Out of all the Hawaiian islands, Oahu continues to see the greatest number of visitors every year—almost 6 million people traveled to the island between 2017 and 2018. (The Hawaiian Islands receive about 12 million visitors a year, so half of them choose Oahu as their destination.) The best time to visit Oahu is usually between April and June or September through mid-December. Historically, the crowds tend to become more sparse right before the start of summer, with the additional perk of less rain.
Additionally, the (slightly) lower temperatures preceding winter bring out fewer tourists and more events and festivals to enjoy.
With a tropical climate famous for warm ocean waters and sunny beaches, you’re likely to have good weather no matter what time of the year you travel to Oahu. Of course, some months are better than others (even in paradise). The waves can get dangerous during certain times of the year depending on which side of the island you’re on—something to think about if you’re a beach bum who also likes to surf or swim. During the winter months, the south shore is calm and the north shore waves can swell up to 50 feet (certain years have even seen surf up to 100 feet).
The Weather on Oahu
The hottest time of the year during July, August, and September levels around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Even during Oahu’s coldest months in January, February, and March, the numbers rarely dip below the mid-low 60s. When it comes to rainfall, the most comes in the winter months when the trade-winds bring more moisture, but not nearly as much as the smaller islands like Kauai. The southern tip of Oahu sees the least amount of rain, and there are plenty of great hotels to choose from in bustling Waikiki.
Hurricane season runs from June to November. While full-blown hurricanes making landfall on the islands is rare, it’s always best to be prepared. That can include travel insurance in case a flight gets cancelled and always following the instructions of the local alerts and hotel staff. Since it is in the middle of the island chain, Oahu tends to receive less of a battering during hurricane season than the other outer islands.
The state of Hawaii itself is pretty close to the equator, which many tourists learn the hard way if they forget to put on sunscreen, wear a hat, or bring an umbrella to the beach. Even a cooler day (by Oahu standards) with clouds in the sky can leave you with a nasty sunburn without the proper precautions.
Peak Season on Oahu
In 2018, Oahu saw over 500,000 tourists during each month of March, June, July, August, and December. That means out of the 6 million visitors who traveled to Oahu last year, almost half chose to stay on Oahu during this time.
The busy season for tourism usually peaks in the early summer months when there is less rain from June to August, and then again when the big waves pick up on the north shore of the island between December and April. In Hawaii’s summer, you’ll find more visitors crowding the beaches to enjoy the great weather, as well as families on vacation from school. The season peaks again as travelers come to escape cold temperatures and snow from other parts of the world from late-December to mid-April (when everyone on Oahu is still wearing shorts and tank tops).
During these times, you’ll find much more traffic jamming the roads, especially in the north where the roads are limited. To match the islands popularity, airlines hike up the prices, and accommodations can be more difficult to find, so booking both of these in advance is certainly recommended.
As tourism declines in the off seasons, there’s a much better chance of finding great deals on accommodations, vacation packages, and attractions.
Popular Holidays, Festivals, and Events
Another incentive to plan an Oahu vacation between April and June is the chance to spot some humpback whales during the tail-end of their migrating season (usually from November to May). Several different tour companies offer whale watching boat rides daily throughout the season.
Oahu is known as the “gathering place,” as it is not only the most populated island in the state but also the most diverse. The wide range of different backgrounds provide the perfect opportunities for events and festivals celebrating the many cultures on Oahu.
Every May 1st, the island celebrates Lei Day, with events centered around Hawaiian culture and lei-making.
January, February, March
While January-March temperatures usually average in the mid-80s during the day, the evenings can get a little chilly, sometimes dipping into the low 60s. Going out in the evenings may warrant a light jacket, especially if you’re spending time outside. Compared to the earlier winter months, January through March on Oahu is relatively dry. Chinese New Year falls in January or February, and the island celebrates with lion dances, fireworks, and night festivals.
Events to check out:
- Golf fans know the Sony Open as the largest charity golf tournament in Hawaii. The event has raised $18 million for non-profits since 1999.
- The Pacific Island Arts Festival at Kapiolani Park is a free event where over 75 different artists are given the opportunity to showcase and sell their art.
- The Punahou Carnival helps to benefit the Punahou School every year, and is a great family-friendly opportunity to check out the local scene. You’ll find carnival rides and Hawaiian food along with traditional carnival treats.
- Check out POW! WOW! HAWAII in Kakaako where artists come to create murals on the many buildings and warehouses. The event usually kicks off at the Honolulu Night Market, complete with local vendors and food trucks.
- Head to Oahu’s north shore around this time for the Wanderlust festival, a celebration of yoga, music, and good vibes.
April, May, June
April through June is the best time to visit Oahu. The temperature is just starting to reach its warmest before the major summer months, and the large crowds have yet to peak. April also marks the start of Oahu’s dry season, making it a great time to visit if you want to avoid rain. Try not to plan your stay during Japan’s “Golden Week,” a national holiday that usually falls in April and is notorious for bringing hoards of tourists from Japan to Hawaii.
Events to check out:
- Kawaii Kon, Hawaii’s own version of Comic Con takes place at the Hawaii Convention Center on Oahu.
- Celebrate one of Hawaii’s favorite foods, spam, at Waikiki Spam Jam, held every April.
- Every May 1st, Oahu celebrates Hawaii’s symbol of aloha on May Day Lei Day. Later in the same month, the 50th State Fair kicks off for four weeks of family fun, games, rides, and food.
- Lantern Floating Hawaii is held on Memorial Day at Ala Moana Beach Park, where you can watch an assembly of beautiful lanterns float on the ocean water in memoriam of lost love ones. The Pan Pacific Festival is an annual celebration of the multitude of cultures that help make Hawaii great, and features art, crafts, food, and performances.
July, August, September
Some of the hottest weather occurs from July through September on Oahu, which makes it a very busy time for visitors. Every year the Ala Moana Center sponsors a Fourth of July celebration, rated as one of the top 25 fireworks shows in the country. From July to August, there will be more families and kids enjoying a summer break vacation.
Events to check out:
- The Moana Surfrider Resort has a whole event centered around one of Hawaii’s favorite fruits with Mangos at the Moana. Head to Waikiki Beach for Duke’s Oceanfest, Waikiki’s premier ocean sport festival in August or the Waikiki Roughwater Swim in September, a 50 year-old tradition.
- The Made in Hawaii Festival takes up a whole weekend in August to showcase local artisans and culinary professionals, it's the perfect place to stock up on authentic Hawaiian souvenirs.
- Get to know Hawaiian culture at the month-long Aloha Festivals, a free event in September that celebrates Hawaiian heritage with music, dance, and historical showcases.
October, November, December
Humidity in Hawaii varies from island to island, and on Oahu, October through December usually has the muggiest weather. Besides the occasional humidity, you’ll find lower temperatures and fewer tourists during these months, with plenty of events and festivals to check out. Although the weather may not resemble a traditional fall season, Oahu still celebrates with pumpkin patches and trick-or-treating. Waimanalo Country Farms is a popular option where it’s possible to pick out a pumpkin with an ocean view, enjoy locally-made lemonade and food, a petting zoo, and picturesque sunflower garden.
Oahu celebrates the New Year with fireworks displays all throughout the island, topping it all off with a massive show off the beach in Waikiki at midnight.
Events to check out:
- If you’re an exercise enthusiast, come to Oahu during this time of year to participate in both the Makahiki Challenge and the Honolulu Marathon.
- The Hawaii Food and Wine Festival brings chefs to Oahu from all over the world to enjoy a three week celebration of fine food and wine.
- Celebrate the Honolulu Pride Parade and Festival on the third Saturday of October in Waikiki, and then the Waikiki Holiday Parade in November to commemorate Pearl Harbor.
- During Christmas time, downtown Honolulu kicks off Honolulu City Lights with an electric light parade, tree lighting ceremony, and family-friendly festival.
- This is also the time for big wave surfing on Oahu’s North Shore. The Eddie at Waimea Bay, Billabong Pipe Masters at Pipeline Beach, and Van’s Triple Crown just to name a few.