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Best Island to Visit in Hawaii in December
Before I really dive into which one of Hawaii’s islands is best for visiting in December, I need to confess. There really isn’t a best island to visit in Hawaii in December! Every single one of the Hawaiian Islands is perfect in December.
In fact, this is a great time of year for first-time visitors and those who love spending time in Hawaii. Nonstop flights are often available on Hawaiian Airlines, American, United, Delta, Alaska Airlines, and more from various cities.
You can also find direct flights between the islands. This is perfect if you want to island hop during your vacation!
I could even argue that December is the best time of the year to visit the Hawaiian islands. It’s cold in most parts of the US, so who doesn’t need some sunshine and relaxation?
Before we get started, I want to remind you that being a respectful tourist (in fact, don’t be a tourist, be a visitor!) is very important. Check out my post on 30 things you should never do in Hawaii to learn what to avoid during your Hawaii vacation.
The best island to visit in Hawaii in December
So I’ve already stated that there is no worst island to visit in Hawaii in December. The only downfall to visiting certain islands is there can be more crowds due to the holiday season. Everyone wants to spend the holidays and the New Year on the main islands.
This means car rentals will book quickly. So will accommodations and tours. Don’t wait to book either of those two things. Public transportation isn’t always an option for everything you want to do on the Hawaiian Islands. You need to rent a car!
I recommend Discount Hawaii Car Rental. My #1 recommendation is to get a rental car to explore the islands! Discount Hawaii Car Rental has the best rates and free cancellation. Also, you don’t have to pay until you pick up your car.
You may want to arrive in early December if you prefer fewer crowds. Or consider other times of the year. Although, maybe not spring break or the summer holidays as many kids are off from school then.
No matter when you decide to visit, you should still purchase travel insurance. That’s a pro tip for a Hawaii Travel Agent!
Reasons Why Every Hawaiian Island is the Best Island to Visit in December
At this point, maybe you are looking for another good reason why every Hawaiian Island is the best island to visit in December. If that is the case, let me share a few of those reasons with you!
Warm weather – The weather is always warm in Hawaii! The only exceptions are high altitudes like Mauna Kea or Haleakala, but seeing SNOW during your Hawaii vacation is pretty cool. Plus, you’re not up there long.
Outdoor activities – There are plenty of outdoor activities to keep everyone occupied in the good weather.
Snow-capped mountains – You can still see snow-capped mountains during a vacation in Hawaii, United States.
Humpback whales – Whale sightings increase during the month of December on the islands. I have a blog post with The Best Time for Whale Watching in Hawaii.
Avoid hurricane season – Your Hawaii vacation won’t be interrupted by a hurricane. Still, don’t worry; Hawaii rarely gets hit by hurricanes any time of the year.
Now that I got that out of the way, let’s focus on the three islands I think are the best to visit in December.
Maui in December
Maui always comes in at the top of my list for the best Hawaiian Island to visit in December. Arriving on this island during the winter months is like finally finding your little piece of paradise.
Staying on the South Shore or the western side of the island (the two places with all the accommodations) practically guarantees good weather. The average high temperature is in the mid-70s at this time of year. Rainfall amounts are also low in this part of Maui.
I’m not saying you must stay in South Maui or West Maui. You can stay on the north shore or east coast, but there aren’t many options that I recommend. If the Road to Hana is your main focus for your vacation in Maui, don’t worry, it’s easily accessed from other parts of the island.
As you are appreciating the average daytime temperatures, you may find yourself spending time on beautiful beaches. Thankfully, the winter weather doesn’t bring cold ocean waves to Hawaii. The water temperatures are still warm.
Yes, it may seem strange to be belting out Christmas carols while splashing around in warm water. But that’s what you do while on vacation in Hawaii in December!
Just be careful when entering the ocean. Winter swells can occur. It is best to check the water conditions before you head to the beach for the day.
Whale Watching in Maui
The best Hawaiian Island for whale watching is Maui. The humpback whales love spending time in the waters of the Au’au Channel. You can usually see the whales from the great beaches on Maui. However, a whale-watching tour offers the best way to see the whales up close.
Other Things to Do in Maui in December
Whale watching is the best thing to do in Maui in December and the rest of the winter months. However, there can add many other things to your itinerary to keep busy.
Visit the Maui Ocean Center
The Maui Ocean Center is perfect when you want to see marine life without entering the water. Inside this aquarium, there is a sea turtle lagoon, as well as a 35-foot shark tunnel.
Want to add a unique experience to your Hawaii vacation? Consider doing the shark dive at the Maui Ocean Center. This dive allows you to go into the water and get close to many of the sharks. This is an excellent option if you have little kids uncomfortable in the water.
If you don’t mind swimming in the ocean, you can get close to marine life by snorkeling. You can head out on your own or sign up for a snorkeling tour.
In my opinion, Molokini Crater is the best place to snorkel in Maui. You do have to take a tour because you can’t get to the island on your own (not easily, anyway!) I also have a blog post on Snorkeling Molokini Crater.
One of the other best snorkeling spots on the west coast of Maui is Honolua Bay and Black Rock on Kaanapali Beach.
Visit the Nakalele Blowhole
The Nakalele Blowhole basically looks like a geyser. Ocean water is pushed through an underwater cave. You can capture some spectacular selfies here. Of course, you need to have your camera ready when the water shoots out!
Drive the Road to Hana
Driving the Road to Hana takes you along the northern Maui coastline. This road is just over 64 hours long. You can easily drive it in a couple of hours. I don’t recommend that because that means you won’t be stopping at all the incredible sights along the way!
You can drive your own rental car for this adventure. Or you can sign up for one of the Road to Hana sightseeing tours. The latter might be the best option if you don’t want to deal with the hairpin turns this road is known for.
You can also take a helicopter tour over the Road to Hana.
For more information, check out The Ultimate Guide to the Road to Hana.
Explore Whaler’s Village
A great place to purchase souvenirs in Maui is Whaler’s Village. You can find a large variety of local options, as well as brand names. You might need those brand-name items if you forgot to pack something in your suitcase.
Experience the Sunrise or Sunset at Haleakala National Park
The most spectacular sunrise in the world can be seen from the summit at Haleakala National Park. The area’s natural beauty makes the perfect backdrop for all the brilliant colors in the sky.
You must plan your visit in advance. This is because you now need a reservation to view the sunrise from the summit area. This reservation is for parking your car at the summit. It doesn’t include the cost of entering the park.
After the sun comes up, you can head over to Haleakala Crater. This dormant volcano offers fantastic views. I recommend a tour since you’ll have to start very early (think 3 AM), and most people don’t live to drive unfamiliar roads at night.
You can even do a tour where you get to bike down (don’t worry, it’s downhill!) after seeing the sunrise.
If you can’t get up early enough to see the sunrise, consider visiting this park for the sunset. Stay a little longer; twinkling stars will greet you in the sky.
Big Island of Hawaii
Is the Big Island the best island to visit in Hawaii in December? The Big Island of Hawaii is the largest island of all the islands. This is the island you will want to visit if you prefer to see snow-capped mountains in December. However, don’t worry; the rest of the island will be nice and warm!
There is very little rain on the Big Island during this month on most parts of the island. Yet, the wind can pick up without notice. That wind can make the average temperature of the upper 70s feel much cooler.
It is important to note that areas with higher elevations, like Mauna Kea, will be much colder.
All the weeks of December bring different events to the Big Island of Hawaii. I’m going to share a couple of them with you, as well as the other things to do in Hawaii in December.
December Events in Hawaii
Here are some Christmas events on the Big Island of Hawaii in December.
Christmas Parade in Kailua-Kona
If you happen to be staying in Kailua-Kona during the second week of December, you will want to see the Christmas Parade. This parade goes along Ali’i Drive.
Kona Surf Film Festival
The Kona Surf Film Festival is held at the Courtyard Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel every December.
Things to Do on the Big Island of Hawaii in December
Here are a few things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii in December, in no particular order.
Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
This national park was established in 1916. There are two active volcanoes inside the more than 335,000 acres. Those volcanoes are Kileuea and Mauna Loa. One of the inactive volcanoes is Mauna Kea.
I recommend hiking the Kilauea Iki Trail, but bring lots of water!
You can see lava tubes, craters, and Hawaiian cultural sites during your visit. One destination in the park that should be on your must-see list is the Halema’uma’a Crater. Doing the looped hike to the steamy Sulphur Banks is necessary if you have the time.
I also recommend driving along Crater Rim Drive. It’s an almost 19-mile road that offers spectacular views at all the stops. This is an easy day trip if you are staying on the Kona side. There is no need to stay on this part of the island.
Make sure to check out my Guide to Volcanoes National Park!
Snorkel with manta rays
Snorkeling with manta rays is one of the best things to do on the Big Island and is unique to this island. There isn’t really a “best time of the year” to snorkel with manta rays, but December is as good of a time as any! And yes, the water is warm enough. I recommend Hang Loose Boat Tours.
Enjoy Some Kona Coffee
Of course, time in Kona can be spent drinking authentic Kona coffee! While in Kona country, visit a coffee farm for a tour. At the end of your tour, you get to drink a sample of freshly brewed coffee.
Walk Along Punalu’u Black Sand Beach
Hawaii island is known for its black sand beaches. This is one of the best black sand beaches. You can easily stop here on your way to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
This isn’t your best option for swimming. You will want to choose another beach for that activity. It is an excellent spot to watch the Hawaiian green sea turtles. Learn more about where to spot the beautiful sea turtles in where to find sea turtles on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Hike to Papakolea Green Sand Beach
The only way to reach Papakolea Green Sand Beach is by hiking two and a half miles each way. I recommend visiting in the morning if possible. This way, the sun is lower, and it isn’t as warm out.
Please do NOT attempt to drive to the beach or ride with someone else who is driving. This is causing corrosion, and if tourists continue to do this, this beach will end up becoming inaccessible and illegal to visit.
Check Out Some Waterfalls
If this is your first visit to the Big Island, you will want to take the time to check out some waterfalls. It does rain more (on some parts of the island, particularly the east side) in the winter, meaning it’s the prime time to see the waterfalls!
A hike along a trail that is less than half a mile is necessary to see “Akaka Falls. This waterfall draws crowds, so arrive early. The trail is paved and very easy to access for most.
I also recommend visiting Rainbow Falls early in the day. That is when the light hitting the mist forms rainbows. You will find this waterfall inside Wailuku River State Park.
Learn a Little History at Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park
Centuries ago, locals made their way to this area after breaking the law. This was the only way they could avoid being punished by death.
This entire park has been completely restored. You will feel as if you are reliving history as you walk along the self-guided trail.
Is oahu the best island to visit in Hawaii in December?
The weather in Oahu is similar to all the other islands in December. The average temperature reaches the upper 70s, with the lows dropping to the mid-60s.
Rain is common during this month, but it is not nonstop, nor is it in all parts of the island. Most showers will last 10 minutes or so. The result will be having the chance to spot a rainbow or two on your adventures.
The ocean conditions are also perfect at this time of year. If you know you want to spend time at the beach, I recommend choosing from the most luxurious resorts this island offers. Many of them are directly on the beach. This makes the walk to the sand simple every morning.
Things to Do in Oahu in December
Here are a few things to do in Oahu in December.
Attend the Festival of Lights Boat Parade
One of the best things to do on Oahu in December is to attend the Festival of Lights Boat Parade. This event is held at the Hawaii Kai Towne Center.
During the parade, there is live music, as well as hula performances. You might only be there for all the beautifully lit boats.
Check Out Honolulu City Lights
Another favorite holiday activity in Oahu is checking out the Honolulu City Lights. This event takes place throughout the entire month. This is good news because it means you can arrive early when there are fewer visitors.
This is one of the best places for seeing Christmas lights on a Hawaii island. In addition to the lights, there are Shaka Santa and Mrs. Claus statues and Christmas trees.
Plan to stay for a couple of hours. This will ensure you can participate in many of the activities.
Take a Walk at Diamond Head
Diamond Head is always at the top of the to-do list for many people visiting Oahu. This walk isn’t too difficult. People are aware of this, so it will seem like everyone is there at the same time.
I recommend arriving early if you want fewer crowds. This will give you more space to enjoy the views of Waikiki Beach and the ocean. You now need a reservation, so make sure to get that ahead of time.
Go Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay
The Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is the best place for snorkeling out of all the major islands in Hawaii. Your family will have a good time as you check out all the marine life in the bay.
Take a Tour of Pearl Harbor
If you read any ultimate guide to Oahu, one of the first things it will tell you to do is book a tour of Pearl Harbor. Oahu is the best island to vacation on when you want to visit this historic site.
You can do this adventure on your own or sign up for one of the many available tours.
Relax at Waikiki Beach
With all the adventures you have on Oahu, you are going to want to spend a couple of hours relaxing on Waikiki Beach. Or any other beach you stumble upon.
This is quite “the gathering place,” during the summer months. You should still be able to find a spot in the sand during the high season in December.
You won’t find too many big waves at this beach in Oahu. At least, not if you have the best weather for your vacation.
Watch the Sunset at Sunset Beach
Sunset Beach is on the north shore of Oahu. It isn’t a hidden gem, but it isn’t as well known as Waikiki Beach.
As the name suggests, it is one of the best places to watch the sunset. I recommend arriving a couple of hours early. This will allow you to find the perfect spot to watch the magic happen.
Participate in Watersports at Waimea Bay
Waimea Bay is on the north shore of Oahu. It is one of the best places for watersports, especially during the winter months when the big waves roll in.
This is where you will want to watch people surfing and bodyboarding in the Aloha State. Unless this is your first time surfing, you may even want to try to catch a wave yourself. Although, I would save that for the summer months when the waves are calmer.
Visit the Jurassic Valley at the Kualoa Ranch
If you are a Jurassic Park fan, you will want to consider taking a UTV tour at Kualoa Ranch. This ranch encompasses many of the film locations from blockbuster movies. There are many tour options to choose from if you don’t want to ride a UTV. Here are some of my favorites:
Check Out the Polynesian Cultural Center
Hands-on activities are everywhere throughout the 42 acres of space at the Polynesian Cultural Center. These activities are amongst the 6 island villages.
After exploring the rich culture within the different villages, you can head out on a canoe tour. Or you can do a little shopping at the Hukilau Marketplace.
If you stay late enough, you can attend a show. Ha: Breath of Life features traditional songs and dances.
The best island to visit in Hawaii in December
These are the three Hawaiian Islands I recommend visiting during the month of December. But remember, you don’t need to limit yourself to just those islands. After all, the island of Kauai is known as Garden Isle.
On that island, you can easily explore Waimea Canyon – known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.
You can hike the trails at Waimea Canyon to the different lookouts. However, if you are searching for a unique experience, I recommend taking a helicopter tour over the entire island. The helicopters allow you to appreciate the scenery from a different vantage point.
You can learn more about Kauai here:
The best island to visit in Hawaii in December
Did this post about the best island to visit in Hawaii in December help you decide which island to visit? You’ve probably learned that all of the Hawaiian islands are great in December, so maybe your choice is even harder now!
Want even more Hawaii Travel Tips? Check out:
- 30 free things to do in Oahu
- 50 things to do on the Big Island
- 100 things to do in Hawaii (Hawaii Bucket List)
- The Ultimate Hawaii packing list
Earlier, you probably say that I am a Hawaii Travel Agent. So if you’re looking for a Hawaii honeymoon or vacation personalized just for you, let’s chat! I specialize in working with clients to create the perfect vacation for you. That means no packages; everything is personalized. Contact me, and I’ll get back to you to start planning ASAP!
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