Hawaii is a perennially popular destination for many reasons. The Aloha State is home to an extraordinary culture, pristine landscapes, and idyllic beaches. If you’re searching for the best time to visit Hawaii, we’ve got you covered. The islands are beautiful at any time of year, but individual preferences can dictate the best time to book your tropical vacation. To help you decide, you can think of the state’s calendar in the following way.
- High Seasons: June to July and the month of December
- Shoulder Seasons: January to May and August to November
Whether you want to save a few bucks, find uncrowded attractions, or spot a majestic humpback whale, here are the best times to visit Hawaii.
Most Popular Times to Visit Hawaii
With an annual visitor count that regularly approaches 10 million, Hawaii is beloved throughout the year. However, some periods are busier than others. According to the Hawaiian Tourism Authority, the most popular months for tourists are almost always June, July, and December (in some configuration). July usually takes the top spot — as it did in 2022, when it drew more than 919,000 visitors to the islands.
This aligns with the fact that Hawaii is a popular destination for families during school breaks. Summer vacation attracts many travelers, and so does winter break, especially among visitors from cold climates who’d like to spend their holidays singing “Mele Kalikimaka” on a warm, sunny beach.
Spring is another time that can draw notable crowds. In addition to bringing American spring breakers, spring also draws Japanese travelers celebrating the so-called Golden Week, a stretch in late April and early May when four holidays are celebrated over seven days.
Best Times to Visit Hawaii for Smaller Crowds
Since school breaks are the most popular times in Hawaii, the months when school is in session tend to draw the smallest crowds. February and September consistently rank near the bottom of the tourism board’s list of busiest months — in 2022, they saw 630,000 and 703,000 visitors respectively — and the months surrounding them tend to be quiet, too.
Given the holidays that happen in the spring, though, fall is perhaps the best time to plan a trip if you’re looking for a long stretch of uncrowded days. There are fun events to be found at this time of year, too, like the Aloha Festivals in September and October’s Hawaii Food & Wine Festival.
Best Times to Visit Hawaii for Good Weather
The weather in Hawaii is consistently warm, with temperatures slightly lower in the winter months (November to April) than in the summer (May to October). Hawaii’s average daily winter temperature at the beach is 78 degrees Fahrenheit, while the average daily summer temperature is 85 degrees, according to the Hawaiian Tourism Authority. Water temperatures are usually pleasant, too: they average around 74 degrees most of the year but inch up to around 80 degrees in the summer.
Rainfall is at its lowest in Hawaii from April through October, but even the wetter winter months aren’t too bad. Rain is most common on the northeastern (or windward) sides of the Hawaiian islands, meaning sunseekers can stick to the leeward southwestern edges for the best chance of clear skies. Hawaiian rain showers are also famous for producing rainbows — so drizzly days have their perks.
The timing of severe weather can sometimes be hard to predict, since tropical storms and cyclones can happen year-round in the Pacific. But the Hawaii Department of Health warns that hurricane season officially runs from June through November.
Best Times to Visit Hawaii for Lower Prices
Hawaiian Airlines reports that traveling to the state is generally cheapest in the shoulder seasons of late spring and early fall — and they should know, considering they operate both nonstop flights to Hawaii from the United States, Asia, and the South Pacific, as well as inter-island flights that can get you from one Hawaiian island to another. For more savings, the airline suggests booking your flights so you’re arriving and departing on weekdays, not weekends.
Generally speaking, hotel rates soar in Hawaii during the Christmas and New Year holidays in late December and early January, and again during spring break and summer vacation dates. So, if you want to cut costs on both accommodations and airfare, avoid those times of the year.
Another way to visit without worrying about airfare and hotel costs is to hop aboard a Hawaiian cruise. Choose an itinerary that visits outside of the peak tourist seasons, and you’ll have great odds of experiencing all that Hawaii has to offer without any exorbitant on-shore costs.
Best Times to Go Surfing in Hawaii
Visitors and locals can surf year-round on Hawaii’s famous waves, but there are a few things to keep in mind if you’re planning to hang ten. Waves are usually larger during the winter months, says the Hawaiian Tourism Authority, especially on the islands’ north-facing shores, so conditions aren’t ideal for beginners learning to surf.
If you want to watch the experts tackle some big waves, though, this can be a fun time to visit. Some of the world’s greatest surf contests happen in Hawaii during the winter, like the Vans Triple Crown — held on Oahu’s North Shore every year since 1983 — and the newer Red Bull Magnitude, an all-women contest held between December and February.
Best Times to Go Whale Watching in Hawaii
Humpback whales can be seen off the islands’ coasts from December through May, so visitors who come to Hawaii with whale watching in mind will be in luck for much of the year. The peak of the season is generally considered to be January, February, and March — that’s when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calls on the public to help monitor whales and contribute to its annual Sanctuary Ocean Count.
Worst Times to Visit Hawaii
In an environment as beautiful as Hawaii, it’s hard to call any season a “bad time” to visit. But if you want to avoid high prices and giant crowds at the islands’ most popular destinations, you might consider skipping the busy months of June, July, and December.
No matter when you visit, bear in mind that Hawaii has a unique ecosystem and a vibrant Indigenous culture — both of which have sometimes been put at risk by overtourism. If you travel to the islands, do so responsibly by respecting the locals you meet, keeping a safe distance from wildlife, and patronizing Hawaiian-owned businesses when you can. Be sure, as well, to prepare adequately for any outdoor activities you want to try. There’s never a good time to be stuck on a steep mountain trail or stranded in choppy waters!