Planning a trip to Hawaii? Know that it’s not always sunny in Honolulu. Despite Hawaii having a tropical climate, there are lots of instances where weather is less-than-ideal for your next vacation.
Weather in Hawaii: a local’s perspective
When people think of Hawaii, rainbows and sunny skies comes to mind. There is plenty of that, but there are also times when we have awful weather here. Since most of the activities in Hawaii are outdoors, it’s important to check the weather, so that you won’t have a ruined vacation. Here are 3 things to be aware of regarding weather in Hawaii.
1. November to March = Rainy Season
My primary mode of transportation is a motorcycle. I think a motorcycle in Honolulu is far superior to a car because I never worry about parking and I can easily re-route when I get caught in the awful Honolulu traffic (see news report). The only drawback of a motorcycle is this:
The rainy season in Hawaii is from November to February. There are light showers all year-long, but during the rainy season, you will see a whole week of dark clouds and non-stop rain. In February, for example, we had 12 days of pouring rain. And even if the rain stops for a day, the run-off from the rain can cause the ocean water to turn brown and murky, ruining your beach day. If you visit Hawaii during the rainy season, I suggest that you check the weather before you arrive and make backup plans in case it does rain.
2. Volcano residue + smog = VOG
We have several active volcanoes on the island of Hawaii (“The Big Island”). When the volcanoes erupt, there is a large amount of gas that leaks into the air. Through trade winds, the gas passes through Oahu and can create a vog, or smog created from volcanic eruptions.
Inhaling vog has small side effects like dizziness or nausea. If you have asthma or a respiratory condition however, vog can be very unhealthy for you. Watch the local news for vog reports, especially if you’re visiting the Big Island.
3. It can get “cold” here.
I think it gets cold in Hawaii (yes, I’m very spoiled by Hawaii weather). We’re finally approaching Spring, but throughout all of February, I have been wearing my motorcycle jacket, long pants, and socks at night because it’s so “cold.” How cold? Well, Honolulu’s average low in January is about 65°F (see report).
Okay, so 65 degrees is not cold if you’re from the mainland. The main reason people in Hawaii say it’s cold here is because we do not have the right clothing for cold weather. Here are some other situations where you may be cold without the right gear:
- Ocean water in the morning will be a lot colder because the ocean cools during the night.
- If you plan to go surfing or plan to be submerged in water for hours at a time, considering getting a wetsuit. Even in tropical waters, prolonged stays in the ocean can lead to hypothermia (see “Outdoor Hazards You Should Know About”).
- If you go hiking, consider bringing a light jacket or wind-breaker. The high elevations and high winds can make you very chilly. When I go on hikes on the Windward side, I have a problem where I sweat on the way up because I’m hot, but then I start shivering at the top because the wind rapidly cools my sweat.
- High elevations such as the Kohala Mountain Road on the Big Island (2500ft+) will be cold in the morning, even if it’s summer.
Rain, vog, and surprisingly cold areas are pretty much the main things to worry about in Hawaii. We haven’t had a major hurricane since 1994, we don’t have earthquakes, and we don’t have to deal with snow; Hawaii weather is pretty nice, overall. And if I didn’t ride a motorcycle, I’d probably not even check the weather report at all!
Have any other tips about weather in Hawaii? Leave them in the comments below.