Surf seasons and when to go
The best time of the year to surf in Hawaii
The main source of swell here is from the intense lows that circle the earth south of Australia, these lows spin off northwards with blessed regularity, peppering the entire region with generous SE to SW groundswell from March to September. Australia and New Zealand see the bulk of these swells. These countries cast a very tall shadow across the rest of the Pacific and hence many other islands in their wake can suffer from swell difusion. December to February is cyclone season. Unpredictable cells can deliver swell in a 360 radius, lighting up rarely breaking reefs and points facing every conceivable direction.
The South Pacific trade winds are some of the most consistent in the world, generally from the East with slight seasonal variation. This is the largest Ocean on the planet and these winds easily generate regular rideable swell. Onshore conditions can be a problem on east facing coastlines but peeling yourself out for an early surf will usually bring some relief.
In the North Pacific it is the intense lows descending from the Aleutians that deliver NE to NW swells from October to March. Hawaii is ideally placed to make best use of this energy but other coastlines in the region have their own less publicised and far less crowded gems.
Jun to October also sees rarer hurricane swell radiate out from southern Mexico. This energy is often felt right throughout Polynesia. With so many energy vectors at work it is very hard not to find a wave in Hawaii, just make sure you find something customised for your own skill, experience and level of surf fitness.
Thought to be the birthplace of surfing and a mecca for all surfers who should, at least once in a lifetime, visit here to see what it’s all about.
The Summer season of only five months is the warmer season with trade winds dominating. Average wind speeds are the highest during this period when speeds are 10-20 knots north-easters. Precipitation is rare, occurring mainly at night along the windward coasts and higher elevations, and so this is the drier season in terms of average monthly rainfall, except on the Kona Coast (leeward coast) of the Island of Hawaii. Monthly mean air temperature ranges between 25°C to 27°C.
Winter is also characterised by north-east to east trade winds but to a much lesser extent than summer. These winds are cross to offshore on the North Shore of Oahu and help to turn on epic conditions. Major storm systems associated with fronts occur during this time of year bringing heavy rain and strong winds but are not as intense as those of the mid-latitudes. Air temperatures are slightly cooler at 24°C to 26°C, and the trade winds are often interrupted by other winds that see an increase in cloudiness and shower activity. Also at this time of year, a south-westerly wind called the Kona Wind can form and bring more widespread and prolonged precipitation than in a cold-front storm. However winds from this direction also make other surf spots, normally onshore, an option.
Annual surf conditions
Air and sea temprature in Hawaii
Hawaii surf travel guide
The best time of the year to surf in Hawaii
Hawaii is an archipelago of several islands across 1500 miles located nearly in the centre of the pacific ocean and marks the northeastern corner of Polynesia. It is the 50th state of the US and Honolulu is the capital and largest city of the group of islands. Its situation is on a hot spot of volcanic action and the newer islands are still growing.
Its religion is as diverse as its population, the largest percentage being Christian at 28.9% followed by Buddhist at 9% and then several other followings such as Hawaiian, Jewish, Druid, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Scientologist making up the remainder.
The main Language of Hawaii is Hawaiian Creole English, often referred to as Pidgin English, followed by Tagalog (Wikang Filipino) and Japanese.
The most prominent feature of the circulation of air across the tropical Pacific is the persistent North East trade-wind flow which is the outflow of air from the Pacific Anticyclone which forms part of the subtropical region of high pressure, which is typically located well north and east of the Hawaiian Island Chain. As the ridge moves north and south with the sun reaching its northern-most position in the Hawaii summer from May to September when the trades are prevalent almost all of the time. From October through April, the main zone of the trades is located south of Hawaii, but still affect the islands much of the time, though with less frequency. Air temperature is largely dependent on solar radiation and shows a daily variation range of less than 10 °C in the Hawaiian Islands. Seasonal variation is strongly ameliorated by the marine influence on the climate.
Much like Hawaii’s culture the cuisine here is a medley of different tastes from around the world fused together, with main influences from traditional Hawaiian, Portuguese, American, Japanese and Asian Pacific flavours. Local specialities include fruit such as fresh pineapple, mango, bananas and local coffee grown on the Big Island as well as fresh fish and beef from the cattle ranches of Maui.
A typical Hawaiian meal is known as a ‘Plate Lunch’ and may consist of fresh meat or fish along with a couple of scoops of rice and a macaroni salad. Also worth keeping an eye out for is the traditional Polynesian imu pit oven feast. This is a sunken oven in the ground heated with glowing volcanic stones and used to cook a whole pig along with maybe fish and veg – delicious!
The largest shopping centre in Hawaii is the Ala Moana Centre in Honolulu, it has over 200 stores of all the top brand names in fashion wear as well as shops selling all the traditional Hawaiian shirts you want to look truly snazzy in front of your mates upon return home
You’ll also find the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Centre in Waikiki has many more designer outlets as well jewelry stores and souvenir shops so you can shop til your hearts content.
Searching for entertainment in Hawaii? In addition to the traditional luaus and hula shows, Hawaii has a thriving scene of art, theatre, concerts, clubs, bars, and other events and entertainment.
What to do when it’s flat
If the surf does go completely flat then you’re pretty unlucky, however, there are still a myriad of activities to amuse yourself and fend off the flat day blues in Hawaii. These islands are home to some of the finest dive sites in the world offering all manner of in-your-face tropical fish, turtles, corals etc and if you’re not qualified to scuba dive then the snorkelling can be just as good and a fraction of the price.
Kayaking is also very popular in Hawaii and a great way to explore the coastline and seek out potential ‘secret surf spots’. You can also go fishing with one of many charter companies as well as hike, bike, and horse ride – or even go skydiving and hang gliding for the most daring of you. You certainly won’t get bored.