Most people who are planning a vacation to the Hawaiian Islands for the first time rarely think to consult the weather forecast before taking off for their great Hawaiian destination. After all, Hawaii is a tropical paradise and we all know that means hot sun, balmy temperatures and cool ocean breezes with only an occasional tropical shower.
This is definitely a misconception, however, as the Hawaiian islands are home to more variable weather patterns that you can imagine. While the overall temperature of the island chain is remarkably stable, with summer highs in the upper 80s F, (around 31 degrees C), and winter highs in the low to mid 70s (around 28 degrees C), these temperatures only apply to the lower lying coastal areas of most islands. If you plan to only sit by the pool or ocean side, you probably won’t need to pack warm clothing. However, some of the most gorgeous scenery on many of the islands lies above 2,000 feet so if you plan on exploring the higher altitudes of each island, be sure to pack sturdy shoes, long pants and even a jacket. In winter, some of the higher elevations such as Mauna Kea’s Observatory on the Big Island or Haleakala on the island of Maui can have snow on the ground and be quite bitterly cold.
Although the Hawaiian islands benefit from warm trade winds that keep them considerably less humid than other tropical island locations, the Hawaiian islands are susceptible to heavy rainfall during certain times of the year. Mt Waialeale on the island of Kauai, for example, is known as the “rainiest place on earth.” This mountain area gets a staggering 460 inches (28 ft. 4 in., or 11.7 m) of rain annually. By checking the weather forecast before you travel you can make sure that you bring rain gear and/or an umbrella before venturing out to visit the various points on the island. While showers often are brief, they can be intense while they last. The cooling showers, especially mid-summer showers, often bring relief from the tropical afternoon heat so most Hawaiians welcome them. Another well-known fact about the weather in the islands is that weather patterns are often localized. Don’t like the weather where you are? Move to a different part of the island and you may well find a totally different weather pattern altogether.
The island of Kauai is not the only island known for rain showers, however. Each of the Hawaiian islands has its own very specific weather patterns and micro climates. When it is sunny in Oahu, it can be windy or even pouring down rain on the Hilo side of the Big Island. While you might not expect to see snow-capped mountains in the tropics that is exactly what you are likely to see on mountain tops such as Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea or Haleakala Summit in the winter. Even hurricanes, while rarer in this area of the Pacific than in the Atlantic are known to have hit Hawaii and caused damage especially during an El Nino year.