Hawaii is like no other place on earth. Home to one of the world's most active volcanoes and the world's tallest sea mountain. Birthplace of modern surfing, hula and Hawaii Regional Cuisine. Former seat of a royal kingdom and home to the only official royal residence on US soil. But perhaps Hawaii's most unique feature is its aloha spirit: the warmth of Hawaii's people.
Getting to Hawaii
Honolulu International Airport (HNL) on Oahu is Hawaii's major airport, serving as the entry point for most of Hawaii's visitors. All major domestic carriers and many international carriers serve Oahu, so you can get here from just about anywhere.
There are also direct flights from the U.S. mainland to Kauai, Maui and island of Hawaii, but for the most part, you may need to connect through Oahu to get to the neighbor islands including Lanai and Molokai. There are daily ferry services from Lahaina Harbor in Maui to both Manele Bay in Lanai and Kaunakakai Harbor in Molokai.
Flight times from Honolulu International Airport (HNL), Oahu to:
Lihue Airport (LIH), Kauai: 30 minutes
Kahului Airport (OGG), Maui: 30 minutes
Kapalua-West Maui Airport (JHM), Maui: 30 minutes
Molokai Airport (MKK), Molokai: 20 minutes
Lanai Airport (LNY), Lanai: 25 minutes
Hilo International Airport (ITO), island of Hawaii: 50 minutes
Kona International Airport (KOA), island of Hawaii: 45 minutes
Any time of year is a good time to visit Hawaii. The average temperature is between 75°-85° F. Summer, between April and November is warmer and drier while winter, between December and March, is a bit cooler. Trade winds keep things comfortable year-round.
Whale watching season begins as early as late September and ends in early May. Peak whale watching months are between January and early April. November through February is big wave surf season on Hawaii’s north shores.
It's warm in Hawaii, so pack your summer attire. You may want to bring a jacket or sweater for the evenings. Bring warmer clothes if you plan on visiting higher elevations like Haleakala National Park in Maui. Suits and ties are very rarely worn here. Bring some casual dress clothes or resort wear if you plan on experiencing Hawaii's nightlife. You can buy an aloha shirt and flip-flops (or slippers, as the locals call them) when you get here.
Don't worry if you forget something. Hawaii's retail stores and malls have everything you need, including plenty of sunscreen.
Hawaii's currency is the US dollar. Traveler's checks aren't necessary since credit cards are widely accepted and ATM machines are plentiful.
English and Hawaiian
Hospitals in Hawaii meet U.S. standards for care, and can be found in the urban areas of each island.
The hospitals on the neighboring islands provide general care. Depending on where you are and the seriousness of your condition, be advised that you may need to be medically evacuated to Honolulu for treatment.
Be sure to have travel health insurance.
The main tourist areas of each island have walk-in urgent care clinics where you can receive non-emergency treatment for whatever ails you.
U.S. standards apply: 15-20% on meals, at least $1 per bag for porters and at least $1 per night for housekeeping.
To really experience all that Hawaii offers, you should consider renting a car. Reserve your rental vehicles in advance because quantities can be limited on some islands. Many visitors also enjoy taking bus tours to conveniently explore the Islands. Shuttles, taxis and public transport are available on most islands.
All international visitors regardless of country of origin must present a valid passport or secure document when entering the United States, including Hawaii.
Temperature and Climate Zones
Weather in Hawaii is very consistent, with only minor changes in temperature throughout the year. There are really only 2 seasons in Hawaii: summer (called Kau in Hawaiian) from May to October and winter (Hooilo) from November to April. The average daytime summer temperature at sea level is 85º F. (29.4 C) while the average daytime winter temperature is 78º (25.6º C). Temperatures at night are approximately 10º F. lower.
The islands are an incredible collection of diverse micro-environments, each with its own unique weather, plants, and animals. As a result of the shielding effect of volcanic mountains and the differences in weather found at various elevations, you can find tropical rain forests, cool alpine regions, arid deserts, and sunny beaches - all within the span of just a few miles.
Rainfall and Trade Winds
Through most of the year, Hawaii weather patterns are affected primarily by high-pressure zones in the north Pacific that pump cool, moist trade winds down onto the island's northeastern slopes. These winds are forced up-slope by the mountain heights where their moisture condenses into clouds that produce rain. Most of the rain falls in the mountains and valleys on the windward (northeastern) side of the islands. It is this weather phenomenon that creates Hawaii’s rich, green, tropical environment.
The wettest months are from November to March, but winter rains do not generally disrupt vacation plans, since the weather is very localized. This means that if it is raining where you are, there is almost always a sunny spot to be found around the coast.
Hawaii’s trade winds mean there is almost always a cooling breeze. Several times during the year the trade winds will stop completely and the wind will switch around to come out of the south or west, bringing stormy or hot sticky weather. Locals sometimes call this "Kona" weather, because kona means leeward or South, and this points to the direction from which these weather systems arrive.
Water and Surf Conditions
Hawaii's near-shore water temperatures remain comfortable throughout the year. The average water temperature is 74º F. (23.3 C), with a summer high of 80º F. (26.7º C). Wave action varies dramatically between island coasts and seasons. Summer waters are typically gentle on all beaches. During the winter on many north shore beaches, Pacific storms drive ocean swells towards the islands, creating Hawaii’s legendary big waves.
Wave conditions are often very localized, so if the waves are too big on your beach, you can usually find calmer water at a more sheltered beach. Strong currents can make any beach unsafe at any time during the year, particularly in the winter. Ask your hotel staff or a lifeguard about ocean currents or look for warning flags and posted beach conditions.
Hawaii's Mountains and Volcanoes
Many visitors are drawn to the natural beauty found in higher elevations such as Kokee on Kauai, Haleakala on Maui, or Kilauea on island of Hawaii. Temperatures in these higher locations drop 3.5 degrees for every 1,000 feet above sea level that you climb, so dress appropriately with pants and several layers of clothing. At an elevation of 10,023 feet, the summit of Haleakala can be as much as 30º F. cooler than resort areas on the coast.
Also note that because of these high elevations, there is less protection from the sun's powerful UV rays, so come prepared with sun block and sunglasses.