Best time to visit Hawaii: Guide to best month, season and things to see and do

An incredible view: Hawaii seen from a helicopter

Stunning coastlines and pouring lava: The Big Island seen from the air. Video courtesy of Blue Hawaiian Helicopters.

Known as the Aloha State, Hawaii is blessed with consistent temperatures throughout the year, meaning there's never a bad time to visit. Hawaii really only has two seasons: summer (kau) and winter (hooilo). Amazingly, it even snows, however at sea level the coolest it ever gets is a pleasant 26 degrees. Here we outline the best time to visit Hawaii.

May to October – summer

Why you should go: Summer is the warmest time on the islands, and humidity is high too. There's little rainfall, and surf is at its lowest – so think balmy tropical island weather. In summer, the average daytime temperature at sea level is 29 degrees, however the trade winds mean there's usually a cooling breeze. When the trade winds switch to the south or west, the weather can become stormy, hot and sticky. Islanders call this kona weather, meaning leeward or south, pointing to the direction from which these weather systems arrive.

Although summer is known as low season, June through to August is actually the busiest time to visit – coinciding as it does with the US summer break, and Australia's winter school holidays. Travellers with flexibility should look to book in the shoulder season of September-November, as lower occupancy levels mean you can usually bag some great airfare and accommodation deals. Booking website Wotif.com.au says travellers can save up to 50 per cent off accommodation if they choose to visit Maui in October as opposed to January, when prices are generally at their highest.

No first-time visitor to the islands should miss lapping up the sights, sounds, shopping and sunsets of Oahu's world-famous Waikiki Beach. If crowds aren't your thing, the island's north, east and west coasts, referred to by locals as the "country" (with Waikiki being the "city") offer a more local vibe. Been there, done that? Then venture beyond to Oahu's neighbouring islands of Maui, Molokai, Lanai, the Island of Hawaii or Kauai.

Of the 350,000 odd Australians who visit Oahu each year, only approximately 70,000 make it across to Maui, and that number decreases for the other neighbouring islands. Yet Hawaii's landscapes vary dramatically, from sandy beaches, to lush rainforests and black volcanic earth, so it pays to venture beyond Oahu's shores.

Don't miss

Some of the most spectacular lava viewing imaginable is happening right now on the island of Hawaii (Kilauea). While the Volcanoes National Park is currently closed, once in a lifetime, doors off, helicopter flights circle Pahoa's active fissure eight – the ground eruption point of Kilauea Volcano. The area where the eruption is taking place is a remote rural region, and somewhere not normally frequented by tourists. Lava boat tours also operate off the island's east coast, providing incredible viewings of the lava's ocean entry point. See www.paradisecopters.com/tours/hilo-doors-off-lava-rainforests-adventure; see www.lava.com/big-island-boat-tours/lava-boat-tour 

Key events

The ukulele – Hawaii's most loved instrument – is celebrated at this fun, colourful and spectacular annual festival held on Oahu. See www.ukulelefestivalhawaii.org 

Advertisement

The gruelling Ironman World Championships are held annually on the island of Hawaii. Watch qualifiers from throughout the world battle it out in this prestigious race held in October. See www.ironman.com 

Dukes OceanFest (August 18-26 this year)  celebrates Hawaii's original ambassador of Aloha, Duke Paoa Kahanamoku​. Throughout the festival at Waikiki, amateur and professional athletes compete in a variety of ocean sports including surfing, stand-up paddling, a one-mile ocean swim, lifeguard competition, surfboard water polo, a wounded-warrior canoe regatta and more, sponsored by Outrigger Hotels and Resorts. See www.dukesoceanfest.com 

See also: The 10 most amazing Hawaiian adventures

November-April – winter

Winter is Hawaii's peak season. Although Hawaii's wettest months are from November to March, winter rains don't generally disrupt holiday plans since the weather is localised. This means that if it's raining in one area, there's almost always a sunny spot to be found around the coast.

During the winter months, it's common to find snow on top of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes on the Island of Hawaii. Mauna Loa is also the tallest mountain in the world when measured from the ocean floor, rising to more than 10,000 metres – significantly higher than Mount Everest at 8848 metres above sea level.

A highlight of travelling to Hawaii in the February-April shoulder season is whale watching. Lahaina and Kaanapali in Maui are great spots to see migrating humpback whales as they travel to the island's warm waters to breed.

If you detest crowds, avoid Christmas through to New Year as it seems the whole of America descends for the festive break. Wotif.com.au recommends travelling from August through to mid-December, for cheaper accommodation rates, while beaches and resorts are less crowded too.

Don't miss

Get up close and personal with whales on Maui by booking a cruise or joining an incredible SUP tour. Whales are also often seen from the shore at Kaanapali or Lahaina. February is considered the ultimate time to see whales. See www.pacificwhale.org/cruises/maui-whalewatch; paddleonmaui.com/sup-whale-watch

Take a walk or zipline over Kauai's lush, prehistoric forests. Known as the Garden Isle, Kauai is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands. See www.zipline.com/kauai 

Escape the hustle and bustle of Waikiki like royalty – literally. The Kahala Hotel and Resort tucked away behind Diamond Head is frequented by royalty and A-listers alike for its privacy and grandeur. If the budget doesn't extend to staying, sample what is arguably Hawaii's most lavish buffet breakfast at the resort's Plumeria Beach House, followed by a dip at the secluded Kahala Beach. See www.kahalaresort.com 

Key events

Check out the world's finest surfers in action at this back-to-back surfing contest at Haleiwa Ali'i, Sunset and Banzai Pipeline beaches on Hawaii's North Shore. See www.vanstriplecrownofsurfing.com 

Waikiki holds a street festival every April devoted entirely to the "Hawaiian steak" – the Spam Jam Festival. The festival celebrates Hawaii's love of the tinned meat. See www.spamjamhawaii.com 

See also: There's more to Waikiki than its famous beach

See also: Twenty things that will shock first-time visitors to Hawaii

Comments