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With its tropical location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is known for its warm, pleasant weather year-round. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Hawaii enjoys warm temperatures, with highs averaging 85°F in the summer and 79°F in the winter.

Rainfall is moderate, but the islands do get more rain in winter on the windward sides.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll give you a detailed breakdown of Hawaii’s weather, including temperature, rainfall, and seasonal differences among the islands. We’ll also cover what to pack and how to plan your Hawaiian vacation around the mild climate.

Hawaii’s Year-Round Warmth

Consistently Comfortable Temperatures

Hawaii is known for its consistently pleasant weather all year round. The average daily high temperatures at sea level range from 78°F in the “colder” months to 88°F in the “hotter” months (1). Thanks to the moderating effects of the surrounding Pacific Ocean, temperatures rarely stray more than a few degrees from these averages.

Along with steady temps, Hawaii also sees relatively consistent humidity levels. The balmy ocean breezes keep the islands’ relative humidity hovering around 70 percent for much of the year (2). While that may sound high compared to mainland standards, trade winds provide a cooling effect that keeps humidity from feeling oppressive.

Low Seasonal Variation

In addition to comfortable daytime averages, Hawaii also sees very little seasonal variation compared to most destinations. The difference between the coolest and warmest months is just about 10°F on average (3).

By comparison, a typical mainland US state like Illinois can see a 60-70 degree difference between its coldest and hottest months!

This lack of seasonal extremes means Hawaii offers reliably pleasant weather all year long. Whether planning a winter escape from the cold or a summer refuge from the heat, you can always count on the Aloha State to deliver warm, tranquil weather.

Ocean Breezes Keep the Islands Balmy

One key reason Hawaii stays so pleasant is the cooling effect of Pacific trade winds. These nearly constant breezes blow in off the ocean during daylight hours, keeping things comfortable despite the tropical location.

Average wind speeds range from 11 to 15 mph on the windiest islands like Maui and Kauai (4).

These refreshing breezes not only modulate daytime highs, but also sweep humidity away at night. Thanks to this natural air circulation, evenings stay relatively comfortable for sleeping. So while inland tropical areas can feel muggy 24/7, Hawaii provides reliable daytime cooling and overnight relief.

Rainfall and Tropical Climate Patterns

Double Rainbows are Common in Hawaii

Hawaii’s tropical climate means plenty of warm sunshine and rainfall, creating ideal conditions for stunning double rainbows. The mountainous islands force passing trade winds upward, cooling the air and leading to frequent showers on the windward sides.

When sunlight interacts with these rain showers while more rain threatens in the distance, vivid double rainbows often form. Just ask the over 10 million annual visitors who enjoy spotting these colorful wonders spanning from mountain to sea.

Some live here just for the rainbows, awestruck by their magical beauty. Who can blame them? Chasing rainbows never gets old in Hawaii!

Wet and Dry Sides of the Islands

The Hawaiian Islands have distinct wet and dry sides, thanks to the trade winds blowing from the northeast. As moist air is forced upward by the mountains, the windward sides face frequent rain showers. Meanwhile, the leeward sides sit in a rain shadow downwind and remain warm and dry.

For example, Mount Waialeale on Kauai receives over 400 inches of rainfall per year, making it one of the rainiest spots on Earth! Just 50 miles away, however, the Waimea Canyon area may only see 20 inches annually. This striking contrast occurs to varying degrees on the other islands too.

So when planning your Hawaiian vacation, bear in mind that weather can change dramatically within a short drive.

Hurricane Risk is Low but Still Exists

The Hawaiian Islands’ location near the equator provides some shelter from hurricanes which typically form at lower latitudes. Hawaii sees tropical storms and hurricanes about once every four years on average.

However, the odds increase during El Niño years when eastern Pacific waters warm dramatically. The most recent hurricane to directly impact Hawaii was Hurricane Lane in 2018, which brought torrential rainfall but weakened to a tropical storm before landfall.

Though hurricanes are rare here, it’s important to monitor forecasts and prepare just in case during storm season from June to November. But odds are the islands’ rainbows and gentle trade wind showers will prevail over any turbulent storms!

Weather Differences Among the Islands

Oahu Has More Urban Heat Islands

As the most populated Hawaiian island, Oahu experiences more urban heat islands than the other islands. Tall buildings and paved surfaces in cities like Honolulu absorb and radiate heat, causing urban areas to be warmer than rural areas, especially at night.

According to a recent University of Hawaii study, urban Honolulu can be up to 6°F hotter than neighboring rural areas. This difference is most pronounced at night after sunset. The urban heat island effect means Oahu’s populated areas tend to have higher temperatures and feel hotter than natural areas or less developed islands.

Maui’s Diverse Microclimates

The island of Maui has highly varied terrain spanning from sea level to over 10,000 feet at the summit of Haleakala. This dramatic elevation change over short distances leads to an array of microclimates.

The summit area of Haleakala often dip below freezing on winter nights while the leeward coastal areas around Kihei and Wailea may reach 90°F on summer days. The lush rainforests on the windward side receive over 300 inches of rainfall annually, while the arid central valley and leeward slopes average less than 15 inches per year.

These diverse microclimates across the valleys, slopes, and elevations of Maui can make the weather change quickly from one spot to the next.

Here is a comparison of average temperatures around Maui:

Location Avg High Temp Avg Low Temp
Kahului Airport 86°F 66°F
Haleakala Summit 54°F 41°F
Kihei 85°F 65°F

The Big Island Has the Widest Weather Variety

As the largest Hawaiian island, the Big Island has a vast array of climate zones and weather environments. On the Kona side, leeward slopes have warm, dry conditions year-round with little seasonal variation, driven by consistent northeasterly trade winds.

Just 50 miles away, windward areas like Hilo have wet tropical rainforest weather, with 125+ inches of rain per year on average. And only 30 miles away from Hilo is the mighty Mauna Kea volcano, where heavy winter snow is common above 11,000 feet elevation.

In fact, Mauna Kea has recorded snow depths over 10 feet!

So on the Big Island, one can go from sunny beaches, to rainforest waterfalls, up to wintry mountain peaks in less than 60 miles. Whether you want tropical warmth, refreshing rainforests, or crisp high-elevation conditions, the Big Island has a climate zone to match.

What to Pack and When to Visit Hawaii

Clothing Tips and Packing Essentials for Hawaii

When packing for Hawaii, focus on bringing lightweight, breathable clothing that can handle both hot and sometimes rainy weather. Cotton and linen materials work well. Be sure to pack sun protection like hats, UV blocking shirts and swimwear, and reef-safe sunscreen to protect marine life.

For footwear, bring water shoes for beach and water activities along with slippers and sandals. Hiking boots are ideal if planning hikes. Having layers is key for cool nights, so bring light jackets or cardigans. Don’t forget the bathing suit and cover-up!

Best Times of Year for Beach Vacation vs. Hiking

Hawaii enjoys warm temperatures year-round, but some times of year are better for certain activities.

Best for Beach Vacation Best for Hiking
June to October: Minimal rain, warm ocean temps. March to December: Cooler weather.
December to March: Peak whale watching. September to November: Fewer crowds.

The summer tends to be ideal for lounging on the beach when rainfall is lower, while late fall and winter hiking conditions are more comfortable, with average highs of 78°F rather than summer’s 85°F warmth.

Planning Around Hawaii’s Two Rainy Seasons

Hawaii has two annual rainy seasons to be aware of when booking your vacation:

  • November to March: Hawaii’s winter storm season, when large Pacific swells can cause heavy rains especially on north/east shores.
  • July to September: Tropical moisture causes summer rainfall, more prevalent on south/west facing shores.

While rain can happen unpredictably, planning outdoor activities for April-June and October-December optimizes chances of ideal dry weather. Checking NOAA’s rainfall maps can help guide plans too.

Of course, selecting the “best” time is personal for each traveler. Whale watching, big wave surfing, or just relaxing by the water with a mai tai – Hawaii brings magic all year round!


As you can see, Hawaii offers fabulous weather for travelers year-round. With average temperatures hovering comfortably around 80°F and moderate rainfall, you’re almost guaranteed sunny skies and warm ocean waves perfect for relaxing at the beach or adventuring through Hawaii’s magnificent landscape.

Just be ready for passing tropical showers, and pack layers for cool mountain peaks if you plan on island-hopping or venturing inland to rainforests and volcanoes.

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