When Is the Best Time to Visit Hawaii?

Rainbow in the West Maui Mountains at Sunset
••• Rainbow in the West Maui Mountains at Sunset. John Fischer
  • 01 of 08

    What is the Best Time to Go to Hawaii?

    What is the best time to go to Hawaii? There are many things to consider - the weather; which island(s) you plan to visit; the cost of airfare; whether you'll stay at a hotel, resort, bed & breakfast or rent a condominium; should you plan around a major festival; and finally what do you want to do once you arrive in the islands?

    So, how do you decide on the best time to visit Hawaii? We'll look at each of the considerations I've mentioned and, hopefully, you'll have a better idea. Each of the things that I'll discuss in this feature are important to help you make your final decision. Consider all of them and then weigh them against each other.

    Before we begin, here are some thoughts to keep in mind as you read further:

    • The weather in Hawaii is consistently good most of the year, but the prices are much higher during the "high" travel season.
       
    • 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...MORE return visitor, plan your trip in a different season. The islands have a different look at various times of the year.

    With those in mind, let's begin.

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  • 02 of 08

    The Weather in Hawaii

    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.) In recent years, however, even the rainy season has been relatively dry as many parts of Hawaii have been suffering 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. Those are my favorite months to visit Hawaii. These are also the months when you can find some good travel bargains, as we'll look at...MORE later.

    First, let's help you choose which island(s) to visit.

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  • 03 of 08

    Which Island(s) to Visit

    Map of the Hawaiian Islands
    ••• Map of the Hawaiian Islands. Map Created by John Fischer

    There are eight islands in Hawaii, six of which you can visit. No one island is like any other. Since Hawaii is so far away, I always recommend that first time travelers (especially those from the East Coast) plan to visit at least two islands and spend at least ten days to two weeks on the trip.

    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, you'll want to plan your trip for November - 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.

    In that vein, summer is when you'll find more families vacationing in Hawaii since that's when school is out in many areas of the USA. School is also out in Hawaii in June and...MORE 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.

    To learn more about each of the islands, check out our feature on Hawaii Island and County Names, Nicknames and Geography and then complete our interactive feature Which Hawaiian Island Suits You Best?.

    Next, we'll look at how the cost of airfare will impact your decision.

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  • 04 of 08

    The Cost of Airfare

    A vacation in Hawaii is not cheap. The cost is the major reason that many people never make it to Hawaii despite their strong desire to visit Hawaii at least once in their lifetime.

    The cost of a round-trip airline ticket to Hawaii has increased substantially over the past 10 years. 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 due vary from day to day and airline to airline, so the key is to plan ahead and compare prices. KAYAK.com is a great place to start since it compares the prices of a number of airlines for the dates you're considering. In September 2011, Google launched a new flight search service which looks promising.

    Also, if you're a member of an airline's frequent flier program, you're likely to receive offers of combination airfare and lodging. These are often well worth considering. You should also give...MORE serious consideration to using your frequent flier miles for travel 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. Check out our features How to Book Your Airfare to Hawaii and Choosing Your Inter-Island Airline in Hawaii.

    Your next step is deciding where to stay in Hawaii.

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  • 05 of 08

    Choosing Where to Stay

    waikiki beach
    ••• M Swiet Productions / Getty Images

    Unless you're fortunate enough to have relatives or close friends in Hawaii you'll need to book lodging. Like airfare, lodging tends to be more expensive during the "high" season of mid-December to mid-April.

    There are a number of types of accommodations to consider and the cost will vary, often greatly, depending on where you decide to stay. There are resorts, standard hotels, condominium hotels, bed & breakfasts and vacation rentals. 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. Folks who enjoy bed & breakfasts will find some excellent choices in Hawaii. Here are some related features to help you decide where to stay.

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  • 06 of 08

    Planning Around Annual Festivals

    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. Add to those, celebrations surrounding the standard national holidays and seasons (such as Christmas in Hawaii), Hawaii State holidays, as well as local agricultural festivals and historical festivals.

    At least one of my trips to Hawaii each year is generally planned around one of the large festivals that I've never attended before.

    In order to fully appreciate the unique culture of Hawaii and its people, I strongly recommend that you 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 Festival, Merrie Monarch Festival

    Kauai - Kauai Polynesian Festival, Koloa Plantation Days

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

    Oahu - Aloha Festivals, Lei Day in Hawaii, Lantern Floating Hawaii

    A big part of planning...MORE when to visit Hawaii depends on what you want to do while your in the islands. We'll look at that next.

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  • 07 of 08

    What Do You Want To Do

    Whale breaching, Maui, Hawaii
    ••• M.M. Sweet / Getty Images

    The good news is that the vast majority of activities in Hawaii are available year-round as you would expect for a tropical island group. There are, however, some exceptions. Here are a few:

    • 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 - sailing, SCUBA, snorkeling - are 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.

    Here are our picks for the best things to do in Hawaii by island:

    Top...MORE Things to Do on the Big Island of Hawaii
    Top Things to Do on Kauai
    Top Things to Do on Maui
    Top Things to Do on Oahu

    I know I've advised you to consider a lot of different things. Next we'll do a brief recap and then you can see some tips from folks who have been to Hawaii.

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  • 08 of 08

    Recap and Polls

    Hopefully you now have some ideas of how to decide when to visit Hawaii.

    As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of different things to consider and you really need to look at all of your options, weight them and, finally, make a decision that works best for you and your family.