Hawaii Travel Guides

Vacation in Hawai’i: Winter or Summer?

So, you want to come to Hawai’i, and now you just need to decide when. If you don’t have kids, you could go during almost any season, but if you do, you know that you have two real options: winter break, and summer vacation.

Even if you don’t have kids, summer is a great time to escape the brutal heat that dogs some states. I’m also told that some people want to feel a little less snowed-in when February rolls around.

So which season is better?

While coming to Hawai’i really is great any time of year, we’ve put together this post to tell you some of the biggest differences between traveling in the summer versus the winter.

Whale Watching & other Hawai’i Winter Benefits

Whale Watching in Hawaii

Whale Watching is a great Winter activity in Hawaii

The Winter season in Hawai’i is best known for whales. If you’re interested in whale watches, any time between November and May (with peak season between January and March) will produce some stunning shots and unforgettable moments with Hawaii’s largest visitors.

On the other hand, jet skis and parasailing is unavailable during whale season, but run all summer long (May 16th – Dec 14th).

Some other obvious upsides of winter vacations in Hawai’i are warm weather and a slightly quieter resort season. Because schools and colleges have varied winter breaks (and because many families wish to celebrate Christmas at home) the islands are not as crowded, and there are fewer small children.

(If you are traveling with young kids, they may have more fun during the summer, as there are usually more children to play with at hotels during the summer months.)

Seasonal Hawai’i Weather

The Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui

The Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui

Some things you should be aware of in the winter are increased rainfall and higher surf on the north-facing shores. The additional rainfall means that hikes are even more spectacular, especially on the dryer parts of the island, but it also means you may have to drive to find some dry sand, or may need to spend a day indoors at The Maui Ocean Center or another rainy-day-friendly activity.

Annual Hawaii rainfall date provided by weather-and-climate.com

Annual Hawaii temperatures provided by weather-and-climate.com

Surf Conditions

Knowing when the surf is pumping and when it's quiet will help you to pick the best spots

Knowing when the surf is pumping and when it’s quiet will help you to pick the best spots

During the winter, surf tends to be higher on northern shores; during the summer, it is higher on southern shores. This may not have a huge impact on your vacation, but if there is a particular hotel you want to stay at, it may be worth double-checking which way its beach faces.

What to Expect from Hawai’i in Summer

The summer is dryer overall, meaning you are unlikely to get rained-out during a short trip, and waves are almost always smaller. Because of the size and shape of the islands, beach conditions can vary quite a bit within a fifteen minute radius, so even on days that have swells, there are probably places nearby that have the perfect conditions for your swimming ability.

One last thing: even in Hawai’i, summer is warmer than the winter. If you are from a climate that rarely reaches the high 70’s (Aloha, Vancouverites) you may not be as comfortable in the summer, whereas the winter will be balmy and perfect. If, however, you are from Texas or Florida, you’ll be fine.

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