From the balmy Waikiki strip to the golf villas of Princeville, everyone knows about the most happening places in this island state. Then there are the most beautiful corners of the archipelago, from the dramatic Waimea Canyon to the jungle-tufted Na Pali Coast. But what about the warmest places in Hawaii? What about the spots where the mercury cranks skywards and there’s usually oodles of Vitamin D to fuel a vacation of sun seeking?
That’s what we focus on in this guide. Hopping from the lush rainforests of the Garden Isle that is Kauai to the wave-splattered coves of Maui, and – of course – over to the hottest rock of the lot, Big Island, we’ll home in on the places where you can all but guarantee soaring Fahrenheit counts and plenty of heat. Some of the spots are lesser-known escapes off the tourist trail. Others are super popular with beach bums and surfers.
Readers should always be aware that the warmest places in Hawaii are at their hottest during the peak vacation season of the summer. The thermometers will gradually creep upwards as the months progress, usually hitting a zenith in August, when it’s not uncommon for it to push past 90 F (32 C) at midday. Bring the sunscreen!
Ask any aloha local about the places with the best weather in the Hawaiian chain and the city of Kahului is likely to be mentioned. The spot is widely considered to have the most pleasant combo of sunshine and warmth of any in the state. It’s located on the north side of the island of Maui, enfolded by the rugged ridges of the West Maui Forest Reserve to the west and the frothing waves of Kahului Bay to the north.
Okay, so the “most pleasant” climate hardly makes it worthy of being listed among the warmest places in Hawaii. But, then again, you’re looking at a temperature range that stays neatly between 71-80 F no matter the time of the year, with up to 25 days in the calendar that peak over 90 F – those are some seriously sweat inducing numbers!
The good news is that Kahului Bay is kissed by almost unceasing easterly trade winds, which do help temper things just a touch. Plus, you’ve got the shaded paths of the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens to stroll through, where you can dodge the sun’s rays between thickets of bamboo forest and giant orchid plants. Or there are the nearby beaches, from the windsurf mecca of Kanaha Beach Park to the wild, windy Baldwin Beach.
Pahala, Big Island
Pahala is the official warmest place in Hawaii. Yep – this spot recorded the highest ever temperature seen in the Aloha State. It was back in April 1931, when a pinnacle of 100 F (37.7 C) was notched up by the local weather stations. That’s a whole 88 F more than the lowest temperature ever taken on Big Island, which happened to be just down the road from Pahala itself, on the soaring summit of the local volcano some 14,000 feet above sea level.
So, what’s there to enjoy in the balmy temperatures here? We don’t think you should be allowed to leave without dropping by the incredible Punaluu Black Sand Beach. One of the most gorgeous black-sand beaches in the territory, it’s a powdery run of graphite sand with a scrawling of sea grapes and rows of palm trees just behind. Pahala is also home to the Wood Valley Temple, one of the largest Buddhist shrines in Hawaii.
It’s precisely because of the soaring temperatures here that Pahala has a long history of cultivation. The town was once the gateway to one of the largest sugarcane plantations in the region, which spanned thousands of hectares at its height after being founded in the 1850s. More recently, Pahala has emerged as one of the top coffee-growing areas on Big Island – there’s even a local plantation that roasts its own beans, a must for caffeine afficionados.
Kohala Coast, Big Island
The Kohala Coast is one of the remotest and most disconnected parts of the Big Island. It pokes out of the northern shores into the Maui Channel, roughly an hour’s drive up the famous 19 highway from the main resort strips of the western shore. Despite not being a major player on the travel playlist of Hawaii, the region is nonetheless gorgeous. It’s all hidden beaches backed by high rock cliffs, secret surf spots, and headlands with 270-degree views of the Pacific Ocean.
The reason the Kohala Coast makes it onto this list of the warmest places in Hawaii is really down to its western haunch. That’s among the driest and most arid parts of the whole state, made so by the rain shadow that’s cast by the inland mountains. You can even see the phenomenon on the map – one side is lush and verdant, the other is beige, brown and dusty. The dip in rainfall, which hits just 10 inches each year, means that there’s rarely any H2O falling from the skies to cool things down, so days stay warm from December to December.
Thankfully, there are some lovely spots to head to when it’s time to cool off. Check out the Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area. There, a 600-meter run of white sand slopes into a perfectly azure ocean. Just north is Kauna’oa Beach, another stunner that’s famed for its shallow sand bay and dashes of snorkeling reefs.
Beautiful Poipu certainly isn’t a secret. Welcome to the holiday mecca of Kauai. Centered on its namesake beach, the area runs along a section of shoreline on the south coast that’s one stretch of paradise sand after another. The whole thing is now colonized by lovely shoreline hotels and surf shacks, with the highlights coming at turtle-spotted Poipu Beach and Kiahuna Beach, where big coconut trees cast shade over yellow-tinged powder.
They call it Kauai’s Sunny South Shore because it gets way less rainfall than other sectors of the island. Plus, it’s warm down here, with thermometers usually reading over 86 F from May onwards. Despite it being dry compared to Maui’s northern coast, we’d still recommend planning a trip for the peak season, which typically starts in April and lasts until August – average rainfall is under the 2.4 inch mark then, two thirds of what it is during the winter.
As for things to do, simply lazing down by the lapping waves is usually activity numero uno. Those who take some time away from the beaches will be rewarded with walks through the leafy arboretum of the Allerton Garden, which sprouts colossal cottonwood trees. There’s also the award-winning Kiahuna Golf Club, where 18 holes of manicured fairways roll beneath the volcanic hills – just expect to fork out over $130 in green fees!
Salt-in-their-hair surfers and lovers of all things classic beaches will be pleased to see that Waikiki caps off this list of the warmest places in Hawaii. The spot is nothing short of legendary on the line up of vacation destinations in Aloha. It’s been a resort since the days of the Hawaiian royalty, back some 400 years ago. That trend continues on today, along a whole run of conch-shell beaches that are backed by big resort hotels with pools and cocktail joints.
A recent heat map taken in the height of the summer season in Oahu found that this famous R&R mecca was actually smack dab in the middle of the hottest zone on the island. Temperature ratings of the asphalt in the area measured well above 100 F, and the air temperature notched up around the 95 F mark. That’s downright blazing, and we can only imagine just how thankful the locals were to have the soothing waters of Kuhio Beach and Fort DeRussy on the doorstep.
Thing is, a trip to Waikiki is sort of Hawaii 101. It’s a must for first-time visitors and a great place to begin your trip around the land of aloha. Drop in, surf some waves (the locals here are some of the more welcoming folk in the state), enjoy shopping and artisan coffees under the palms of Kalakaua Avenue, and then head out, hopefully with a decent base tan for the trip.
The warmest places in Hawaii – our conclusion
The warmest places in Hawaii are largely on Big Island. That’s because that southerly member of the aloha chain is officially the hottest of the bunch. The highest air temperature was recorded in those parts way back in the 1930s in the town of Pahala, which saw the thermometers scorch past 100 F.
Big Island also hosts some of the other warmest places in Hawaii, in the form of the dry and dusty Kohala Coast in the north, where there’s hardly a drop of rainfall throughout the year. You should also find that the vacation mecca of Waikiki and the famous holidaying hotspot of Poipu Beach are pretty darn warm, with regular temperature highs in the 90s.