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With near perfect weather and festive holiday celebrations, December is one of the best times of year to visit the Hawaiian islands. If you’re looking to soak up the sun on gorgeous beaches, enjoy seaside luaus, whale watch, or take memorable hikes through lush tropical landscapes, you’ll find an island with activities perfectly suited for you this December.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Maui offers stunning beaches, hiking trails, and whale watching opportunities making it one of the top choices for a December Hawaiian vacation.

In this comprehensive guide we’ll cover the best activities, sights, and towns on four of Hawaii’s most popular islands – Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island. You’ll discover the unique appeal of each island and learn insider tips on where to stay, top things to do, average December weather and prices, and more.

Read on to determine which Hawaiian island is the best match for your December tropical getaway!

Oahu For Iconic Sights and Vibrant Cities

Overview of Oahu

Oahu is the most populous and developed island in Hawaii, home to the state’s capital and largest city, Honolulu. It’s known for its iconic sights like the famous Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head crater, and North Shore surfing beaches.

The island has a vibrant mix of natural and urban attractions. City lovers can explore the museums, shops, restaurants and nightlife of metro areas like Honolulu and Waikiki, while outdoor enthusiasts have endless options for hiking, snorkeling, surfing and whale watching.

Top Towns and Resorts on Oahu

The main tourist centers on Oahu are:

  • Waikiki – Famous for its stunning beach and array of hotels, shops, restaurants and entertainment. It caters to all budgets.
  • Honolulu – The state’s capital and largest city. It has an attractive waterfront, Chinatown district, museums and historic sites like Iolani Palace.
  • Ko Olina – An upscale planned resort area with four lagoons, a mix of condos and luxury hotels like Disney’s Aulani Resort.
  • North Shore – Known for big wave surfing, this coastal area also has small towns like Haleiwa filled with shops and cafes.
  • Kailua – A laid-back beach town on Oahu’s windward side, popular for kayaking, hiking and beach activities.
  • Activities and Attractions on Oahu

    There’s no shortage of things to see and do on Oahu. Top attractions and activities include:

    • Relaxing on Waikiki Beach
    • Taking in the views from Diamond Head crater
    • Visiting Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial
    • Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay
    • Surfing on the North Shore beaches
    • Hiking trails like Manoa Falls and Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail
    • Whale watching boat tours (in winter)
    • Visiting Polynesian Cultural Center
    • Helicopter tours for aerial island views
    • Shopping and dining in areas like Waikiki, Ala Moana and Chinatown

    In December, whale watching, snorkeling and surfing are all excellent. The big waves start rolling in on the North Shore, drawing pros and spectators. It’s also a popular time for golf, sailing, swimming, and holiday events like Honolulu City Lights and Waikiki Holiday Parade.

    Average December Weather and Prices

    The average December temperature on Oahu ranges from 73°F to 80°F, with cooler temps at higher elevations and on the windward side. Water temperatures average 76-78°F. Rainfall is moderate but brief showers are common.

    Early December is generally Oahu’s peak season, with the highest hotel rates around the Christmas/New Year period. Mid-late December has fewer crowds and better deals. Sample December hotel rates average:

    • 2-3 star hotel: $180-$250 per night
    • 4 star hotel: $260-$400 per night
    • High end resort: $500+ per night

    Maui for Beaches, Whale Watching, and Adventure

    Overview of Maui

    With around 850 square miles of land, Maui is the second largest island in Hawaii. Known as the “valley isle”, Maui boasts world class beaches with fine white sand, stunning natural scenery like Haleakala Volcano and the scenic Road to Hana, and an average high of about 81°F in December.

    From watching whales frolic off the shores of Lahaina to driving through a rainforest on the way to Hana, there’s an abundance of natural beauty and adventure awaiting visitors.

    Best Towns and Resorts on Maui

    The primary tourist towns on Maui are Lahaina, Kaanapali, Kihei, Wailea, and Paia. Lahaina and Kaanapali on the west side are popular for their proximity to great beaches, whale watching cruises, and resorts like the Westin Maui.

    The south side towns of Wailea and Kihei feature stunning beaches like Makena Beach State Park and 5-star resorts. The laidback surfer town of Paia has boutique accommodations and is the starting point for the drive to Hana.

    Top Activities and Sights on Maui

  • Watch humpback whales migrate from Alaska from December to April on whale watching cruises departing from Lahaina Harbor.
  • Soak up the sun and enjoy water sports like snorkeling and surfing at Kaanapali and Kapalua beaches on the west side.
  • Hike through lush rainforest filled with waterfalls and bamboo groves on the famous Road to Hana.
  • Gaze at views of neighboring islands from the 10,000 foot summit of Haleakala Volcano at sunrise or sunset.
  • Check out the charming boutiques, art galleries and restaurants in the artsy beach town of Paia.
  • Average December Weather and Prices

    Average High Temperature 81°F
    Average Low Temperature 66°F
    Water Temperature 75-80°F
    Chance of Rain 35%
    Average Hotel Price $289/night

    December is an ideal time to visit Maui with comfortably warm weather. Along with sunny skies and great beach temperatures come slight chances of brief passing showers. This is low season after the summer crowds have left, so hotel rates will be lower.

    For culture, natural beauty and adventure, Maui is a magical Hawaiian island to explore in December!

    Kauai for Dramatic Scenery and Relaxation

    Overview of Kauai

    With emerald mountains, towering waterfalls, and secluded beaches, the island of Kauai is widely regarded as the most stunningly scenic of all the Hawaiian islands. Often called the “Garden Island” thanks to its lush tropical rainforests, Kauai offers incredible natural beauty as well as opportunities for both adventure and relaxation.

    In December, Kauai makes an ideal Hawaiian island getaway. The large winter crowds have yet to descend, and the weather is often ideal for activities like snorkeling, ATV adventures, and helicopter tours.

    In the interior of the island, temperatures remain warm and rainfall is higher, while coastal areas are drier with temperatures in the mid 70s F.

    Recommended Towns and Resorts on Kauai

    For lodging, popular base towns and resort areas include:

    • Poipu: Known for its sunny weather and kid-friendly beaches, Poipu on the south shore is home to resorts like the Sheraton Kauai and Grand Hyatt Kauai.
    • Princeville: This area on the beautiful North Shore features scenic cliffside resorts like the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas.
    • Lihue: The island capital offers condos and affordable hotels like Kauai Beach Resort in a central location.
    • Waimea: Quieter and more laid-back than busy Poipu, Waimea offers accommodation options like Waimea Plantation Cottages set amid lush gardens.

    Top Things To Do on Kauai

    Top attractions and activities on Kauai ideal for December visits include:

    • Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park: Take a boat or raft tour along these stunning sea cliffs and pristine beaches.
    • Waimea Canyon: Explore the incredible vistas at this natural wonder known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”
    • Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge: Seek out ocean birds like the Red-footed Booby at this beautiful lighthouse setting.
    • Helicopter tours: Get a bird’s eye view of Kauai’s most dramatic scenery and waterfalls only visible from the air.
    • Surfing and stand-up paddleboarding: Rent gear and ride waves or paddle peaceful rivers like the Wailua.

    Typical December Weather and Prices

    In December, average highs on Kauai range from 78°F on the coast to around 83°F inland, while average lows remain balmy at 65 – 68°F across the island. Rainfall totals average 5-6 inches across the island.

    By visiting before the winter holidays, you’ll enjoy fewer crowds and often lower lodging prices, such as:

    Hotel Dec. Average Rate Per Night
    Kauai Marriot Resort $260
    Grand Hyatt Kauai $500

    Airfare to Lihue Airport also averages around $260 roundtrip from the West Coast in December according to data from, making the island very affordable during this shoulder season.

    Hawaii’s Big Island for Volcanoes and Island Vibes

    Overview of the Big Island

    The Big Island of Hawaii, also known as Hawaii Island, is the largest and youngest of the Hawaiian Islands. Spanning 4,028 square miles, it’s nearly twice as big as all of the other islands combined. The island is home to 11 out of the world’s 13 climate zones, ranging from tropical rainforests to snow-capped mountains.

    This diversity makes the Big Island an incredibly unique destination.

    The Big Island is also known for its active volcanoes. Kilauea Volcano has been continuously erupting since 1983, creating new land as lava flows into the ocean. This volcanic activity gives visitors a rare opportunity to see the Earth’s creation process firsthand.

    Best Places to Stay on Hawaii’s Big Island

    Some top places to stay on the Big Island include:

    • Kailua-Kona – This vibrant coastal town on the west side is home to beautiful beaches, great restaurants and shops. It’s a convenient base for exploring the Kohala Coast.
    • Waikoloa Beach Resort Area – This popular resort area features luxury hotels like Hilton Waikoloa Village along with condos, villas and vacation rentals with easy access to beaches.
    • Volcano Village – Located at the edge of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Volcano Village offers cozy bed and breakfasts and cottages surrounded by rainforest.
    • Hilo – The largest population center on the eastern side of the island, Hilo has historic hotels and inns near parks, gardens and waterfalls.

    Activities and Sights on the Big Island

    Top things to see and do on the Big Island include:

    • Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and seeing lava flows when active.
    • Stargazing from Mauna Kea – At 13,803 feet elevation, it offers some of the world’s best astronomy observing.
    • Swimming with manta rays on the Kona Coast.
    • Checking out farms and orchards like Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory.
    • Hiking to gorgeous waterfalls like Akaka Falls and Rainbow Falls.
    • Snorkeling at Kealakekua Bay and Two Step near Honaunau.
    • Visiting historic places like Pu‘uhonua O Hōnaunau National Park and the city of Hilo.

    There are endless adventures to be had on the Big Island. The difficult part is deciding what to do with limited time!

    Average December Weather and Prices

    December falls in the Big Island’s winter season between November and March. The weather is delightfully mild, with average highs of 81°F on the Kohala Coast and 79°F in Hilo. Low temperatures average around 65°F.

    Rain showers tend to occur on the eastern Hilo side, while the western Kona side stays predominantly dry. However, weather can be unpredictable and change rapidly on the island.

    Avg. December High Temp 81°F Kona Coast, 79°F Hilo
    Avg. December Low Temp 65°F Islandwide
    Avg. December Rainfall 2.3 inches Hilo, 0.5 inches Kona
    December Water Temp 77°F

    Early December is generally the least crowded time to visit Hawaii as peak rates don’t hit until closer to the holidays. Hotel rates average around $200-$300 per night, while vacation homes and condos offer more space, amenities and convenience for larger groups and families.

    No matter where you stay or what you choose to do, the Big Island serves up adventure, stunning scenery and a relaxed island vibe that makes it a fabulous winter escape. For more Hawaii travel tips see Go Hawaii’s Big Island guide.


    With near perfect weather featuring sunny skies and warm tropical temperatures, December ushers in the Hawaiian holiday season and creates priceless memories exploring these Pacific isles. We hope our guide gives you the information you need to select the very best Hawaiian island for you this December.

    All the islands offer gorgeous scenery, beaches, hikes, and festive luaus. Choose Oahu to experience Waikiki’s famous beaches and Pearl Harbor, or pick lively Maui for stunning coastlines and whale watching.

    For dramatic cliffs and waterfalls set against lush greenery opt for peaceful Kauai, or explore Hawaii’s Big Island to discover erupting volcanoes and black sand beaches.

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