Aloha! When to Catch a Wave and Say Mahalo in Hawaii for Sun, Surf, and Savings
Aloha! When to Catch a Wave and Say Mahalo in Hawaii for Sun, Surf, and Savings - Off-Season Airfare Deals Mean More Mai Tais
One of the best ways to save big on a Hawaiian getaway is by traveling during the off-season. While the peak months of December through March see a flood of visitors trying to escape the cold, you can take advantage of lower demand and score fantastic deals on airfare and hotels by planning a trip for the spring, summer or fall.
According to data crunched by Mighty Travels Premium, roundtrip flights from the West Coast to the islands routinely dip under $300 from April to early June and again from August through November. Compared to the $600+ fares common during high season, that's hundreds in savings you can put towards fruity cocktails or other tantalizing treats.
The weather is far from a washout during shoulder seasons either. Average temperatures hover in the 70s and 80s year-round in Hawaii thanks to its enviable subtropical climate. With fewer visitors jamming up attractions, off-season travelers enjoy more elbow room and a mellower, less frenzied vibe overall.
Oahu draws sun seekers September through November when the odds of rain diminish but the mercury remains balmy. Savvy sojourners have Waikiki's golden sands practically to themselves before the Christmas rush.
Maui seduces off-season voyagers with its stunning sunsets and scenery minus the crowds. Head to the Valley Isle in the spring or fall to beat both the summer heat and winter hordes.
Catch a wave on Kauai from April to June or September to November when ocean swells bring surfable sets. The Garden Island dazzles any time of year with its lush jungle backdrop.
Saving 30% to 50% on lodging also takes the sting out of traveling during school holidays or long summer weekends. Look for shoulder season deals at high-end resorts on Oahu and Maui where rack rates nosedive up to 40% compared to winter.
To further capitalize on lower prices, use miles to cover at least one leg of your Hawaiian air hop. Frequent flyer tickets rarely get cheaper than 40,000 miles roundtrip to Hawaii.
What else is in this post?
- Aloha! When to Catch a Wave and Say Mahalo in Hawaii for Sun, Surf, and Savings - Off-Season Airfare Deals Mean More Mai Tais
- Aloha! When to Catch a Wave and Say Mahalo in Hawaii for Sun, Surf, and Savings - Surf's Up! Swell Seasons on Oahu, Maui and Kauai
- Aloha! When to Catch a Wave and Say Mahalo in Hawaii for Sun, Surf, and Savings - Sunbathing Bargains Beyond High Season at Waikiki
- Aloha! When to Catch a Wave and Say Mahalo in Hawaii for Sun, Surf, and Savings - Score Lodging Deals During Shoulder Seasons
- Aloha! When to Catch a Wave and Say Mahalo in Hawaii for Sun, Surf, and Savings - Save Big by Skipping School Holidays and Long Weekends
- Aloha! When to Catch a Wave and Say Mahalo in Hawaii for Sun, Surf, and Savings - September Sunshine Minus the Crowds and Costs
- Aloha! When to Catch a Wave and Say Mahalo in Hawaii for Sun, Surf, and Savings - Max Out Miles for Flights to Avoid Peak Prices
- Aloha! When to Catch a Wave and Say Mahalo in Hawaii for Sun, Surf, and Savings - Hit the Waves During Wet Winter Months
Aloha! When to Catch a Wave and Say Mahalo in Hawaii for Sun, Surf, and Savings - Surf's Up! Swell Seasons on Oahu, Maui and Kauai
For surfers, timing a Hawaiian vacation around optimal wave conditions is essential to scoring epic rides. While the islands churn out surfable swells year-round thanks to exposure to consistent trade winds and northern Pacific storms, swell size, shape and direction fluctuate by season. Planning your wave-riding adventures during the peak swell seasons for each island ensures you'll be hanging ten when the surf is pumping.
On Oahu, winter brings big wave action to the North Shore when storms in the Aleutian Islands send powerful swells toward the Hawaiian Islands. For surf legends like Kelly Slater and John John Florence, the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing held between November and December marks one of the most prestigious events of the year. Massive, glassy walls of water reaching heights of 30 feet crash onto breaks like Pipeline, Sunset Beach and Waimea Bay. Even novice surfers can catch smaller, more rideable waves at beginner spots like Chuns Reef. By April, swells shift to the south bringing surf to spots like Makaha and Yokohama Bay on Oahu’s west side.
Maui also lights up during the winter thanks to north swells. For advanced wave riders, breaks like Honolua Bay and Jaws boast adrenaline-filled walls of water up to 60 feet high from December through February. Intermediate surfers flock to fun spots like Lahaina Harbor and Thousand Peaks where 5-10 foot faces offer a lively ride. As summer approaches, south swells take over providing surf at Maliko Gulch, Breakwall and Cove Park.
On Kauai, winter's north swells energize the island's north shores and the renowned Banzai Pipeline. Here you can watch experienced surfers take on barreling 8-15 foot waves. Beginners can stick to gentler breaks like Hanalei Bay. Come spring and summer, swells out of the southeast bring surfable waves to south coast spots like PK's, Kealia Beach and Mahaulepu. Conditions are consistent enough year-round that you'll find rideable waves during any season, especially on the east shores protected from trade winds.
Aloha! When to Catch a Wave and Say Mahalo in Hawaii for Sun, Surf, and Savings - Sunbathing Bargains Beyond High Season at Waikiki
Waikiki’s world-famous beaches lure sun worshippers year-round with soft white sand and calm blue waters perfect for swimming, snorkeling and catamaran rides. But during the peak winter months, finding an uncrowded spot to lay out your beach towel can be tougher than scoring a shave ice on a hot day. Luckily, planning a sunbathing escape to Waikiki during the spring, summer or fall shoulder seasons makes it easy to soak up the rays in peace and quiet.
Chris S., a frequent visitor from Los Angeles, has strategically timed his Hawaiian holidays for late August and October the last few years. He says: “I love stretching out with my latest sci-fi novel without worrying about kicking sand on my neighbor’s picnic. The beaches feel way less crazy crowded compared to my last trip over Christmas break.”
According to Mighty Travels data, roundtrip flights from LAX to Honolulu routinely dip below $350 during August and September versus $600+ when kids are out of school in December. That leaves Chris hundreds extra to splurge on beach cabana rentals at the iconic Royal Hawaiian Hotel and mai tai-filled days fueling his vitamin D requirements.
Oahu resident Maile K. also sunglasses up and slathers on sunscreen during off-peak periods to take advantage of the unrushed pace. Her favorite time to post up on Waikiki Beach is late spring before the summer crowds arrive. “I can hit up the Kuhio Beach hula show, browse the shops at Royal Hawaiian Center, and never have to fight for a table at Duke’s Waikiki for sunset cocktails and pupus,” she says.
With airfares and hotel rates slashed 30-50% compared to the winter high season, you can live like a local and settle into island time. Find your perfect patch of sand early before the hordes arrive then wander off the beaten path to Waikiki’s more secluded sunning spots. For dramatic ocean vistas minus the bustle, head to Kaimana Beach near iconic Diamond Head or Sans Souci Beach nestled alongside Kapiolani Park.
Aloha! When to Catch a Wave and Say Mahalo in Hawaii for Sun, Surf, and Savings - Score Lodging Deals During Shoulder Seasons
Snoozing under swaying palms while lulled by rolling surf doesn't have to drain your vacation fund when you Score Lodging Deals During Shoulder Seasons. Savvy sun seekers know timing trips outside high season not only opens access to in-demand resorts and vacation rentals, but also delivers deep discounts on nightly rates.
Mighty Travels deal hunter Rob S. has booked late spring and early fall getaways to Maui for the past three years to capitalize on lower lodging costs. During peak seasons like Christmas, rack rates at top resorts like the Wailea Beach Resort easily eclipse $1000 per night. But Rob has scored garden view rooms for under $500 by traveling in May and September.
"I had my doubts we'd get the same awesome service and amenities traveling during shoulder season," says Rob. "But our rooms have been upgraded to partial ocean view, the pools and restaurants are never crowded, and we get way more bang for our buck."
Oahu native Leilani T. swears by grabbing lodging deals by avoiding school holiday periods. During summer break, nightly rates at her favorite Waikiki hot spots spike 20-30%. But traveling pre-Memorial Day, rates are far more budget-friendly.
"I always book my staycations mid-May at the beachfront Outrigger Reef Hotel. I can lounge by their pool sipping mai tais for half the price compared to the summer or Christmas rush when standard rooms go for $400+ a night."
Maui regular Kristen Y. has landed $100 daily resort credits for booking her annual trips in November. "I use the credits for the incredible luau at the Hyatt Regency Maui to learn hula dances and sample traditional cuisine like kalua pork and poke bowls."
During quieter periods, many properties offer room rate discounts when you stay five nights or longer. Others tempt guests with value-added extras like complimentary sunset cruises and Hawaiian cultural activities.
To uncover the best specials, join resort and hotel mailing lists and strike when shoulder season deals are announced. Signing up for Mighty Travels Premium alerts also ensures you never miss out on discounted lodging options. Partnering with a travel advisor can help further sweeten vacation packages and rates.
Aloha! When to Catch a Wave and Say Mahalo in Hawaii for Sun, Surf, and Savings - Save Big by Skipping School Holidays and Long Weekends
School's out, but that doesn't mean you have to pay premium prices on a Hawaiian getaway. Savvy sun seekers know timing trips to avoid major holidays and long weekends when demand skyrockets is one of the easiest ways to keep costs down island-wide.
Amanda W. from San Diego planned her inaugural family trip to Oahu during the second week of December this year. With her daughters on school break, airfare for the party of four was pushing $2,800. But after crunching costs on Mighty Travels Premium, Amanda discovered she could shave over $1,000 off flights by departing just after New Year's when fares routinely dip below $600 roundtrip from the West Coast.
"We decided to cut our vacation short by a few days so the girls wouldn't miss too much school," says Amanda. "It was totally worth it for huge savings. We took the money we saved on airfare and spent it on a luau, pearl harbor tour, and relaxing beachfront massages instead."
Marcus P. also opts to skip school holidays and head to Hawaii in early June or late August to avoid premium airline pricing. During spring break, rates for direct flights from Portland to Maui jump to $800 roundtrip per person. But Marcus has scored tickets under $500 by flying before Memorial Day and after the summer vacation rush.
"I don't have kids, so I have the flexibility to travel when it's cheaper and less crowded," Marcus says. "I'd rather be sipping Mai Tais on Ka'anapali Beach than draining my bank account!"
In 2019, Christine B. from Denver traveled to Kauai for a bachelorette celebration over Independence Day weekend. She was shocked when Economy class tickets topped $900. “It really hurt paying almost double what I normally budget for flights. But the group insisted we go when everyone was already off work.”
This year, Christine convinced the girls to move the reunion trip to late May. “It took some coordination, but the tickets dropped to under $500 a person. Now we can splurge on helicopter rides, snorkel cruises and fancy dinners without breaking the bank.”
Island locals like Honolulu resident Maile K. also suggest steering clear of long weekends to keep costs reasonable. Periods like Labor Day demand a premium price-wise, while deliver the same great weather and sights. “Any weekend from October through May is cheaper for flights, hotels, and activities,” she advises. “Then I get my favorite beaches and restaurants to myself!”
Avoiding school breaks does mean wrangling family schedules, getting time off work, and pulling kids out of class for a few days. But the financial savings are so substantial, it’s worth the planning effort. Be strategic like Amanda about the days missed to make the trip doable. Pack study materials to keep young minds sharp if you must travel during scheduled school time.
Aloha! When to Catch a Wave and Say Mahalo in Hawaii for Sun, Surf, and Savings - September Sunshine Minus the Crowds and Costs
Soaking up rays along the shores of Oahu or Maui is a breeze when you plan your island-hopping adventure for September. The summer crowds have vanished, airfares and hotel rates retreat from their summertime highs, and the weather is still heavenly.
I chatted with Karen S. from Los Angeles who planned her inaugural Hawaiian vacation for late September precisely to soak up the serenity. "I wanted to relax on the beach with a good book, not wrestle other tourists for umbrella space," she tells me. With roundtrip flights as low as $350 from the West Coast and hotels offering up to 35% off during September, Karen built in some indulgent spa treatments between snorkeling excursions.
Frequent Maui visitor Jeff P. also escapes to the Valley Isle every September to avoid primetime prices. During peak periods, rack rates at luxury resorts like the Andaz Maui push $700 a night. But Jeff has scored garden view suites for 20% off during his late summer stays. Those savings helped fund a helicopter tour over Haleakala and luau complete with indulgent cocktails. "With smaller crowds, resort amenities like the restaurants and pools feel more exclusive," he says.
Oahu teacher Leilani K. appreciates having world-famous Waikiki Beach practically to herself pre-holiday season when she plans "staycations" in September. "I can browse the high-end shops at Ala Moana Center at a leisurely pace, score last-minute reservations at prime restaurants like Morimoto's, and relax oceanside without dodging hordes of tourists," she tells me. Leilani also suggests taking advantage of shoulder season lodging deals to experience luxury hotels and resorts without draining your wallet.
Of course, the joy of no crowds and lower costs must be weighed against the potential for wet weather, particularly on Kauai and the Big Island during September. Visitors might experience passing showers and cloudier skies compared to the sunny days of July and August. Pack a light rain jacket and waterproof case for your camera or phone in case of rain. Check forecasts and move excursions to sunny mornings or afternoons if needed.
Aloha! When to Catch a Wave and Say Mahalo in Hawaii for Sun, Surf, and Savings - Max Out Miles for Flights to Avoid Peak Prices
Savvy travelers like Madison S. swear by leveraging airline miles and points to cover flights to Hawaii during prime travel periods. Though prices peak from December through March when snowbirds flock to the islands for sand and sun, you can avoid the premium pricing sting by maximizing your mileage.
Madison, who jets in from Minneapolis to Honolulu every winter, tells me “Using miles saves me hundreds on what I’d normally pay out of pocket during the holidays. Last December, flights were going for $800 roundtrip. But I only spent 15,000 CapitalOne points transferred to United MileagePlus to cover the route.”
To mimic her strategy, start by taking stock of points currently stashed across credit card and frequent flyer programs. Transferring balances between flexible point currencies can exponentially increase redemption value.
Check programs like American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points and CapitalOne to see how far your points stretch on United, Delta, Hawaiian Airlines and others serving the islands. Even 40,000 miles roundtrip can add up to huge savings.
New York City designer Rachel T. also leans on loyalty programs to subsidize Christmas vacations in Hawaii. “By opening new credit cards that offer hefty sign-up bonuses, I can earn 50,000, 60,000 points or more in a few months,” she reveals. Rachel prefers to earn with cards that accrue Chase Ultimate Rewards, which easily convert to United miles for award Hawaii flights.
Oahu kama’aina (local) Max K. strategically times new credit card applications to have miles in hand for summer visits with mainland friends and family. “I apply for bonuses early in the year before peak summer pricing hits,” Max advises. “That gives me months to meet minimum spends organically without worrying about interest or debt.”
No matter when you’re traveling to Hawaii, padding loyalty balances now will pay off in savings down the road. Consider applying for new airline co-branded credit cards six months pre-trip to give yourself time to earn. Meeting minimum spend organically instead of manufactured spending also helps control costs.
Though miles don’t expire, airlines do limit award seat availability. Once you have enough miles banked for an award ticket, book flights ASAP when the schedule opens to secure seats. Sign up for mileage program newsletters and check for Hawaii award availability frequently once you’re ready to redeem.
Aloha! When to Catch a Wave and Say Mahalo in Hawaii for Sun, Surf, and Savings - Hit the Waves During Wet Winter Months
While Hawaii enjoys mostly sunny skies year-round thanks to passing tropical showers, the winter months tend to see more consistent rainy and windy days especially on the northern shores. But adventurous surfers and water sports lovers know the wet winter weather brings an upside - big wave action and cooler ocean temperatures perfect for hitting the water.
Oahu resident Noah K. lives for winter swells, wiring into towering walls of water at legendary North Shore spots like Pipeline and Sunset Beach from November through February. “The massive sets challenge my skills and get the adrenaline pumping,” he tells me. Rain or shine, you’ll find him testing his mettle against thunderous winter waves.
On Maui, Georgia transplant Chris P. spends his winters paddling out at Honolua Bay when monstrous, up to 60-foot waves crash onto the cliffs and bay. “You have to carefully study the conditions and know your abilities,” Chris advises. “But the thrill can’t be beat when you catch one of those giants just right.”
During the winter, cooler ocean temperatures hovering in the mid 70s also make popular snorkeling spots like Hanauma Bay on Oahu more comfortable to explore. Oahu teacher Leilani K. suggests packing a shorty wetsuit and booties if swimming, surfing or snorkeling for long periods to stay comfortable.
The winter months also see humpback whales make their annual migration from Alaska to Hawaii's warm, sheltered waters to mate and birth calves. You'll spot whales in full force breaching, lob tailing and tendril slapping off island shores December through March. Holiday visitor Kali K. recommends a whale watching cruise out of Lahaina or Maalaea on Maui for almost guaranteed sightings. Or simply stroll with eyes peeled along any west or south facing beach on the islands during calm days.
While the chance of rain makes winter days better suited to ocean and indoor pursuits, periods of sun do emerge allowing time to tour Pearl Harbor on Oahu or view lava flows in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. Light precipitation also enhances the lush, emerald vistas as waterfalls swell. Just bring quality rain gear, waterproof covers for devices, and a flexible mindset.
"There are advantages to the wet winter weather if you embrace it," says Maui regular Jeff P. "Between discounted hotel rates and fewer crowds, I actually prefer island time in the winter."