Hawaii in the Winter: Should You Bother?

Warm weather greets visitors to Hawaii year-round, and if you want to escape the bitter cold on the mainland, Hawaii’s definitely worth the trip.


Winter temperatures average 80–85 degrees (about 30 degrees Celsius), even in January and February. The coldest season is actually the perfect time to escape the blustery weather of New York, Chicago, or even L.A., where temps typically drop into the 40s at night.


The only downside to Hawaii’s weather in the winter is the possibility of rain. It hardly ever rains in the spring, summer and fall seasons, but winter brings the likelihood of showers ranging from light sprinklings in the morning hours to downpours in the afternoons.

The rain can be quite sporadic—it could be sunny and clear for weeks followed by a week of cloudiness and/or rain. You might have to count on your luck when you travel to Hawaii during the winter, so it’s better to be flexible in your planning at that time of year.

At night, temperatures dip into the high 60s, which is still balmy if you’re coming from true winter. When you’re suffering in below-zero temperatures at home, high 60s sounds like heaven! You can still wear shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops on your winter Hawaiian vacation, but it’s advisable to bring a light rain jacket too.

In any event, winter weather really depends on where you visit on the islands. A hotter, drier climate can be found on the west side of Oahu, where it hardly ever rains. In contrast, a wet, rainy climate is present on the east side of the Big Island, where it rains all year long.

There are ways to avoid the rainy winter. Regardless of where you want to stay, though, I definitely would not let the possibility of rain deter a grand vacation to the Hawaiian Islands. Hawaii in the winter is wonderful in its own ways.

Whale Watching

Winter is an excellent time to go whale watching. After the majestic humpbacks migrate from the frigid waters of the Gulf of Alaska to Hawaii for the winter, they will hang around the islands between November and May.

These gentle giants are known to breed and birth in the islands’ warm and shallow waters. The number of whales usually peaks between January and early April, making winter a prime time to view these magnificent creatures.

Spend a couple of hours at sea, and you’ll be wowed by the beauty of nature. Most whale-watching companies will even guarantee a whale sighting on your trip!

If you get seasick on boats, you don’t have to miss out on the splendor. There are many designated viewpoints from which you can see whales. For example, there’s Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail on the east side of the Island of Oahu and the Kohala beaches on The Big Island.

From either the land or the sea, you can see the humpbacks breach the ocean by propelling their 45-foot-long, 40-ton bodies out of the sea—a simply spectacular sight. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars!

High-adrenaline Surfing

Wintertime also means a chance to witness the powerful surf on the north shores of the islands. Waves reach 20 feet and higher! It is truly awesome to watch expert and professional surfers ride these monstrous waves.

Even strong swimmers have been known to get into deep trouble in these north shore waters in winter, though, so heed the high-surf warning signs that litter the beaches.

While swimming in these tumultuous waters is highly discouraged (if you value your life, that is), you’ll probably never see these kinds of waves anywhere else.

Because of these great waves, the world’s most prestigious surfing competitions, such as the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, are conducted during Hawaii’s winter. Two awesome beaches for catching the action are the Bonzai Pipeline at Ehukai Beach and Waimea Beach on the Island of Oahu.

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On all accounts, the nature of a Hawaiian winter is simply stunning, making Hawaii an excellent vacation destination at any time of year. It really is the definition of island paradise!