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With pleasant temperatures, fewer crowds, and plenty of sunshine, May is one of the best times of year to visit the paradise islands of Hawaii. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: In May, Hawaii sees warm sunny days in the mid 80s Fahrenheit, cooler nights, low rain chances, calmer winds, and ocean temperatures around 76°F making it ideal for swimming and water activities.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about Hawaii’s typical weather conditions in May. You’ll discover average temperatures, rain and wind patterns, ocean conditions, and what to pack for the islands.

We’ll also compare the weather on the different islands and offer tips on the best places to visit.

Average Temperatures and Conditions

High and Low Temperatures

May is one of the warmer months in Hawaii, with average high temperatures typically ranging from 84°F to 87°F. The capital Honolulu on Oahu enjoys warm highs of around 85°F, while the islands of Maui and Kauai are slightly cooler with averages of 83°F.

Low temperatures only drop down to the very comfortable 68°F to 72°F range across the islands. As Hawaii is located close to the equator, temperature differences between night and day are relatively small.


With warm ocean waters surrounding the islands, Hawaii stays pleasantly humid throughout the year. In May, the average relative humidity levels are in the range of 66% to 70%. Mornings tend to be a little more humid than the afternoons.

Together with the high temperatures, the mild humidity creates a comfortably balmy climate that Hawaii is famous for.


May falls within Hawaii’s winter wet season that runs from November to March, so there is a moderate chance of some brief afternoon rain showers. However, rainfall totals are still relatively low compared to other more tropical destinations.

Honolulu receives about 2 inches of rain in May, while islands like Maui and Kauai average less than 1 inch of monthly rainfall. Showers typically pass quickly, giving way again to warm sunshine.

Sunshine and Cloud Cover

The Hawaiian Islands enjoy mostly clear and sunny skies throughout the year. In May, Honolulu boasts nearly 270 hours of bright sunshine with lower cloud coverage due to less rainfall occurring compared to the winter months.

Calculated percentages estimate that May skies over key cities Honolulu, Kahului and Lihue have an average cloud cover of just 25% to 35%, providing travelers with plenty of time to soak up the glorious weather.


The main influence on Hawaii’s winds are the moderate northeast trade winds generated from a semi-permanent high pressure system far north in the Pacific Ocean. In May, these cooling breezes intermingle with local land and sea breezes, resulting in average wind speeds of 8 to 15 mph across the islands.

Higher elevations can also experience clouds and passing showers carried on the winds.

Ocean Temperatures and Conditions

Water Temperature

The average ocean temperature around Hawaii in May is 78°F (25°C), with the water being warmest on the western and southern shores. As this is toward the end of Hawaii’s dry season, conditions tend to be calmer and more conducive to ocean activities like swimming, snorkeling, surfing, and standup paddleboarding (SUP).

Here’s a comparison of the average monthly ocean temperatures in Hawaii:

Month Water Temperature (°F)
January 76°F
May 78°F
July 80°F
October 78°F

As you can see, May falls right in the middle of Hawaii’s warmest ocean months. This makes it a fantastic time to take a dip in the warm tropical waters surrounding the islands!

Surf Height

The surf off Hawaii’s shores in May typically ranges from 2 to 6 feet, making it ideal for surfing and bodyboarding. The largest waves tend to be seen on Oahu’s North Shore, which can have 6 to 10 foot surf during May.

Some key points about surf conditions in Hawaii during May:

  • Oahu’s South Shore has smaller waves in the 2 to 4 foot range
  • Maui’s North Shore at Honolua Bay may see surf up to 25 feet on big swell days
  • The east-facing shores of the islands have smaller surf but excellent conditions for beginners
  • Standup paddleboarders can find nice conditions in more protected harbors and bays

So while swell size can vary, overall May offers excellent surfing conditions across Hawaii.

Sea Conditions

As mentioned earlier, May falls within Hawaii’s dry season when northeast trade winds ease up leading to calmer seas. However the transition to summer can bring some windier days. Here are some things to know about sea conditions:

  • Water clarity is very good, with 100+ foot visibility common
  • Mornings tend to be very glassy before trade winds pick up
  • The weather is drier but passing showers are still possible
  • Large summer swells may bring occasional high surf warnings

When planning ocean activities, it’s always smart to check the latest marine forecasts. But overall the ocean conditions in Hawaii during May offer prime time to get out on the water before the summer crowds arrive.

Weather Differences Between the Islands


Oahu enjoys warm and sunny weather in May, with average highs around 85°F and nighttime lows dipping to 72°F. The rainfall averages 2-3 inches this month, so there is a low chance of rain showers. The famous Waikiki Beach boasts water temperatures of 77-78°F, perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

Windward sides like Kailua tend to be a bit rainier, while leeward areas such as Ko Olina stay predominately sunny and dry.


May ushers in drier weather for Maui after the rains of winter and early spring. Daily highs reach into the mid-80s on average, with pleasant nights around 70°F near the coasts. Rainfall continues to decrease from the wetter winter months, with about 1-2 inches accumulation expected in May.

The leeward resorts of Wailea and Makena bask in abundant sunshine this month. Meanwhile, the lush rainforests near Hana stay true to their name with occasional passing showers.


As the northernmost major island, Kauai sees higher rainfall compared to the other islands in May. Expect brief passing showers a couple times a week, although rainfall totals only amount to 1-3 inches on average. Temperatures typically range from 79°F to 68°F between daytime and night.

If you don’t mind the occasional rain shower, May is an excellent time to visit the Garden Island. The rain keeps the waterfalls gushing and tropical foliage vibrant green!

Big Island

Spanning various climate zones from lush rainforests to arid lava deserts, the Big Island boasts diverse microclimates in May. Average highs reach into the mid-80s along the coasts, while upcountry areas trend 5-10 degrees cooler during the day.

Hilo and the windward side see frequent clouds and passing showers, contributing 5-10 rainy days this month. Meanwhile, leeward resorts of the Kohala Coast and Kailua-Kona bask in abundant sunshine most days.

What to Pack


When packing for a May trip to Hawaii, light and breezy clothing is key. Temperatures typically range from 70s at night to the mid 80s during the day, with plenty of sun. Bring items like shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, swimsuits, sundresses, and sandals.

Having at least one lightweight long sleeve shirt and pants is a good idea for cool evenings or air-conditioned restaurants and attractions. A sun hat, sunglasses, and light rain jacket also come in handy.

Beach Gear

No trip to Hawaii is complete without ample time at the beaches. Be sure to pack beach towels, sunscreen, after-sun lotion, flip flops, small beach bag, snorkel gear, waterproof phone case or camera if desired, inflatable rafts or pool toys for the kids, and portable beach chairs or blanket.

Many beach parks have showers to rinse off sand before heading home or back to your hotel.

Outdoor Activities Gear

There are endless outdoor adventures to experience in Hawaii like hiking, zip lining, kayaking, surfing, and more. Bring sturdy shoes or sandals made for hiking/water, lightweight activewear, hat, sun protection clothing, water bottle, backpack, motion sickness medication if prone to nausea, waterproof bag for electronics and wallet, and anything else related to the specific activities you have planned.

Some outfitters provide needed gear and instruction for certain excursions as well.

Best Places to Visit in May


May is a great time to visit Hawaii’s iconic beaches. The winter storms have passed, leaving calmer surf and warmer ocean temperatures perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Some top beach destinations in May include:

  • Waikiki Beach in Oahu – This famous beach has golden sand and gentle waves, along with lots of resorts, shops, and restaurants nearby.
  • Hanauma Bay on Oahu – Excellent snorkeling can be found in this marine preserve filled with tropical fish and sea turtles.
  • Kaanapali Beach in Maui – Three miles of soft sand and warm water make this one of Hawaii’s finest beaches.

With daytime highs in the 80s Fahrenheit, May is very comfortable for relaxing on the beach. The odds of rain are low as well. Just don’t forget the sunscreen!

Hiking Trails

May’s balmy weather also makes it an ideal time for hiking to see Hawaii’s wondrous landscapes and lush nature. Some great trail options include:

  • Diamond Head Crater Hike on Oahu – Trek up volcanic slopes for sweeping views of Waikiki and the sparkling Pacific Ocean.
  • Road to Hana on Maui – A scenic drive with many stops for short hikes to majestic waterfalls and pools.
  • Waipio Valley Overlook on the Big Island – Gaze down upon a remote valley dotted with taro farms and a black sand beach.

With highs around 70°F at higher elevations, conditions will be comfortable for hiking. And the islands will be brimming with green foliage and colorful tropical flowers. Just watch out for brief pop-up afternoon showers!

Towns and Resorts

May is considered the start of Hawaii’s slower summer tourist season. It’s a perfect time to explore local culture without huge crowds. The weather is ideal for enjoying these destinations:

  • Kailua-Kona on the Big Island – A quaint coastal town with restaurants, shops, historic sites, and a walkable waterfront.
  • Paia on Maui – A former plantation town gaining popularity for its hip boutiques, surf shops, and farm-to-table eateries.
  • Poipu on Kauai – A laidback beach resort community with luxury hotels, golf courses, and stunning sunsets.

With smaller crowds and lower room rates in May compared to the winter high season, resorts and hotels are also a great lodging value before peak summer pricing.


With its quintessential beach weather featuring sunny skies, minimal rain, and warm ocean waters perfect for swimming and snorkeling, May is undoubtedly one of the best times to plan a getaway to Hawaii.

The moderate humidity, cooler evenings, and fewer crowds also enhance the islands’ appeal this month.

By understanding what to expect from Hawaii’s weather in May including average temperatures, ocean conditions, rainfall patterns, and wind, you can choose the right island, pack properly, and make the most of the island paradise during shoulder season.

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