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Planning a visit to Kauai? We regularly add news and information about events, activities, and places to see on The Garden Isle.

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Sheila Heathcote has lived in Hawaii since 1986. She's a published author on the topic of Kauai and the owner of Hale O Nanakai Bed & Breakfast.

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Thursday
Dec162010

A Year 'Round Guide to Hawaii's Weather and Ocean Conditions

,What is Hawaii’s weather like in the winter? Not much different than in the summer! Year ‘round our daily temperatures – especially on Kauai – run in the low to mid 80s (F.) in the day time, and drop to the low and mid 60s at night. There are, however, subtle differences in seasons that local folks will tell you about, including “Kona” conditions, trade winds (also known as “natural air conditioning)”, cold fronts, and episodes of high and dangerous surf.

The most remarkable difference in seasons is marked by huge storms at sea that cause gigantic surf and huge waves in winter months on the north shores, and moderate to large swells on the south shores in the summer. 

One thing is for sure – and very different from most other places – is that a bit of rain will only last for a brief spell, or you can drive to another part of the island where it is completely dry! These localized weather patterns are hard to get used to, but  have faith! You may be driving along the island in a downpour one minute and in bright sun the next.

The southern coasts of each island are the driest parts year round. Also, consider that Hawai'i is geographically and topographically one of the most diverse places you'll ever find. The weather from one side of an island to the other varies greatly over distance and the topography present. Out of approximately 28 different climactic zones in the world, Hawaii boasts 23 of them!

“Lee ward” and “Windward” weather conditions can be as different as day and night. Windward means the side of the island that the trade winds buffet first. Leeward is the dry side of the island where wind and rain rarely makes it across the central mountains to drop precipitation. Honolulu, for example, is on the leeward side of Oahu – thus weather broadcasts from Honolulu TV stations rarely apply to the rest of the island chain! While on Kauai the best bet is to call the National Weather Service at 245-6001. Very accurate.

Trade winds blow in from the NE and can occur all year long. They winds bring refreshing air and clouds to the islands from cool ocean waters to the northeast, and the clouds that build from this activity deposit their precipitation against the east facing high interior mountains. Generally, starting in September and October and throughout the winter months, large weather systems form close to the equator and approach the islands from the south. When this happens, trades die out and winds can be calm or begin to build from the humid southerly direction, resulting in very hot and muggy daytime conditions. These are called Kona conditions, and the crystal clear evenings during a Kona spell can bring some of the coolest nights and best star-gazing of the year.