While we may not be “dreaming of a white Christmas,” Hawaiʻi locals are still very fond of the winter season. Say goodbye to those winter boots and frumpy jackets (but probably keep an umbrella handy), because winter in Hawaiʻi is all about surf, sun, celebrations…and a few sprinkles every now and then. Need more convincing? Here are eight very good reasons to enjoy a winter reprieve in paradise.
1. See big surf up close
The winter months are heaven-sent to surfers in Hawaiʻi. During this thrilling season, pros and amateurs alike grab their boards and head out to sea to catch monstrous waves only generated during the chilly winter months. The highlight of the season is the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, the world’s premier professional surfing competition on Oʻahu’s famed North Shore. If you’ve never witnessed big surf swells before, you won’t believe your eyes as the pros compete in this coveted surfing tournament. PC: HTA / Tor Johnson.
2. Spot Humpback whales
Another aquatic adventure? Searching for Humpback whales! Every winter Hawaiʻi’s favorite ocean visitors travel thousands of miles from Alaska’s frigid oceans to our islands’ warm waters for a well-deserved vacation. During their brief stopover (oh how we wish they’d stay all year!), humpbacks feed, breed and nurse their young, all while taking some time to frolick and play to the delight of our observant eyes. You can spot these massive marine mammals along the shores of all of the Hawaiian Islands, though they’re especially prevalent in the ʻAuʻau Channel, and along ʻOahu, Kauaʻi and the Kohala coasts. For a memorable experience, opt for a whale watching cruise! PC: Holo Holo Charters.
3. Push your limits during the fourth largest marathon in the US
Hawaiʻi is also a paradise for athletes looking to test their limits during the annual Honolulu Marathon. Every December, thousands of people from around the world flock to Oʻahu to tackle the famed 26.2-mile course. Open to amateurs and pro runners alike, the Honolulu Marathon begins at Ala Moana Boulevard and shuffles participants through downtown Honolulu, Waikīkī, Kahala and Hawaiʻi Kai before passing through Diamond Head again and concluding in Kapiʻolani Park. No other marathon can beat the Honolulu Marathon’s pristine ocean views, tropical climate and historic sites.
4. Watch cherry blossoms bloom
The gradual blooming of Hawaiʻi’s cherry blossoms is a breathtaking sight. These rich canopies of mingling pink and white hues cast a wondrous shade over Oʻahu and the Big Island’s streets, parks and sidewalks. You can spot cherry blossoms painting the sky in color in Waimea on the Big Island and Wahiawā on Oʻahu. The Big Island is also home to the annual Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival, where the region’s historic Church Row Park cherry trees come alive in spirited shades of pink, fuchsia and magenta.
5. Wet weather means amazing waterfalls
Here’s where you may need that jacket and umbrella—winter in Hawaiʻi means rain, and sometimes lots of it. But don’t let the drizzles get you down, because once the rain passes, picturesque waterfalls appear like magic. The sight of waterfalls cascading over steep rocks and ridges is one of our favorite views in Hawaiʻi, and a great place to spot them is draped along the majestic Koʻolau mountain range, always decorated in ribbons of waterfalls after a passing storm. PC: HTA / Tor Johnson.
6. ‘Tis the season to enjoy uniquely Hawaiian holiday celebrations
Only in Hawaiʻi does Santa Claus paddle along Waikiki Beach in an outrigger canoe. This is just one of many holiday traditions unique to this side of paradise. Escaping to Kauaʻi? Catch the famed Kauaʻi Festival of Lights with brilliant displays up for most of December. Ringing in the holidays on Oʻahu? You can’t miss the Honolulu City Lights, anchored by a 50-foot tall Christmas tree lit by the mayor on opening night. There are festive celebrations with distinctive Hawaiian twists on Maui and the Big Island too—check out our events page to learn more.
7. Chinese New Year follows closely behind
Following a bustling holiday season, Chinese New Year is celebrated annually from mid-January through mid-February. Embraced by the Chinese community and general public alike, Chinese New Year means festive celebrations, beating drums and gongs, delicious cultural eats and good fortunate wafting in the air. Festivals and parades take place across the Hawaiian Islands, all of which are marked by traditional lion and dragon dancing, popping fireworks, Kung Fu exhibitions and authentic Chinese cuisine.
8. No matter the season, you’ll always find views like this
There’s a reason why they call this paradise.
Looking for more reasons to visit Hawaiʻi in winter? Pick up a copy of #ThisWeekMagazine for info on winter events, activities and attractions!