Here’s all you need to know: Hawaii has the best weather on the planet!
Picture the ultimate weather… mostly sunny, not usually too hot. Gentle breezes blowing. Never too cold. Cool nights. Some rain, but not usually too much.
Welcome to Hawaii!
The funny thing is that on the islands the forecast for each part of an island is often quite different. Surf, sun, rain, wind are all variable and change constantly.
Many locals say – if you do not like the weather, wait an hour – it will have changed. That’s about right. It changes very fast.
Once I went up in a plane with my roommate in the Air Force. He had just received his private pilot license, and I paid the $50 for gas and we hit the skies in a little propeller engine plane from Dillingham Airfield on the north side of Oahu.
We had been up about 20 minutes when massive rain clouds started rolling in. We wanted to land but the air traffic controllers said to land in Honolulu where it was still sunny. We flew down there to find it totally rained out – they redirected us to the north again – and we landed in a horrible rainstorm with 40 mph wind gusts.
I learned right then – Hawaii weather changes in the blink of an eye. They can’t even see it change on radar as fast as it happens!
On the big island of Hawai’i you can ski at the top of Mauna Kea’s peak. A helicopter will need to drop you off – but, it’s quite possible. You can get a deep tan laying on the beach that same day when you’re finished. Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano with a 13,000+ feet high summit! Maui too has a very high dormant volcano, Haleakala Volcano which goes over 10,000 feet.
Year Round Heat
It’s warm year round. Some would call Hawaii “hot”. I never would, having lived in Miami, Tampa, and Thailand for a combined total of 15 years. Those places are hot. Hawaii is perfect weather for me, but you may find it hot all the time. I know people that sweat continually in Hawaii. They’re not doing anything physically, but they just sweat constantly. If you’re one of those people – Hawaii may not be the right place for you to live. If you think you can get used to it – I’m sure you can, many people do.
I like to say there are no real weather seasons in Hawaii. Only warm, balmy weather and that’s about it. Sure, once per year you might get to breath fog on a cold December or January day, but it doesn’t happen often. Not even every year.
There are probably over 300 sunny days on Oahu each year. The other Hawaiian islands get more rain. Maui must, having lived there a year I think we got plenty more rain than Oahu does over the year. Kauai has a mountain ridge that has the label, “Wettest place on earth”.
The weather in Hawaii is typically about 80 degrees and with a slight breeze called “trade winds” that blow from the northeast to the southwest. In fact, local Hawaiians often tell directions in relation to which side of the island gets the most wind. The northeast side of Oahu is also known as the “windward” side. The opposite is the leeward side I think. Hard to remember this stuff.
Hawaii’s Blazing Sun
Hawaii is close to the equator so the sun is closer to the earth than anywhere in the continental US.
You’ll feel the intensity is different from when you lived in the mainland USA – even if you lived in Miami, Florida before. I sure did. The sun is more like a radiation heater than just convection. It feels as though you’re being cooked from the inside. Sunburns can be especially nasty, I remember peeling thick layers of skin off my forehead and upper back when I got burned badly a few times. It only takes a few times to learn!
On clear sky days, the sun can be especially intense, so it is recommended you use hats and sunscreen to avoid negative effects. If you accidentally end up with a sunburn, the local aloe plant cut open and applied directly is a soothing remedy.
Though not usually stifling, the air humidity in Hawaii can be something to get used to if you do not have wet air in your current home. You’ll notice it as you exit your air conditioned plane – if it’s especially hot and humid that day – you may faint. Seriously – I know someone that did!
For most of us though, it isn’t that bad – and you’ll get used to it. The heat and humidity of Hawaii is tempered by the near constant 8-15 mph trade winds that keep blowing most months of the year. Trade winds are stronger during the summer and weaker through winter months.
Along with trade winds are the Kona winds which come from the southeast. These occur during the winter months and bring with them rain.
Honolulu has an average of 63% humidity during the year.
It rains often on all the islands, in different areas. If you’re planning on living in Kauai you should carry a poncho 24-7 because Kauai gets a lot of rain.
The wettest island is Kauai – and this island also has the distinction of having the wettest spot on the entire planet. An average of 486 inches of rain fall there each year. Do you know how much SNOW that would be if it fell instead? Me neither, but it’s a lot of rain regardless. More than an inch of rain per day. That’s a lot!
Hilo on the Big Island Hawaii gets 130-200 inches of rain per year and is the wettest city in the United States.
Some places in Hawaii get less than 6 inches of rain per year!
There is a lovely type of rain the Hawaiians call “Kilihune” – it’s the soft misty rain that falls and cools you off on a hot day.
So, no matter which Hawaii island you choose to be living on – it rains often – but usually in short bursts. Some find that annoying. If you ride a motorcycle or bicycle a lot you should be prepared to get dumped on by heavy showers occasionally. It happens, that’s Hawaii.
Rain is at its worst during the Winter. Rain virtually stops in June and July – but there is sometimes the occasional shower anyway
Hawaii is incredibly lush. There is a reason for that – it is raining everyday somewhere on the islands. That’s a given. Even though the sun is shining very brightly and the rest of the sky is blue – there might be a rain cloud up over the mountains, dumping large amounts of rain on it. You can see this quite clearly, and nearly daily if you live in or near Lahaina, Maui.
If you live in Hawaii you’ll get used to the rain – it’s almost daily – and yet it doesn’t usually last more than 30-60 minutes. A few times per year it will rain for hours or days at a time.
Tropical Storms & Hurricanes
Just 4 hurricanes have hit any of the Hawaiian islands over the years – since 1957. Hawaii is on the border of a tropical zone and can get very strong winds at times, and even a tropical storm once or twice per year.
Storm effects are giant ocean swells, torrential rains, fast gusting winds – sometimes 70 mph gusts or even more… and of course, big waves for surfing!
Flash flooding can occur – and some tourists and locals alike have lost their lives while exploring normally placid streams or waterfalls. In particular, sea caves, and those on waterfalls like Maui’s Oheo Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools), should be very careful when there is rain upstream from them. Several times people have lost their lives at this stunningly beautiful attraction.
A special note to those walking along sea-cliffs… Rogue waves are commonplace and you never know when they will hit. This is why those familiar with Hawaii’s waters will tell you to keep your eye on the ocean at all times. Waves might be 2-3 feet for the majority of the day and then one comes “out of the blue” that is 12 feet or bigger. It happens. People die sometimes because of it. Many times death and injury is preventable just by keeping one eye on the water at all times.
In the entire world there are 13 climate zones. Hawai’i has 11 of them. Each of these zones have their own set of weather characteristics – flora, and fauna. Hawaii’s topography consists of high and low elevation, pressure changes, rain, winds, and surface qualities that combine to produce these different climate zones.
Be forewarned, there are cold areas in Hawaii. We lived on Maui for a year and made frequent visits to Haleakala volcano. I was always amazed at how cold it was as we drove up the long hill. At the top the winds are often very strong, resulting in a freezing wind-chill factor! Bring your heaviest clothes if you are planning to be on the upper half of the big volcanoes. I know it sounds funny to say that – but, trust me!
Seasons of the Year
Really there are only two seasons in Hawaii. Summer (Kau in Hawaiian) which goes from May to September, and Winter (ho’olio) which lasts October through April. Hawaii has only two seasons – summer, from May to September, and winter, from October to April.
Winters in Hawaii are cooler and have northwestern winds. Temperatures are on average about 75 degrees during the days and 65 at night. Summer highs average around 85 degrees.
Windward Side and Leeward Side
The side that faces the east – Sandy Beach, Waimanalo, Kailua, Kaneohe – is all considered the Windward Side of Oahu. The Windward side is the cool, wet, windy, and lush side of the island – and all Hawaiian islands.
The Leeward Side of the islands is always warmer and drier.