While any time of year is an excellent time for this Hawaiian island, the best time to visit Kauai is from April to June and from September to November. In the pre-summer months the temperature is still ideal, without the summer vacation crowds. Similarly from September to November, the rainiest season has yet to start, and there are still plenty of events and festivals going on throughout the small island.
Known as “The Garden Isle,” Kauai’s rainfall is one of the aspects that makes it so special. The rain is responsible for the lush green rain forests and a plethora of waterfalls throughout the landscape. Expect daily brief showers no matter which part of the island you’re on. Kauai is known as one of the quieter islands, so sit back, relax, and take advantage of everything The Garden Isle has to offer.
The Weather on Kauai
Kauai is without question the rainiest island in Hawaii — that’s what gives it its signature rain forest vibes. On average Kauai’s hottest months are July to early September ranging from the mid-high 80s F during the day and dipping to the mid 70s F in the evenings, so a trip in September means catching the tail end of the warmest weather after the bulk of the crowds have gone. The coolest weather occurs from December-January, but still rarely dips lower than the mid 60s F at night. The months that see the most amount of rain are March, November and December, but bear in mind that there isn’t a time where it is not raining somewhere on the island at any given time. Staying 100% dry during a Kauai vacation is rare. May, June and July have fewer chances for rainy weather. In April of 2018, the island set national records for rainfall after it got over four feet of rain over 24 hours. Bear in mind that the coastal areas usually see less rain than the inner mountainous areas, and most vacationers choose to stay close to the beach.
Hurricane seasons in the Central Pacific usually runs from June 1 to November 30, but tropical cyclones have been known to pop up unexpectedly year-round. It’s important to be prepared if a storm warning is issued while you’re on vacation, though Kauai hasn’t seen a direct hit since Category 4 Hurricane Iniki in 1992.
Thanks to the phenomenal tropical weather Kauai experiences, the water temperature stays a comfortable 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit all year round.
Peak Season on Kauai
Tourism fluctuates on Kauai depending on the time of year, but not by much. The highest numbers are from May-August during school breaks and warmer temperatures, with an occasional rise in March from Easter breaks. Like the other islands, when the weather gets colder on the mainland tourism tends to rise on Kauai due to people wanting to escape the snow.
Keep in mind that with Southwest Airlines debuting new routes from Hawaii to the mainland in 2019, plane ticket prices are believed to go down due to competition from other airlines.
Plenty of visitors choose to stay on Kauai’s east side, either in Lihue close to the airport or further up in Kapaa and Wailua. Accommodations tend to be less expensive here, and the more central location allows visitors to travel to multiple points of the island more easily.
You’ll find more wide-open spaces on the north shore in towns like Princeville and Hanalei — though the area is still recovering from damage incurred from the 2018 floods. The upside is more lush landscape and an abundance of waterfalls, as well as easier access to the famous Na Pali Coast.
Much less popular, the west side consists of Waimea Canyon and smaller towns like Hanapepe. Plan on being a bit more isolated from the rest of the island if you’re staying in this area.
In the south, Poipu and Koloa tend to be more saturated with tourists than the other parts of the island due to the dryer weather and greater number of restaurants and beaches.
Popular Holidays, Festivals, and Events
Kauai is one of the smaller, more laid-back islands. You won’t find an abundance of wild nightlife here, but that certainly adds to its charm. Because of the small-town feel of Kauai, there are plenty of recurring events like the Priceville Night Market and, the Hanapepe Friday Night Festival & Art Walk, The Tasting Kauai Food Tour and the Farmer’s Market.
This season is both the second-most rainy and also the coldest (we’re talking Hawaii standards, so high in the mid-high 70’s and lows in the mid 60’s on average). The west and south sides of Kauai tend to see the least amount of rain, so choosing to stay in Poipu or Waimea are good bets if you want to stay a bit drier. This is also a favorite time for the snowbirds to flock to Hawaii due to low temperatures elsewhere, so it can get busy.
Events to check out:
- The longest-running festival on Kauai (over 40 years), Waimea Town Celebration is a 9-day event that celebrates the Hawaiian culture.
- Kuhio Day is celebrated all throughout the islands with parades and events, and Kauai is no exception. Enjoy live music, activities and hula at The Prince Kuhio Celebration at Anahola Beach Park.
One of the best times to visit is right before the busy season right before it gets too hot. Since this is also considered a slower season for the tourism industry, there are higher chances of finding some great hotel and airfare deals.
Events to check out:
- The Color Run in March is a 1-3 mile race that benefits the island’s Special Olympics program. Get doused in colorful powders while helping raise money for an important cause.
- The Spring Fantasy Orchid Show showcases the tropical flowers that thrive in Kauai’s garden climate. Can’t make it to the festival? Head to Orchid Alley in Old Town Kapaa, open all year-round.
- The premier food and wine tasting event on Kauai, Taste of Hawaii Ultimate Sunday Brunch features chefs from all over the state, beverage vendors, live music and even a silent auction.
Since this is peak time for warm Hawaii weather, it means larger crowds and more expensive booking prices. Mainlanders flock to the islands for summer break, and while most come to Oahu, plenty of tourists choose Kauai for their vacation as well.
Events to check out:
- Koloa Plantation Days commemorates Kauai’s historic days when the sugar industry boomed in the town of Koloa. It is a historic event that kicks off with a parade and entertainment.
- Swimmers from all over the world travel to Kauai in the summer to enjoy the north shore’s warm waters for the Hanalei Bay Swim Challenge. The event is catered towards all ages and abilities.
- Heiva Kauai is an international Tahitian dance competition held right in Kapaa Beach Park on Kauai’s northwestern shore. Open to everyone, there will also be over 40 vendors offering Pacific Island art, food and cultural demonstrations.
- The Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon begins in Poipu and follows the picturesque Kauai coastline and through the rain forests around the island.
The summer crowds have started to disperse and, while this season is known for having the coldest temperatures, it’s rare to see high temperatures below the 80’s during the day. You will still get plenty of sun and take advantage of the smaller crowds at the same time.
Events to check out:
- In September the island celebrates the week-long Kauai Mokihana Festival with a hula competition, Hawaiian music and cultural presentations in Kapaa.
- Organized by the Kauai Coffee company, the Kauai Chocolate and Coffee Festival is a celebration of some of Hawaii’s favorite crops. The festival is held in Hanapepe, with free samples, live music and presentations on sustainable farming.
- The NTBG Holiday Craft Fair is the perfect place to grab some Kauai-made souvenirs or holiday gifts while enjoying some local music and food.