaii in the Winter
A popular season for visiting Hawaii, Winter retains the warm weather found throughout the year, but with on and off tourism periods. The holiday and February break weeks are always busy, so if you plan on visiting during those times, book well in advance as accommodations tend to fill up fast.
Weather-wise, Winter brings with it an increased chance of daily rains and much more powerful waves, especially on the north shores of the islands. Swimming might not always be safe, so be sure to check conditions before heading out.
Things to See in Hawaii During Winter
From roughly November through May you can find the annual Hawaiian Humpback whale migration! Especially prevalent around Kauai or Maui, between 10,000 and 15,000 Humpback whales arrive in Hawaii, so be sure to book yourself on a whale watching tour.
The surfing swells are at their peak in the winter, so while the oceans may be too dangerous for swimming or snorkeling, they’re perfect for catching a wave! The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing competition on Oahu’s north shore happens between November and December of every year and is one of the largest surfing competitions in the world.
The fourth largest marathon in the United States, the Honolulu marathon is 26.2 miles long and occurs every December. Visiting during the marathon is great if you’re a runner, but even if you’re not, it’s worth it for the fun and festivities.
Hawaiian Christmas Festivities
Christmas is a truly magical time to visit Hawaii, with Hawaiian-esque decorations, Hawaiian Santas, and Sandpeople (rather than snowmen), on full display. Some of the best Christmas sites include the Honolulu City Lights displays, Kauai’s Festival of Lights in Lihue, and Lahaina’s lit up banyan tree.
Visiting Hawaii in the Spring
Spring is perhaps my favorite time to visit Hawaii – the ocean is calm, the trade winds die down, and tourism experiences a lull, making the experience serene and peaceful. May is an especially nice time to visit, as flowers will be in full bloom.
Things to See in Hawaii During Spring
Skiing and Snowboarding
A dormant volcano on the Big Island, Mauna Kea is where to go if you want to see snow in Hawaii. The levels of snow vary year round, but if you want to hit the slopes while visiting, early spring or very late winter is probably your best bet.
Just bear in mind that there are no resorts or chair lifts on Mauna Kea, so you’ll need a heavy-duty vehicle, but the snowboarding here is renowned.
Merrie Monarch Festival
If you see a spike in accommodation prices on the Big Island during Spring, it’s probably because of the Merrie Monarch Festival. An annual celebration beginning Easter Sunday in Hilo, the festival is renowned for honoring traditional Hawaiian culture and its people. During this time, you’ll find hula competitions, performances, exhibits, and the Merrie Monarch Royal Parade.
June 11th is a public holiday in Hawaii that honors Kamehameha the Great, the monarch who is well-known for uniting the Kingdom of Hawaii way back in 1810. Every year, floral parades are held all throughout the state, and often feature marching bands, draping ceremonies, floats, and block parties.
Na Pali Coast
The Na Pali Coast, full of Hawaiian history and incredible views, is truly is a beautiful site to see year-round but, for the best experience, I recommend visiting in Spring. There are a few ways to see the coast, most notably by water, air, or foot, but no matter what way you want to see it, the trip is best done outside of the rainy season.
Visiting in Spring will mean safer hiking and less chance of getting caught in a storm.
Visiting Hawaii in the Summer
Summer is the most popular season to visit Hawaii. Kids are out of school, the weather is at its hottest, and, as a result, the prices are at their highest. If you do plan on visiting Hawaii in the summertime, definitely book far in advance and be prepared to pay more for most services.
Keep in mind that because the state is at its hottest, a lot of strenuous outdoor activities will have you chugging water – so definitely fill up a big water bottle before you head out. Also, remember that summer is also the start of hurricane season in Hawaii!
Things to See in Hawaii During Summer
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a must while on the Big Island, but the time of year you go can have a drastic effect on your experience. The Volcano of Kilauea has been erupting since 1983, and while there is no best or worst time to see lava, the weather will play a factor in your comfort level.
As you get higher up the volcano, the temperature will start to drop – in fact, it’s can be anywhere from 10 – 20 degrees cooler than at sea level. So if you want to stay warm, it’s recommended to go in summer, when the days are already hotter.
Hawaii is one of those places where you can snorkel and scuba dive to see the marine life year round, but if you want the absolute best conditions, summer is the time to do it. While summer does bring with it the chance of tropical storms, the water temperature is warmer and the northern shore waves tend to quell a bit.
Just remember to ask a local about the conditions and best spots before you go!
Occurring on all major islands, Bon dance is a traditional Buddhist folk dance brought to Hawaii the Japanese that’s used to show gratitude towards the spirits of ancestors. In the ceremony, dancers circle around a tower while musicians play traditional songs. The dancing is open to everyone, regardless of religious beliefs.
Summer is prime festival season in Hawaii, and there are a few that happen on the various islands.
Koloa Days on Kauai is held every July and celebrates the influx of different cultures that came to the island during its sugar-mill plantation days. The Haleiwa Arts Festival occurs every July on Oahu and celebrates local artists of all mediums and levels. Duke’s OceanFest in Honolulu occurs every August and is the place to go to watch top surfers and paddle boarders do their thing.
Road to Hana
Like many natural sites in Hawaii, the Road to Hana on Maui is beautiful all year long. However, this is an attraction that is worth planning around the rainy season.
Summer is the perfect time to drive the lush Road to Hana as you’ll be able to roll down the windows, feel the wind in your hair, and have a much safer drive while not having to worry about the rain.
Visiting Hawaii in the Fall
Much like spring, Fall is a peaceful time to visit Hawaii. Kids are back in school, so tourism tends to drop off, and you’ll experience warm trade winds and blue skies.
Just keep in mind that Hurricane Season runs until November 30th – hurricanes are unusual, but it’s something to keep in the back of your mind.
Things to See in Hawaii During Fall
Kona Coffee Farms
There are hundreds of coffee farms on the Big Island, so taking a day to explore a few of them is a must. The coffee farms are open year round, yet November is the best time to go as it’ll coincide with the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival.
Coffee tours will have you learning how the beans are processed and harvested, and about all the unique flavors and methods that are used in producing the perfect cup of coffee.
Festivals of Aloha
Festivals of Aloha is a month-long festival that begins in September and runs into October. This is a time of various cultural events happening around the different regions, most notably Maui, Lanai, and Molokai. Think concerts and floral parades!
Halloween in Hawaii is truly something special, and the annual celebration in Lahaina is one of the most spectacular of them all. The festival attracts about 25,000 people each year and includes a kids costume parade, an adult costume contest, and live music.
If you’re a foodie, then get your butt to Wailea in November for restaurant week. Every year, top restaurants in the area provide fixed-price menus allowing you to try a variety of dishes at a fraction of the usual cost. Plus, a portion of the price is donated to charity – win, win!
Read more: How to Travel Kauai on a Budget