Best Time to Visit Hawaii: How to Plan an Epic Hawaiian Vacation

If you stumbled across this post, you might be wondering when is the best time to visit Hawaii.

The quick answer is anytime.

Who wouldn’t want to escape the office into island paradise and swim with wild dolphins instead of responding to emails?

Hawaii is one of those dream destinations for many people. It certainly was for me when I first visited Molokai island with my husband in 2005.

I still cherish the memories of the golden sands surrounded by swaying palms, laid-back bars, an azure ocean full of colorful tropical fish and shoreside towns.

There are countless reasons to fall in love with Hawaii.

But let’s face it. We all have responsibilities, and I understand it’s not always possible to jump spontaneously on the next plane to Hawaii. So you’ll want to time your trip right to make the most of your long-awaited vacation.

Depending on what you’re planning to do while you’re there, different months of the year will be better than others.

For example, November has fewer visitors if you want to avoid crowds. November is also great for surfing and whale watching, but it’s one of the rainest months of the year.

On the other hand, if you don’t mind the tourists and want to enjoy the great weather, visiting Hawaii in summer might be a better choice.

To make the planning easier for you, I’ll give you travel tips, trip ideas and an overview of the best time to go to Hawaii based on what interests you the most! Whether it’s surfing, whale watching, good weather or a budget-friendly vacation.

family in swimming pool at fairmont kea lani
Image Credit: Karpiak Caravan.

Best time to Visit Hawaii Travel Guide

  • Best time to visit Hawaii for fewer crowds – The month with fewer crowds is November, except for Thanksgiving week. May until the first week of June, September, and October are also great times to visit Hawaii to avoid crowds.
  • Best time to visit Hawaii to see whales – it’s possible to see whales in Hawaii all year round, but the main whale season is from November to May. During this time, thousands of humpback whales are migrating to Hawaii. February is the peak time for whale watching.
  • Busiest time to visit Hawaii – The peak season in Hawaii typically runs from the middle of December until the end of March. Summer months are also popular for family holidays. 
  • Best time to visit Hawaii for surfing – big waves in Hawaii are best in the winter season between mid-November and early February.
  • Cheapest time to visit Hawaii – The off-season in Hawaii is the time between the busy winter months and the summer holiday crowds – late spring (mid-April to early June) and fall (September to early December), which means lower flight tickets and hotel prices.
  • Best weather to visit Hawaii – the best months for good weather are between March and September. These months have the least rain and the highest temperatures, making it the perfect time for swimming and beach holidays in Hawaii. 
  • Best days to fly to Hawaii – According to the Hawaiian airline’s website, the cheapest time to fly to Hawaii is April, May, September, October and November. Flights also seem to be cheaper if you book them on weekdays – Tuesday or Wednesday.
  • Worst months to visit Hawaii – The flights and accommodation would be the most expensive during December’s Christmas holiday. Moreover, December is one of the busiest and most humid months in Hawaii. Hotel rates can increase by as much as $100 per night the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

Best Time to Visit Hawaii to Avoid Crowds

Not surprisingly, Hawaii has tourists all year round. However, certain months are better for beating the crowds than others, especially November or May.

Traveling during the shoulder season is a good idea if you are after the best bargains and fewer crowds.

The off-season in Hawaii is Spring (mid-April to early June) and Fall (September to early December), between the busy winter months and the summer holiday crowds.

The weather is still pleasant, and the islands are less busy, so you can have more space to enjoy paradise.

On top of that, prices are lower during this time of year.

The only downside is that the rainy season in Hawaii runs from November to March.

If you prefer quieter months for your vacation, I recommend avoiding traveling during major holidays. For example, in spring, it would be Easter, spring break and the so-called ‘Golden week‘. In the fall, it would be Thanksgiving.

Golden week is the longest vacation of the year for many Japanese people. They love to visit Hawaii around this time. The golden week lasts from the last week of April through the first week of May.

Another way to avoid crowds is visiting less touristy islands such as Molokai or Lanai. Molokai is an excellent choice for an off-the-beaten-path inexpensive Hawaiian vacation. 

The accommodations in Molokai are far less expensive than the other islands, and there are plenty of things to keep you entertained. The tour of the Kalaupapa Peninsula is one of the most popular things to do in Molokai, and you will likely have the beaches all to yourself.

Besides Molokai, O’ahu is also excellent for a budget-friendly vacation. 

Best Time to Visit Hawaii for Whale Watching

Hawaii’s waters are home to over 7,000 marine species, one-third unique to the islands, such as green sea turtles. But the species that gets a lot of attention are humpback whales.

Every winter, from November to May, thousands of humpback whales migrate from the North Pacific to the warm waters of Hawaii.

Although it’s possible to spot them from the shoreline of all the Hawaiian islands, Maui is one of the prime places for whale watching.

To experience close whale encounters, I recommend going on a whale watching tour. PacWhale Ecoadventures on Maui offers some of the best.

Seeing these marine giants is a highlight for many tourists.

One of the most unforgettable things about their whale-watching tours is the underwater hydrophone that allows you to listen to the whales sing. There’s nothing quite like hearing whales singing underwater.

If you’re planning to go whale watching, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Prime viewing space along the boat railings is limited, so boats can feel crowded even when half full. If you don’t like squeezing in beside strangers, opt for a smaller boat with fewer bookings.

Make sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, a light long-sleeve cover-up, and a hat you can secure. Winter weather in Hawaii can be unpredictable and sometimes extreme, especially as the wind picks up.

Lastly, arrive early to find parking.

Suppose you’d like to learn more about whales, the largest animals on Earth. In that case, you can visit Whalers Village Museum, the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, or the Maui Ocean Center on Maui island.

A whale exhibition in Maui Ocean Center includes interactive learning stations and a dome where you can get a 3D perspective into a whale’s-eye-view.

Best Time to Visit Hawaii for Surfing

The first thing that comes to mind when I hear Hawaii is the word Aloha and the very next thing is surfing.

Surfing is undeniably part of Hawaiian culture. Hawaii is the ultimate surfing hub with some of the best waves in the world.

The waves on Hawaii island range from gentle swells to massive waves, making it an ideal place for surfers of any skill level.

The best time to visit Hawaii for surfing is in the winter months, from November to April. During this time, the waves reach their peak. In winter, you’ll find consistent swells and offshore winds.

I can’t think of any better place to learn surfing than Hawaii, the birthplace of surfing itself.

Po’ipū Beach on Kaua’i and Waikiki beach on O’ahu are excellent areas for surfing newbies, especially the Kiahuna Beach stretch. Surfing lessons for beginners on Waikiki beach start at $50 per class. The Lagoons at Ko Olina are also suitable for beginners or families. 

Pro Tip: You can use Waikiki Aquarium’s box jellyfish calendar to know when jellyfish are most likely to be around and decrease the chances of getting stung.

More advanced surfers should head to O’ahu’s North Shore and Honolua Bay on Maui.

Surfing conditions in Hawaii change depending on the season and the amount of rain and wind. If you’re not an experienced swimmer, some shores might be too dangerous.

If you’re planning to visit Hawaii in the winter and are new to surfing, then the south shore would be a better choice. In the summer, however, the north shore is better suited for you if you’re a beginner.

Hawaii also hosts some of the most prestigious surfing competitions, such as Vans Triple Crown Surfing. It’s an annual digital video submission competition.

Best Time for Wedding / Honeymoon in Hawaii

There’s no doubt that Hawaii is one of the US’s most popular honeymoon and beach wedding destinations, and rightly so. Romance and Hawaii go hand in hand.

Hawaiian flower wreaths on arrival, champagne and strawberries delivered to your hotel room every day, white sandy beaches and turquoise clear waters are just a few things that make Hawaii a dream come true wedding destination.

The last thing you want is rain on your big day. That’s why the summer months (May – October) are your safest bet.

These months have the least rain and the warmest temperatures of the year.

boy and son on beach rocks
Image Credit: Karpiak Caravan

Cheapest Month to Visit Hawaii

The accommodation and airfare prices might be another factor in determining the best time to visit Hawaii for you.

A rule of thumb when taking advantage of the best travel deals is keeping your dates flexible, booking long in advance (at least four months ahead) and traveling during shoulder season.

According to the Hawaiian airline’s website, the cheapest months to fly to Hawaii are April, May, September, October and November. 

Flights also might be cheaper if you book them on weekdays. 

According to Hopper, an airline ticket price tracker and travel-booking platform, you’ll save the most money on airfares by booking your flights on Tuesday or Wednesday. It is no surprise that flying mid-week is also the least busy time to fly. If you get lucky, you might even get a full row to yourself. 

Round trip flight prices from the US can range from $400 to more than $2,000. It’s best to shop around to find your best deal. 

Another way to save money on flight tickets is to fly to Hawaii using credit card points or airline miles. The Frugal Tourist explains the best way to fly to Hawaii using Capital One Venture Rewards and credit card points

If you’re on a tight budget, you’ll want to avoid Christmas and New Year’s Eve season as the hotels and flights tend to be the most expensive during this time. 

Other peak travel periods are when kids are out of school for spring break and summer vacation.

Best Weather in Hawaii Months Guide

Thanks to its tropical climate, average daytime temperatures in Hawaii seldom drop below 80˚F (27˚C), making it a great year-round travel destination.

The Hawaii weather varies according to season. For example, during kauwela (summer), which runs from May to October, the weather tends to be drier, while ho’oilo (winter), which usually lasts from November to April, sees an increase in rainfall.

August is the hottest month in Hawaii, with an average high temperature of 27°C (81°F), and the coldest is January, with an average low temperature of 23°C (73°F).

Of all the Hawaiian islands, the Big Island is the most diverse in terms of weather because of the various elevation levels.

Although hurricanes in Hawaii are rare, the island experience four to five tropical storms each year. The last major hurricane that hit Hawaii was Iniki in 1992. But for your information, hurricane season in Hawaii runs from June to November. 

The Puna coastline in Hawaii is ideal for storm-watching during the winter season.

Hawaii IslandJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSeptOctNovDec
Statewide80/65°F80/65°F80/66°F81/68°F83/69°F85/71°F85/72°F86/72°F86/72°F85/71°F83/69°F81/67°F
Oahu80/66°F81/65°F82/67°F83/68°F85/70°F87/72°F88/74°F89/75°F89/74°F87/73°F84/71°F82/68°F
Maui80/63°F81/63°F81/65°F83/66°F84/67°F86/69°F87/71°F88/71°F88/70°F87/69°F84/68°F82/65°F
Kauai78/65°F78/66°F78/67°F79/69°F81/70°F83/73°F84/74°F85/74°F85/74°F83/73°F81/71°F79/68°F
Big Island (Kona)81/66°F81/66°F82/67°F83/69°F84/70°F85/72°F86/73°F87/73°F86/73°F86/72°F84/70°F82/68°F
Big Island (Hilo)79/64°F79/64°F79/65°F79/66°F81/67°F82/68°F82/69°F83/69°F83/69°F83/69°F81/67°F79/65°F

Top Festivals in Hawaii

Throughout the year, Hawaii’s calendar is jam-packed with countless festivals celebrating Aloha state’s rich and diverse culture.

JANUARY 

  • Chinese New Year (mid-Jan–early Feb) – Red is the color of this two-week celebration. You can enjoy lion and dragon parades in Honolulu’s Chinatown.
  • Ka Moloka’i Makahiki (end Jan) – Week-long cultural festival in Moloka’i with traditional Hawaiian games, fishing competitions, and hula dance performances

FEBRUARY 

  • Cherry Blossom Festival (late Jan–early Feb) – The festival takes place in Honolulu and celebrates Japanese culture with tea ceremonies, flower arranging demos, and traditional Taiko drumming sessions
  • Maui Whale Festival ( late Feb or early March). A celebration of these marine giants, with a film festival, craft fair, charity run, and shoreside whale count. 

MARCH 

  • Honolulu Festival (early Mar) – A big parade, craft fair, gourmet food vendors, and fireworks are part of this cultural festival that celebrates Hawaii’s link to the Pacific Rim.
  • Kona Brewers Festival (mid-Mar) – Enjoy a selection of craft beer from Hawaii’s breweries at this lively event. There’s also delicious food prepared by top local chefs, plus live music.
  • Prince Kūhiō Day (Mar 26) – Public holiday celebrating Hawaii’s first delegate to the US Congress, with traditional Hawaiian mele and hula performances taking place island-wide.

APRIL 

  • Merrie Monarch Festival (the week after Easter) – Honoring King David Kalākaua, a big advocate of Hawaiian culture, with a world-famous hula competition and a parade through Hilo.
  • Moloka’i Ka Hula Piko (late Apr–early May) – Three days of live music and dance performances, a food market, and stories celebrating Moloka’i as the birthplace of hula.

MAY

  • Lei Day (May 1) – Everyone wears traditional flower garlands, and lei-making contests are held throughout Hawaii.
  • Mele Mei (all of May) – State-wide festival all about Hawaii’s music, both traditional and contemporary, with lots of free concerts and music lessons

JUNE 

  • Kapalua Wine and Food Festival (early Jun) – ideal for wine enthusiasts and foodies, local celebrity chefs put on a grand dinner on Maui’s northwestern shores.
  • King Kamehameha I Day (Jun 11) – Public holiday with parades, hula performances, and craft markets on all the islands.

JULY 

  • Prince Lot Hula Festival (3rd Sat)- Local hula schools honor Prince Lot (Kamehameha V) with both ancient and modern styles of hula dancing performed at the Moanalua Gardens in O’ahu.
  • ‘Ukulele Festival (late Jul) – This energetic festival has a long history of celebrating the ‘ukulele since the 1970s, with free concerts throughout the islands.

AUGUST 

  • Made in Hawaii Festival (mid-Aug)- Local vendors showcase their fine food creations, artworks, and handicrafts in Honolulu.
  • The Aloha Festivals (end of Aug–early Sep) -Throughout the islands, dozens of music and dance events, craft fairs, parades, food vendors, and even a royal ball make up the biggest of Hawaii’s annual celebrations.

SEPTEMBER 

  • Hawaii Food and Wine Festival (early Sep) -Over a hundred master chefs and wine producers provide beachside feasts on O’ahu, Maui, and Hawai’i Island over three indulgent weekends.
  • Kaua’i Mokihana Festival (late Sep) – Week-long and island-wide event showcasing contemporary Hawaiian music and hula, with many concerts and competitions.

OCTOBER 

  • Ironman World Championship (early Oct) – The ultimate test of endurance, this race takes place on Hawai’i Island and includes a lengthy swim, bike ride, and marathon.
  • Halloween in Lāhainā (Oct 31) – The streets of Lāhainā are closed to all traffic for its Halloween party, often called the “Mardi Gras of the Pacific.” 

NOVEMBER 

  • Kona Coffee Cultural Festival (early Nov) – The Kona district celebrates its famous coffee beans with a parade, gourmet food, and a coffee-picking contest, making it an ideal festival for coffee lovers.

DECEMBER 

  • Vans Triple Crown (Dec – Jan) – The world’s most prestigious surfing competition takes place on O’ahu’s North Shore over three weeks, waves and weather permitting.
  • Honolulu City Lights (all Dec) – A must-see display of holiday lights and one-of-a-kind decorated trees, all created by employees of different county and city departments.
  • Honolulu Marathon (mid-Dec) – One of the most scenic marathons in the US, with a route stretching along Honolulu’s sunny coast that attracts thousands of runners annually.
  • Christmas (Dec 25) – Enjoy the Christmas holiday season with a fun twist: Santa is depicted in shorts carrying a surfboard, sandmen are made instead of snowmen, and people wish each other ‘Mele Kalikimaka.’ 
molokai beach with palm trees
Image Credit: Karpiak Caravan.

Best Island to Visit Hawaii for First Time

Each of Hawaii’s islands is incredible in its own way, so you can’t go wrong with any of them. 

With that said, the first impression matters, and it will shape your opinion about whether you want to return in the future or not. 

Choosing the best island for your first visit to Hawaii depends on your personal preferences.

  • Best For Family travel – Oahu or Maui
  • Best For Romance – Oahu or Kauai 
  • Best For Luxury – Maui, Big Island 
  • Best For Breathtaking Outdoors & Beaches – Big Island, Kauai
  • Best For Volcanoes – Big Island, Maui
  • Best For Budget – O’ahu, Molokai

HONOLULU 

Best for: Nightlife and cultural sights

Home to: Chinatown, Waikīkī Beach, Bishop Museum, Pearl Harbor

Highlights: A classic Mai Tai cocktail at a beachside bar on Waikīkī Beach

O’AHU

Best for: Laid-back island life, surfing and food

Home to: Hanauma Bay

Highlights: Surfing the big, blue waves of the North Shore, Ala Moana beach park

MOLOKA’I AND LĀNA’I

Best for: Off-the-beaten-path adventure and cultural experience

Home to: Kalaupapa National Historical Park, the birthplace of hula dance

Highlights: Diving with green sea turtles, octopuses, and shoals of fish at the Lāna’i Cathedrals 

MAUI

Best for: Ocean activities

Home to: Lāhainā, Haleakalā National Park

Highlights: Watching humpback whales along Maui’s coast 

BIG ISLAND 

Best for: Impressive nature

Home to: Hilo, Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Waipi’o Valley, Mauna Kea

Highlights: The active Kīlauea Volcano in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

KAUA’I

Best for: Outdoors

Home to: Līhu’e, Waimea Canyon and Kōke’e State Parks, Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park

Highlights: The remote and stunning Nāpali Coast by sailboat

So ‘Which island is the winner for first-time travelers to Hawaii?’

It would be a draw between Oahu, The Big Island or Maui.

My favorite Hawaiian island is Molokai, but the other three islands are easier to get to by plane or boat. There is also an abundance of activities, restaurants and hotels to stay in, so you’re sure to find something that best suits your style and budget. 

FAQ

What is the best month to go to Hawaii?

For the best overall weather, low prices, and fewer crowds, the best time to visit Hawaii is in April. Just make sure to avoid the Easter holidays, if applicable. 

What is the cheapest month to go to Hawaii?

The cheapest months to visit Hawaii are during the low season in April, May, September, October and November (excluding holidays). The most expensive is December.

What time of year has the least tourists in Hawaii?

Spring and Autumn are considered the off-season in Hawaii. April through mid-June and September through mid-December have the fewest tourists. Visiting Hawaii during the low season means more options and better deals for you in terms of hotels, transportation, and attractions.

What is the rainy season for Hawaii?

The rainiest months in Hawaii are from November to March, but winter rains do not generally disrupt vacations. In many cases, it’s just passing showers. Hawaii has many microclimates. In other words, if it’s raining in one area, there is almost always a sunny spot only a few miles away. 

How many days is ideal for Hawaii?

I’d recommend taking at least ten days off to enjoy your Hawaiian vacation to the fullest.

What is the hottest month in Hawaii?

The hottest month in Hawaii is August, with an average high of 87°F and a low of 73°F.

What is the coldest month in Hawaii?

The coldest month in Hawaii is January, with an average high of 79°F, rarely falling below 76°F or exceeding 82°F.

What is the busiest month in Hawaii?

December, except for the first week, January and February are the busiest months in Hawaii. High demand also shoots up prices for flights and accommodations. Particularly, the last two weeks of December, around Christmas and the first week of January after New Year’s Eve are the busiest times. The hotels and flights are often fully booked during this time of the year.

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Casandra is the founder of Karpiak Caravan Adventure Family Travel and a mother to two adventurous, young boys. She is a family-focused, adventure travel advocate who grew up in Toronto with Danish roots. Casandra has visited over 20 countries on three continents often with her two boys in tow!