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The best time to visit Hawaii for good weather, smaller crowds, deals and more

Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.

So you want to visit Hawaii? Understandable — it’s a great place.

However, unless you’re booking a spontaneous flight deal (and those do happen), you’ll probably want to plan to ensure you’re traveling at the best time for your particular dream trip.

Whether you’re looking for dry, idyllic weather, perfect whale watching season, or the cheapest time to book a Hawaiian hotel room, consider this your definitive guide to planning a perfect trip to Hawaii.

The best time to visit Hawaii for good weather

Four Seasons, Maui. CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY

Generally, the best weather in Hawaii is in June, July and September. This is when travelers can expect the least amount of rain along with warmer water temperatures.

However, Hawaii isn’t a true four seasons state and it has pretty great weather year-round. So if traveling during June, July or September isn’t in the cards, you’re still probably fine as there’s really no bad time to go.  I just got back from a trip in mid-November and the weather was great. It was warm enough to swim in the ocean without being too hot lying in the sun.

Wailea on Maui in November 2023. CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY

Hawaii has a tropical climate, with temperatures generally staying between 83 and 88 degrees all year long.

You should check local weather, though, as conditions in some parts of the Islands are wetter than others depending on if you are staying on the windward or leeward sides of each island.

Kauai, for instance, gets a lot of rain on the northern side of the island compared to the southern side (which does lead to some pretty great rainbows). Even if the forecast calls for rain, however, the rain tends to come in short bursts and doesn’t last long.

SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

Best time to visit Hawaii to avoid crowds

The peak tourism season in Hawaii typically starts in the middle of December and continues until the end of March or mid-April, depending on the timing of spring break for major parts of the U.S.

Honolulu, Hawaii. CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY 

The less busy season stretches from the middle of April until mid-June, when most schools are out of the summer and then resumes from September until crowds tick up before the holidays. Shoulder season is a great time to visit. The huge crowds are gone, prices are lower and you can have more of the beach to yourself. Even in busy spots like Honolulu, you’ll have more breathing room after Labor Day and before Thanksgiving.

July and August, while not considered Hawaii’s busiest season, still tend to draw decent crowds — and are especially popular with vacationing families.

Cheapest months to visit Hawaii

Oahu, Hawaii. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)
Oahu, Hawaii. CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY

Traveling to Hawaii is usually priciest during peak season, so if you want to save, wait until the off-peak or shoulder seasons.

The shoulder seasons in Hawaii run from late March through the beginning of May, and from September until Thanksgiving. However, spring break and the beginning of September can yield high traffic and higher prices, too, so look carefully before booking.

Historical data from the travel booking site Skyscanner shows airfare is at its most expensive during the winter, specifically in January. At this time of year, average long-haul flight prices can exceed $1,400.

However, prices can plummet during the shoulder seasons or times that cushion peak periods, such as late November and early March. This past September, we saw a fare war develop with prices as low as $62 one-way to Hawaii. This is especially true if you are coming from the western half of the U.S. Keep an eye on TPG deal alerts, where we regularly cover sales to Hawaii.

We looked at historical data, and generally, the most expensive month for a room in Honolulu is January, with the least expensive month being April. Analysts tell TPG it’s best to book as early as possible for the best rates in the off-season. We’re told that many tourists are booking as close in as a week before arrival, and the best deals will be had as far out as possible. It pays to plan ahead. 

Of course, you may have more flexibility when you cash in your points and miles — though hotel award rates tend to shift with peak and off-peak seasons, too. Also, award flight availability is often directly tied to demand.

Best time to travel to Hawaii to surf

Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Only four of the islands in the Hawaiian archipelago are suitable for surfing year-round: Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island. As for when and where you’d like to surf, well, that depends entirely on your skill level.

The waves follow a somewhat consistent schedule. In the winter, for example, surfers can find serious swells off an island’s north coast, while the south coast experiences calmer seas. During the summer, the opposite is true.

So, for advanced surfers, the winter season, or ho’oilo, which runs from mid-November to early February, is when you should look out for big wave surfing competitions on the North Shore of Oahu, also known as the “Seven Mile Miracle.”

On the Big Island, surf enthusiasts should check out La’aloa Bay and Honoli’i Beach Park.

For novice surfers, you’ll want to spend more time on the island’s southern coasts in the winter. In Maui, beaches in Kaanapali, Lahaina and Kihei deliver just-right waves for beginners to get their feet wet.

Best time for whale watching in Hawaii

Two whales side by side in Maui. (Photo by Guille Pozzi/Unsplash)

The best time to go whale watching

Whales migrate to Hawaii in pods of roughly 1,000 between late December and early April, making Maui and the Kohala Coast of the Big Island two of the best places on Earth to spot the giants. Note that sometimes whales show up as early as November, so you could get lucky if you travel during shoulder season.

The best time to see turtles

Photo by Tor Johnson / Getty Images.
JOHNSON/GETTY IMAGES  

If you’re interested in spotting Hawaiian green sea turtles (honu), they’re plentiful year-round in Maui, on the Big Island of Hawaii, Kaui and on Oahu. One of the most famous spots for turtle-spotting is on Ho’okipa Beach in Maui.

Visit in the summer, during nesting season, to increase your odds. You’ll even find sea turtles on some hotel grounds. I was able to get up close and personal with turtles on a trip to the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island. At that hotel, they hang out in the hotel’s lagoon.

Many vendors sell turtle snorkeling adventures and I’ve had great luck with two separate snorkeling trips in Hawaii.

A warning, though: please don’t get too close. People are asked to give the turtles at least ten feet of space and never touch them. Human touch can spread bacteria to turtles, which can lead to starvation for the creature. Remember that green sea turtles are listed as an endangered species.

Hawaii has five of the seven species of sea turtles in the world, but green sea turtles are the most common.

When to visit Hawaii for events

Summer events

In the summer, on the third weekend of July, visitors can attend the Prince Lot Hula Festival, Hawaii’s largest non-competitive hula event.

Fall events

The Hawaii Food & Wine Festival is a major draw for foodies, featuring an extensive lineup of dinners, parties, cooking classes and more taking place in October and November of 2024 on three different islands – Hawaii, Maui and Oahu.

In September, travelers can attend the Aloha Festivals in Waikiki, which feature arts and crafts, food and performance stages. Don’t forget the floral parade.

Winter events

This is prime season for surfing competitions, including the Vans Triple Crown of surfing on the North Shore of Oahu.

Spring events

Heading to Hawaii in the springtime? Consider the Honolulu Festival in March or the Lantern Floating Festival, held on Memorial Day yearly in Ala Moana Beach Park in Honolulu.

Worst time to visit Hawaii?

This is kind of a trick question, as there is really no bad time to visit Hawaii. You’ll find warm weather and sunshine most of the year. Even when it does rain, it is often just for a few minutes.

Rainbow from Honolulu November 2023. CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY
Rainbow from Honolulu November 2023. CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY

That said, some locals say December is the worst time of the year because of the extra crowds, extra costs, and the increased rain shower odds. But even with all that, I’d trade Northeast winter weather for that any time of the year.

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