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Editor's note: Travel to Maui has been significantly impacted due to recent wildfires in the region. Visit the Hawaii Tourism Authority website for up-to-date information.
With year-round highs in the 80s and average lows rarely dipping below 65 degrees, there’s really no bad time of year to visit Hawaii — but depending on why you’re visiting, some times can be better than others.
When is the best time to visit Hawaii? The answer depends on your travel budget, preferred activities, and when you and your family or travel companions can find time to get away.
Here is the best time of the year to visit Hawaii, no matter what kind of traveler you are.
For the frugal traveler
If you want to save money on a Hawaiian vacation, avoid going when kids are on break from school, especially during the winter holidays. In general, the cheapest time to visit Hawaii is when school’s in session.
The “shoulder months” of April, May, September and October are especially affordable, with round-trip flights from the West Coast sometimes dipping below $350 and round trips from the East Coast starting under $525 for flights with connections. Nonstops to Honolulu occasionally dip under $620 for East Coast travelers.
What if you’re paying with points or miles? One-way award flights, including from the East Coast, can sometimes be found for as little as:
Those same flights during peak travel times can cost quadruple those award rates, for example, 130,000 HawaiianMiles or 90,000 AAdvantage miles.
Hotel prices are lower in these shoulder months, too. For example, a basic room at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa on the Big Island can skyrocket to over $930 per night during the peak winter travel season, but that same room might go for just $443 in October.
Many Hawaiian hotels add a nightly resort fee from about $25 to $50 on top of the room rate, so make sure you budget accordingly.
The same pattern holds true for more budget-minded travelers. A room at the Aqua Palms Waikiki that costs $329 during peak winter travel might cost $159 in early November.
» Learn more: How to visit Hawaii on a budget
Hawaii can get very crowded, and in the past few years, travelers may find themselves in hourlong lines to check into their hotel, pick up a rental car or even get a table for sunset cocktails.
That’s hardly the vibe you want for your romantic escape.
Avoid the crowds by honeymooning in one of the shoulder months of April, May, September or October. Planning a June wedding? You can dodge the worst of the crowds by visiting earlier in the month before many kids are on summer break.
» Learn more: How to book a honeymoon with points and miles
For families seeking magical Christmas memories
In Hawaii, Santa dons a lei and ditches the sleigh — for an outrigger canoe. You can catch a glimpse of Saint Nick as he paddles ashore at several Hawaii destinations, which in past years have included Waikiki Beach on Oahu, Kalapaki Beach on Kauai and Pauoa Bay on the Big Island.
Hawaii’s hotels pull out all the stops for Christmas, decking their lobbies with glittering decorations, towering Christmas trees and elaborate sand sculptures, like one of Santa serenading Mrs. Claus with a ukulele.
And if you’re heading to Oahu, don’t miss the sparkling Honolulu City Lights celebration, which kicks off downtown with a 50-foot Christmas tree and an electric parade of lights. The festival continues throughout December, with special events that in past years have included a Free Milk & Cookies Night.
» Learn more: How to travel to Honolulu with points and miles
For the beach lover
Yes, the weather is lovely year-round in Hawaii. But that doesn’t mean every month is equally good for sun-seekers. Rain is most likely to ruin your beach plans from October through March. Ocean water temps can dip down to 75 degrees Fahrenheit from January through March, compared with the balmy 81 degrees average water temperature in August. Plus, the days are shorter in winter, meaning fewer hours of sunshine.
For the best combination of sunshine, swimmable oceans and affordable rates, September is ideal.
Is there rain in the forecast for your trip? Don’t worry. Brief, refreshing showers happen year-round in Hawaii and usually clear out quickly. Locals call these weather events “little blessings.”
For the outdoor adventurer
Do hiking, cycling, ziplining and horseback riding sound like your kind of vacation? Hawaii is a fantastic place to get active, but summer afternoons can be too hot for many strenuous, land-based activities.
If you can’t hit the trail in the morning before the midday sun starts to blaze, avoid traveling to Hawaii in July, August or September. Opt for a trip in May, June or October instead.
» Learn more: The best island to visit in Hawaii for first timers
For the whale-watcher
If your Hawaiian travel plans include whale watching, you’re in luck — humpback whales are plentiful in the surrounding waters. Plan your trip in the cooler months, between December and May, when these massive mammals come to the waters around Hawaii to mate, calve and nurse their young.
A whale-watching boat tour can get you up close to these giants. But if you know where to go, you can see them from shore on any of the four major Hawaiian islands, especially in the channel between Maui and Lanai.
» Learn more: Should you island hop in Hawaii?
The best times to visit Hawaii recapped
If you're determining when to visit Hawaii, decide what’s most important for your vacation and plan accordingly. Sun-seekers and ocean swimmers will want to avoid the winter months, when the water is cool and the risk of bad weather is highest. Cost-conscious travelers and honeymooners should plan travel in spring or fall. Whale watchers will need to visit in the winter months when the humpback whales congregate in the waters off all four major islands.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card