The Best Time to Visit Hawaii

While almost any time of year except the monsoon season is a great time to visit this remote U.S. state, prices vary greatly by season—especially during the winter (when the island is still warm but most of America is cold)—and there are certain seasonal events you might not want to miss.

Decide what you want to see and do while you're in Hawaii, and then find the best time of year to meet your requirements. If you're a return visitor, plan your trip in a different season so you can experience an entirely different way of island life.

  • 01 of 06

    The Weather in Hawaii

    Blue ocean water and lush vegetation surround Kilauea Lighthouse, located on the North Shore of Kaua'i, Hawaii.
      Pam Joy/Getty Images 

    While the inclination for many folks is to visit Hawaii in the winter to escape the cold and snowy winter weather on the mainland, it's actually not the time to find either the best weather or the best bargains.

    Despite being a tropical climate, the weather in Hawaii is not the same every month of the year. Hawaii has a dry season (April to October) and a rainy season (November to March.) However, even the rainy season can be relatively dry when many parts of Hawaii suffer drought conditions.

    The summer months can be hot and humid, especially in Honolulu and Waikiki. Hurricanes are rare but the hurricane season is from June to November. Fortunately, the last major hurricane to hit Hawaii was Hurricane Iniki, which severely damaged Kauai in September 1992.

    The best weather is often found in April, May, September, and October, which is also conveniently the time when you can find some good travel bargains. Since most Americans are in school or work during these months, flight and hotel prices are much lower than during the summer or winter vacation months.

  • 02 of 06
    Hawaii - vector map
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    The eight islands of Hawaii (six of which you can visit) are Oahu, Niihau, Kahoolawe, Maui, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, and the Big Island (Hawaii). As no one island is like the other, it's recommended that you check out more than one.

    The time of year you choose for your trip is a consideration for which island(s) you visit. For example, if you want to see the high waves that make Hawaii a world-famous surfing destination, plan your trip from November to January. The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing takes place each November and December on Oahu's North Shore, but traffic on the North Shore is extremely heavy on competition days. On the other hand, during summer, this same surf is mostly calm and a great place to bring the whole family.

    Summer is when you'll find more families vacationing in Hawaii since that's when school is out in many areas of the United States. School is also out in Hawaii in June and July, so the most popular beaches on every island tend to be more crowded during those two months as well as two weeks at the end of December when the students are on winter break.

  • 03 of 06

    The Cost of Airfare

    Airbus A330-200 Hawaiian Airlines
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    A vacation to Hawaii is not cheap. The cost is the major reason that many people never make it to Hawaii despite their strong desire to visit the islands.

    The cost of a round-trip airline ticket to Hawaii has increased substantially, but as you might expect, airfare from the West Coast is generally several hundred dollars less than from the East Coast. Fortunately, there are a large number of airlines that fly to Hawaii, and the costs vary from day to day and airline to airline, so the key is to plan ahead and compare prices.

    If you're a member of an airline's frequent flyer program, you're likely to receive offers of combination airfare and lodging. These are often well worth considering, especially when traveling to Hawaii.

    Airfare tends to be more expensive during the "high" season of mid-December to mid-April. If you plan to visit during this period, make your reservations early.

    Keep in mind that once you get to one of the islands, you'll likely also need to book an inter-Island flight if you plan to visit more than one destination. If you're having difficulty booking your airfare to Hawaii, there are a number of great flight comparison websites like KAYAK or TripAdvisor to guide you through special deals and vacation packages.

  • 04 of 06

    The Cost of Accommodations

    daytime view of Waikiki's towering condominiums and hotels
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    Like airfare, lodging tends to be more expensive during the "high" season of mid-December to mid-April.

    There are many types of accommodations to consider and the cost will vary, often greatly, depending on where you decide to stay. There are luxury resorts and standard hotels, condominium hotels, bed & breakfasts, vacation rentals, and even private residence rentals from sites like Airbnb. Generally speaking, the larger resorts tend to be more expensive than a standard hotel, but they often offer nicer rooms and pools, on-site restaurants and shopping, and more activities.

    Condominium hotels and vacation rentals are a great alternative for families since most come with a kitchen and you can save significant money on food. Alternatively, folks who enjoy being pampered will enjoy the many bed & breakfasts and resort options.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Annual Festivals and Events

    Preparing the Lanterns for Toro Nagashi
    John Seaton Callahan/Getty Images

    Because Hawaii is the most ethnically diverse state in the country, annual cultural festivals abound throughout the islands. Additionally, the island celebrates national holidays and seasons such as Christmas as well as local agricultural festivals and historical festivals.

    In order to fully appreciate the unique culture of Hawaii and its people, consider planning your trip around one of the major festivals that take place during the year. Here are a few on each of the four major islands: 

    Big Island: Kona Coffee Cultural FestivalMerrie Monarch Festival

    Kauai: Kauai Polynesian Festival, Koloa Plantation Days

    Maui: Celebration of the Arts, Kapalua Wine & Food Festival, Maui Onion Festival

    OahuAloha Festivals, Lei Day in HawaiiLantern Floating Hawaii

  • 06 of 06

    Seasonal Activities and Attractions

    A large humpback whales take emerges as whale watcher look on in a near by vessel in Maui, Hawaii.
    Jon Paciaroni /Getty Images

    The vast majority of activities in Hawaii are available year-round as you would expect for a tropical island destination. There are, however, some exceptions, listed here. 

    If you want to see humpback whales, you'll need to visit from November until early May. The best months are January to early March.

    Parasailing on Maui is not available during whale season (May 16th through December 14th).

    If you want to sail along the Na Pali Coast of Kauai, you should avoid the winter. On many winter days, the current is much too strong for catamarans and Zodiacs.

    Generally speaking, most water activities including sailing, SCUBA, snorkeling is better from spring through fall. Again, ocean waves, currents, and associated storms can be unpredictable in winter.

    If you want to drive to the summit of Haleakala on Maui or Mauna Kea on the Big Island, it can be very cold in winter and you may even find snow, especially on Mauna Kea.