You’re sitting in the snow and dreaming of a summer vacation. Rather than waiting months for the ground to thaw, why not take a trip to Hawaii? Visiting Maui in the winter is a great idea: it can give you the dose of sunshine you need, you’ll deal with fewer crowds, and you have the opportunity to see some of the best whale watching in the world. 

 

Why visit Maui in the winter?

Is it a good idea to visit Maui in the winter? Absolutely. It can be a great time to visit the Valley Isle. Here are a few reasons why: 

Winter is the best time for whale watching in Maui

Whale season runs from mid-December to mid-April, so if you visit Maui anytime in the winter, you’ll be here in the peak of whale season. Every year 12,000 humpback whales make the migration from Alaska to Hawaii to breed, birth, and nurture their calfs. And the best island to see whales is Maui. That’s because they love the warm waters of the Auau channel — the channel that runs between the islands of Maui, Lanai, and Molokai. This is one of the best places in the world to see humpback whales so visiting in the winter is a treat that shouldn’t be missed. 

We have a full guide to help you navigate whale watching on Maui. 

maui in the winter whale watching

The weather in the winter is still great

You might be worried that you’ll need to bundle up if you visit Maui in the winter. Depending on where you stay, the weather can actually be pretty great. On the leeward side of the island (the sunnier side), you’ll find high temps ranging from the upper 70’s in Ka’anapali to the lower 80’s in Kihei. So yes, you can still comfortably swim on Maui during the winter. 

That said, you’ll get more rain, clouds, and wind in the winter (more on that below). 

Swimming and snorkeling are still possible

Ocean temps off the coast of Maui only fluctuate by 5 degrees between the winter and summer, so you can comfortably swim in the ocean year round. In the winter months, the average ocean temperature is 76 degrees, so you can comfortably swim without a wetsuit. 

maui in the winter ocean temperature

It’s less crowded

Aside from the Christmas and New Years rush, if you want to avoid the crowds on Maui, visit in the winter. January and February have below the average number of visitors. According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Maui had an average of 247,000 monthly visitors. January and February both came in with fewer visitors. We used 2019 visitor numbers because that was the last full “normal” year of travel and follows trends that have been seen historically. 

Maui in the winter visitors

 

Why skip Maui in the winter?

While Maui in the winter is still a great choice for your vacation, it’s not all roses. Here are some reasons why you might want to skip the trip. 

The most expensive accommodation rates are found in the winter

There is never a cheap time to stay on Maui, but there are certainly months that are more expensive than others. The most expensive time for hotel and vacation rental rates is over Christmas and New years. But those rates remain high for the remainder of the winter. Vacation rental prices have a huge peak from December through March and hotel room rates are significantly elevated. Again, we used 2019 data from the Hawaii Tourism Authority as that was the most recent normal year of tourism. 

Related: Hotel or vacation rental? What’s right for you?

maui in the winter vacation rental rates

maui in the winter hotel rates

A good chance of rain

You may not expect rain to be a part of your tropical vacation, but winter brings the rain clouds on Maui. While the weather is still warm, there is a higher chance that you’ll see some rainy days on your trip. You can reduce your chances of rain significantly by staying on the sunny or leeward side of the island. The wettest spot on Maui is East Maui, where you’ll see the most rain in March. Ka’anapali and Kihei both see a good amount of rain in December and January. 

maui in the winter rainfall

Things to do on Maui in the winter (that you can only do in the winter)

  1. Whale watching: I can’t emphasize enough just how special it is to be on Maui during whale season. Whether you choose to go out on a tour to see these creatures up close or you prefer to sit back and watch from land, watching a whale breach is a special moment. 
  2. Catch a later Haleakala sunrise: Want to head up to catch Haleakala’s sunrise but waking up at 2:30 am doesn’t sound appealing? A later sunrise in the winter means you can catch some extra sleep and still get up the mountain in time for this spectacular event. Read more about visiting Haleakala for sunrise or sunset. 
  3. Watch big wave surfing: Head to Maui’s north shore to view some big wave surfing. A popular and easy to access spot is Ho’okipa. You can watch our video below of the big waves rolling in during January 2021. 
  4. PGA Tournament of Champions: Love golf? This PGA tournament comes to Maui every winter. 

Tips for visiting Maui in the winter

  1. Bring an extra layer for the evenings: It cools down to the 60’s in the evening and after a day basking in the sun, you’ll likely get chilly. A light layer can help keep you warm as you enjoy the Maui evenings. 
  2. Be flexible with your plans: You may have a snorkel tour cancelled thanks to wind or need to cancel a beach day due to bad weather. It’s always good to be flexible with any vacation, but especially one during the winter. 
  3. See the whales: Make time in your schedule and just do it. Trust us. It’s special. 
  4. Keep an eye on ocean conditions: Winter can bring storms and swells. It’s always important to pay attention to ocean conditions if you’re venturing out into the water. We love recommending the Snorkel Report newsletter to keep us up to date on water conditions

 

Where should you stay on Maui in the winter?

Maui is made up of a number of different microclimates — 6 according to Hawaii Magazine. That means that the weather on one part of the island can be significantly different from another area. So if you’re planning to visit in the winter, you’ll want to pay close attention to these microclimates when deciding where to stay.

If you’re looking for more sunny days and fewer rain clouds, the best spot is South Maui in Kihei or Wailea. Coming in a close second is the west side of Maui, in Lahaina and Ka’anapali. Just be careful if you’re staying on the west side — once you start heading more north of Ka’anapali (to Napili and Kapalua) you can get hit with a bit more wind and rain.  

Related read: where to stay on Maui, including our favorite condos and hotels. 

 

Heading to Maui in the winter?

We can help. Our done for you Maui itinerary will take you to all of the best sights on Maui on seven designed and tested excursion days. Experience Haleakala, the best beaches of South and West Maui, hiking, and our favorite food picks. 

“Just want to say thank y’all for putting together the Oahu & Maui itineraries! Our family had a great trip to Hawaii (specifically Maui) due to having those itineraries handy anytime during the day. We all had an amazing time. Thanks again!” – Tony R. 

Don’t miss out — grab your Maui itinerary here

 

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Erica Gellerman

Erica Gellerman

I'm the co-founder, with my husband Jordan, of The Hawaii Vacation Guide. We live on Maui with our toddler Henry and our sweet but quirky dog Hattie. I am a planner! I love to plan island-hopping adventures, days out on Maui, and everything in-between. I spend a lot of my time on our SUP and my favorite time of year in Hawai'i is whale season!

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