At just over 4,000 square feet—and still growing—the Big Island of Hawaii is the largest island in the United States. The best time to visit is typically from April to June or from September to October. Here is where the wildly rugged landscapes of the dense jungle and majestic volcanic terrain meets miles of blue coastline with diverse geography. Almost all of the world’s climate zones are represented on Hawaii Island as well, so knowing the best time to visit this special place can make or break a vacation.
A majority of Hawaii Island’s visitors come during the summer months when the kids are out of school, as well as during the winter holiday season. The “autumn” months bring the same great Hawaii weather with slightly lower temperatures and fewer crowds. Big events like the Ironman Triathlon in October and the Merrie Monarch Festival in April generate a large number of visitors, though generally just for small pockets of time.
The Weather on Hawaii Island
While the weather on Hawaii Island doesn’t fluctuate much throughout the year, June through August tends to see the year’s hottest temperatures. However, since this island contains some of the most diverse terrains and microclimates in Hawaii, the weather can change at a moment’s notice. The tropical temperatures range from 75 degrees Fahrenheit to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius to 29 degrees Celsius) year-round for the majority of the island, with lower temperatures the further from the coast you travel. While most of the island will not see any snow, it often snows on the mountaintops of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa during winter.
Hawaii Island’s Crowds
Hawaii Island is just that—big. Depending on which part of the island you’re on, you may not experience any annoyances due to large crowds. The Kailua-Kona side of the island usually sees the largest number of tourists, followed closely by Hilo on the east side and Waimea on the north side. Summertime is the busiest due to the number of families coming over for school breaks. Winter is also a very busy time for those wanting to swap their chilly hometowns for some of Hawaii’s famous warm weather or large surf.
Prices on Hawaii Island
Compared to the rest of the main Hawaiian Islands, Hawaii Island is generally much cheaper when it comes to accommodations. Unless you rent a car or book a tour, you will probably be spending the majority of your time at your resort, so choosing the right place to stay is paramount. On the off-seasons from September to November and again from March to May, accommodation and flight prices will be lower to compensate for the smaller crowds.
Whale Season on Hawaii Island
Humpback whales visit the waters of Hawaii from December to April or May every year, so coming during these winter months will give you a great opportunity to go whale watching on Hawaii Island.
January, February, March
Come during this time if you’d like to catch a glimpse of Hawaii Island’s migrating humpback whales. For big wave surfers, the best waves can be found during these winter months as well. Keep in mind that during the winter months on the mainland U.S. and in other countries, more people tend to flock to Hawaii Island in order to escape the cold.
Events to check out:
- The Waimea Ocean Film Festival showcases around 60 different films that highlight the ocean and island lifestyle.
- Golf fans will surely have heard of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, an important golf tournament on the PGA Tour Champions.
- Experience Hawaii Island’s paniolo (cowboy) side at the Panaewa Stampede Festival, complete with rodeo demonstrations, Hawaiian music, crafts, and food.
- The Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival is Hawaii Island’s answer to the Japanese hanami tradition of cherry blossom viewing parties. Performers and artists from Japan are often in attendance and there are great opportunities for authentic Japanese food, cultural exhibits, and entertainment.
- Get the chance to try 60 different craft beers from both Hawaii and the mainland at the Kona Brewers Festival. The best part? The event helps raise funds and awareness for environmental conservation and Hawaii’s youth.
- Hilo’s unique landscape is the perfect spot for the Hawaii Island International Marathon held every March. With options for full or half marathon, 10K, 5K, and a 2-mile fun walk, this race can take any level of runner past volcanoes, waterfalls, and jungles.
April, May, June
With the exception of busy Memorial Day weekend and even busier Merrie Monarch, the months of April, May and June are a great time to visit for a laid-back vacation. The weather is pleasant and the large summer crowds have yet to arrive. Even better, you’ll be able find good deals on hotels and flights during this time.
Events to check out:
- Without a doubt the island’s most iconic event, the Merrie Monarch Festival is the premier hula competition for the state of Hawaii and the world. The week-long celebration of hula, Hawaiian music, and culture brings spectators and dancers from all over.
- Celebrate one of Hawaii Island’s greatest crops, the coffee bean, at the Ka’u Coffee Festival. The event features a pageant, farm tours, recipe contests, food, crafts, and of course, coffee.
- Every May, you can join the Kona Cacao Association at the Big Island Chocolate Festival for a weekend full of delicious locally-grown chocolate. Thirty different chef booths feature both sweet and savory samples of chocolate-inspired dishes as well as local beer and wine.
- The King Kamehameha Day Celebration honors Hawaii’s first king with events in both Hilo and Kona on Hawaii Island. The festival in Hilo features cultural presentations, Hawaiian music, food, and art, while the Kona side celebrates with a grand parade.
- May Day is celebrated throughout the island on the first day of the month, with the Lei Day Festival kicking off in Hilo with lei-making, a lei contest, hula performances, and educational presentations.
July, August, September
Remember that July and August tend to be hotter than the rest of the year, though the temperature change isn’t drastic. As more and more families arrive celebrating their summer vacations, accommodation and airfare prices will begin to jump in July.
Events to check out:
- For fishing fans, there’s a lot of history at the Hawaiian International Bill-Fishing Tournament; it was established just two days after Hawaii became a state over 50 years ago!
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Cultural Festival is a free event held at the famed Volcanoes National Park with traditional performers, music, food, and drinks.
- Watch more than 20 bartenders from around the world compete for “World’s Best Mai Tai” (and a $10,000 prize) at the Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai Festival in Kailua-Kona.
- Held at the 'Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo, the 'Ohi'a Love Fest is dedicated to the conservation of Hawaii’s important native 'Ohi'a trees.
- Witness the world’s biggest outdoor outrigger canoe race at the Queen Lili’uokalani Long-Distance Canoe Race that starts in Kailua Bay.
- The Taste of the Hawaiian Range Agricultural Festival in Waimea brings together the best chefs in Hawaii to celebrate Hawaii Island’s abundance of natural ingredients from fresh island vegetables to locally-raised beef, lamb, and wild boar.
- Hawaii’s iconic guitar style is celebrated at Hawaii Island Slack Key Guitar Festival, where spectators can come watch the most talented slack key players in the state perform for free.
October, November, December
October and November are some of the best months to visit Hawaii Island. Apart from being the slowest season allowing for lower prices, the weather has just begun to cool down from the summertime. Apart from bringing the holiday crowds to the island, December also brings the beginning of Hawaii Island’s wet season.
Events to check out:
- The Ironman World Championship held in October has taken place on Hawaii Island of Hawaii since the late 1970s. One of the most physically demanding triathlon competitions on earth brings together athletes and spectators from all over the world, so expect to see more crowds during this time.
- Compete for “best dressed” at Black and White Night, the biggest outdoor block party in Downtown Hilo. The free event features live music, food tastings, and community events.
- It would be difficult to find something that doesn’t appeal to everyone at the 10-day Kona Coffee Cultural Festival, even non-coffee drinkers. This event focuses on the history of coffee on Hawaii Island through demonstrations, hands-on events, tastings, and more.
- Don’t miss the Kailua-Kona Christmas Parade if you’re staying on the west side of the island during the second week of December. There won’t be any snow, but Hawaii Island certainly keeps it festive during the holiday season.