Getting ready for outdoor adventures in the aloha state
If you are Hawaii-bound for the very first time, it's natural to wonder what kind of weather to expect. Heat and humidity levels dictate not just what to pack but also what kind of activities are comfortable. Of course, even in Hawaii heat and humidity vary from month to month. So is it uncomfortably humid in Hawaii? The best answer is: it depends. Read up about the different factors that control comfort level in the aloha state.
The state of Hawaii includes seven separate islands of different sizes, and each may have a slightly different climate. In addition, these are volcanic islands, and some have high volcanic peaks where temperature drops as sea level rises. The trade winds pass through the area as well, cooling one side of the island and raising temperatures and humidity on the other.
Although all of these considerations impact Hawaii's climate, average weather and humidity figures still count. In general, given its place in the tropics, the length of Hawaiian days doesn't vary in the same way day length changes in other states. The longest day is about 13 hours, the shortest about 11 hours. Because of this, seasonal temperature swings are also minimal.
In fact, weather in Hawaii is very consistent. The state's two seasons are summer, lasting from May to October, and winter, November through April. The average daytime summer temperature at sea level is 85 degrees F, while in winter, the average daytime temperature is 78 degrees F. At night, these temperatures drop by about 10 degrees. Winter months also get more rain, but most of it falls in upper altitudes and on the windward (northeastern) side of the islands.
"Muggy "is an imprecise word that pretty much everyone understands to mean uncomfortably high humidity. Humidity can be high whether it's hot or cold outside, but you don't feel it as much in cool weather since your sweat actually cools your skin. It's no accident that the expression "hot and muggy" is used far more often than "cold and muggy."
Humidity is described in a percentage. Think of the air as a sponge absorbing water vapor. When it has absorbed as much as it possibly can, humidity is 100 percent.
Average humidity in Hawaii is highest in the morning and decreases as the day wears on. For example, in Lihue, Kauai, in January, the humidity level is 81 percent, while in mid-afternoon it is 66 percent. In Honolulu in July, the morning humidity level is 67 percent while in the afternoon, it is 51 percent.
Does Hawaii feel muggy? Sometimes it does at sea level if you aren't swimming or playing in the ocean. As you travel up in elevation, humidity drops. And the trade winds often keep humidity from becoming uncomfortable. Many people describe Hawaii as having perfect weather.
Packing for Hawaii
Even in winter, you won't need to focus on clothing you can layer when you go to Hawaii. Bring clothes made of breathable, lightweight fabrics. Include shorts, sundresses and sleeveless tops, as well as jeans and tee-shirts. You may want a nice outfit for going out to dinner. Sandals and sneakers will probably see you through unless you are doing serious hiking. In that case, bring hiking boots.
Just-in-case items to bring: a light raincoat (a must if you visit in rainy season) and a jacket in case temperatures drop. But leave the heavy jackets and sweaters at home.