Winter in the Islands

Winter in Hawai‛i is almost like Summer in Hawai‛i. That’s what happens when you live near the equator. Hawaiian weather isn’t divided up into “seasons” like it is in other places. The Hawaiian summer known as “kau” runs from May to October and has a daytime average temperature of 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter, known as “ho‛oilo”, is from November to April, where the daytime average temperature is a frigid 78 degrees. While the winter months do tend to be rainier, a light jacket and umbrella are all you’ll really need to be comfortable. This weather is what makes Hawai‛i a popular vacation destination all year.

Believe it or not, there is snow on Hawai‛i’s tallest peaks during winter: Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on Hawai‛i Island, and Haleakalā on Maui. If skiing in Hawai‛i is on your bucket list, your best bet is to check out the weather conditions on Mauna Kea. Skiing Mauna Kea is a rugged experience, and one you won’t forget.

The southern and western parts of the islands are a bit drier. As these areas get less rain, visitors might want to find winter accommodations in these places:

  • O‛ahu: Waikiki or Ko Olina on the west side
  • Maui: Kaanapali or Kihei
  • Hawai‛i Island: Waikoloa or the Kohala Coast
  • Kaua‛i: Poipū and Waimea (although Kaua‛i is the island with the most rain)

But remember, just because it’s raining in one part of the island doesn’t mean it’s raining everywhere. Often you can drive right out from under a rain cloud and into the sunshine.

Mauna Kea, Big Island of Hawai’i. Photo by Vadim Kurland, Wikimedia.

Whale Watching

Not unlike our human visitors seeking warmer weather, humpback whales make their annual migration into warm Hawaiian waters. Swimming almost non-stop for up to 8 weeks, the whales leave Alaska’s icy ocean to mate, give birth, and nurture their calves offshore.

Whale season lasts from November to May, with peak sightings between January and March. Whales can be seen quite easily from most shorelines around the Hawaiian Islands. Take binoculars with you on a trip to the beach or a scenic lookout, and watch for the blows, pec slaps, and breaches of Hawai‘i’s noble humpbacks.

Boat tours and whale-watching cruises are popular on all the islands, and the knowledgeable crews will take you to the best spots for viewing whales in the open ocean.

If you’d like to help protect the whale population, the annual Sanctuary Ocean Count gives residents and visitors the chance to help in evaluating the status of humpback whales. Volunteers are assigned a lookout spot for an assigned time, so you can watch for whales while adding to the statewide count. The count is held on the last Saturdays of January, February and March on the islands of O‛ahu, Hawai‛i and Kaua‛i. Find out how you can volunteer!

Winter Festivities

Winters here may be green, but Hawaiians love to celebrate the holidays and heartily welcome in the New Year. Formal fireworks displays can be seen on all of the islands on New Year’s Eve, and if you drive through neighborhoods you’ll also see families in revelry, lighting fireworks in their yards.

But, December 31st isn’t the only New Year Hawaiians ring in: Chinese New Year is equally revered throughout the islands. In 2019, the Chinese Year of the Pig will be celebrated from February 5-19. The largest celebration takes place in O‛ahu’s Chinatown, with events spanning the entire two week period. For more information, call the Chinese Chamber of Commerce at (808) 533-3181.

Here are just a few of the winter festivities that you can enjoy throughout the islands:

Honolulu City Lights – December 1-January 1
8AM-11PM daily
530 S. King Street, Honolulu
A must-see for the whole family, and a month-long party. You’ll love the 50-foot Christmas tree, themed displays that make for great photo ops, food booths, games, and rides for the young and young-at-heart.

Seven Days Till Christmas – December 19-25
6PM-7PM daily
Waikiki Beach Walk
Stroll over to the Waikiki Beach Walk at sunset, and watch a hula show and Hawaiian musical performances by different groups each night.

Maui Whale Festival – February 2-23
It takes a HUGE festival to honor these 40-ton mammals, so this Maui festival lasts far more than one day. Check out their website to find out more about events such as Run for the Whales, the Whale Regatta, World Whale Film Festival, the Great Whale Count, and more!

Waimea Town Celebration – February 16-24
Waimea Town, Kaua‛i
This 9-Day festival takes place in Waimea where the whole town welcomes visitors and celebrates their plantation heritage and Native Hawaiian culture. Free events include Music in the Park and Heritage of Aloha Ho‛olaule‛a. Other events may charge a nominal fee.

Main image courtesy of

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