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How will Hawaii's weather patterns affect your choice of Hawaii Tours and Hawaii Activities?

Hawaii's Largest Selection of Activities

People planning to visit Hawaii at various times of year and selecting activities and tours understandably have questions about the weather. Of course everyone wants their Hawaii vacation to have the best possible weather. Well, you’re in luck for several reasons.

  • First, even though the weather on each island can be unpredictable at times, on average Hawaii's climate provides some of the best weather on the planet, for all of the Hawaii’s islands.
  • In addition, Hawaii’s climate and weather patterns may provide visitors with even an even greater variety of vacation choices than they imagined, that is if they know enough about how weather affects each part of each island.

If you understand weather patterns in Hawaii, your choices of vacations improve a great deal.

What we try to do here is to clarify how weather conditions on each island in Hawaii can provide both more choices and sometimes surprises. We also want to help you dispose of typical misconceptions about the weather in Hawaii. Visitors that are better informed about the weather in Hawaii can make more informed choices about when to visit the islands and how weather patterns can affect their choices of activities and tours.

Don’t expect predictability of weather in Hawaii but in general surprises are few and often even can be fun.

Of course we can’t predict with certainty the weather on any island for all times during the year. But we try to provide you with enough information about land and ocean temperatures, rainfall, wind and surf conditions, storm and hurricane possibilities to make better vacation planning decisions.

We’ve been asked, so many times, what is the best time of year to go to Hawaii?

Admittedly, we’re very prejudiced. Any time of year can be the best time, especially if you let us use our many years of experience to help you to plan activities and tours on any part of any of Hawaii. And not only at no extra charge but actually lowering your cost of having fun.

Is there any best month for visiting Hawaii?

Frankly the answers from visitors are all over the place. Some vote for September and others vote for June which technically has the lowest amounts of rain and very comfortable temperatures. But many people time their arrival in Hawaii with events like the arrival of the Humpback whales in December. And even in February, a decrease in trade winds can make great beach and surfing conditions. Our advice is to stay longer and you’ll increase the odds of getting really good weather.

“Wet” and “Dry” Seasons -- “Summer” and “winter” months in Hawaii?

At the outset we want to clear up misconceptions about wet and/or dry seasons in Hawaii.

Because Hawaii lies at the edge of the tropical zone, technically it has only two seasons: Apr - Oct (sometimes referred to as the “dry season”) and Nov – Mar (sometimes referred to as the “rainy season”) and otherwise are referred to as “summer” and “winter” respectively. But “dry” and “rainy” seasons and “summer” and “winter” are in quotation marks because these terms really don’t apply to Hawaii.

The fault lies with trade winds. Yes, there are two distinct times of year, but there really is no “rainy season.” Don’t think (or say) that it's rainy in the winter and dry in the summer. True, on average summer months are the driest and sunniest and also the warmest and most humid. And winter months usually bring more rain (but only rarely prolonged rain storms) to the windward side of the islands.

Ah, those trade winds! Blowing steadily toward the equator, encircling the earth and then landing in Hawaii.

You’ve probably heard of Kona winds. All of the Hawaiian Islands are affected by trade winds that blow NE to ENE and are typically more prevalent in winter months. Trade winds bring cool air to the islands from the north, often resulting in precipitation along inland/mountain and windward areas. Sometimes these winds die down and, lo and behold, reverse so that a south wind blows over the islands, which can result in hot and muggy conditions. These winds are called Kona winds.

Tropical trade winds in Hawaii are pretty consistent year-round. They create waves on east-facing shores, causing low visibility and wavy snorkeling conditions. Tom Barefoot’s snorkeling vendors especially like their snorkeling areas on the east sides of the BigIsland and Maui. But you need to know that winds can affect the BigIsland and Maui, too, as the day heats up and the winds get stronger. We generally suggest watersports in the mornings before winds pick up.

Rainy sides and spots. Dry swathes with some rain. Hawaii has it all…and we love it!

In sum, there are two weather periods in Hawaii -- from May to October and from November to April – during which August usually is the warmest month and January the coolest. True, Hawaii receives most of its rain between October and April. But it’s not so simple for choosing when and where, for example, to snorkel in Hawaii. Hawaiian Islands have rainy and dry sides. But that said, it rains almost every days somewhere in the islands but it seldom rains for very long in one spot – with exceptions and, as we’ll explain, Hawaii definitely has its exceptions to good and almost perfect weather.

Waves, water temperatures and watersports?

One of the great aspects of Hawaii for watersports enthusiasts is that north, west, east and south shores on all of the islands can be different in some respects, but there are waves all year and the water is warm (80F) even on “winter” days in mid-December. Water temperature in Hawaii ranges from about 74°F in the “winter” months, and can feel a bit chilly in the morning, to about 82°F at the end of the “summer.”

Bottomline: the best time of year for surfing in Hawaii depends on the skill level of the surfer. The biggest waves tend to hit the north shores of all islands in winter, from about November through March – especially in December and January, and particularly on Oahu’s North Shore. As our vendors know, this is the best time for experienced surfers -- and spectators. Beginning surfers will want to stick to the south sides of the islands during winter or travel to Hawaii in the summer months when waves are calmer, especially from May through September.

Best places and times to surf, snorkel and engage in other watersports?

What about the weather in the islands for diving, snorkeling, surfing, windsurfing, kiteboarding and parasailing? Here again, and we are certainly going to sound biased, you can do any of these watersports in Hawaii year- round, although the best season in Hawaii for all of these activities is “summer.” That said, we have to add that, since 2013, Hawaii has seen an increase in tropical storms, depressions and hurricanes affecting the islands in July, August and September that can impact on watersports.

Swells are really swell on certain shores in certain months.

Do wave sizes (swells) vary by time of year and location? Tom Barefoot’s Tours doesn’t get that question very often but it’s a really good one for visitor’s aiming to engage in watersports on any of the islands. Surfers usually don’t have to ask that question because they know that a north swell in the winter in Hawaiiis the best time to surf on the famous north shore of Oahu. That north swell also makes the Na Pali Coast on the north shore of Kauai inaccessible in winter months. Those areas also don’t see much snorkeling during north swells.

South swells in “summer” months that result from winter storms in the southern Pacific usually are not a problem for snorkelers. Bear in mind, however, that there are always exceptions to every statement about weather in Hawaii. Weather can be unpredictable on any Hawaiian island. Rain and clouds obviously can put a damper on watersports on any island. On the Big Island and Maui most of the snorkeling is on the dry side. But sunny Kona can have rainy afternoons in the summer.

Avoiding, enjoying or dealing with rain at all altitudes.

Some visitors are adamant about avoiding rain. That’s one (but only one) of many reasons for heading for Kauai’s South Shore. As no doubt you know, Kauai is known as the "Garden Isle" because it's lush, green, and wet (home to one of the top wettest spots on the planet). Many of Tom Barefoot’s clients love verdantKauai in both sunshine and rain, and mainly wish for more rainbows rather than the driest weather. Within a relatively short driving, from Waimea to Poipu to Kapaa to Princeville and Hanalei, visitors can cover virtually the entire spectrum of Hawaii’s weather conditions and activities.

Some of the world’s most amazing hikes are available in Hawaii and Tom Barefoot’s Tours offers most of them on each island. Hiking can be done year-round but summer has the advantage of more daylight hours and trails tend to be drier. But summers also can get hot so all of our hiking vendors and guides make sure that hikers have plenty of water and sunscreen. Plan to start hiking early in the morning when the air temperature is cooler. And remember that rain can quickly turn a leisurely hike into a potentially perilous one.

Everything you need to know about temperatures.

Hawaii is fortunate in that it has mild and pleasant temperature throughout the year, with only a bit of uncomfortable humidity for people not used to it. There is hardly any difference between night and day temperatures year round. An occasional storm or the trade winds may produce exceptions but even then temperatures don't vary by much. The average high and low in summers are around 85°F and 71°F, respectively; while the average high and low in winters are 78°F and 62°F, respectively.

When talking about temperature in Hawaii, however, we offer another caveat: temperature estimates only apply near sea level. Bear in mind that elevation changes will alter temperatures. As a rough rule of thumb, with every 1,000 ft. climb in elevation, the temperature, on average, drops another 3.5°F. As for the summits of Haleakala on Maui or Mauna Kea on the Big Island, at 10,000-14,000 ft. it will be very cold, and likewise on Kauai’s Kokee. Ocean temperatures remain comfortable throughout the year, ranging from 80°F in the summer to a milder 74°F in the winter.

Maui ’s microclimate and weather patterns.

We tell Tom Barefoot’s clients that Maui weather patterns change dramatically depending on where you are on the island. Thanks to Maui’s microclimates, within a few miles the average rainfall can change by several inches. But even in the wettest locations on Maui, rain usually is hit or miss. Like other parts ofHawaii, the wettest periods on Maui almost always occur in winter when trade winds deliver additional moisture. In addition the amazing humpback whales will be off the coast.

Maui’s most popular beaches are located on its western shores. This is one of the reasons Maui is such a popular winter destination. Western coasts are drier and less prone to winter surf. Molokai and Lanai also act as barriers. Visitors that want drier conditions have the South Shore, Kihei, Wailea, Makena, Lahaina, Kaanapali and Kahului. On the windward (northeast) coastline, you'll begin experience more rain in Paia and to the east in Hana. But looking at things positively, extra rain means that waterfalls along the Hana Highway and elsewhere will really be flowing stronger.

Oahu ’s weather patterns.

Oahu weather patterns are some of the most stable in Hawaii. Even in the wettest locations on Oahu (on the East Coast along the Koolau Range), rain usually is hit and miss. Like elsewhere in Hawaii, the wettest periods on Oahu are almost always in the wintertime when the trade winds bring additional moisture to the islands. From mid-November through late March at times there can be quite a bit of rain – that keeps Oahuverdant.

The Big Island trumps all of Hawaii’s microclimates.

In our article on the BigIsland’s Climate, we’ve explained that weather on the Big Island is as diverse as the terrain. In a very few areas, rainfall is close to zero all year long, resulting in a dry and barren landscape. In other areas, for example, Hilo, it can rain some every day of the year, which creates a lush paradise for visitors. For the most part, the Big Island is warm and tropical year-round. Average temperatures near the coastlines range from the mid-70's to mid-80's winter and summer. At higher elevations, like Waimea, temperatures are often much cooler. And, of course, the summit of Mauna Kea and flanks of Mauna Loa or Hualalai can be quite chilly and much colder than that.

Hawaii  – the right place at any time of year!

One of the reasons for our confidence about visiting any Hawaiian island in any season is the alternatives to land, sea and air activities that Tom Barefoot’s Tours can offer, on rainy days, when the swells are too strong, the wind is blowing too hard or the sun is too strong for hiking. Festivals, luaus, and so many other things to see and do, day and night, available irrespective of the season and weather (other than rare hurricanes), provide “insurance” for visitors in the event of inclement weather. We look forward to helping you pick the right location and activity or tour on any island at any time of year.





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