Laura next to snow in Hawaii.

Hawaii In Winter: Best Things To Do & Where To Go 2024


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After spending over a month in Hawaii on Maui, Kauai, Oahu, and the Big Island, we can confidently say that winter in Hawaii is a great time to visit.

Honestly, there is no bad time to visit the Hawaiian islands. But winter is considered the ‘high season.’ While snow covers most of the U.S., Hawaii remains sunny and 75º. From hiking trails to stunning beaches, volcanoes, coral reefs, and thrilling water sports; there are loads of things to do across the islands. 

Is Hawaii Good To Visit In Winter?

Hawaii is great to visit in the winter. It’s warm, sunny, and in the middle of peak travel season, so you will find many events and tours available.

Unlike most of the U.S., Hawaii only has two seasons- summer and winter.

Summer lasts from May to October. In the summer, guests can expect warm weather with ample sunshine. However, there is a greater possibility of tropical storms, and by August, it becomes extremely hot and humid.

In the winter months, which span from November to April, rainfall in Hawaii increases. However, the rain is usually brief and helps to lower the temperature, creating a comfortable environment for beach-goers. The cooler weather is also better for outdoor activities like hiking, big-wave surfing, and ATV tours

Winter also provides the best opportunity for whale-watching. 

These months are the busiest time to be in Hawaii as it’s a popular Christmas destination and a common choice for ‘snowbirds’ to retreat to from Canada and the colder regions of the USA. 

Being that winter is a popular time to visit Hawaii, you should expect crowds and slightly inflated prices, especially if you visit in December or January.

So, we highly encourage planning a winter trip to Hawaii well in advance. This way, you can buy flights and secure a room at one of the best hotels before inventory dwindles and prices increase. But if you wait too long you may want to consider some Hawaii alternatives instead.

When is the best time to visit Hawaii?

The best time to visit Hawaii is April & May. The winter rain and crowds fade, but the summer heat and hurricanes are still months away. Also, sometime during mid-April, inflated prices return to normal, so you can find great deals on hotels, flights, and tours.

What Is The Weather Like In Hawaii During Winter?

Winter is the rainiest season in Hawaii, but the rain is usually localized. So, if one part of the island is experiencing rain, there is a good chance that other parts of the island are having great weather. 

Also, the rain is brief. Most islands receive less than 3 inches of rain per month, so you’ll still get plenty of sun on your winter trip to Hawaii.

Lava fields in Hawaii at sunset in December

Temperatures vary from island to island but stay relatively warm. Between December and April, you can expect daily highs of about 75-80º and pleasant evening temps of 65-70º.

During winter, Big Island is known to be the warmest among all the islands, while Maui boasts of being the sunniest. 

Does it snow in Hawaii?

There is occasionally snow on the mountain peaks of Hawaii, but only on Maui and Big Island. The snow average is about 4 inches per year and only falls in areas like Haleakala, Mauna Loa, and Mauna Kea which are 11,000 feet above sea level.

Can you still swim in Hawaii in winter?

Yes, you can still swim in Hawaii in the winter, but only on the leeward coast (south coast). While the ocean temperatures remain warm year-round, windward beaches on the north side of the islands have strong swells, which make swimming dangerous.

Best Things To Do In Hawaii In Winter

From sailing the Nā Pali Coast to visiting black sand beaches, hiking, and road trips, here are the best things you can do during your winter trip to Hawaii.

Laura sitting next to a snowman at the top of a mountain in Hawaii.

1. Tour The Nā Pali Coast – Kauai

The Nā Pali Coast is one of the most iconic sites in Hawaii.

Located along the northwest shore of Kauai, this stunning stretch of coastline features craggy sea cliffs full of vegetation that shoot straight out of the ocean to over 3,000 feet.

The best view of the wild Nā Pali Coast is from the water, which is why we recommend visiting via a boat tour. Several sailing companies offer coastal tours, but we decided to take a more elaborate Sunset & Sightseeing dinner cruise, which was worth every penny.

If you want a more budget-friendly option, hiking to a lookout over the Nā Pali Coast is a great alternative.

Taking A Boat Tour of the Na Pali Coast Is One of The Best Things To Do in Kauai

The best day hike is the Kalepa trail, which starts at the Kalalau Lookout and is just two miles long. However, this hike is periodically closed due to erosion and trail maintenance, so you’ll have to take an alternative hiking trail, like the Nu’alolo Cliff Trail or the Pihea Vista Trail. These are two-day hikes that offer beautiful views of the Nā Pali coast.

If you’re looking for a truly unique way to see the coast, helicopter tours are one of the top things to do in Kauai and give a bird’s eye view of the coast, plus various ridges and waterfalls around the island.

2. Jump Off The Southern-Most Point In The USA (Cliff Jumping South Point) – The Big Island

South Point Cliff Jump is another exciting place to visit in Hawaii.

The best way to get there is by renting a car or hiring a private driver because Big Island’s public transportation is relatively unreliable, similar to other islands in Hawaii.

We rented a car from a small business in Hilo called Automotive Solutions Hawaii, but you can also use Turo.

South Point Cliff Jump on the Big Island

Our main reason for coming here was to experience cliff jumping, but what made it more interesting was the location itself. The jump site is located at the southernmost point of the entire country, where you get to jump straight into the ocean.

As for the cliff jump itself, there isn’t a clear answer to how high it is, but we can attest that it’s at least 40 feet (so not necessarily welcoming to people with a fear of heights). You have to jump from a designated spot directly over an underwater cave that is deep enough to avoid injury.

It’s generally a safe activity, but always jump feet first and only if the ocean is calm. If the waves are crashing against the side of the cliff, come back another time.

3. Check Out Amazing White & Black Sand Beaches – Maui

Maui is home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, and many still have calm, warm water in the winter. 

The island offers plenty of options, from large white-sand beaches to remote black-sand beaches, making Maui one of the best islands in Hawaii for beach hopping.

Our favorite white sand beach in Maui is Big Beach at Makena Becah State Park, but perhaps the most popular is Kaanapali Beach. This beach stretches for over 3 miles of soft white sand backed by a vibrant green mountain range.

Want a more secluded beach in Maui? We suggest driving to Secret Cove (right next to Makena Beach) or Kapalua Beach. These beaches are great for swimming and are located on Maui’s west coast, so they have spectacular sunsets.

Another unique part of Maui’s coast is the black-sand beaches. 

One of the best is Honokalani in Wai’ānapanapa State Park, a beautiful black sand beach at Paiola Bay on the east coast of Maui. 

It’s by far the most popular black sand beach on the island. Unfortunately, you can’t swim at this beach in the winter, but it’s surrounded by great hiking trails, blowholes, lave tubes, and exotic wildlife.

Other black-sand beaches we love are Honomanu Beach and La Perouse Black Sand Beach.

Note: There are two sides to each island; Leeward (dry) and windward (wet). If you want to swim at the beaches of Hawaii in winter, you will want to stick to beaches on the island’s leeward side for the best weather. This is also where almost all of the beach resorts are.

4. Visit Kualoa Ranch (Jurassic Park Tour) – Oahu

Kualoa Ranch is a 4,000-acre private nature reserve in Kaneohe, Oahu. Even though it’s on the windward side of Oahu, there is still a good chance of clear skies and warm weather.

It’s a top-rated tourist attraction due to its natural beauty and historical significance, but most people come because of its relevance in the film industry. 

Kualoa Ranch has been the setting for numerous movies and TV shows, including 50 First Dates, Jumanji (the new one), Hawaii Five-O, and perhaps most notably, Jurassic Park. 

You can even book a ‘Jurassic Adventure Tour’ or a ‘Movie Sites and Ranch Tour.’ 

Guided tours of the ranch are offered via a jeep, an ATV, or horseback riding. You can learn all about the ranch’s history and see some of the well-known filming locations on the property.

The ranch is close to Honolulu and Kailua (less than 30 minutes), so it’s easy to reach on your own, but since it’s private property, you can only visit the restaurant and gift shop with a tour.

5. Explore Hawaii’s Hiking Trails – ALL Islands

We’ve already told you about hiking through the Nā Pali coast, but every island in Hawaii is full of gorgeous hiking trails. Vegetation is everywhere, flowers bloom year-round, and you can experience a whopping SEVEN different ecological zones, including rain forests, subalpine, alpine, lowland forests, and seacoast.

Here is a list of our favorites on each island;

  • Big IslandMauna Kea Hike (tallest mountain in Hawaii), Green Sands Beach, Akaka Falls, Waimanu Valley, and Rainbow Falls
  • Maui – Haleakala Crater, The Sliding Sands Trail, Pipiwai Trail, and Waihe’e Ridge Trail
  • KauaiKelapa Ridge Trail, Kalalau Trail, Waimea Canyon Hike (the Grand Canyon of the Pacific), and Awa’awapuhi Trail
  • Oahu – Diamond Head Summit, Lanikai Pill Box Hike, Koko Head Crater, and the Moanalua Valley Trail (Stairway to Heaven)

While winter in Hawaii is the busiest time of the year, hiking is a great way to escape the crowds and explore the island’s off-the-beaten-path destinations.

Before you go, always check the weather for rain, and wear proper footwear. Since there is more rain in Hawaii during winter, it tends to become very muddy, and you’ll need good traction to stay safe.  Many hikers buy spikes to put on their shoes for extra traction.

6. Visit Volcanos National Park (Safety-Permitting) – The Big Island

Visiting Volcanos National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii is a bucket-list experience. 

As two of the most active volcanoes in the world, Kilauea and Mauna Loa are constantly changing and erupting, creating a unique landscape that is both awe-inspiring and dangerous. 

While visiting Volcanos National Park, you can overlook the Halema’uma’u crater to see the glow of lava and experience the powerful heat of steam vents.

However, because Kilauea can be unpredictable, always check with the park for updates on safety conditions before visiting. The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory monitors all volcanic activity on the volcanoes and publishes updates regularly.

If you’d like more insight into the history, geology, and cultural significance of Volcanos National Park, there are guided tours from Hilo that can make the experience even better.

Another awesome way to see the national park is by helicopter tour. A helicopter tour of the big island is also one of the best ways to glimpse the lava’s glow inside the crater.

7. Drive The Road To Hana – Maui

The road to Hana is one of the most scenic drives in Hawaii, and it’s a must-do if you’re visiting Maui. 

This winding, jungle-covered road stretches for over 50 miles along the northeastern coast of Maui to the small town of Hana.

The drive takes about 2 hours each way from Kahului, but we set aside an entire day to make the drive. There are so many great stops along the way, including the Garden of Eden Arboretum, Upper Waikani Falls, and the Hanah Lave Tube. 

If you want to experience both districts of the national park, including Haleakala Summit, and the beautiful southern Maui coast, it would be best to stay in Hana for a few nights.

Which Hawaiian Island Should I Visit In Winter?

Winter is a great time to visit Hawaii due to its mild weather and beautiful scenery. With seven ecological zones, each island has its unique culture and activities to explore. 

No matter which island you visit in winter, we guarantee you’ll have an unforgettable experience.

Big Island

Big Island is the warmest island in the winter and the best place to experience Hawaii’s diverse landscapes and climates. On a single day, you can sit on top of snowcapped mountains, hike through lush rainforests to Akaka Falls, and watch the sunset on the beach.

You can also see Hawaii Volcanos National Park, snorkel in Kealakeakua Bay, and relax on the Kona Coast.


Kauai is known as “The Garden Island” because of its wild landscape. All around the island, you’ll find lush foliage and it’s a great place to spot wildlife. Two of Kauai’s best winter activities are a sunset cruise of the Na Pali Coast or a more adventurous whale-watching tour.

Unfortunately, Kauai is also the rainiest island during the winter, so if you choose to visit, we recommend staying in Poipu (on the south shore) to avoid most of the rain.


Maui is great if you’re looking for a laid-back island experience with plenty of outdoor activities, including Hawaii’s best whale-watching, snorkeling, and hiking.

Of all the islands, Maui has the most sunny days and the least rain in the winter. So, if you want a true beach vacation, this is your spot. 

However, it’s also the most expensive island to visit, so you must budget accordingly.


Oahu is the most densely populated island in Hawaii, with plenty of tourist attractions, shopping, dining, nightlife, and more.

Winter is Big Wave surfing season, so numerous surf competitions happen on the north shore, including the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. 

But if you want to enjoy the beach and hiking in Oahu, stick to the south shore, where the weather is more predictable and the ocean remains calm. Winter is also a great time to enjoy winter festivals in Oahu, like the Aloha Festival and Lei Day in Hawaii.

The Wrap-Up

All things considered, there is never a bad time to visit Hawaii, but winter can be a particularly great time to come because of the moderate temperatures and lively atmosphere.

We have enjoyed our visits to all of the Hawaiian islands, but during the winter months, we tend to spend the majority of our time on the Big Island and Maui.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the other natural wonders around Hilo, Big Island, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity along with Maui being one of the most stunning islands with loads of beaches, hikes, and road trips. 

And even if you don’t spend much time in Kauai on your winter trip to Hawaii, you shouldn’t skip the Nā Pali sunset cruise.