Know Your Seasons: How Hawaii’s Unique “Seasons” Affect Travel

By Coco Zickos

Sunset over the island of Lanai from Kaanapali Beach. Photo taken in early December. Photo: Rosa Say.

You might scoff at Hawai‘i’s ‘seasons.’ Sure, the islands might not have blizzards and sub-zero temperatures or even trees with leaves that change color each fall. However, there are significant patterns when the seasons change in Hawai‘i, even if some of them have nothing to do with the weather.

Traveling to Hawaii During the Winter Season

Photo: Salty Glass Co.

Huge surf conditions on Oahu’s North Shore in February. Photo: Salty Glass Co.

First of all, traveling to Hawai‘i during the winter season, especially to the north shore of any island, you will encounter a greater likelihood of rain that brings flash flooding. Winter on these northern coasts also bring more tumultuous ocean conditions that aren’t always safe for swimming. Still, winter is a prime season for visitors as the “cold” and wet weather in Hawai‘i is an escape from what most must deal with in other parts of the world. That said, if you’re expecting to travel near the holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas, make sure to book well in advance.

Tips for traveling during winter:
-Be prepared for big, and sometimes dangerous, surf on north facing shores.
-Be prepared for increase chance of rain.
-Book accommodations early, as hotel rooms sell out around the holidays.
-You can expect to see whales during the wintertime, especially in the waters surrounding Maui.

Traveling to Hawaii During the Summer Season

Brilliant weather in Kona on Hawaii Island during July. Photo: Rosa Say.

Summer is another peak travel season in Hawai‘i and is particularly attractive to families as children are out of school for an extended period of time (that also goes for spring break in March). So, if this is your only option to visit, make arrangements as soon as you can. These hotter months can also bring rougher wave conditions to unprotected south shores. Therefore, as always, make sure to check with lifeguards before heading out.

Tips for traveling during summer:
-Be prepared for big, and sometimes dangerous, surf on south facing shores.
-June 1st starts the beginning of hurricane season, which runs through November 30th. While hurricanes are unusual in Hawaiʻi, good safety practice is to be on alert

Traveling to Hawaii During the Spring and Fall Seasons

Plumeria flowers in full bloom during late May. Photo: Rosa Say.

Spring and fall are two of the most delightful seasons to visit the islands. Fewer crowds, serene ocean conditions and pleasant weather make it an ideal time to explore the islands. In May, you’ll be bombarded with gorgeous flowers. In October, you’ll be treated to crystal clear blue skies and friendly trade winds.

Tips for traveling during spring:
-If planning to travel to Hilo, book early because hotels fill up around the Merrie Monarch Festival.

Tips for traveling during fall:
-June 1st starts the beginning of hurricane season, which runs through November 30th. While hurricanes are unusual in Hawaiʻi, good safety practice is to be on alert
-Although fall is hurricane season, it is usually the most beautiful time of the year.

Annual Special Events that Affect Travel

The kane from Ka Leo O Laka I Ka Hikina O Ka La (Kumu Hula Kaleo Trinidad; Honolulu, Oahu) dance during the Kahiko portion of the Merrie Monarch Festival competition. PHOTO BY DENNIS ODA. APRIL 10, 2015.

The kane from Ka Leo O Laka I Ka Hikina O Ka La (Kumu Hula Kaleo Trinidad; Honolulu, Oahu) dance during the Kahiko portion of the Merrie Monarch Festival competition. Photo:  Dennis Oda, APRIL 10, 2015.

Take note, however, that with each season there are various special events around the islands that make it more difficult to find accommodations. The Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo is a popular week-long Hawaiian cultural festival that happens in April, and the Honolulu Marathon draws crowds to Waikiki in December.

Whale “Season”

Mother and baby whale cafe. Image from a gopro video taken in February. Photo: Hawaii.com member Brian K.

Last, but certainly not least, one of the most optimal “seasons” to visit Hawai‘i, particularly Kaua‘i or Maui, is during the annual Hawaiian humpback whale migration. From about November to May, you can delight in these magnificent sea creatures in a number of ways, making your trip to Hawai‘i that much more special.

For more travel tips, please visit our travel section: www.hawaii.com/travel.

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