Winter in Hawaii runs from December until March, but it doesn’t get cold. The average temperature is 26C (78F) which is warmer than many countries during the summer, let alone winter. However, this is the rainy season in Hawaii, and while you will have days of sunshine, there can be torrential rain on others. Despite this, the main tourist season is from mid-December until March. The water temperature doesn’t drop significantly at this time of year, so you can still swim, snorkel, and surf. though this is best done on the south and west of the islands. The wind systems affecting the north and east can be very strong and can make water activities dangerous there.
As long as you keep this in mind, you will have a fantastic time in Hawaii in the winter. It is the time to see migrating whales, visit museums, and hike in the national parks. The mountains and volcanoes are shrouded in mist, and Christmas is celebrated in style. So, what can you do if you decide to visit Hawaii in the winter? The answer is almost everything you can do in the summer, but you may have to adjust your plans because of the weather. Without further ado, let’s have a look at twenty exciting things to do in Hawaii in the winter.
- Winter In Hawaii
- Plan Your Trip
- Top Tours
- 20 Things To Do In Hawaii In Winter
- 1- Go And See The Nutcracker
- 2- Watch The Big Wave Surfers On Oahu
- 3- Snowboard On Mauna Kea
- 4- Go Whale Watching
- 5- Have Fun Snorkelling
- 6- Visit A Museum
- 7- Enjoy Hiking In Oahu
- 8- Explore Waikiki Beach
- 9- Go and See the Honolulu City Lights
- 10- Drive The Road To Hana On Maui
- 11- Watch The Sunset At Haleakala
- 12- Take A Helicopter Tour
- 13- Visit The Koloa Rum Company On Kauai Island
- 14- Have A Surf Lesson On Oahu
- 15- Enjoy A Round Of Golf On Maui
- 16- Visit The Polynesian Cultural Centre
- 17- Try The Local Food
- 18- Have Fun Tubing In Kauai
- 19- Attend a Hawaiian Luau
- 20- Visit Hawaii Volcano National Park
Winter In Hawaii
20 Things To Do In Hawaii In Winter
1- Go And See The Nutcracker
If you are in Hawaii in December and want to celebrate Christmas, there’s nothing better than going to see ‘The Nutcracker’.
It is put on at the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu by the Ballet Hawaii, with guest artists from international ballet companies.
Music is provided by the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra.
The show is a Hawaiian version of ‘The Nutcracker’ and is set in 1858 in the Kingdom of Hawaii.
You will still see the traditional dances of the ballet, but there are Hawaiian touches, for example, flowers, such as the hibiscus and plumeria, are diplayed, as are Hawaiian sea turtles and Queen Liliukalani.
The famous Waltz of the Snowflakes takes place on the slopes of the volcano Mauna Kea.
The Neal S. Blaisdell Arena is at 777 Ward Avenue, Honolulu 96814.
2- Watch The Big Wave Surfers On Oahu
During the winter, on the north of Oahu, the waves can be big, even as high as 15.24 metres (50 feet).
This isn’t a time that inexperienced surfers should be going out as it is much too dangerous.
However, there are surf competitions for experienced surfers, and you can go and watch them.
One of the most prestigious is the Vans Triple Crown which is held in January and is open to both men and women.
Another competition is The Quicksilver Contest but, as with all the contests, it is subject to the right weather conditions.
Currents and rip-tides can be unpredictable at this time of year, and the Quicksilver Contest has only been held eight times in 28 years.
If you are going to watch a competition or just look at the waves, safety precautions should be taken.
Only go where the sand is dry.
If it isn’t, there is a good chance that a wave might catch you and if one comes, there’s every chance that others will follow.
3- Snowboard On Mauna Kea
The best time to try snowboarding or skiing on Mauna Kea is between late January and March.
The temperature at the summit is around 0C (32F) although the wind chill can drop the temperature way below freezing.
Be prepared for the temperature change.
You could be wearing a T-shirt at the base of the volcano, but you will need a lot more clothes once you start ascending.
The volcano is 4114,8 metres (13,500 feet) above sea level.
Many people try this out in the winter, but it isn’t an official ski resort, and there are no ski lifts, so you’ll need a 4-wheel drive to get to the summit.
Remember to bring sunscreen with you, as although it may be cold, the sun’s rays are strong.
It is a challenging adventure, but if you are fit, it will be a rewarding one. You may also like the Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Tour.
4- Go Whale Watching
The best time to spot humpback whales in Hawaii is between December and March, and the best island to see them from is Maui.
Volunteers gather at various points during this time to count the number of whale sightings over 15-minute intervals.
Maui nearly always has the most sightings, followed by Oahu.
There are many places where you can watch the whales from the shore, but it is much better to go out on a boat trip as you have the chance of getting closer to the whales.
Seeing a whale breach in front of you is a sight you won’t ever forget.
Many different companies offer whale-watching trips, and you could go out on a catamaran, a sailboat, or even a raft.
5- Have Fun Snorkelling
One of the best things about snorkelling in Hawaii is that you can snorkel without a wetsuit in the winter, as the water temperature remains warm, staying around 23.88C (75F).
There’s no shortage of fantastic places to go snorkelling in winter on Oahu or Maui, where there are protected bays and coves although the waves can be big on the island’s north side, so stick to the calmer waters in the south.
The best time to snorkel in Maui is in the morning to avoid the tradewinds that pick up in the afternoon.
Popular snorkelling beaches in Maui are Ulua Beach, Makena Landing and Charley Young Beach.
Other places to snorkel in winter are Hawaii (The Big Island), which has some well-protected coves, and the Kona Coast, which faces west.
6- Visit A Museum
Visiting a museum in Hawaii offers deep insights into the local culture.
The Bishop Museum in Honolulu houses a significant collection of Polynesian historical artefacts and is not to be missed.
The Honolulu Museum of Art highlights Hawaiian culture through art exhibitions, performances, films and videos.
The artwork dates back as far as 5,000 years and represents the different cultures that make up the state of Hawaii.
The Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum on Maui depicts life for those who worked in the sugar cane fields who migrated to Hawaii from countries such as China, the Philippines, and Portugal.
The museum also shows how their traditions influenced those of Hawaii.
The Shangri La Museum is worth visiting as it houses beautiful Islamic art, such as marble mosaics and stained-glass windows.
- The Bishop Museum is at 1525 Bernice Street, Honolulu 96817 – 2704
- The Honolulu Museum of Art is at 900 S. Beretanice Street, Honolulu 96814
- The Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum is at 3957 Hansen Road, Puinene 96784, Maui
- The Shangri La is at 4055 Papu Cir, Honolulu 96816
7- Enjoy Hiking In Oahu
Oahu is the best island to go hiking on during the winter, as it is the driest, particularly in the southern and southwestern parts.
Experienced hikers can try the Koko Crater Trail, which goes up 365.76 metres (1,200 feet).
It’s worth the trek as you get great views of Honolulu and Hanauma Bay, and it follows an old WWII tramway, passing next to a dormant volcano.
If you want an easier hike, try the one that leads to the beautiful Manoa Falls and only goes up 45.72 metres (150 feet).
It passes through rainforests, ending up at the base of the waterfall.
A moderate hike is the Lighthouse Trail, which goes up 154 metres (505 feet).
You will have spectacular views, including that of the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse.
8- Explore Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach is on Oahu and has great weather during the winter.
Temperatures reach 26.66C (80F) during the day and 18.88C (66F) at night and the sea remains warm.
There are nine stretches of beach to choose from.
You can surf, but you need to be experienced, as the waves can get as high as six metres (20 feet).
Whale watching is popular here, either from the shore or out at sea.
Off the beach, the main road is Kalakaua Avenue, and here you will find high-end shops and hotels, as well as the department store, Macy’s.
If you are looking for somewhere to eat or have a drink, head to Kuhio Avenue, where there are plenty of restaurants and cafes.
9- Go and See the Honolulu City Lights
If you are in Honolulu in December, you shouldn’t miss going to see the city lights, as they will help to get you in the festive spirit.
Many light displays and decorations adorn the trees and buildings, and holiday activities take place.
The opening ceremony is well worth going to.
A 15-metre (50-foot) tree is lit, and there is live entertainment and food trucks.
A highlight is the parade, during which floats travel through the city, beautifully decorated with Christmas lights and decorations.
10- Drive The Road To Hana On Maui
This journey is challenging as it travels along a narrow, winding mountain road, so you do need to feel confident as a driver.
However, there is a bus that you can take if you don’t want to drive, as well as a tour.
It is a beautiful journey through the rainforest, with many waterfalls to spot.
You can take detours to see different sights and then rejoin the main road.
For example, just past Mile Marker 16, turn left to see some spectacular waves splashing lava rocks.
Close to Mile Marker 32, there is a black sand beach created by lava from the volcano Haleakala, which looks spectacular.
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11- Watch The Sunset At Haleakala
The sunset at Haleakala is spectacular, and it is well worth making the journey to the summit.
You will need a four-wheel drive for the trip, and it takes around an hour to get there from the entrance to Haleakala National Park.
It is a good idea to dress up warmly as the summit of the volcano is at 3048 metres (10,000 feet), and it will be a lot colder up there than at sea level.
The temperature will drop even further as the sun disappears, and there could even be some snow.
The sun changes from orange to crimson, and finally to magenta.
Even when it has gone, the clouds retain some of these colours.
It is a truly wonderful sight.
12- Take A Helicopter Tour
Quite a lot of Hawaii is inaccessible by road, so the best way to get to see the rainforests, waterfalls, and spectacular coastlines is to take a helicopter ride.
Maui is the best island to take a ride in a helicopter in the winter, as it doesn’t have too much rain in the south of the island.
One tour includes landing on a taro plantation where you can explore the rainforest floor.
This is particularly interesting, as the area isn’t frequented by hordes of tourists.
However, you do have to accept that the tour may be cancelled due to rain, high winds, or low visibility.
Recommended tour: Kauai Experience: Doors-Off 3 of 4 WINDOW SEATS
13- Visit The Koloa Rum Company On Kauai Island
If you enjoy a rum cocktail, you should enjoy this trip to the Koloa Rum Company.
They have a 42.4-hectare (105-acre) plantation on Kauai where they grow pure cane sugar.
You will be taken around the plantation, where you will also see exotic plants and fruit and vegetable gardens.
The highlight is the tasting session, when you get to taste the rum.
You will be given their signature cocktail, the Mai Tai, which is made from light rum, orange curacao, orgeat syrup, and lime juice.
You will also learn about the production of rum and mixology.
A bonus is that you can interact with their farm animals, including 70 free-roaming pigs.
14- Have A Surf Lesson On Oahu
If you have ever wanted to learn to surf, Hawaii is a great place to start.
While some of the waves are too powerful for beginners, the waves on the south shore of Oahu Island are perfect for people starting out.
The water temperature ranges from between 22C (71.6F) – 27C (80.6F) so you don’t even need to wear a wetsuit.
Maui also has a few good spots for beginners, including The Cove and Thousand Peaks.
15- Enjoy A Round Of Golf On Maui
Golf is popular in Hawaii, and if you enjoy a game, there are plenty of opportunities to play, even in the winter.
One of the best choices is Maui Nui, on the island of Maui.
It is on the western coast and doesn’t get too much rain.
However, it is always a good idea to look up the forecast before you book a session.
Don’t worry about bringing your clubs with you, as Maui Nui rents them out at a reasonable rate, but it’s a good idea to book them when you are booking your session, as they only have a set number of clubs for hire.
Maui Nui has an 18-hole golf course from which you can get beautiful views of the ocean.
It has a lighted driving range, and lessons are available from professionally trained instructors.
Maui Nui is at 470 Lipoa Pkwy., Kihei, Maui
16- Visit The Polynesian Cultural Centre
The Polynesian Cultural Centre is on the island of Oahu.
Here, you can learn more about the Polynesian way of life, through activities and shows.
It’s a great place to take the whole family and, as it covers 17 hectares (42 acres), you can expect to spend some time here.
The centre has six simulated villages representing the Polynesian islands of Hawaii, Tonga, Tahiti, Aotearoa, Samoa, and Fiji.
Here, performers demonstrate arts and crafts from their islands.
Visit the Hukilau Marketplace and buy Polynesian handiwork, clothing, or jewellery.
They will make great gifts for birthdays or Christmas.
You can also attend a luau and, at the end of the day, watch the show ‘Ha: Breath of Life’, with music, dance, and surround sound.
The Polynesian Cultural Centre is at 55 – 370 Kamehameha Hwy, Laie, HI 96762
17- Try The Local Food
Whenever you go to a foreign country, one of the best things to do is try the local food, and Hawaii is no exception.
Spam musubi is a popular handheld snack that is often eaten for lunch.
It is a small block of rice, topped with a slice of spam, and wrapped in nori (seaweed).
It can be eaten both hot and at room temperature.
Mochiko chicken is also popular as a snack.
It is composed of bite-size pieces of chicken marinated in mochiko flour (a gluten-free flour made of sweet rice) and then deep-fried.
Laulau are steamed parcels of pork, black cod (butterfish), and vegetables wrapped
in luau leaves (leaves of the taro plant).
If you want something sweet, try the malasadas, which are doughnuts filled with either chocolate pudding or haupia, a coconut pudding.
They are delicious.
18- Have Fun Tubing In Kauai
Water tubing is another activity that is fun for the whole family, as long as your children are at least five years old.
On Kauai, a company called Kaua’i Backcountry Adventures runs a mountain tubing adventure.
You are taken in a truck to an old sugar cane plantation and then go uphill towards the start of the tubing course.
You get spectacular views on the ride up, including Mount Waialeale, which is 1569 metres (5148 feet) high.
Tubing here is great fun.
You float down open canals that used to be the irrigation canals for the plantation, and you go through tunnels, the longest of which is 1.6 km (1 mile) long.
There can be a lot of spinning and bumping of tubes with others but that’s all part of the fun.
Kaua’i Backcountry Adventures is at 3 – 4131 Kuhio Highway, Lihue 96766 Kauai
19- Attend a Hawaiian Luau
A Hawaiian Luau is a gathering to celebrate an event or achievement.
It is a festive experience, and you should try to go to one if possible.
A luau features music, dancing, and cultural performances.
They might even be fire-dancing.
There is, of course, plenty of food, such as kalua pig, which has been cooked in an underground oven and shredded, and poke, which is prepared with raw fish, soy sauce, green onions, kukui nut, and seaweed.
There is usually an open bar.
20- Visit Hawaii Volcano National Park
In the heart of this national park are two active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa.
Kilauea is the most visited volcano in the world, and at times, you can see the lava flowing into the ocean or the crater on the park grounds.
A short hike takes you to the crater, which is only 50 years old. Join a guided tour for the best experience.
There are over 161 km (100 miles) of hiking trails in the national park that you can explore.
Some take you through lava tubes, such as the Thurston lava tube, another takes you along the Chain of Craters Road, where there will have been lava flows, and others, into the rainforest.
For more winter wanderings, read: