Summer’s over, meaning kids go back to school, college starts its fall semester, and the heat finally relents after months of sweat.
It also means that one of the peak travel times has passed, and everyone goes back to work to bide their time until the winter holidays.
In general, there are less people traveling worldwide, and especially to Hawaii.
Here’s a guide on how you can take advantage of that.
When is “off-season”?
In general, Hawaii’s off-season is in late winter (January to early March), late spring (late April to early June), and fall (September to mid-December).
Different people will give you different answers as to when off-season really is, mostly because of how complicated and unpredictable travel and travel-related trends can be.
In addition, each place has it’s own off-season, and most (like Hawaii) have multiple times of year that are considered off-season.
Lastly, some people also refer to off-seasons as “low seasons,” “trough times,” or a variety of other terms that are unique to specific tourist destinations.
For our purposes, I’m using the term “off-season” to refer to the less busy times of the year—note that I said “less busy” rather than “empty” or “quiet.”
Compared to a lot of other tourist destinations, Hawaii is always busy.
With that in mind, every time I describe a trend or pattern just understand that any statements will be relative rather than absolute.
So, relatively speaking, the above listed times are much less busy because you avoid the many travelers visiting during their winter holidays, spring breaks, and summer vacations.
So why come in the off season?
Great minds think alike, but geniuses are one-of-a-kind.
While the busy seasons are busy for good reasons—climate, holidays, convenience—a major drawback is that you’re often competing with other travelers for rates, deals, and in some cases personal space.
It’s hard to enjoy a beautiful Hawaiian sunset when there’s a throng of tourists in front of you, clamoring to upload their newest instagram post.
A romantic dinner cruise can be made somewhat… less romantic by the presence of crying babies and screaming toddlers, here during a family summer trip.
Perhaps the most compelling argument to travel in the off-season is that you can skip the crowds.
The summer traveling season is generally understood to last from early June to the end of August—the part of the year where there are a lot of families and young adults taking advantage of the summer break.
In general, this means that Hawaii’s major tourist destinations become fairly packed with large groups of visitors that are just itching to see and do everything they can before summer’s over.
Beginning in September, however, these large groups leave their tropical paradise and migrate back home, leaving tourist destinations much less crowded than they are during the summer.
Likewise, the winter holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s attract many visitors, including “snowbirds”: travelers that fly to Hawaii from colder winter climates.
This period during the winter is easily the busiest time of year for travel worldwide, and Hawaii is no exception.
Between the winter holidays and spring break, however, the travel dies down significantly, making it a great time to escape both the crowds and the coldest months of the year.
In general, if you want to avoid the crowds, think of all your major holidays and convenient times to travel… and avoid them like the plague.
Market forces dictate that as demand decreases, prices must go down to account for the surplus of supply.
In the off season, this takes effect as hotel and airline companies lower their prices due to the decreased volume of people traveling.
Compared to traveling in October (the off-est of off-season months), buying a plane ticket during the summer would be one-and-a-half times as expensive, and taking a flight at the end of December would cost more than twice as much.
When you consider that this price trend also applies to hotel accommodations, you’ll find the convenience of traveling during major holidays will cost you in cold, hard cash.
On the flip side, it means that things are a lot cheaper in the off-season, there’s less competition for plane seats and hotel rooms, and you’ll find everything to be less crowded than in the busy times of year.
Govisithawaii.com, an amazing resource for anyone who’s considering visiting Hawaii, produced this awesome infographic on Hawaii hotel trends, including the following line graph that should give you an idea on hotel pricing per season:
Check out their website for more, Sheila and Andy have a ton of information on visiting the islands, and they’ve been here too many times to count.
In addition, many hotel, airline, and tour companies also offer discounts and special deals to stimulate business during the off-season, so be on the lookout for bargains that may suddenly pop up.
Off-season flights, as mentioned earlier, are normally half the cost of those at Christmas, but airline companies often make last-minute deals on flights to fill up seats when they aren’t busy.
Likewise, hotels offer lower rates on accommodations so they can stay in the black during the less busy months.
Same goes for tours, activities, and any other business that relies on volume: in the off-season, more deals pop up to encourage people to travel.
Of course, Hawaii’s weather is always great if you’re coming from somewhere with six feet of snow or 100-degree summers.
Climate-wise, there isn’t really a “bad” time to visit Hawaii.
However, summer travelers will be shocked at how easy it is to get sunburned in Hawaii, even if it doesn’t feel very hot.
Hawaii has a high ultraviolet index because of its location close to the equator, where the UV rays from the sun are more intense.
In the summer, Earth’s tilt puts Hawaii even closer to the sun, giving us some intense, direct, UV rays, even if it doesn’t go over 90° F.
While you might not feel the heat when you’re out and about, you’ll definitely feel it later on when your skin turns red and sensitive.
Summer travelers need to apply sunscreen religiously, as the dry months rarely offer cloud cover from the sun’s intense rays.
Winter travelers, on the other hand, have a whole different set of problems to deal with.
First off, winters in Hawaii are wet.
This is great for the various tropical plants in the island that require constant rain to stay alive, and residents often notice how much greener everything is in the winter.
It’s not so great for, as an example, any visitors that want to spend a day at the beach, go out on a cruise, or do a leisurely hike.
Don’t trust the forecasts, either, as Hawaii weather can be unpredictable, fickle, and sudden.
Just because you see clear skies in the morning doesn’t mean it will stay that way in the afternoon, and just because it’s dry in one area doesn’t mean it isn’t raining in another.
Winter is also prime surfing time for Hawaii residents and visitors, because the waves are much bigger, especially on the North Shore, but it isn’t so safe for swimmers.
In fact, the overall ocean conditions become much rougher in the winter, with larger waves, strong ocean currents, and sudden storms.
The spring and fall months offer a perfect balance between the two seasons, offering occasional rainfall (referred to as “passing showers”), warm temperatures, and an all-around milder climate.
The sun will still be around, but with lesser intensity, while occasional clouds will grant you brief respites and perhaps drizzle on you a bit.
The water will still be fairly warm from the summer and there will be waves, but nothing nearly as dangerous as what winters are like.
The variable weather also has its advantages: while the weather overall isn’t hot or wet, individual areas might see more sun and rain than others.
So if you don’t like the weather where you are, you can just drive somewhere else for a change of climate!
Chances are, if you’re not planning to visit during any major holidays, you’re more flexible as to when you’re willing to travel.
An adjustable travel schedule allows you one major benefit: the freedom to bargain-hunt.
Instead of planning a week of travel and hoping for deals on that day, you can search for specials first, then plan your trip around any discounts you might find.
You’ll be shocked at how much money you can save bargain-hunting for special deals on flights, hotels, and even tours at any off-season destination.
Obviously, these specials won’t happen during busy times of the year or major holidays when everyone and their aunt decides to travel.
However, there’s no way of telling exactly when these deals will pop up, so deal-savvy travelers will have to keep their eyes open and their schedules flexible.
And that’s a major strength of traveling off-season that many people overlook: you decide when it’s best to travel instead of being constrained to a calendar.
Summer’s over: will you be traveling this fall? Do you have any other questions about traveling in the off-season? Let us know in the comments!