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With postcard-perfect beaches, lush green landscapes, and near-perfect weather all year long, Hawaii is an incredibly popular vacation destination no matter the season. But for those looking to escape frigid temperatures and snowstorms, Hawaii’s mild winters make it especially appealing.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Hawaii has warm and mostly dry weather during the winter months, with average temperatures between 70°F and 80°F. While there can be more rain on certain islands like Kauai, winter is generally one of the driest seasons.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Hawaiian winters, including average temperatures, rainfall patterns, ocean conditions, and the best islands and activities for the season.

Average Temperatures

When it comes to average temperatures, Hawaii enjoys consistently warm conditions all year round thanks to its subtropical climate. However, there are some noticeable differences between summer and winter.

Consistently Warm Conditions

Across the islands, average highs in the winter reach into the mid-80s Fahrenheit, while average low temperatures only drop to the mid-60s. The warm trade winds and mild ocean currents surrounding the islands regulate temperatures, keeping conditions relatively constant compared to areas with four distinct seasons.

Temperatures by Island and Region

There can be up to a 10 degree difference between islands and even across regions of the same island. For example, Kauai and Oahu generally see cooler winter temperatures than Maui, the Big Island, and especially Lanai and Molokai. Elevation plays a role too, with higher inland areas being chillier.

But no matter where you are in Hawaii, you’ll be able to comfortably wear shorts and t-shirts year-round!

Changes from Summer

Summertime is considered the warmer half of the year in Hawaii, bringing more humidity and chances for rainfall. In winter, expect slightly cooler and drier conditions. Daytime highs drop by around 5 degrees on average, while low temps can dip nearly 10 degrees below the summer normals.

You’ll still be able to enjoy luaus on the beach, just bring light layers for the evenings!

Island Avg. High (°F) Avg. Low (°F)
Oahu 80 68
Maui 83 66
Kauai 78 65

The takeaway? Hawaii stays balmy all winter long, so you can plan on soaking up the sunshine and island vibes without having to pack heavy jackets or snow boots! 😎🌴⛱️

Rainfall and Ocean Conditions

Drier Weather Overall

Compared to summer, Hawaii experiences less rain during the winter months from December through February. According to records from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Honolulu averages only 2 inches of rain in December versus almost 1 inch per day during the wet summer months.

The islands of Maui and Kauai see similarly drier conditions in winter.

The main reason for decreased rainfall is due to a decline in trade winds from the northeast and less moisture being transported from the ocean onto the islands. Sunny weather predominates through the winter, although passing storms and fronts can still bring brief heavy showers.

Wetter on Kauai and Hilo

While most of Hawaii has drier winter weather, exceptions occur on Kauai’s north shore and side of the Big Island that contains Hilo. These areas face directly into northeasterly trade winds and experience more frequent rain relative to the other islands.

For example, Kauai’s north shore at Princeville averages almost 9 inches of rain during December, much higher than Honolulu.

Additionally, extra moisture picked up from cooler ocean temperatures contributes to increased rainfall over windward areas of Kauai and the Big Island. The enhanced cloud cover and precipitation around Hilo and Princeville result in lower winter temperatures compared to the normally sunny locations.

Calmer Ocean Conditions

In addition to rainfall differences, winter brings calmer conditions along Hawaii’s coastal waters. With weaker trade winds, average wave heights decrease to 2 to 4 feet through December and January compared to summer averages of 5 to 10 feet or higher.

Surf swells from distant storms reach the islands less frequently as well.

The relatively placid ocean allows small boat operators, surfers, and swimmers more days to enjoy the tropical waters. However, be aware that large waves and dangerous currents can still develop occasionally despite the overall calmer conditions.

Checking local ocean forecasts is always advisable before ocean activities.

Location December Rainfall Avg (in) December Wave Height Avg (ft)
Honolulu 2.0 2 to 4
Hilo 5.5 2 to 4
Kauai (Princeville) 8.8 3 to 5

Best Islands for Winter


Oahu is one of the most popular islands to visit during the winter months in Hawaii. The south and west shores have gentle trade winds and mostly sunny weather from November to March, with average highs of 80°F.

The famous beaches of Waikiki and North Shore offer great swimming, surfing, and whale watching opportunities. Top attractions like Pearl Harbor, Hanauma Bay, and the Polynesian Cultural Center can be comfortably explored year-round.

The Best Western Plus at Waikiki Beach hotel is a great affordable option steps from the beach, while the luxurious Halekulani Resort and Moana Surfrider offer a more upscale experience. There are also convenient direct flights to Oahu from major US and international cities.


Maui sees mostly dry and warm weather from November through March, with average highs around 83°F on the coast and 75°F upcountry. The leeward sides of West and South Maui have the most reliably sunny skies during winter.

It’s an amazing time to visit famous beaches like Kaanapali, Kapalua, Wailea, and Makena. The calm winter ocean also makes it great for snorkeling at places like Molokini Crater and Honolua Bay.

Humpback whales can be spotted along the shores from December to April during their annual migration to breed in Maui’s warm waters. Top luxe resorts like the Fairmont Kea Lani and Grand Wailea have great whale watching grounds.

There are also unique lodging options in West and Upcountry Maui such as cottage rentals and dude ranches.

Kona Coast of Big Island

The Kona side of the Big Island stays warm and dry all winter thanks to the Kona winds, with average highs around 82°F from November to March. Popular spots for swimming and snorkeling like Hapuna Beach, Kahalu’u Bay and Kealakekua Bay are calm and clear in winter.

It’s also an amazing time for swimming with manta rays at night, especially during the new moon around the northern Kona resort area. Whale watching cruises are available all along the coast. Top luxury options include the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and coastal cottage rentals.

The Kohala Coast also has world-class golf courses open year-round.

Top Activities for Winter

Relaxing on the Beach

Even in winter, Hawaii’s beaches remain warm and sunny, with air temperatures typically ranging from 70-85°F. Lounging on the soft sand with a good book is one of the most popular winter pastimes. Visitors also enjoy beach yoga, paddleboarding, kayaking, beach volleyball, and swimming.

With fewer crowds than other seasons, winter is an amazing time to claim a spot on an iconic beach like Waikiki, Lanikai, or Kapalua and soak up some rays.

Snorkeling and Diving

The calm, clear waters make Hawaii one of the world’s best places for snorkeling and scuba diving all year long. Water visibility can exceed 100 feet in places like Hanauma Bay and Molokini Crater. Sea turtles, manta rays, colorful reef fish, and even dolphins and whales can be spotted beneath the surface.

Licensed companies offer boat tours, equipment rentals, and beginner lessons. For those who want to see undersea wonders close to shore, top snorkel sites include Kahaluʻu Beach Park on the Big Island and Turtle Bay on Oahu.

Hiking and Sightseeing

Hawaii has spectacular natural landscapes to explore and the cooler winter weather makes hiking more comfortable. Popular treks include Diamond Head Crater on Oahu, the Road to Hana sights on Maui, Waipio Valley overlook on Hawaii’s Big Island and the Napali Coast trails on Kauai.

Guided tours by knowledgeable locals provide cultural and historical context. You’ll gain amazing vistas, see lush rainforests and towering waterfalls. Don’t forget your camera!

Whale Watching Cruises

One of the highlights of a Hawaii winter vacation is seeing majestic humpback whales that migrate from Alaska. An estimated 10,000 whales make the 3,500-mile journey to Hawaii’s warm waters each year between December and April to mate, calve and nurse their young.

Whale watching cruises depart daily come rain or shine! With companies like Blue Ocean Whale Watch or Captain Zodiac Raft Expeditions, visitors often can get up close to splashy whales showing off their aerial moves and tails.


With warm and dry weather compared to just about anywhere else in the U.S. during winter, Hawaii makes a fabulous getaway to escape the cold. December through March brings ideal conditions across the islands for beachgoing, ocean sports, hiking adventures, and seeing majestic humpback whales.

The winter months are also some of Hawaii’s busiest tourist seasons, so be sure to plan ahead for your accommodations and activities to make the most of your Hawaiian vacation.

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