The Worst Time to Visit Hawaii (the month I wouldn’t send my mother)

by | May 3, 2020 | Affordable Hawaii, Get Started, Planning, What Island?

As a Maui resident, I tell my friends to avoid Hawaii for some months. Hawaii has its busy season, uber-expensive months, and wet months. You deserve a spectacular trip to Hawaii, so avoid these months, especially December.

December is the worst month to visit Hawaii. Hawaii experiences a spike in visitors from mid-December to New Year, resulting in high accommodation, plane tickets, and rental car costs. December is also the wettest month of the year as temperatures cool across the Hawaiian islands.

Erica and I ran the numbers, we relived our worst Hawaii experiences, and we broke down the worst times to go to Hawaii based on the following three priorities:

🍍 Clouds

🍍 Crowds

🍍 Cost

Perhaps you don’t mind crowds but desire an affordable luau. If December is the worst month, read on for the best month to visit Hawaii.

worst time to visit windy rainy hawaii

Our trip to Oahu in early February was met with a large storm. We had fun but the beach was not in the cards for that trip.

 

When is the Worst Time to Visit Hawaii?

December is the worst time to visit Hawaii. Hands down, avoid December for any of the Hawaiian islands. 

Out of our three categories to avoid (crowds, cost, and weather) in Hawaii, two out of three have December as the winner (or loser) for the worst month to visit Hawaii. 

🍍 Worst Weather: December

🍍 Biggest Crowds: July

🍍 Most Expensive: December

 From mid-December to early January, the Hawaiian islands get swarmed with Christmas cheerful visitors. Hotel occupancy rates hit 100%, rental car companies are sold out of cars, and flights are full as people fight for tickets. 

The reason is simple, Hawaii is the best place to have a white-sand Christmas. 

Related article: Hawaii Christmas Vacation: The Best and Cheapest Island for Christmas

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new normal to travel and vacationing in Hawaii. December 2020 and 2021 may see a reduction in visitors and price cuts. But based on historical data, December has always been crowded and an expensive time to visit Hawaii.

While you will avoid the snow back home with a trip to Hawaii in December, you may get wet.  December is the wettest month of the year in Hawaii. Plus it is the coldest but that is truly splitting hairs because temperatures are in the high-70s.

December doesn’t get the big visitor count like the summer high season but that is because early December is relatively quiet. Early-December brings down the monthly visitor count which helps July pull-ahead for the busiest month of the year.

December isn’t all bad. Early December, after Thanksgiving, is a good time to visit. You will avoid the holiday rush to Hawaii. Plus, you can find great deals on hotels and vacation rentals. 

Arriving in late-December to Hawaii is crazy, but arriving in early-December is brilliant.

Oahu Hawaii Worst time to visit weather

Waikiki on an overcast day in December isn’t that bad, in my opinion. But avoid December if you want the best weather.

 

Personally, as a Maui resident, I love December. Maui gets hot, sizzling hot, from June through September. Come the winter, the temperature is perfect. But I don’t have to pay exorbitant hotel rates or rental car rates like visitors do. And my family knows how to avoid the crowds.

The same pattern of unfavorable visitor count, weather, and cost in December are seen across the Hawaiian islands. Only the Big Island is more favorable to visit in December.

 

The Worst Time to Go to These Hawaiian Islands

Each Hawaiian island is unique but when it comes to the worst time to visit, they share a common denominator: December.

🍍 Oahu: December

🍍 Maui: December

🍍 Kauai: December

🍍 Hawai’i (Big Island): January (December is a close 2nd place)

 

The Big Island is colder and wetter in January compared to December with about the same accommodation costs that tipped January to be the worst month to visit the island of Hawaii. 

My results for each island are skewed (weighted) to poor weather and expensive vacation. I weight crowds as less important. Perhaps you can’t stand the crowds so June, July, and August are your arch-nemeses.

Waikiki busy beach crowd Hawaii

If crowds aren’t your thing, it is best to avoid Waikiki during the summer.

 

The cost of activities doesn’t fluctuate with the seasons. Tour operators offer coupons and booking discounts throughout the year to fill their shuttles, boats, and pineapple farm tours. 

Take a plunge into the charts below so you can weigh the reasons why December is the worst time to visit Hawaii. 

 

The Worst Time to Visit Hawaii: Weather

Hawaii is better than Old Faithful when it comes to the weather. But don’t be that person who is shocked when a hurricane arrives during hurricane season. 

Hawaii sits snuggly in the Tropic of Cancer. Therefore, the changes to the weather over the seasons are minimal. You won’t need to pack a sweater and jeans for a winter vacation in Hawaii. 

But, if you want sun-filled days with no worries of rain then it is best to avoid December. December is the wettest month in all the Hawaiian islands.

 

worst time to visit weather rainfall plot Hawaiian Islands

Source: Weather.com

 

The average rainfalls showed in the plot above are the main resort area on each island. Except, Kauai where I show Lihue. Lihue is a good in-between for the wetter north shore of Princeville and dryer area of South Kauai. 

Maui Hawaii worst time to visit weather

Driving in a Maui downpour on the leeward side of the island in December was quick but a wicked rain.

The Hawaiian resort areas are located on the leeward or dry-side of the island. So this rainfall represents the best you can get. Stay in Ka’anapali or Wailea on Maui for the best weather in December. Or stay in Ko Olina (Kapolei) for the best weather on Oahu in December. 

The coolest temperatures are in January, February, and March across Hawaii. December is the start of a cool period. 

 

Oahu Hawaii Ko Olina Crowded Beach Worst time to visit

Source: Weather.com

 The warmest islands are Oahu and Maui. Their temperature trends pretty match track each other. Stay away from Kailua-Kona in December as the Big Island gets the lowest temperatures out of the Hawaiian islands. 

But let’s be serious, we are still talking about the high-70s as the average. After being born and raised in the midwest, I’ll take any of those temperatures in December. 

The difference between the daily average cold and hot is about 15 degrees. The tradewinds pick-up in the afternoon helping to cool your lanai for happy hour and a pleasant night’s sleep.

worst time to visit crowds

Waimea Bay on Oahu’s North Shore is known for its big waves but that also means it isn’t good for swimming during the winter months.

 

December has some of the worst weather of the year in Hawaii. A higher likelihood of rainfall means more overcast days and the potential for a rainy week. In my experience, it hardly rains all day in December or the winter in general. A storm may blow through for a couple of days, but that is the worst you can expect. 

Hawaii Beach bad time to visit

An Oahu, Hawaii beach on an overcast day is still a beautiful beach.

 

Hurricane Season in Hawaii

If you wish to avoid Hawaii’s hurricane season, then stay clear of Hawaii from June 1st to November 30th. 

Due to winds, currents, and ocean temperatures around the islands, Hawaii escapes most direct hits. The last hurricane to directly hit a Hawaiian island was Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Hurricanes are rare for Hawaii. 

The hurricane season is during the fall slow-season. This shoulder season is an excellent time to visit Hawaii as flights, hotel rates, and visitor counts are low during this time of year. 

Except for the threat of hurricanes, the weather has historically been lovely during this time of year.

 

The Worst Time to Visit Hawaii: Cost

Hawaii is a trip of a lifetime for many. Due to the cost of this sun and sea destination, you want to ensure your money is well spent. 

If you are looking to get the same Hawaii vacation, for a lower cost then avoid December. December is the most expensive time of year to visit the Hawaiian Islands.

The biggest line item for a trip to Hawaii is lodging. Hotels, vacation rentals, and timeshares are some of the most expensive in the world. Hawaii beats out San Francisco and New York for the most expensive hotel rooms in the country. 

Since 70% of visitors stay in hotels, let’s look at the most expensive month for hotels in Hawaii.

 

expensive time to visit hawaii hotel cost plot

Source: Hawaii Tourism Authority Infrastructure Research

 

December shows a spike in the cost of the daily average rate for hotels across the Hawaiian islands. Prices are even higher in luxury resort areas like Wailea, Maui, and the Kohala Coast, Hawai’i. 

The winter months all have the highest rates for hotels but December leads the pack due to Christmas.

You can save money on accommodations in Hawaii by staying at a vacation rental. Look to Airbnb or Vrbo for options. While cheaper than hotel rooms, vacation rental costs experience a jump come December across the Hawaiian Islands. 

 

Expensive time to visit hawaii vacation rental plot

Source: Hawaii Tourism Authority Infrastructure Research

 

December is the third most expensive month for vacation rentals. January and February are more expensive. This is due to deals after Thanksgiving on vacation rentals. While December is the worst time to visit Hawaii, early-December can be an opportunity to stay in a vacation rental for cheap.

If the cost of accommodations in December stings, don’t expect to save on airfare either.

 

 

Most Expensive Month to Fly to Hawaii

I researched FareDetective History Charts to find the most expensive and cheapest time to fly to Hawaii.

The tables represent two popular departure destinations to Hawaii: Los Angeles, California and  Chicago, Illinois. Ticket costs are from May 2019 to February 2020.

 

Los Angeles to the Hawaiian Islands (round trip)

Arriving in:Average Flight CostMost Expensive Month to FlyCheapest Month to Fly
Honolulu, Oahu$863July ($1,561)May
Kahului, Maui$445June ($726)May 
Lihue, Kauai$444August ($686)May
Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i$468June ($773)May 

Source: FareDetective History Charts, May 2019 to February 2020

 

Chicago to the Hawaiian Islands (round trip)

Arriving in:Average Flight CostMost Expensive Month to FlyCheapest Month to Fly
Honolulu, Oahu$728December ($1,561)May
Kahului, Maui$653December ($757)June
Lihue, Kauai$379December ($1,594)May
Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i$561December ($1,191)June

Source: FareDetective History Charts, May 2019 to February 2020

For Chicago, December has historically been the most expensive month to fly to Hawaii. Midwesterners are flocking to Hawaii to escape the cold. 

Flights from Los Angeles are the most expensive during the summer months. Both cost increases are due to demand, be it to escape the cold or vacation while school is out is causing the higher ticket prices. 

Head to Hawaii during the spring shoulder season to get the lowest ticket prices on average. 

If you are wondering what the cheapest Hawaiian island to visit is, then look no further: This is the Cheapest Hawaiian Island to Visit.

 

 

Cheapest Time to Visit Hawaii

If December is the most expensive time to visit Hawaii, what is the cheapest? 

October and November is the cheapest time to visit Hawaii. 

Hawaii’s shoulder seasons are visible in the accommodation graphs. Lodging rates dip during the spring and fall slow-seasons. For the best rates on hotels and rental cars, visit Hawaii in October and November

Related articles:

 

 

Worst Time to Visit Hawaii: Rental Car Rates

The average rate for a rental car in Hawaii is $50 a day (source: Kayak). Rental car pricing is based on demand. Therefore look no further than the visitor count data below to figure out when you can expect to pay multiples higher than $50 a day. 

Spoiler: late December is a bad time to rent a car in Hawaii.

 

 

The Worst Time to Visit Hawaii: Crowds

Crowds may be your Achille’s heal for a vacation. Paradise isn’t paradise when you are fighting for a spot to put your beach towel. 

While I’ve focused on the cost and the weather, crowds may be the most important to you. If that is the case, avoid the summer months to visit Hawaii. July is a nasty month to visit as visitors hit 1,000,000 in 2019.

 

Worst time to visit Hawaii Crowds Visitor Plot

Source: Hawaii Tourism Authority Monthly Visitor Statistics

 

1,000,000 million visitors in one month! That is nuts. The population of the State of Hawaii is about 1.5 million. 

Oahu brings the biggest crowds as the most visited island. And within Oahu, the majority of visitors are staying in Waikiki. 

 

Worst time to visit hawaii crowds by Hawaii island graph

Source: Hawaii Tourism Authority Monthly Visitor Statistics

 

The summer months are busy, but December is right behind them. Since most visitors are arriving in mid-December to New Year’s, one can expect a higher density of visitors in December during the peak season. 

Oahu Hawaii Ko Olina Crowded Beach Worst time to visit

Ko Olina Resorts with their lagoons getting busy in December. Family-friendly places like these are at full occupancy in December.

 

The Big Island is very popular for Christmas. December is the busiest month for the Island of Hawai’i. 

Hawaii is an amazing place to visit. I’m not used to talking about the worst time to visit Hawaii since the difference between months isn’t staggering. 

If December is the worst month to visit Hawaii, what is the best month?

Not the Worst Months to Visit Hawaii

October is my favorite month to live and visit Hawaii. Find a reason to pull the kids out of school or steal your fiance away in October to Hawaii.

In October, you will find the least visitors of the year and the lowest cost rental cars and lodging rates. Airplane deals are also plentiful in October. No crowds and a great deal on a luxury Hawaiian resort makes October not the worst month to visit Hawaii. 

The weather is also ideal in October as the temperature has cooled down from the summer highs yet the rain hasn’t arrived. 

The should seasons in general from mid-September to Thanksgiving and April through May are the best times to visit Hawaii for a well-priced trip and good weather.

Whatever month you choose for your Hawaii vacation, you won’t regret it. December may sound bad but a December trip to Hawaii will still be memorable. 

For no regrets, head to Maui as December is the start of the humpback whale season. That is worth every penny. 

Humpback Whale Breach in Maui

 

 

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Jordan Fromholz

Jordan Fromholz

Author

I'm the co-founder, with my wife Erica, of The Hawaii Vacation Guide. We live on Maui with our toddler Henry and our sweet but quirky dog Hattie. I have a thing for photographing pineapples and learning to surf.

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