Living in Paradise | Appreciating Seasons in Hawaii
I remember very clearly the day I learned that Hawaii had year-round perfect weather. Never too hot, never too cold, and no snow. My thoughts were probably something along the lines of, “I want to move there.” Long story short, I did. I’ve only lived here a year and a half so I’m no expert, but as the months have passed by, I’ve begun to notice little changes in the weather and the scenery. In this post, I’m gathering what I’ve learned about seasons in Hawaii.
Here are some quick things I’ve learned from a year in paradise:
- It’s a HUGE relief to not ever have to think about heating our home, shoveling, or driving in the snow.
- Getting dressed in the morning takes no thought whatsoever.
- I rarely look at the forecast, unless I’m planning to hike or drive to a different part of the island.
- Before arriving on island, I used to track the temperatures and it seemed like they hardly varied; they were always between highs in the 70s-80s, lows in the 60s-70s. However, now that I’ve adjusted to the temperatures, it feels like there’s a much bigger difference between those numbers. In the ‘winter,’ I really do wear my sweaters.
- No air conditioning? No problem! Our windows are open 24/7 and we happily welcome the trade winds that pass through.
- After it rains a lot, people start to say, “Things are going to be so green!” And I think to myself…what color are they now? I’ve only recently begun to notice the very subtle differences in vibrancy of the greens on the island.
- The hardest season here is fall: When everyone starts going back to school and the words ‘pumpkin spice’ begin appearing everywhere, all I want is to feel crisp air on my face and pull out my earth-tone sweaters and drink hot chocolate. However, summer just has to stick around a few months longer, to the point where all those special fall things have worn off.
- Once it finally begins to cool down, you have to make a choice: long sleeves or hot chocolate? Doing both will make you too hot!
- Thanks to years in the military, I’ve learned to thrive on change, and the lack of change in seasons messes with my mind.
- I like having things to look forward to, even as simple as weather changes. At first, it seemed as though the only thing changing was the pages on my calendar; however, now that I’ve lived here a while, I’m starting to take note of the little things that change.
So what really changes? Here is my list — I’ll add onto it as I continue to notice more. In a way, I think of each item as its own season, as something to look forward to.
Summer [May-October] | Summer begins a little earlier and ends a little later here than it would on the mainland. The temperatures are in the 80’s-90’s depending on what side of the island you’re on. The forecast is drier than it is in the winter, but it will still rain occasionally.
Rainy [November-April] | The rainy season brings cooler weather, more trade winds, and of course more rain to the island. It isn’t raining constantly, but there are some weeks when it feels like it’s constantly grey and wet. I hear locals joke about how tourists are the only ones in the water. If you’re traveling during this time and concerned about a rainy forecast, know that the rain typically hangs around the mountains and the Windward (East) side of the island, so check out things to do on the West side.
Hurricane [June-November] | Hurricane season isn’t usually eventful here as it can be on the East Coast of the Mainland, but there are occasional hurricanes and tropical storms that pass by. It seemed as though there were a lot of storms last year, but none had as much impact on the islands as was predicted. Hurricane Iniki was the last one to actually make landfall, and that was on Kauai in September of 1992.
North Shore Waves [November-February] | If you’re into surfing, visiting the North Shore in the winter is the place to be. (We honestly don’t know anything about surfing, so if you’re like us and don’t plan on it, we advise you avoid the North Shore on days when the waves are bigger because traffic can be pretty backed up!) Obviously there are beaches everywhere if you want to get up close to the waves, but if you’re interested in hikes that give great views from above, check out Ehukai Pillbox and the first couple miles of Kealia Trail. For easy hikes that walk along the coast next to the waves, try Kaena Point and Kahuku Point.
Albatross [January-March] | If you’re visiting during these months, you MUST hike to Kaena Point to see the great albatross birds! We’ve visited in February 2 years in a row and seen so many birds nesting in this wildlife sanctuary. Watch the birds soar overhead with their giant wingspans, the male birds do their special ‘mating walk,’ and if you’re lucky you might spot a grey fluffy little baby albatross — ok, maybe they’re not that little!
Whale [November-March] | Late every fall, the humpback whales make their way down to the islands from Alaska. If you’re visiting during these months, there are several easy hikes you can do where you may be able to spot them, such as the Makapu’u Lighthouse hike. Our sightings have all happened on the South Shore or at Kaena Point. There are also whale cruises you could take that would get you up close and personal!
Jellyfish [July-October] | If you plan on getting in the ocean, watch out during these months because they are known to be jellyfish and Portuguese man-of-war breeding season, meaning they are found closer to the shore. We honestly don’t get in the water that much anyway, but it’s also important to watch your step while walking on the beach so you don’t step on one!
Plumeria [May-October] | The beautiful flower used to make leis comes from a tree that blooms in the dry/summer season. During the rainy season, the trees are mostly bare. If you’re visiting during the summer, Koko Crater Botanical Garden has a large plumeria grove with flowers of all colors and is definitely worth a visit!
Mango [Flower January-March; Fruit May-July] | This one likely has the largest impact on us because we have a giant mango tree in our yard. I thought that it only produced fruit every other year, but now in February it’s flowering again for our second mango season, and I’m so excited! If all goes well, the fruits will be ready probably in June or July. Right at the end of its season, it drops its leaves while simultaneously growing new ones, so the tree is never bare. And we get to enjoy weeks of daily raking. I guess you could say fall comes early for us!
Lychee [June-July] | I had no idea what lychee was before moving to the islands…but now that I’ve tried it, I don’t know how I’ll be able to live in any other place that doesn’t have it. It has a limited season and depending on the harvest, they can be a little pricey, but if you’re here in these months you should give it a try. Unfortunately we have yet to see it along a trail, so we haven’t been able to forage for it yet. However, if you aren’t here while they’re in season or can’t find it for sale, there are plenty of foods that come in lychee flavor as well, so keep your eyes out for it!
Guava [August-October] | Something that’s pretty unique to Hawaii hiking is the fact that you can sometimes forage for unique fruits while on the trail. If you’re hiking between these months and notice small red fruits on the ground and tall bushes surrounding you, chances are it’s probably guava. (Make sure you familiarize yourself with what it looks like before putting strange berries in your mouth.) We’ve enjoyed foraging on Pu’u Pia, Aiea Loop Trail, and Pu’u Ma’eli’eli, though it can be found on many other trails. It’s actually an invasive species from Brazil and is sadly taking over the native plants of the island. Consider any fruit you consume a way of preventing its seeds to be sown in the future.
Sunrises | Obviously the sunrises year-round are incredible, however I think my favorite time of year to see the sunrise is in the winter. One reason being the obvious advantage of happening later so we don’t have to wake up as early, but also because when the sun rises to the Southeast, you can see Molokai, Maui, and Lanai islands clearly on the horizon.
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If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii and are open to visiting any month, I hope this list can help you narrow down and decide when you’d be most interested in visiting. If your trip is already planned, I hope you can take advantage of what’s in season and that our suggestions will be helpful!
If you live in Hawaii, what’s your favorite season?