Do the Hawaiian Islands Ever Get Cold?
How Cold Does Hawaii Get?
Hawaii is generally a warm destination, and the temperatures rarely drop below 64°F in areas surrounding the snow-capped mountains. In Honolulu during the month of January, the highest temperatures are typically around 80°F with the lowest around 65°F. This gradually increases to the hottest months in July, August, and September, and then cools back off in November and December, with the highs reaching around 80-81° and the lows around 67°F. On the summit of Mauna Kea Volcano and Mauna Loa Volcano, temperatures can dip below freezing at night during the winter and summer daytime temperatures can soar to nearly 60°F. Snow is only possible at sea level when the air temperature drops below 32°F for an extended period of time.
What are the Seasons Like in Hawaii?
The spring season in Hawaii is mild and pleasant, characterized by temperatures that remain relatively consistent throughout the day. While there is less rainfall than during the winter months, the days are still often breezy, with strong winds occasionally causing some trees to be uprooted. Despite this, the days remain bright and sunny for the most part, making it a great time to explore the outdoors.
Summer in Hawaii is characterized by warm temperatures, sunny skies and low rainfall. The “dry season” is usually from mid-June to the end of August and days during this time are about 2.5 hours longer than in the winter months. There is also less humidity during the summer months, making the air feel more comfortable. Overall, summer in Hawaii is the perfect time to enjoy the beautiful beaches and outdoor activities that the islands have to offer.
Fall in Hawaii is a transition period between summer and winter and is considered to be the most beautiful time of the year, as the islands are still warm and the flora and fauna are in bloom. The rainfall index is much lower during this season, with only a few centimeters of rain compared to the winter’s heavy precipitation. Temperatures in the areas surrounding Hawaii’s snow mountains may drop below 64°F, but the rest of the islands remain warm and pleasant. Fall is the perfect time to enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, and surfing.
Winter in Hawaii is known as the wet season, with temperatures ranging from as high 67°F to as high as 82°F. Average temperatures are around 78°F at sea level, while inland areas at higher elevations may experience slightly cooler temperatures. Rainfall is more common during the winter months, and in rare occasions, Maui has seen snowfall every other five years or so. The Big Island is one of the few places in Hawaii that experiences snowfall, usually at the peak of Mount Waialeale or Mount Haleakala. In December of 2020, the Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area became covered in snow during a rare winter storm.
5. Storms and Hurricanes
Storms and hurricanes in Hawaii are generally not as severe as those in other tropical locations. (Click here to find out how to prepare for a hurricane in Hawaii.) While the hurricane season in Hawaii falls between June and November, and almost all activity occurs from July through September, the volcanoes on the Big Island act as a natural buffer against hurricanes, affecting wind circulation and helping to break up, divert and weaken the storm as it moves towards and over the Big Island. This means that while the islands may experience bad weather and lots of rain, they rarely experience anything more serious than that. Tropical storms, which have more modest winds below 74 mph, are more frequent and tend to resemble Kona storms. Hurricanes are rare in Hawaii, with only four having affected the islands since the 1950s, and these storms tend to lose strength if they bear northward and encounter cooler water. In extreme cases, flights may be delayed or rescheduled, and local shops and national parks may be closed for a period of time. Strong winds in severe storms can also uproot some trees.
6. Night and Day
The seasons in Hawaii stay relatively similar when compared to other states in the U.S. Both in January and June, there are approximately eleven hours of daylight each day. However, the length of the day does differ slightly between the two months, with days in June being longer by about 2.5 hours than those in December. This means that if you plan an active vacation, you may want to consider visiting in June to maximize the amount of daylight hours you get to enjoy.
7. Temperature Changes
The temperature changes in Hawaii are much milder than those in other regions. While other regions can experience drastic drops in temperature during the winter season, Hawaii’s temperatures only fluctuate by a few degrees throughout the year. In the summer, the average temperature at sea level is around 85° Fahrenheit, and in the winter, it is 78° on average. There is little variance in Hawaii’s temperature due to its location in the tropical region and being surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. Moreover, the amount of rainfall differs throughout the islands, with some areas receiving more than others. This variability in precipitation can cause different temperature changes in various parts of the island. Overall, Hawaii’s climate is much milder than other regions, making it a great place to visit year-round.
Rainfall in Hawaii varies based on the island and time of year. Generally, the rainiest months are between October and February, with Kauai receiving the most rain and the Big Island the least. In January 2021, Hilo set a new record rainfall of 5.3 inches, surpassing its 1996 record of 4.4 inches. The average annual rainfall for the state is 7.4 inches on the summit of Mauna Kea to 404.4 inches in Big Bog. Windward coasts experience many brief showers, while torrential rains occur with the passage of a cold front or a major storm. Severe thunderstorms, including tornadoes, hail, and strong winds, occur but are relatively uncommon. Kona storms occur in the winter season, bringing widespread rains for several hours to several days. Honolulu’s highest rainfall was 2.8 inches in January 2021, while Glenwood, Kapapala Ranch, and Saddle Quarry all experienced record-breaking rainfalls. Areas surrounding Hawaii’s snow mountains experience a significant drop in temperature during winter, although the rest of the state does not experience snow.
9. Trees and Plants
Hawaii is home to a variety of beautiful tropical trees and plants. The most common trees found in Hawaii include the Māmane tree, Coconut tree, Banyan tree, Bamboo tree, and Koa tree. The Māmane tree is a deciduous tree with hard, seed-filled pods that the Palila bird relies on for food. The Coconut tree is a common sight in Hawaii and its iconic fruit is enjoyed around the world. The Banyan tree is an iconic Indian tree which has become common in Hawaii, and it provides shade and entertainment for children in the form of its strong vines. The Bamboo tree is an evergreen tree that grows quickly and produces beautiful flowers and edible shoots. The Koa tree is an endemic tree of the Hawaiian islands with unique, redwood-like bark and fragrant flowers. Additionally, Hawaii is home to a wide variety of vibrant tropical flowers and plants, making a visit to one of the botanical gardens a perfect way to see the island’s lush greenery.
10. Scenery Changes
Hawaii is a stunningly beautiful travel destination, where the scenery shifts from lush rainforests and cascading waterfalls to snow-capped mountain tops and dry air in some areas. The trade winds and associated clouds tend to be more prevalent during the summer, making windward areas cloudier, while storm fronts passing through during the winter make leeward areas cloudier. At Mount Waialeale, one of the world’s wettest spots, precipitation reaches 1,168 centimeters annually, while nearby Na Pali-Kona Forest Reserve receives only 25 centimeters. Hawaii’s snow is often confined to the top of the Big Island’s three volcanic mountains, while a significant drop in temperature below 64°F can occur in areas nearby. Despite its tropical climate, the islands can often experience cold downdrafts and low moisture content, creating a Winter Wonderland at the Kula Forest Reserve and areas around 6,200 feet elevation.