If you’re considering a trip to Kauai during the winter months, you may be wondering what to expect from the island’s weather conditions.

You may or may not know that the weather in Kauai in winter can be precarious. There will be rain, and there may be surges and flooding. But there also could be glorious sunshine.

As someone who has visited Kauai during December and January and experienced severe weather conditions firsthand, I can attest to the importance of being prepared for all types of weather.

Puu Poa Beach with kids wearing snorkels in water and mountains and clouds behind - Kauai in winter

In this article, I will delve into Kauai’s winter weather patterns and provide insights on what you can expect during your visit.

I will discuss the best tours to take during the winter months and share tips on how to make the most of your time on the island.

Additionally, I will explore the best side of the island to stay on during the winter season and where to find the better weather conditions.

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler to Kauai, it’s always best to come prepared for all types of weather conditions. With this guide, you’ll have a better understanding of what to expect during your Kauai vacation in winter, and how to make the most of your time on this stunning island.

Kauai Weather

Haena beach with sunbathers on cloudy day - North Shore Kauai
Haena beach

To give you context, Kauai is easily the rainiest island in Hawaii. So, you should expect to see some rain no matter when you visit Kauai

There are no major Kauai seasons to be aware of like other countries may experience. But there is winter, which encompasses the rainy season, and there is summer

In terms of Kauai weather, summer in Kauai is from mid-May to mid-September, and the winter months are the rest of the year. 

You will not see a fall or spring in Kauai like you may recognise back home. The flowers are beautiful all year round. The excess rain in winter aids the growth of the beautiful flowers and plants around Kauai. These plants are how Kauai gets its name as being the Garden Isle. 

Kauai Winter Weather

Now to answer one of the most pressing questions – what is the weather in Kauai in winter? Even though it is called winter in Kauai, it does not mean there will be snow or freezing temperatures. 

The winter temperature in Kauai Hawaii is mild, but there will be more rain than the rest of the year.

How Cold Does It Get in Kauai in Winter?

Pu’u O Kila Lookout in Kokee Park Kauai
Pu’u O Kila

Year-round the temperature is pleasant. Even in December or January in Kauai, it will typically stay around 20 to 25 Celsius during the day (70 to 80 Fahrenheit).

The weather in Kauai in December when I visited was certainly a mixture.

It can be chillier in the mornings, particularly when it has rained all night. Therefore, it is wise to bring a thin layer to wear on top for this. Keep on reading to find out my recommended items to pack for winter in Kauai. 

Additionally, it can get colder at places like Kokee State Park. On a colder evening or morning, the temperature may drop as low as 15 to 18 Celsius (59 to 64 Fahrenheit)

When is Kauai Rainy Season?

Cloudy morning at Kipu Ranch with muddy puddles - Kauai

The rainy season in Kauai is usually from December to March. 

You will not be able to use weather apps that you normally would at home to check the forecast. When I used the iPhone weather app or the Weather Network app, it was wrong most of the time. 

Your best indication of the weather is looking outside at the sky and checking for dark clouds (although the sky can change quickly). You should also always bring your raincoat in the car with you in case of an unexpected downpour. 

Throughout my trip to Kauai, rain mostly fell overnight. I woke up tin the middle of the night to heavy rain, and even the occasional thunderstorm, several nights in a row.

The benefit of the overnight rain is that you can still do most of your activities as planned. However, after several days of rain in a row, the hiking trails can get extremely muddy and slippery. 

Read about things to do in Kauai in the rain.

Another advantage of rain overnight is that you will be less likely to be woken up by the noise of the infamous Kauai roosters. Learn what else Kauai is famous for in this article.

What To Do During Extreme Weather Warnings in Kauai?

Hanalei Bay Bridge water rising - Kauai in winter
Hanalei Bay Bridge

It is possible to experience extreme weather while in Kauai in winter. For example, heavy rain disrupted the first three days of my trip to Kauai in December. 

My Kalalau Trail reservation was cancelled (without refund) due to the rising stream levels after days of torrential rain overnight.

The Hanalei Bay Bridge also closed at times for a few days in a row due to the rising water levels. 

During these days of heavy rain, there were many severe weather warnings.

For example, the landline in our Princeville VRBO rental rang with an automated message to avoid all non-essential travel in Kauai North Shore. 

I also received an emergency alert on my phone with a similar message advising that the Kuhio Highway in Hanalei may close on short or no notice.

It would have been a bad situation if the road connecting Princeville and Hanalei closed while we were in Hanalei and we could not get back. As a result, we waited out the weather and had a relaxing morning at home.

There are several websites you can use to check when the weather warnings end. 

You can also use the Hanalei River app to monitor the level of water on the Hanalei Bay River and bridge. 

Is December/January a Good Time to Go to Kauai?

Decorated Christmas Tree in Grand Hyatt Kauai in December
Christmas Tree in Grand Hyatt Kauai

If you are travelling to Kauai in December or January, you will love it. It is a wonderful place to escape the winter that has taken over in many countries.

Even though the weather is not as warm as you will see in Kauai’s summer, it will likely be much warmer than where you are coming from

Kauai is a great place to spend December and January, whether you are visiting for Christmas, New Year, or a winter escape. You can rent a large home and visit with your family and experience Kauai together.

It was my first time in a warm destination during the festive season, so it was funny to see Christmas decorations with palm trees.

One of the main benefits of a winter visit is whale watching in Kauai from December to March. You can see whales from the Na Pali boat tours in winter. 

Book your Na Pali Coast tour for a chance to see whales in Kauai.

When visiting Kauai in December or January, you should ensure you have the right expectations of your time in Kauai. Compared to the other Hawaiian Islands, Kauai is relatively calm. There are no late-night bars or crazy parties, so expect it to be a peaceful holiday. 

There are few places open until midnight on New Year’s, it will likely be a chilled evening to bring in the New Year.

Hanalei Bay beach at sunset with view of palm trees
Hanalei Bay

The focus of Kauai is waking up early with the roosters because you cannot avoid them. Most restaurants close early too, so you will eat dinner and then go home to sleep. 

Aside from the weather in Kauai during winter, there are other considerations to be aware of. Traveling to Kauai in December is extremely popular among families wishing to get away for the festive period.

Therefore, car rentals can sell out well in advance and drive up the price enormously. Plus, hotel and accommodation prices are higher than usual in December and early January.

You need to rent a car to properly explore Kauai. I recommend booking a vehicle with Hawaii Discount Rental Cars for the best price. 

Outdoor Kauai Activities in Winter

Kayaking on Wailua River Kauai with palm trees
Wailua River

Visiting Kauai in December or January does not necessarily mean you will miss out on any activities. However, you should be careful with how you plan your itinerary in Kauai, especially if you are only have 3 days to spend in Kauai.

Schedule your activities early in your trip, with a few free days at the end in case you need to reschedule something. 

Here are some things to do in Kauai in winter and what you need to know to make them a success.

Boat Tours

Calm seas at Na Pali Coast Kauai from boat tour
Na Pali Coast

Na Pali Coast boat tours will only go ahead if it is safe to be on the water.

You may not find out that your boat tour has been cancelled until a couple of hours before the start time. Therefore, keep your phone turned on so you can check your emails for any updates. 

In winter, Na Pali Coast boat tours only depart from Port Allen, which is a far drive from the North Shore of Kauai. Consequently, I recommend you stay in the south or west for the portion of your trip when you want to do the boat tour.

Staying in the South or West means you do not have to leave too early to get to the boat tour. Plus, if you decide to explore Waimea Canyon before or after, you do not have far to travel back home. 

Whale watching is one of the best things to do in Kauai in December and it can be done on a Na Pali Coast boat tour. Consider booking a Sunset Na Pali Coast boat tour such as this one.

Helicopter Tours 

Similar to boat tours, helicopter excursions in Kauai will only go ahead if weather conditions are good. Therefore, you should have a few date options to move the helicopter tour if needed. 

ATV Excursion

Kipu Ranch in the clouds - Kauai in Winter
Kipu Ranch

The good thing about an ATV or off-road experience is that the vehicles are supposed to cope with treacherous conditions.

I booked Kipu Ranch’s Ultimate Kauai Off-Road Tour and I was advised that the tours go ahead rain or shine

You should wear a raincoat and other dark clothing underneath that are not too precious because you will get wet and muddy. Alternatively, you can purchase a poncho at Kipu Ranch. 

Even though it had been raining all night, our excursion still went ahead as planned without any hitches. 

Beaches

Shipwreck Beach in winter - surfer and sunbathers Kauai
Shipwreck Beach in winter

When it has rained many days in a row, the water turns brown in the sea and rivers in Kauai. It means it is too dangerous to swim because you can get sick from the bacteria in the water.

Even though it may be sunny outside, avoid swimming for a few days. Particularly in the water near river mouths.

For those wondering where to swim in Kauai in winter, I suggest Anini Beach, in the north. It is one of the best Kauai beaches in winter because there is calm water for swimming and snorkelling. Lydgate Beach Park, in east Kauai, is another option for a winter swim.

Hanalei Bay Beach is great because there are other things to do in the area. Even if you show up and the weather is bleak, you can still enjoy some of the local establishments. Read this article for my favourite restaurants in Kauai.

Otherwise, you can check out the south shore beaches.

Poipu Beach Park is another beach with plenty of restaurants, shops, and convenient food outlets nearby. Poipu Beach also has relatively gentle waters suitable for swimmers and families. 

Read about other activities in Poipu here.

Avoid swimming at Shipwreck Beach in winter because the waves are dangerously large. 

Waterfalls

Even though Kauai needs rain to create its powerful waterfalls, if it has been raining for a while in Kauai, you should avoid going out of your way to visit waterfalls. The falls will likely be brown and not as attractive as you would like. 

Hiking

Secret Falls excursion - walking along hiking trail on wooden planks Kauai
Secret Falls route

I could not hike as much as I had wanted in Kauai in January due to the rain at the beginning of my trip.

It rained for several days in a row, so we avoided the hiking trails as they would be too muddy. 

The best time to go hiking in Kauai is when the trails have had time to dry out for a few days (no overnight rain either).

We managed to kayak along the Wailua River and hike to the Secret Falls on our last day and it was not too slippery. 

Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail is a good trail to hike in winter given it mostly goes along a sandy path.

Best Side of Kauai to Stay on in Winter 

Grand Hyatt Kauai hotel lobby with sea view and orchids

One of the best places to stay in Kauai in winter is Poipu on the South Shore. There is typically better weather on the south of the island.

I recommend staying in Grand Hyatt Resort and Spa in Kauai

The North Shore is the rainier part of Kauai, so it is not one of the better places to stay in winter for the weather. However, it is still an impressive place to stay and visit, even in the rain. 

There are plenty of holiday rentals on the North Shore with space for your whole group to spread out. Although, remember that I mentioned the bridge to Hanalei can close in inclement weather. So, you may want to avoid booking accommodation in Hanalei and opt for Princeville instead. 

Read my article on where to stay in Kauai for advantages and disadvantages of each side of Kauai. You will also find my review on Grand Hyatt Kauai. 

What to Pack for Kauai in Winter?

I used several items every day during my Kauai winter vacation. I will outline these and recommend specific products to you. 

Continue reading to find out what to pack for Kauai in winter.

Waterproof Walking Boots

Wearing hiking boots at Secret Falls Kauai
Wearing hiking boots at Secret Falls

There is a lot of rain and red mud in Kauai in winter. Leave your white sneakers at home because you do not want to ruin them. 

If you do bring any sneakers or trainers, I suggest packing an older, dark-coloured pair.

Waterproof walking boots are best for hiking muddy trails and rainy paths. Plus, you do not have to worry about ruining them as they are very sturdy.

I own Merrell walking boots and they have travelled with me to Scotland and Hawaii. They are suitable for all terrains, and I cannot recommend them enough.

Check out my Merrell walking boots here

Light Rain Jacket

Wearing raincoat on Hanalei Bay Beach Kauai
Wearing raincoat on Hanalei Bay Beach

As you know, the temperature in Kauai in winter will be mild. Therefore, you do not want any thick jackets because you will get too hot. 

Pack a reliable, light rain jacket that you can fold up tightly. Darker colour raincoats are better in case you flick mud onto your back. 

I have a North Face rain jacket and it fits so well and keeps me dry. 

Click here to see the North Face rain jacket

I recently purchased an Arcteryx raincoat, which is really thin – like a shell. It would have been great for using in Kauai when it rained.

Baseball Cap

Kalalau lookout Kauai - wearing nike cap

After reading this article, you know that there will still be some sun in Kauai in winter, so you should still pack warm weather gear. 

A baseball cap helps keep the rain and sun off your face. I bring my Nike cap on every vacation – it is fail-safe. Buy a Nike cap here.

Long-Sleeved Layer

Wearing long sleeve top on Na Pali Coast boat tour Kauai

It is always a good idea to bring a long-sleeved layer with you in case there is an unexpected drop in temperature. There were a few chilly mornings (relatively speaking) where my long-sleeved layer came in handy. 

Plus, some Kauai activities require long sleeves, such as Kipu Ranch. Therefore, I suggest you pack a lightweight, dark-coloured, long-sleeved top – bonus points if it is exercise material and breathable. 

I brought my Women’s HeatGear® Armour Long Sleeve with me and it is such a versatile item of clothing for travel and sport. 

Restaurants on Kauai in Winter

Food trucks in Kapaa Kauai (closed in winter sign)

I wanted to make a brief section on restaurants in Kauai in winter since I had some observations from my trip in January 2022. 

A handful of restaurants close in January for some well-deserved time off. Some would shut from late December to early January, or take the majority of January off. Therefore, you may not be able to visit some food establishments during your trip.

Many food trucks in Wailua/Kapaa were closed for January during my visit. Zoom in on the adjacent image to see Al Pastor Tacos’s closed sign.

Also, the heavy rainfall can affect the restaurant/food truck’s ability to open – particularly in Hanalei Bay. When the Hanalei Bridge closes for a few hours, the food trucks do not tend to open for the rest of the day, even if the bridge reopens.

As a result, if you have a handful of food trucks you would like to try, if you see it open when you pass, go for it. I wanted to try some doughnuts from Holey Grail Donuts, but it was closed during the latter part of my time in Hanalei Bay. I wished I had gone earlier in the week when they were open.

When is the Best Time to Visit Kauai, Hawaii?

If you want to see Hawaiian Humpback Whales, you should visit Kauai from December to April. However, this also falls during the rainy season, so you must pick a priority.

Winter is the best time to go to Kauai for expert surfers because there are huge waves. Summer is the best time to visit for those who want to swim in calm waters or learn to surf.

After the rainy season in April to June is a great time to visit. This period is before the crowds come to Kauai, there is less rain, and there is some enjoyable heat.

Conversely, September to November is another good time to visit Kauai because it is after the busy summer and before the rainy and main winter season begins.

As I previously mentioned, mid-May is the start of summer. Therefore, if you want to narrow it down further, I believe the best time to visit Kauai Island is from May to the end of June.

FAQs for Winter in Kauai

What is Kauai like in the winter?

Kauai is wild and rugged, and equally as beautiful in winter as it is in summer.

You will certainly experience more rain when visiting Kauai in winter, plus there may be some weather disruptions, but it is still worth visiting.

Is Kauai cold in winter?

To people visiting Kauai in winter from destinations like Canada or the UK, Kauai will feel warm. But to people who are expecting heat, the island of Kauai will experience cooler temperatures during its winter months than its summer months.

Is Christmas a good time to visit Hawaii?

Christmas is a wonderful time to be in Kauai, Hawaii, even though the celebrations may feel different to how you celebrate back home. It will be a Christmas you never forget.

Many tours and restaurants are still open on 25th December in Kauai, so make sure to organise ahead so you have a special way to spend the day. Alternatively, you can cook yourself a Christmas meal and spend the day outdoors.

Can you swim in Kauai in December, January or February?

It is possible to swim in Kauai in December/January/February, but make sure the conditions are safe. Avoid swimming in the water after heavy rainfall due to risk of bacteria or increased shark attacks.

Some of the better beaches for swimming in Kauai in winter are along the East and South Shore.

Which side of Kauai is best in winter?

There are perks to staying on all sides of the island in Kauai, but the weather is typically better on the south side of the island; for example – Poipu area.

Further Reading

For an overview and all my main travel tips on Kauai, read my Kauai Travel Guide here.

Here are my other Kauai articles:

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