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With its stunning beaches, incredible nature, and vibrant culture, Hawaii is on many people’s bucket lists for that dream tropical vacation. If you’re wondering when the optimal time is to book your Hawaiian getaway, you’ll want to weigh factors like weather, costs, crowds, and events.

If you are looking for warm sunny weather with smaller crowds, the best times to visit Hawaii are April to early June and September to mid-December. The spring and fall shoulder seasons offer lower prices, beautiful weather, and fewer tourists than the busy summer travel season and major holidays.

Whales, surf, and Hawaii regional foods like poke and mangos can also be big draws during these times.

In this comprehensive guide crafted by Hawaii locals, we will walk you through month-by-month recommendations on the best and worst times to plan your exciting Hawaiian adventure.

Hawaii Weather and Temperatures

Year-Round Warmth with Some Rain

One of the main appeals of Hawaii is the idyllic weather and year-round warmth. Thanks to Hawaii’s tropical location, the islands enjoy average high temperatures ranging from 78°F in “winter” to 88°F in “summer” according to historical records from National Weather Service Honolulu.

However, travelers should be prepared for passing rain showers which are common due to the islands’ location in the Pacific trade wind belt. The windward sides of the islands tend to be rainier, while the leeward sides are drier and sunnier.

For example, Hilo on Hawaiʻi Island receives about 130 inches of rain per year, while Honolulu on Oʻahu sees only 20 inches annually.

Surf’s Up in Winter on North Shores

For surfers and wave watchers, the best surfing conditions occur between November and March on north-facing shores. During Hawaii’s winter months, storms and high surf rolling down from Alaska focus huge waves onto north shore spots like the Banzai Pipeline on Oʻahu’s North Shore and other celebrated surf meccas.

Wave faces can reach over 30 feet high during the Hawaii big wave surf season! So while the usual weather stays pleasantly warm, visitors to north shores should exercise caution near the water in high winter surf.

Spring and Fall Offer Pleasant Temps

The most popular travel seasons align with when temperatures are most comfortable – mid 70s to mid 80s Fahrenheit – according to many Hawaii locals. Spring (mid-March to June) and fall (September to mid-December) strike the best balance of warm weather, smaller crowds, lower airfares and hotel rates compared to winter and summer peaks.

Whale watching also peaks during spring when humpback whales migrate to Hawaii to mate and birth calves. The fall shoulder season boasts reliable beach weather and surf, fewer families or school groups, plus the start of Hawaii’s festive holiday celebrations.

Crowds and Costs

Busiest in Summer and Holidays

The peak seasons in Hawaii with the largest influxes of tourists are summer and the winter holidays. According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the busiest month for tourism is July, followed by August and December (1).

During these crowded times, popular attractions and activities often sell out days or weeks in advance. Hotel rates also spike, with some properties doubling their prices compared to other times of the year.

If you’re looking for a relaxed Hawaii vacation with smaller crowds, avoid visiting during summer break and the weeks around Christmas and New Year’s. However, those willing to plan ahead by booking hotels and activities early can still enjoy their Hawaiian holiday even during the most popular weeks.

Just be prepared for busy beaches, longer restaurant wait times, and higher prices overall.

Hotel Deals in Spring and Fall

One of the best ways to save money on a Hawaii trip is by taking advantage of shoulder season hotel deals in the spring and fall. Hotel rates dip by 20-50% or more during late April and early May as well as September through early December outside of Thanksgiving week (2).

With lovely warm weather still prime for island adventures, fewer tourists, and lower prices, spring and fall are excellent times for finding Hawaii travel bargains.

In addition to discounted hotel rates, spring and fall mean you’ll avoid most holiday and student travel crowds. Certain busy attractions and activities may still require advance booking, but overall you’ll encounter shorter lines and wait times.

As long as you plan ahead on accommodations and confirm availability for any high-demand adventures, you can experience Hawaii comfortably for less during the shoulder seasons.

Finding Airfare Sales

Securing an affordable flight is essential for keeping down the cost of any Hawaii vacation. Average round trip airfare deals from the West Coast run about $300-400 per person, while flights from the East Coast tend to be $600 or more (3).

You can subtract $100-200 off those averages by watching for sales. The best way is to sign up on airline websites to get email alerts about Hawaii fare specials and flash sales.

Be flexible with your travel dates if possible to take advantage of the lowest fares. Traveling mid-week is also cheaper than flying on weekend dates. With the right sale, you could grab roundtrip tickets from the West Coast for under $250 per person, saving $100 or more.

Major Events and Festivals

Whale Watching Season

One of the best times for visitors to experience Hawaii’s amazing nature is during whale watching season, which generally runs from December through April. Thousands of gentle humpback whales make the journey from Alaska to Hawaii’s warm waters to mate, birth calves, and raise their young.

Whale watching tours depart daily from ports like Lahaina Harbor on Maui and Waianae Harbor on Oahu during the season. You’ll likely spot whales breaching, slapping their tails, or spouting fountains of water as you watch from the deck of a catamaran or inflatable raft.

Some tours even let you listen to the whale’s haunting songs with underwater microphones.

Big Surf Competitions

For visitors who love riding waves or watching surfing action, another ideal travel window is between November and February when the massive winter swells arrive. Top surfers from around the world flock to Oahu’s North Shore to compete in prestigious championships like The Eddie and the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.

The epic waves at spots like Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, and Pipeline reach heights over 30 feet, creating great theatre for spectators lining the sand. The roaring surf also draws bodyboarders charging down giant walls of water at Sandy Beach on Oahu’s east side.

Aloha Festivals and More

In the fall, Hawaii hosts the Aloha Festivals celebrating local culture with over 500 events spanning six islands. Highlights include the exciting Falsetto Contest for vocal groups, a royal court ceremony reenacting Hawaiian monarchs of the 1800s, and a huge floral parade through Waikiki featuring Hawaiian musicians and hula dancers.

Other popular annual events that showcase authentic Hawaiian traditions for visitors include the World Invitational Hula Festival each spring, Prince Lot Hula Festival each summer, and the King Kamehameha Hula Competition in June honoring Hawaii’s greatest king.

Exploring Hawaii during these special festivals lets you gain a deeper connection with its people and heritage.

The Best of Hawaii by Month

January

January is a popular time to visit Hawaii to escape the cold winter weather on the U.S. mainland. Temperatures average around 80°F during the day and 65°F at night. Whale watching season starts in January when humpback whales migrate to Hawaii’s warm waters to mate and give birth.

It’s an amazing sight to see these gentle giants leaping out of the water. The crowds and prices also haven’t hit their peak yet this early in the year.

February

February brings more sunny days with slightly warmer ocean temperatures for swimming and snorkeling. It’s still whale watching season as mother whales can be spotted teaching their calves. February is the start of sugar cane harvest season on Maui which means you can take tours of working sugar plantations.

There are also Chinese New Year celebrations that take place on some of the islands. Airfares may start to increase around President’s Day weekend.

March

March signals the winding down of whale season, though stragglers can sometimes be spotted into April. The rainy season tends to ramp up this time of year, but showers are often brief. Temperatures hold steady with daytime highs in the low 80s.

Spring break brings more families traveling to Hawaii, so you’ll see more kids enjoying the beaches. Snorkeling conditions improve as waters calm after winter wave activity.

April

April is one of the best months to visit Hawaii if you’re hoping to avoid both winter storms and the summer crowds. Days are consistently sunny and pleasant with average highs around 85°F on most islands.

Expect some brief April showers, especially on Maui and the Big Island as tropical weather starts rolling through. Airfares and hotel rates will remain on the cheaper side before summer pricing hits.

May

May signals the official start of tourist season when the summer rush kicks in around Memorial Day weekend late in the month. Temperatures hold steady, while ocean conditions continue to be calmer as south swells bring surfers to the islands.

You’ll enjoy lovely long days to spend at the beach before peak crowds descend. Prices jump for hotels and vacation rentals as demand outpaces availability.

June

June falls right in the middle of summer with very little rainfall, making it one of the driest months. With kids out of school, families flock to the popular islands of Maui and Oahu. Resort rates and airfares hit some of the highest prices all year.

However, the weather is gorgeous with plenty of sunshine and warm ocean temperatures in the low 80s.

July

July is when tourism goes into overdrive in Hawaii with packed hotels, beaches and attractions. However, that means excitement is in the air and there are lots of activities happening around the islands. Fourth of July celebrations feature festivals and incredible fireworks displays.

Ocean temperatures peak in the summer providing the warmest conditions for snorkeling and swimming. Expect very little rain amid all the sunshine.

August

Crowds don’t thin out much come August as families try to squeeze in one last summer vacation before the new schoolyear. Resort rates and airfares remain expensive with peak demand. The weather provides consistently hot conditions for enjoying all that Hawaiian paradise has to offer.

Ocean lovers can choose among a variety of watersports or just relax on miles of pristine beaches.

September

Once Labor Day weekend has passed, Hawaii starts feeling noticeably quieter and less crowded. It’s still beach weather though, with warm ocean temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s. September sees slightly more rainfall and cloudy periods as hurricane season gets underway, but most storms pass south of Hawaii.

Hotel prices and airfares come down significantly, making this one of the most affordable times to visit.

October

Pleasant daytime temperatures in the mid 80s make October an ideal time for enjoying outdoor activities in Hawaii. The rainy season continues bringing a mix of clouds and sun most days. The ocean starts to cool but remains swimmable into November.

Fewer crowds allow for a more relaxing and less hectic island getaway. Halloween events and celebrations ramp up toward the end of the month.

November

November keeps things comfortable and calm as the year winds down. Whales start to return again bringing the hope of spotting spouts out on the water. Surf season kicks off drawing wave riders from around the world for giant swells on Oahu’s North Shore and Maui.

The islands celebrate Thanksgiving in classic American style with turkey feasts everywhere you look.

December

December brings holiday spirit to the islands with Christmas decorations, events and celebrations. Temperatures drop slightly but remain pleasant for sightseeing and golf. Whales return in full force by mid-December to enjoy warmer Hawaii waters through March.

End of year sales mean you can score travel deals between Christmas and New Years. It’s also a nice escape from cold winter climates on the mainland.

Conclusion

By considering factors like weather patterns, crowds, costs, and events, you can determine the ideal time to visit paradise in Hawaii. For comfortable weather and smaller crowds at lower prices, spring and fall shoulder seasons are excellent choices.

With flight deals easier to snag and whale watching, surf competitions, Hawaiian foods, and festivals happening, April-June and September-mid December are truly exceptional times. Use this guide to choose your perfect travel month for making unforgettable Hawaiian memories!

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