SD › Best Time to Visit Oahu
Updated: June 1, 2021
When is the Best Time to Visit Oahu?
Let’s be honest, there’s never a bad time to visit Oahu. The food is always great, the Waikiki sunsets are always appealing, and the sand is always soft. But Oahu does change with the seasons in all kinds of ways: the fruits in the smoothies, the crowds on Kalakaua Avenue, the festivals and culture, and yes, the deals too.
- Best Time for Deals: There are two shoulder seasons for Oahu travel – Spring (April-June) and Fall (September-December, though Thanksgiving can be busy). School’s in session and hotel occupancy is down. That means you’ll find great deals on hotels all over the island along with bargain airfares.
- Best Time for Sunshine: The rainy season on Oahu typically runs from October to March and yes, that does cover the winter high season. The best weather tends to coincide with the low season so you get good deals and more sunshine. A tip: become familiar with the windward vs the leeward side of the island. The leeward side tends to have more sun than the windward side so if you’re traveling in the rainy season, consider booking your stay on the leeward side. Disney’s Aulani Resort is on the windward side and there’s a Marriott right next door. Honolulu and Waikiki are on the south coast, but they are still drier than the windward side (around Kailua, where there are lots of vacation rentals) or the North Shore.
- Best Time for Surfing: Surf’s up in winter, especially on the North Shore. The swell starts in November and stays up until mid-February. Novice surfers, don’t fret – Waikiki Beach is fairly protected and is a good place to learn year-round.
- Best Time to Eat Fruits and Vegetables: Hawaii’s tropical climate means that growing season is year-round. But if you want in-season stuff in your smoothie, pick your dates carefully. Avocados are a winter crop – November to February; mangos and papaya – rest of the year, March through November. Sprouts, mushrooms, hearts of palm, and fresh herbs grow year-round. Don’t be fooled by the stuff at the farmer’s markets; some of it is shipped in. Go to a farmstead if you want to be 100% sure of what’s in season.
- Best Time for Spam: Hawaii’s long relationship with the pink processed meat means that Spam is everywhere, all the time: in your soup, salad, sandwich, and musubi (and essential Hawaii snack). But if you want to go all-in on Spam, plan your trip during Waikiki Spam Jam in April. The festival fills Waikiki with music, crafts, and dozens of different ways to consume Spam. No, you don’t have to like Spam to enjoy the festival, but maybe give it a try?
- Best Time for Music: It seems like every hotel lobby and shopping mall has great live music playing – sometimes you’ll find Hawaiian headliners at no cover bars and casually jamming on hotel patios. But during the Na Hoku Hanohano Awards in early May, everyone who’s anyone in Hawaiian music is in Honolulu. If you want to rub elbows with slack key and ukulele stars, go to Honolulu during May for awards season.
- Best Time for Snorkeling: Hanauma Bay is a beautiful protected circular bay just south of Waikiki and it’s worth a day trip to go snorkeling in its clear waters. The season here doesn’t matter so much but the time of day makes a huge difference. There’s limited parking and if you arrive too late, you simply won’t find a place to park. (There is a bus, but it can take a fair bit of travel time.) The real reason to go early is that the waters are calmer and clearer early in the day. The swell tends to pick up as the day goes on and while it’s still protected and safe for swimming, the churn means poor visibility. The park opens at 6 am and yes, it really is worth it to go that early.
- Best Time to be Out and Proud: Oahu is LGBTQIA-friendly and you’ll find no shortage of hotels, tours, parties, and events that make their visitors feel at home, no matter who they love. Hawaii is a land of rainbows, after all. Locals, visitors from the other islands, and travelers from around the world come to Oahu in mid-October for the Honolulu Pride Festival.
- Best Time for Whale Watching: From December to April, humpback whales come to the warmer waters around Hawaii to have their babies and nurse their young. Peak whale-watching season takes place in February and March when these majestic giants are everywhere. Head to the north shore for the best viewing, or better yet, book yourself on a whale-watching cruise.
- Best Time to Fall in Love with the Ukulele: Seems like there’s a ukulele for sale on every street corner in Waikiki. There are a handful of excellent ukulele builders on Oahu – Ko’Aloha, Kanile’a, Kamaka – who even offer tours. Tour them to find out what a gorgeous koa uke feels and sounds like. But to go deep into the ukulele scene, visit in May for Ukulele Picnic, a festival that brings over 5,000 ukulele lovers to Kaka’ako Park. The Ukulele Festival in Kapiolani Park in July is even bigger.
- Best Time for Pearl Harbor: Pearl Harbor is tricky. Currently, you can’t visit the USS Arizona Memorial, but there’s still a 30-minute narrated tour of the harbor and Battleship Row. The site is more crowded during peak vacation seasons – summer, winter, and spring break – but even in low season, tickets can sell out early in the day. The best time to go is when you’ve got tickets by making reservations in advance. The box office opens at 7 am, and while the site takes in nearly 4,000 visitors daily, tickets do sell out, so arrive at the visitors center early in case you need to buy them.
- Best Time for Fireworks: It can seem like a party every Friday night, what with the fireworks over Hilton Hawaiian Village. This short 15-minute display has been taking place for over 30 years. But the big shows are exactly when you’d expect, New Year’s Eve and July 4th. Book your ocean-facing room in Waikiki early for either of these dates or just head to the beach with everyone else to watch the show.
- Best Time to Avoid the Crowds: Low season on Oahu is in February, when the holidays are over. There’s an unofficial “back to work after the New Year” season and this is it. It means fewer travelers, lower occupancy in the hotels, cheaper flights, and all-around better deals. Bonus, the weather is pretty good too.
- Best Time to Hang Out with Sea Turtles: Hawaii’s honu, giant green turtles, nest in the springtime, and that’s when you’ll likely see most of them. The good news is they occupy Hawaii’s waters year-round, so your odds of seeing them are always high. Give them plenty of space if they’re having a beach day and don’t touch them when you join them in the water.
- Best Time to Hike Diamond Head: That peak you see from Waikiki got its name from the glittery rock in the soil. It’s a popular hike because it’s close to town, and it’s short but steep (99 steps). The trail is open year-round, 7 days a week, but the best time to head to Diamond Head is first thing in the morning. It gets hot because the trail is exposed. The park opens at 6 am; go first thing then head back to town for a giant breakfast. Hawaiian french toast, anyone?
- Best Time to Visit the Polynesian Cultural Center: The PCC is one of Oahu’s top attractions so it’s busy most days, and more so in the high tourist season (winter holidays between Thanksgiving and just after New Year’s) and the summer vacation. Plan your visit not around the crowds or the season, but on the day when you can get the best seats for the luau. The show is truly one of the most remarkable luaus on the island. Book the best seats you can afford and attend the park that day before you see the show.
Oahu weather by month
- Oahu Weather in January and February: Winter months on Oahu can be rainy, but good news: most of that rain falls at night, so it shouldn’t affect your plans much, if at all. Highs can reach 79°F while lows at night can drop to 68°F; lower if you’re inland or on the windward side. Pack rain gear and some extra layers for early morning and evening outings, or if you’re heading to Volcano National Park or up Mauna Kea. The island can be cloudy during these winter months, but don’t’ forget the sunscreen. The surf’s up at this time of year and, perhaps, best of all, it’s peak whale-watching season. Whales don’t care if it’s raining, and you shouldn’t either. (Average Max Temperature: 79°F. Average Precipitation: 2.3 inches.)
- Oahu Weather in March and April: The tradewinds pick up come March, blowing the clouds away and by April, the rain has dropped off significantly. Oahu’s leeward side – that’s Waikiki – is sunny and warm, hitting 79°F at this time of year. You might want an extra layer in the evening when lows aren’t often below 70°F, but the winds can make it feel quite a bit colder. (Average Max Temperature: 79°F, Average Precipitation 1.5 inches.)
- Oahu in May: Summer starts in May on Oahu and temperatures can reach 81°F. Skies are often clear, with the winds blowing the clouds right out to sea. Nights are warm, hitting 72°F at this time of year, though the evenings can feel a little colder when staying on the windward side, e.g. Turtle Bay, Kailua. Swimming is comfortable, with the ocean hitting 77°F, though it might feel even warmer in the shallows. (Average Max Temperature: 81°F, Average Precipitation 0.7 inches.)
- Oahu Weather in June and July: Summer is peak travel time to Oahu, what with summer vacation being in full swing. The weather is good too, dry and warm, with tradewinds taking the edge off the heat. It can get quite hot, topping out around 82°F. Nights are also quite warm, staying as high as 75°F. (Average Max Temperature: 82°F, Average Precipitation 0.8 inches.)
- Oahu Weather in August and September: August and September are the hottest months of the year on the island, reaching 84°F, and the ocean can warm up to just about the same, at 81°F. Temperatures can stay high through most of September, too. The humidity can be a bit much at this time of year; pack earplugs in case the noise of an air conditioner keeps you awake. Nights stay warm, dropping to a still balmy 75°F after dark. It’s hurricane season, which shouldn’t affect your travels, but be mindful of the forecast, especially on days you’re traveling. (Average Max Temperature: 87°F, Average Precipitation 1.2 inches.)
- Oahu Weather in October and November: Thanksgiving can be busy for travel but most of October and November are considered shoulder season and a good time for fewer tourists. The island slowly welcomes winter, with temperatures steadily moving downward, though the days can still hit 84°F on the leeward side of the island. Evenings begin to cool but are still very mild, with the lows rarely dropping below 75°F. You may have some rainy days but consider that the price you’ll pay for rainbows and don’t let a little wet change your travel plans. (Average Max Temperature: 84°F, Average Precipitation 1.3 inches.)
- Oahu Weather in December: It’s back to winter in December, with rain returning and temperatures dropping to as low as 68°F at night. The tradewinds fall off in December, so the clouds stick around a bit more, but the humidity will be much more comfortable than it was in late summer and early fall. Pack rain gear and extra layers; you’ll need them for playing outside early in the morning or on cooler evenings when you’re having sunset cocktails. (Average Max Temperature: 79°F, Average Precipitation 2.8 inches.)
Oahu Events and Festivals
- First Friday at HISAM: On the first Friday of the month, the Hawaii State Art Museum is open late and there’s live entertainment and no entrance charge. It’s a fun party scene.
- Eat the Street: The last Friday of every month, Kaka’ako turns into an epic street food scene. Amazing food, great party vibe, and lots of fun.
- Outrigger Sunday Showcase: The finest Hawaiian musicians provide entertainment for free every Sunday evening outside Waikiki Beach Walk.
Oahu in January
- New Year’s Day: It’s a National holiday, so get your basic services like banking and shopping done on the 31st before the shops close.
- Sony Open: The PGA Tour kicks off with some of the biggest names in professional golfing.
- New Year’s Ohana Festival: The Japanese cultural festival invites everyone to experience a traditional mocha pounding ceremony. Entertainment, kids activities, and cultural demonstrations throughout the day.
Oahu in February
- POW! WOW! Hawaii: Valentine’s Day week in the Kaka’ako district brings over a 100 international and local artists together to create murals and other forms of art.
- Honolulu Night Market: Food trucks, local bands, art events – a peek into the hippest things happening in Honolulu right now.
Oahu in April
- Waikiki Spam Jam: Why not have a festival around canned meat? Spam has become synonymous with Hawaii and the festival fully embraces Hawaii’s love for the product. There’s Spam carving contest, imaginative Spam based dishes, live entertainment, and a lot of silliness.
Oahu in May
- Hawaii Book and Music Festival: Didn’t bring a beach read? Don’t have enough music on your MP3 player? This festival should set you up with a soundtrack and a good book for the duration of your stay. There’s a book swap, author talks, entertainment, and more.
- Honolulu Triathlon: Swim, bike, and run – and there’s a SUP run. The race has lots of different options, including a 10k and kids races; you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to participate.
- Wahiawa Pineapple Festival: This small-town festival celebrates the agricultural history of the region. Festival standards include local food, live music, and bouncy houses for the kids.
- Shinnyo Latern Floating: Thousands gather to pay homage to their ancestors in this beautiful sunset ceremony. For a small donation, you can add your family names to a paper lantern. This is a gorgeous, moving event, and while it’s very crowded, it’s worth the crush for the experience.
Oahu in June
- Mango Jam Honolulu: Get “A Taste of Island Culture” at this free festival where there’s a BBQ cookoff, a mango recipe contest, live music, lots of mango products, a beer garden and cocktails for grown ups, and fun activities for kids.
- The King Kamehameha Floral Parade: Brightly decorated floats and traditional pau riders on horseback representing the Hawaiian royal court. The riders’ costumes are the highlight of the parade.
- Waikiki Aquarium Summer Music Series: Visit the aquarium and enjoy live music performed on the back lawn. Shows run June–August.
Oahu in July
- Ukulele Festival: Head to the bandstand in Kapiolani Park for a full day of ukulele performances. Includes an orchestra of nearly 800 ukulele students.
- July 4, Independence Day: Head to Ala Moana Beach Park to see one of the best firework shows in the nation. There’s live music; the fireworks show starts at about 8:30 pm.
- Prince Lot Hula Festival: Watch competition-level hula on the grounds of ‘Iolani Palace in Honolulu.
Oahu in August
- Duke’s Ocean Fest: Honoring the legacy of the great surfer, Duke Kahanomoku on Kuhio Beach. There’s beach volleyball, swimming races, SUP racing, and more.
- Made in Hawaii Festival: Peak shopping experience for those seeking Hawaiian made products, with a strong focus on food. A great place to find island-made souvenirs, gifts, and fashion.
Oahu in September
- Moanikeala Hula & Ukulele Festival: Week-long festival held at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Visitors can attend workshops on hula, ukulele, lei making, and other local favorites.
Oahu in October
- Hawaii Food and Wine Festival: Sample the culinary creations of more than 100 international chefs, culinary personalities, and wine and spirit producers.
Oahu in November
- Vans Triple Crown Surf Championships: The stuff surf dreams are made of. Sunset Beach is a world famous break and brings competitive surfers from around the world. Just watching is a thrill.
- Makahiki Festival: Makahiki season is an important time in Native Hawaiian culture, a sort of Hawaiian New Year. Learn traditional Hawaiian games and watch Polynesian sports. Music, song, and dance, too.
- Waikiki Holiday Parade: Commemorating Pearl Harbor’s survivors, this pre-Thanksgiving parade fills the streets of Waikiki with marching bands, dance troops, military units, and more.
Oahu in December
- The Eddie: Iconic surf competition during massive wave season at Waimea Bay. The Eddie runs from Dec 1–Feb 28 which is peak surf season.
- Honolulu City Lights: Wander the streets of downtown Honolulu and admire the twinkling lights and the city’s 50-foot Christmas tree.
- New Year’s Eve Fireworks: Waikiki Beach has midnight fireworks over the water. You’ll be able to see them from anywhere with an ocean-facing view (maybe even your hotel’s rooftop bar). Hilton Hawaiian Village has them as well and you’ll see a blaze of color over Turtle Bay, Ko’Olina Cove, and Kahala Beach, too.