Winter in Hawaii: Everything You Need to Know

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Thinking about escaping the cold and heading to Hawaii this winter? You’re not alone—this tropical paradise is actually at its very busiest during this time period! But what is winter in Hawaii like exactly—-and does it change what you can and can’t do there? 

I’ve visited each of the Hawaiian islands several times during the winter and am detailing everything you need to know about visiting during the cooler months, from what the weather is like to the best things to do on each of the islands.

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Humpback whale breaching during winter in Hawaii
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Table of Contents

What is the weather like during winter in Hawaii?

So, I’m sure you’re wondering whether Hawaii is still the beautiful paradise that we all picture, during the wintertime—and the answer is a resounding yes! 

The weather will, admittedly, be different, though, than the summertime, which is typically a bit warmer and sunnier than the winter months. 

If you want the TLDR of what to expect in the wintertime, the Hawaiian Islands generally enjoy warm temperatures, with highs in the upper 70s and lows in the mid-60s. However, in the cooler months, the eastern and northern sides of the island typically experience increased rainfall and gusty winds, which can create MASSIVE waves—good for professional surfers, probably not so good for you and me!

Man surfing on a large wave during the winter in Hawaii

Since this is a gross overgeneralization, here’s what you can expect during the winter on each of the Hawaiian Islands:

Oahu 

During the wintertime, Oahu enjoys average daytime highs in the upper 70s to lower 80s with nightly lows in the mid-60s.

December is the rainiest month, receiving an average of 2.8 inches of rain throughout the month. However, because Oahu, like all of the Hawaiian Islands, has several microclimates, the rain is usually concentrated in a specific area, like its windward (eastern) side, and does not typically affect the whole island. So, if it happens to be raining wherever you’re at during your stay on Oahu, simply drive fifteen or so minutes away and you’ll likely find sunshine!

Ko'oloa Mountains with clouds in Oahu, Hawaii

One other notable change is the gusty winds, which pummels Oahu’s iconic North Shore. The winds can help create MASSIVE waves, which swell up to 30 feet in height! So this is an awesome time to watch professional Big Wave surfers take on the swells—but not exactly the best for snorkeling around the North Shore’s colorful coral reefs.

Maui

Similar to Oahu, Maui usually enjoys wintertime temperatures in the mid-70s to low 80s during the day, with nighttime temperatures dipping into the mid-60s. However, Maui’s high elevations can see much lower temperatures than this. For example, the summit of Haleakala, towering 10,023 feet above sea level, can get well below freezing in the wintertime at night—in fact, it’s one of the only places that actually gets snow in Hawaii!

Maui also receives increased rainfall in the wintertime. For example, in January, Lahaina experiences, on average, over 4 inches of rain, while Hana, on its south side, gets over 7 inches of rain! Similar to Oahu, Maui has a variety of microclimates found through the island, so it’s highly unusual for rainy weather to affect the entire island at any given time. You can maximize your chances of soaking up the sun by staying on the drier leeward side (i.e., the southwestern side of the island, like Kihei). 

Woman surfing on large waves during the winter in Maui, Hawaii

The tradewinds also bring in gusts of winds, which can create some pretty gnarly waves on the northern and eastern sides of the island. Not to worry, though—there’s still plenty of awesome places to go snorkeling on the southern and western shores!

Kauai

Kauai is the northernmost Hawaiian Island and thus, is just a tinge cooler than the other islands, with average winter highs in the mid-70s and average nightly lows getting down to the mid-50s (brrr!). Accordingly, this might not be the best time to visit if you’re primarily hoping to soak up the sun on the beach, but can be perfect for hiking or other outdoor adventures. 

Kauai receives the most rainfall of all the islands (it is the Garden Isle, after all!) and, unfortunately, winter is the rainiest time here. The island’s northern shore, the famous Napali Coast, is incredibly lush and receives a high amount of rainfall year round—and almost 5 inches in December! However, showers are usually just temporary and you can always escape to the island’s sunny southern shore, like its popular Poipu Beach.

Woman smiling on a muddy trail in Kauai, Hawaii

As the northernmost island, Kauai gets the brunt of the tradewinds and accordingly, can have some humongous waves—for example, on its famed Napali Coast, they can swell up to 20 feet! 

So if you’re hoping to go on one of the island’s many Napali Coast boat tours, the winter may not be the best time to visit—while these tours can usually zip in and out of the coastline’s sea caves in the summertime, they may not be able to reach the northern coast at all in the wintertime. However, you’ll still find places to swim and snorkel on the island, like Poipu Beach or Anini Beach (which is actually along the northern coastline, but protected by Hawaii’s longest stretch of coral!).

Monk seal sleeping on Salt Pond Beach in Kauai, Hawaii

Big Island

The Big Island is the southernmost island in the archipelago and enjoys the most stable weather year round. Daily highs are typically in the lower 80s, with lows in the mid- to upper-60s. 

The island is also rainier in the wintertime, especially the lush northern and eastern sides of the island. For example, if you’ve been trying to choose between staying in Kona vs. Hilo during your time here, the wintertime rainfall might help you—Kona sees, on average, about two inches of precipitation in January, whereas Hilo sees almost four times that amount, with 7.9 inches!  

Rainbow Falls on the Big Island of Hawaii

Because the Big Island sits in the shadow of its northern Hawaiian Island brethren, its waves typically aren’t quite as gnarly as, say, the ones you’d find on Kauai or Oahu. That said, you’ll still definitely find calmer seas along the southern and western beaches, like at Punalu’u Beach, a stunning black sand beach that’s one of the best places for seeing sea turtles on the Big Island. During my last trip on the Big Island, I visited Punalu’u Beach three times—and saw them here each time!

Where is the best island to head to during winter in Hawaii?

There’s truly no bad island to visit in the wintertime (or, like, ever)—as mentioned above, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever be on a Hawaiian Island and be unable to find a dry and sunny part of the island. But, if I absolutely had to pick which one to go to in the wintertime, it would be a tie between the Big Island and Maui. 

Man watching waves hit rocks along Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii

The Big Island has the warmest and driest weather—and, given how, well, BIG it is, you’ll have plenty of other areas to add to your Big Island itinerary if the area you’re in happens to be experiencing rain. In my experience, it’s also one of the most affordable islands, which can help your wallet not take such a massive hit amidst the high winter prices. 

Maui is also a really solid choice—you have an excellent chance of getting dry and sunny weather if you’re staying around the Kihei area (one of the best places to stay in Maui!). Given that it sits in the shadow of most of the other Hawaiian Islands, its winter waves aren’t quite as massive as Oahu and Kauai, making for better boating and snorkeling opportunities. And best of all, it’s one of the best places on the planet for spotting humpback whales during the wintertime (but more on that below!). 

Diving humpback whale in the Pacific during winter in Hawaii

Best Places to Stay During Winter in Hawaii

There’s no place on any of the islands that’s going to be cold and rainy the entire time you’re there, even if you’re visiting during the wintertime. That being said, there’s definitely places that you can stay to ensure you’ll have the maximum beach time! 

Oahu

Waikiki Beach is the most popular place to stay on Oahu year-round—and winter is no exception! You’ll have an excellent homebase for exploring the island’s attractions, a bevy of awesome dining and shopping options to choose from, and a good chance of getting clear, sunny skies and warm temperatures while you’re here. 

Skyscrapers in Oahu, Hawaii

Consider: 

  • Outrigger Waikiki Beachcomber Resort: This is my personal favorite resort in Waikiki Beach, given that you can walk right from the lobby onto the soft white sand. Besides its convenient location, there’s lots of other stuff to love here, like its nightly live music or its focus on Native Hawaiian culture in its A‘o Cultural Center.
  • Moana Surfrider: This resort also has an awesome location right on the sands of Waikiki Beach. There’s a freshwater pool, overlooking the Pacific, and they offer tons of awesome complimentary activities for guests to enjoy, like hula and surf lessons. 
  • Hotel La Croix: For something a bit more on the budget end of the spectrum, this hotel is a great option, with many of its rooms offering a killer view of the Honolulu skyline. And if you ever get tired of hanging out at the beach, there’s a very Instagrammable pool, with its own poolside bar, to relax at.

Maui

If you’re wondering where to stay in Maui to soak up the beach vibes in winter, the southwestern shoreline of the island will be your best bet. Check out Kihei, a small beach town that has a more local feel to it and a handful of boutique hotels, or alternatively, the bougie resort community of Wailea, if you’re more into luxury resorts. 

Pool at a resort in Maui, Hawaii

Consider: 

  • Maui Coast Hotel: Located in Kihei, this small boutique hotel provides a lot of the same benefits of a resort, like a pool, tennis court, and on-demand shuttle that will take you within three miles of the resort, but at a fraction of the price. You’re right across from the beach and the staff goes above and beyond to make sure you’re enjoying your stay there (like I said, a resort experience!). 
  • Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui: Located in Wailea, this luxury resort is designed to serve a variety of travelers. For example, families will love the fun waterslide in one of its pools and taking a complimentary ride in its traditional outrigger canoes. Adults, on the other hand, will appreciate the adults-only pool with a swim-up bar and onsite world-class restaurants.
  • Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea: Okay, this one’s for you if you’re going on your honeymoon or just looking to totally splash out during your time on Maui. This resort is possibly the most luxurious option in Hawaii—which is saying a LOT. For example, staff here walk around and offer popsicles and sunscreen as you’re lounging by the pool (yes, really). And the resort truly caters to all kinds of travelers—there’s amenities for families, like a kids club or a pool with a waterfall to play in, and also plenty of perks for adults to enjoy as well, like a STUNNING infinity pool, overlooking the Pacific.  

Kauai

Poipu is one of the best places to stay in Kauai year round, with sunny and clear weather even in the colder months.

This resort town is conveniently located near some of the most beautiful beaches on the island, like Poipu or Shipwreck, plus you’ll be close to the charming town of Koloa, which offers a variety of restaurants and shops in colorful plantation buildings. 

Pool at a resort in Kauai, Hawaii

Consider: 

  • Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa: This resort lives up to the Hyatt reputation, with an ENORMOUS pool complex, complete with waterfalls, a lazy river, and poolside bars; seven onsite restaurants, and a world-class spa. There’s so many perks of this place—free bike rentals, one of the best luaus on the island that takes place right at the resort, and beach access. 
  • Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu: This property is beautiful, with two onsite pools and impeccably manicured gardens, and rooms that are packed with amenities, like full kitchens and washers and dryers. 
  • Koʻa Kea Resort on Poipu Beach: This boutique resort feels incredibly well thought-out, from the complimentary wine and luxurious furniture that’s used on the spacious lanais in each room to fire pits overlooking the ocean that you can cozy up to at night. Plus, you’re literally staying steps away from Poipu Beach!

Big Island

Kona is one of the most popular places to stay on the Big Island and great news—it also happens to be the best place to stay during the winter in Hawaii! There’s plenty of things to do in Kona, like snorkeling with manta rays (more on that below!), enjoy its killer beaches, and explore its awesome restaurants, bars, and shops. 

Sunbathers on a beach on the Big Island of Hawaii, with palm trees in the background

Consider:

  • King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Resort: This resort is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Kona, but still within walking distance to its shops and restaurants. The rooms are tidy and have breezy lanais—some of which offer stunning views of the ocean and mountains—and a pool, within steps of the ocean. 
  • Royal Kona Resort: If you want to be close to all of the action in town, this is your best option. It has everything you’d need from a Hawaiian resort, like a pool overlooking the Pacific; rooms that offer mountain or ocean views; and an onsite spa. It also happens to host one of the best luaus on the island, the Voyagers of the Pacific, with beautiful ocean views and complimentary drinks. 
  • Four Seasons Hualalai: Okay, so this one is kind of totally in a league of its own. It’s incredibly swanky—for example, instead of having rooms or even suites, guests stay in their own private two-story bungalow, thoughtfully arranged around a secluded beach so that you get the maximum amount of privacy. Each of its seven(!!!) pools are to die for—you would have to DRAG ME OUT of their infinity pool, overlooking the resort’s own private lagoon. All in all, it’s no wonder that the property holds the claim to fame of being the only Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond Rated Resort in all of Hawaii!
Woman floating in the Ali'i Salt Water Pool in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii

Best Things to do During Winter in Hawaii

Okay, so we’ve established that winter can change the conditions on each of the islands a bit. So what’re the best things to do on each of the islands during winter?

Let’s dive in!

Oahu

1. Watch Big Wave surfers

Okay, probably the most unique thing that you can see in winter in Oahu is watching some of the best surfers on the planet take on the waves of the North Shore, which can stretch up to 30 feet high. The best places to see the pros are Waimea Bay, Ehuaki, and Sunset Beaches, with a variety of international surfing competitions taking place here between December and March.

Man surfing on a big wave during the winter in Maui, Hawaii

Hopefully this goes without saying but DO NOT ATTEMPT TO GET IN THE WATER HERE, unless you’re, like, Kelly Slater or something. If not, the ocean will most definitely eat you. Seriously.

2. Snorkeling in its vibrant coral reefs

While many of the best snorkeling spots along Oahu’s North Shore will be dangerous in winter, due to the intense surf, there’s still plenty of places where you can enjoy Hawaii’s unique and colorful underwater world. 

For example, consider heading to Hanauma Bay, a protected marine reserve on the southern shore of Oahu, spread across 101 acres, that’s home to over 450 species of fish, some of which are only found in the waters around Hawaii! 

Woman diving underwater while snorkeling in Hawaii

Alternatively, Turtle Canyon offers some of the best snorkeling in Oahu. This marine reserve is located about a mile and a half offshore from Waikiki Beach and is a hotspot for sea turtles, who come here to get their shells cleaned by algae-loving fish, like damselfish, angelfish, and tang. To visit, join one of the tours to Turtle Canyon, like this snorkel excursion or this small group option.

Another great place to snorkel in Oahu during winter is Kuilima Cove. While it’s located on the beautiful (but publicly accessible!) property of Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore, its waters are protected by rock barriers and thus, generally calm and accessible for even beginner snorkelers throughout the year. It’s a great place to see fish and, if you’re lucky, even turtles.  

Sea turtle swimming underwater in Hawaii

3. Explore Waikiki Beach

Listen, Waikiki Beach is on almost every visitor’s Oahu itinerary—and for good reason! 

Honolulu’s most famous beach stretches over two miles long and offers something for everyone. For example, the beach offers a calm lagoon for beginners to practice snorkeling; places to kayak or stand-up paddleboard and take in the views of the Diamond Head Crater, an enormous volcanic cone that towers above the city’s skyline; and several surf breaks that are perfect for taking a Waikiki Beach surfing lesson, like this semi-private option or this private option

Kids boogie boarding at Waikiki Beach with palm trees in the background in Oahu, Hawaii

Plus, in the wintertime, it typically has nice, sunny weather and relatively calm waters.

4. Soak up the holiday cheer.

Of all the Hawaiian Islands, Oahu definitely does it up for the holidays, with plenty of events and activities to choose from. 

For example, Honolulu City Lights is an annual event throughout the month of December, where the city is festooned with thousands of twinkling lights, with a parade and a visit from Santa at the beginning of the month to kick it off. There’s usually some enormous bare-chested statue of Santa, throwing up a shaka and living his best surfer life, tucked near the Honolulu Hale (its city hall)—you know we’re here for it! 

Fireworks in Honolulu, Hawaii during New Years Eve

Honolulu is also home to some great New Years celebrations, from watching the fireworks shoot off near Waikiki Beach to counting down midnight, as an enormous lit-up pineapple drops (just like the ball in Times Square!), in the town of Mililani, located in the center of the island.

5. Enjoy the hiking trails.

Okay, this might be a controversial opinion, but I would argue that Oahu might be the best Hawaiian island for hiking. 

Some of the best hikes in Oahu are actually conveniently located in the drier sections of the island, come winter, like the Pink Pillbox hike or the Koko Crater Trail.

Woman overlooking Honolulu at the Koko Crater Trail in Oahu, Hawaii

And while my absolute favorite trails on the island, like the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail and the Ehukai Pillbox Trail, are located on the typically rainier sections of the island, you’re almost guaranteed to get one dry and sunny day while you’re here!

Maui

1. Go whale watching.

Alright, y’all—in my opinion, whale watching in Maui is probably the number one reason you should visit in the wintertime. 

Every November through May, ten to twenty THOUSAND humpback whales swim from the chilly waters of the Arctic to the warm lagoons of the Auau Channel, which sits between the western side of Maui, Lanai, and Molokai, to breed and raise their calves.

Humpback whale breaching in Maui, Hawaii during winter

I’m lucky enough to have been to each of the Hawaiian Islands at least four times and have done LOTS there—and seeing a humpback whale mama teaching its baby how to breach is, hands-down, one of the most magical moments I’ve experienced in this incredible paradise. 

There’s plenty of Maui whale watching tours so that you, too, can have a similar experience. They typically leave from the sunnier western side of Maui, like this option that includes an open bar(!!!) or this more adventurous option in a Zodiac boat. 

2. Drive the Road to Hana

Driving the Road to Hana is almost a necessity on any Maui itinerary

Consistently ranked as one of the most scenic drives on the planet, this 65-mile road snakes from the surfer town of Paiai on Maui’s west side to the teeny village of Hana on its southern shore, with a whopping 620 curves and 59 one-way bridges along its route. As you make the drive, you’ll pass countless rushing waterfalls, some of the lushest rainforests in the world, and adorable fruit stands, with more tropical fruits than you could possibly ever eat. 

Lush greenery around the Road to Hana in Maui, Hawaii

Don’t get me wrong—the Road to Hana definitely experiences rainy weather in the wintertime—but, honestly, the rain makes the jungle that much more lushly beautiful and the waterfalls that much more powerful. 

I wouldn’t, however, recommend visiting the Road to Hana if the area is experiencing torrential rain. The road is famously curvy and drops to a single lane for both directions of traffic when crossing most of its bridges—so not exactly the safest place to be driving! 

Just keep an eye out in the forecast for a day where you’ll get some sunshine along the route, so you can explore some of the best Road to Hana stops, like the stunningly beautiful Twin Falls; Kaihalulu Beach, known for its red sand; or the famed Black Sand Beach on Maui (also known as the Honokalani Beach).

Woman smiling in Twin Falls along the Road to Hana in Maui, Hawaii

3. Celebrate the holidays. 

If you’re a fan of quirky holiday festivities, Maui’s celebrations might be right up your alley. 

For example, the Grand Wailea has an annual tradition where Santa and his elves roll up to their beach in a decked-out traditional outrigger canoe on Christmas Eve. He usually also makes stops at several other beaches around the island as well!  

4. Stand above the clouds at Haleakala National Park.

Maui is home to the largest dormant volcano on the planet—Haleakala, which stands at over 10,023 feet tall. 

Clouds at Haleakala National Park in Maui, Hawaii

Weather in Haleakala National Park is always a bit fickle, and in the winter, it’s even moreso. However, there’s some major perks to visiting in the wintertime. 

For example, one of my favorite things to do on Maui is to watch the sunrise or sunset at Haleakala, where the sun casts a dazzling glow on a layer of clouds below you. In the wintertime, sunrise is later in the morning, allowing you to blissfully sleep in a tiny bit longer if you want to make the trek up to the summit (pssst… just be aware you need a permit to get into the park for sunrise!). And, conversely, the sunset is earlier in the evening, meaning you can enjoy sunset and still be back to Kihei or Kahului in time for dinner before all of the restaurants close (and maybe even get to partake in a bit of the stargazing that Haleakala is so famous for!). 

Couple watching the sunset at Haleakala National Park in Maui, Hawaii

5. Take a surf lesson.

While Oahu reigns supreme over Hawaii’s surf culture, Maui has its own fair share of surfers, world-renowned surf breaks, and surf competitions along Maui’s northern shore. 

If you’re a newbie, consider taking a surf lesson, like this group option in Kihei or this private option near Lahaina. If you don’t quite feel like getting up on the board yourself, watch the pros take on waves that can reach up to 80 feet in height(!!!) at Jaws Beach on the island’s north shore.

Three men surfing on a wave in Maui, Hawaii

Kauai

1. Go whale watching

Maui is, indisputably, the best island for seeing humpback whales in the wintertime, but Kauai is probably the second best, especially if you’re visiting during the peak season of January and February. You can go on an adventurous Zodiac boat tour to see them or choose from some of the catamaran tours on Kauai, like this whale watch cocktail tour, which includes beer, wine and Mai Tais while you’re onboard. 

Humpback whale breaching in Maui, Hawaii during the winter

2. Take a helicopter tour.

Okay, so probably the COOLEST thing I’ve ever done on any of the Hawaiian Islands (or maybe my life?) is take a Kauai helicopter tour. The landscape on Kauai is so lush, rugged, and wild, it’s absolutely mind-blowing to see from 10,000 feet in the air.

Winter can be perfect for taking a helicopter tour—it doesn’t particularly matter if it’s cold and you won’t have to worry about muddy hiking trails (which, if you’re visiting Kauai, the trails almost certainly will be!). However, helicopter tours ARE weather dependent on low-hanging clouds or rain, so I’d suggest booking yours towards the beginning of the trip so you’ll have time to reschedule if necessary. 

View out of a doors off helicopter in Kauai, Hawaii over the Napali Coast

My husband, Justin, and I did a doors off tour with this company the last time we were in Kauai and had a truly AMAZING experience. 

3. Go on a rum tour.

Honestly, the last time we visited Kauai, we got pretty unlucky with the weather—it basically rained the entire time on most of the island. We were left scratching our heads a bit, trying to figure out the fun things to do in Kauai when there’s torrential downpour. 

Hawaiian painting at the Koloa Rum Plantation in Kauai, Hawaii

So I can personally recommend visiting the Koloa Rum Plantation as a fun thing to do if you get stuck with sucky weather on the island. There’s a free tasting that you can sign up for (get there early—they book up FAST when the weather sucks!) or a full-blown “safari”, where you ride around their plantation in an open-air Jeep (that has a cover when it’s raining!) and taste different rums and fruits that are made or grown on the property.

4. Head to the beach. 

As mentioned above, the southern coastline of Kauai enjoys sunny weather almost constantly. And, luckily, there’s plenty of fabulous beaches here—like Poipu, Shipwreck, and Salt Pond Beaches. Plus, these beaches are awesome for spotting Kauai’s adorable wildlife, like monk seals and sea turtles. 

Sea turtle basking at Poipu Beach in Kauai, Hawaii

5. Hit the hiking trails.

Listen—you can’t go to Kauai without exploring its hiking trails. From epic canyons and lush ridgelines to secluded coves and dense rainforests, Kauai’s landscape, in my opinion, is best explored on foot. 

There’s definitely some incredible trails to check out on the drier south side of the island, like the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail, an easy to moderate hike which leaves from Shipwreck Beach and follows along the dramatic southern coastline, overlooking lots of hidden beaches and passing ancient Hawaiian ruins. This is also an awesome spot to see turtles—we saw dozens of them swimming off the coastline while we were hiking this trail!

Red cliffs with palm trees along the Pacific Ocean in Kauai, Hawaii
Pssst: If you luck out with the winter weather during your time in Kauai and looking for more great hiking recommendations, check out our trail reviews for the Okolehao Trail (moderate), the Ho’opi’i Falls Trail (moderate to challenging), and the Hanakapi’ai Falls Trail (challenging).

Big Island

1. Snorkel with manta rays

The Big Island is full of epic things to do but snorkeling with manta rays in Kona arguably takes the cake. It’s one of the only places on the planet that you can consistently snorkel with these gentle giants year round. 

Essentially, you join a tour, like this awesome company that we went with, and are taken out on a boat in the evening. You’ll swim out to a raft, which shines light down into the water and attracts photophilic plankton. In turn, the plankton-loving manta rays will come to feast on the plankton, swooping and feasting just inches below your eyes! 

Manta rays seen while snorkeling

It’s definitely one of the most unique experiences we’ve ever had—and, as a bonus, Kona just so happens to be located on the drier side of the island, so you’ll likely have great weather for your snorkeling adventure!

2. See some of the world’s most active volcanoes at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is located in a rainforest on the southwestern side of the island, so it definitely gets some wet days, especially in winter. However, even in its wettest months (March and April), it only gets about ten days of rain. So you should definitely be able to sneak in a visit in the wintertime without getting wet! 

Lava lake at Kilaeau Volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii

The park is, of course, famously home to one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Kilauea, and the world’s largest subaerial volcano, Mauna Loa. There’s plenty of cool things to do in the park, from driving the Chain of Craters Road (a perfect rainy day activity!) to hiking the Kilauea Iki Trail, a hardened lava lake from a volcanic eruption in 1959.

3. Snorkel in Kealakekua Bay.

For another awesome activity on the dry eastern side of the island, consider a visit to Kealakekua Bay, which clocks in as the largest of Hawaii’s Marine Life Conservation Parks at 315 acres. I’ve been all over the state and, in my opinion, snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay is the best you’ll find, thanks to its pristine coral and abundant wildlife, from hundreds of different species of colorful fish to turtles and even spinner dolphins. 

Yellow tang seen while snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island of Hawaii

So why is the coral so pristine here (sad that I have to ask that question, but it’s unfortunately true!)? 

Because it’s hard to get here. You cannot simply drive here—the only way you can reach it is by hiking in along the butt-kicking Captain Cook Monument Trail or taking a boat in, like on this tour, where you’ll cruise to the bay in a boat with a waterslide, or this small group tour. The effort of getting here is worth it, though, to enjoy the best snorkeling on the Big Island

4. Reach the summit of Mauna Kea.

Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in Hawaii, towering at an astounding 13,803 feet high. Accordingly, it was considered the realm of the gods by the ancient Hawaiians—only ali’i (or Hawaiian royalty) were allowed to stand here.

Woman hiking up Mauna Kea, with telescopes in the background, on the Big Island of Hawaii

Today, the summit of Mauna Kea is beloved for its otherworldly volcanic landscapes, incredible sunsets, and stargazing opportunities. You can enjoy the views at the summit by climbing up the Mauna Kea hike or, alternatively, ride up its incredibly rugged road in a four-wheel drive car, like on this stargazing tour or this tour, which includes astrophotography. Justin and I chose to hike up and I can confirm that the trail is QUITE challenging—get ready to get your butt kicked if you go this option! 

One of the most unique things about visiting Mauna Kea in the winter is that there’s a chance you might actually see snow here. Yup, due to its high elevations, Mauna Kea receives the most snowfall in the entire state! Accordingly, the road and trail to the summit can close in inclement weather— but if not, what a unique opportunity!

5. Visit the Green Sand Beach. 

The Big Island is home to one of only four green sand beaches on the planet! Located along the southernmost coast of the island, you’ll almost always get sunny skies to enjoy the unique Green Sand Beach.

To reach this unique beach, you’ll need to hike along a mostly flat and dusty path for 5.6 miles, which offers spectacular views of the rugged coastline. And once you reach the beach, you’ll be rewarded with cool turquoise water, with waves that are great for boogie or bodyboarding. 

Woman overlooking the Green Sand Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii

Phew—hopefully, you have a better idea of what to expect during winter in Hawaii! Do you have any questions about visiting this magical place during the cooler months? Let us know in the comments below!

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