Kaanapali Beach in Maui, Hawaii

Maui in Winter: 7 BEST Reasons to Visit!

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Considering a trip to Maui in winter? Great choice!

When winter snow and sleet start wearing you down at home, it’s natural to yearn for the warm weather and sun-kissed beaches of a tropical destination.

And Maui, with its many beautiful sandy beaches and waterfront resorts, is our favorite Hawaiian island for a winter vacation. You’ll even find fragrant plumeria in bloom in winter in Maui!

West Maui beach in the morning
Strolling a beach in west Maui on a January morning

While we’ve visited each of the four large Hawaiian islands in the winter, we keep returning to Maui as our top choice for a winter getaway.

The topmost reason to visit Maui in winter is of course the wonderful weather. Although the island has a variety of climates, you are reasonably assured of warmth and sunshine on the leeward side: west and south.

But there are other reasons to head to Maui in the winter months!

In this article, we describe all the reasons to visit Maui in winter, plus offer tips for the best experience.

Planning a trip to Maui? Sunrise at the top of the Haleakala crater is a magical experience you will remember long after your visit!

Winter sunset at Kapalua Bay in Maui, Hawaii
A winter sunset at Kapalua Bay

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Why You Should Visit Maui in the Winter

Enjoy great winter weather in Maui!

Maui’s winter weather is a snowbird’s dream. Daytime temperatures are typically in the high 70s or low 80s, dropping down to the mid 60s at night.

Most winter days on Maui are perfect for outdoorsy activities like sightseeing, strolling on the beach, and watching spectacular sunsets.

One thing to know, though, is that the wind tends to kick up in the afternoon in many places along the west side, while mornings are usually calm. So plan beach activities for the morning!

And yes, it does rain in Maui in the winter, but if you stay mainly on the dry west side, you’ll still get plenty of sun, other than during very occasional strong winter storms.

The Pacific Ocean at Maui, Hawaii
Looking out at Lanai across the deep blue Pacific Ocean on a winter day in Maui

We’ve been to Maui numerous times in December, January, and February, and we’ve typically had a few strong showers happen, but they usually end really quickly. The sun comes out if it’s daytime and everything dries out rapidly.

Of course it’s much rainier on the windward side of Maui, but we’ve done the Road to Hana on a couple of winter Maui trips without weather issues.

It usually rains on the east side from late afternoon through early morning, which means you can still sightsee part of the day in decent weather on most days.

And when it rains, you’ll likely be treated to lovely rainbows!

Here’s a table that shows average high and low temperatures in winter in Maui:

MonthAverage HighAverage Low
December82 °F65 °F
January81 °F63 °F
February81 °F63 °F

Note that it can be a few degrees warmer than these averages on the west side, and a few degrees cooler on the east side.

And of course, it’s much cooler at higher elevations.

At the summit of the Haleakala crater in Haleakala National Park, the average winter high is around 50°F, and it’s close to freezing or below freezing early and late in the day.

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Maui Tours now!

Go whale watching: it’s a top activity in winter in Maui

One of the best reasons to visit Maui in winter is the chance to go whale watching!

Each winter, thousands of humpback whales migrate to the warm waters on the leeward side of Maui, making these waters a fabulous place for spotting the magnificent mammals.

A humpback whale fluking in the ocean near Lahaina in Maui, Hawaii
A humpback whale flukes in the ocean near Lahaina

They come here to mate and breed, so later in the winter you may even see calves along with adult whales.

Keep your eyes peeled as you enjoy the beaches on Maui’s west side, or make your way to Papawai Point (also called McGregor Point), a popular place to look for whales from shore.

Papawai Point or McGregor Point on Maui. Lookout for whales in Maui in winter.
The Papawai Scenic Lookout is the best place to look for whales in the water in Maui in winter

In the winter months, a natural history expert from the Pacific Whale Foundation is usually at the lookout point with exhibits to see. You can even borrow a pair of binoculars if you didn’t bring your own.

Of course the most epic winter whale watching experience in Maui involves booking a boat tour.

On a boat tour, it’s much more likely you’ll come upon whales fluking, spouting, or even breeching. And you may get very lucky and see a mom and calf breech together!

We have an in-depth guide to whale watching in Maui, but in brief, you can pick a catamaran tour or a raft tour:

This highly-rated catamaran tour from Maalaea Harbor is a two-hour excursion that’s accompanied by commentary. Or you can choose this popular whale-watching cruise with open bar from Kaanapali Beach.

And for the adventurous, there’s this super popular raft tour from Lahaina/Kaanapali that allows for eye-level whale-watching!

However you do it, make sure you enjoy whale watching on your visit to Maui in winter!

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Maui Tours now!

You can swim in the ocean…or snorkel in Maui in winter!

Water temperatures in Maui in winter usually range between 74 °F and 76 °F, making it quite pleasant for swimming or snorkeling in the ocean without a wetsuit.

If you are planning activities that require a more extended stay in the water, like snorkeling, you may want to bring a thermal top for warmth. If you are traveling with young kids, they will benefit from a thermal layer as well.

It usually tends to get windier as the day goes on, so if you can plan on beach mornings, you can stroll on the sand or sunbathe in more protected conditions.

From a weather perspective, beaches on the leeward side of the island are usually more ideal for winter visits, although you should always check conditions on the day you plan to go.

D. T. Fleming Beach Park in Maui, Hawaii
D. T. Fleming Beach in Maui on a December morning

We’ve spent beach days at Kapalua Bay Beach, D. T. Fleming Beach, Napili Bay Beach, and Wailea Beach (one of the must-visit beaches in South Maui) on winter trips to Maui. But there are many more beaches on Maui’s west side to discover!

Get up later in winter for sunrise at Haleakala!

If a Haleakala sunrise is on your wish-list for your trip to Maui, and you detest early wake-up calls on vacation, rejoice! You can wake up a little later and still make it up to the summit in time.

In the winter months, sunrise time at Haleakala ranges between 6.45 a.m. to 7 a.m., which is much later than the sunrise time of around 5.35 a.m. in peak summer.

The sun rises at Haleakala in Maui, Hawaii
Sunrise at Haleakala

So while you’ll still have to wake up early (you have to leave about 3 hours before scheduled sunrise time to make it from west Maui before the sky starts to lighten), 4 a.m. is a much more palatable departure time (in our opinion) than 2.30 a.m.

And if you plan to drive up on your own, be sure you have a parking reservation! Otherwise book a sunrise tour.

Be sure to bundle up for the summit: remember, it is about 30 degrees colder at the top than at the island floor. With wind chill, it can get miserable really quickly unless you come prepared.

A pair of thick socks and lightweight thermal base layers won’t take up a lot of room in your suitcase but when you are at the top of the volcano, you’ll be glad you brought them.

We bring blankets borrowed from our hotel or vacation rental for added warmth!

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Maui Tours now!

You’ll find lower crowds in Maui in the winter

Maui is a very popular vacation destination, no matter the time of year.

With its beautiful beaches and family-friendly resorts, and the number and variety of exciting things to do in Maui, the island is a magnet for every type of traveler.

In the winter, Maui’s beautiful weather attracts snowbirds seeking the sun and warmth.

But relatively speaking, you’ll find that Maui is somewhat less crowded in the winter months than in the summer.

Avoid the Christmas / New Year’s time though, because during the holiday break crowds of tourists descend on Maui and hotel prices skyrocket.

Watch the waves at Ho’okipa Beach!

If you thought you had to visit the north shore of Oahu to see epic winter surf, or the rugged north shore of Kauai, know that there are great spots on Maui as well!

While beaches on the west and southwest in Maui are relatively calm in the winter, beaches in the north and northeast see huge wave action.

A surfer at Honolua Bay in Maui, Hawaii
A surfer at Honolua Bay

You’ve probably heard of Jaws. Pe’ahi in Hawaiian, the area on the north shore of Maui features waves as high as 50 feet or more in the middle of winter.

It’s one of the best spots in Hawaii to stand in awe of the fearsome beauty of the ocean, and the pros that surf here.

There’s a lookout point above from where you can catch the action.

Honolua Bay, on the northwest side of Maui, is another spot beloved of expert surfers in the winter.

But our favorite spot to watch the high surf of winter in Maui has to be Ho’okipa Beach.

Winter waves at Ho'okipa Beach in Maui, Hawaii
Winter waves at Ho’okipa Beach

A lookout area set above the beach is the perfect vantage point from which to enjoy the barreling waves, the kitesurfers, and the surrounding scenery.

And bonus: look for Hawaiian green sea turtles resting on the beach! Sometimes you can see dozens of them, looking just like boulders.

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Maui Tours now!

Watch The Sentry, a world-class golf event, or play a round

The PGA Tour holds The Sentry, a championship golf tournament, in Maui each year.

Held at the Plantation Course in Kapalua, the event draws the top players in the game. The course has a spectacular setting, with expansive ocean views, and is considered an iconic winter playground.

Golf course in Kapalua, Maui
Winter is a great time to play a round of golf in Maui!

If you are golf enthusiast, you may want to time your winter trip to Maui such that you can watch the event. Or you can play a round at the famed golf course!

There are several other golf courses on the island as well. Winter is a great time to play golf in Maui, because it’s a little cooler.

Plan on playing in the morning, when it’s usually less windy.

Tips for Visiting Maui in Winter

Base on the west side

For the nicest winter weather, you’ll want to stay on the leeward side of the island. It’s the driest and most protected part of the island.

You’ll find a string of resorts all along the leeward side, from Kapalua in the northwest to Wailea in the southwest. You’ll also find a ton of vacation rentals all along the west side.

With a base on the relatively dry and sunny west side, you can plan to explore the lusher, wetter parts of the island based on weather conditions.

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Maui Tours now!

Go with the flow

Although you can expect a lot of sun and nice weather conditions in Maui in winter, especially on the leeward side, rain is definitely a possibility.

Kaanapali Beach in Maui on a winter evening
Clouds give way to a great sunset at Kaanapali Beach on a winter evening

If a storm crops up, it’s likely that a boat or helicopter tour may be canceled, or you may have to shelve plans to laze on a sandy beach.

If an excursion is high on your Maui wish-list, book it for early in your tour so you have the opportunity to re-schedule for later in your trip should the tour be canceled.

If a beach day doesn’t work out, pull out your rain ponchos and take the opportunity to explore Upcountry Maui, where you can tour farms, dairies and more, or visit the lush Iao Valley State Monument. Both places look great even when it’s cloudy or rainy.

Or head up to the summit of Haleakala and tackle all or part of the iconic Sliding Sands Trail at a cooler time of the year.

Or, stay indoors and dry whilst you tour some of the fancy resorts in west or south Maui, like the Grand Wailea.

Sculpture at the Grand Wailea: Paulina by Fernando Botero
Art at the Grand Wailea: Paulina by Fernando Botero

Sometimes rainy days can end with spectacular sunsets!

So on a winter trip to Maui, be flexible and go with the flow. Plan must-do activities for early in your trip so you can re-schedule if needed.

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Maui Tours now!

Pack a light wrap or jacket

While you can get way with tees and tank tops during the day, you’ll want to dress a little warmer early and late in the day if you visit Maui in the winter.

It can get breezy and somewhat cooler in the evenings, so if you like to stay warm and protected, bring a lightweight wrap or jacket you can use as needed.

Sunset on the Pacific Ocean in Maui, Hawaii
It can be cooler early or late in the day in winter on Maui

We love strolling the beach at sunset and also plan on at least one sunset cruise on each Maui trip, and it can definitely get a little cool on or near the water.

A wrap is also handy for early morning walks or morning cruises, or if you want to explore the cooler higher elevations on the island like Kula or Makawao.

Bring rain ponchos and bug spray

Part of the charm of Maui is the opportunity to explore a variety of landscapes.

We cannot visit Maui and not spend at least a day each in Upcountry Maui and on the Hana side.

But in the winter, along with well-flowing waterfalls, lush vegetation, and rainbows, you are very likely to run into rain in these parts of the island.

Upper Waikani Falls on the Road to Hana on a rainy day
Upper Waikani Falls on a rainy day in Hana

Come prepared with rain ponchos and bug spray, so you can wander through lush gardens or traipse through rainforest trails even when it’s not bright and sunny.

Be vigilant about ocean conditions

Ocean conditions on Maui can change at any time, so always practice caution when entering the water.

Check conditions on the day of your visit, or speak with the lifeguard on duty if there is one.

And if in doubt, do not head out.

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Maui Tours now!

Expect higher prices on accommodations

Winter isn’t as crowded as summer but it is still high season in Maui, so expect prices on hotel rooms and vacation rentals to be high.

Within winter, we’ve found better prices on VRBO vacation rentals in January than in December and February.

Plumeria in bloom in Maui in December
Plumeria in bloom in Maui in December

Reserve well in advance

Given that winter is whale-watching season and a season that draws snowbirds in search of warm weather, you should plan on reserving everything well ahead of time.

That goes not only for accommodations but also any Maui guided tours you plan to take, dinner reservations at popular eateries like Mama’s Fish House, and reservations for parks and attractions that require them.

We like the “reserve now, pay later” option on many tours on Viator. It enables us to reserve well ahead with the ability to modify or cancel closer to our date of travel if needed.

For super popular places like Maui’s black sand beach (in Wai’anapanapa State Park) or events like sunrise at Haleakala National Park, book your entry and/or parking slot as soon as your date opens up, or you may miss out!

The Best Maui Tours

Have you booked these top-rated Maui guided adventures yet?

Small-group Road to Hana tour so everyone in your group can sit back and enjoy the views without worrying about negotiating hairpin bends or finding parking at popular stops!

A Haleakala sunrise tour so you can experience the bucket-list sunrise atop the volcano without the need to reserve a parking spot or drive up in the dark!

A Maui whale watching raft tour, which will let you see the massive humpback whales at eye level! (You can also opt for a more sedate boat whale watching tour.) A MUST winter Maui activity!

A Maui snorkeling excursion that combines the Molokini Crater with Turtle Town, the two most epic snorkeling destinations on the island!

A 7-line Maui zipline experience where you can glide over the forests on the north shore of Maui. Enjoy ocean views and navigate obstacle course challenges!

An oceanfront luau in Wailea where you can enjoy a sunset buffet and traditional Polynesian entertainment. You can also opt for a Kaanapali oceanfront luau.

Renting a Car in Maui

The best things to do in Maui are located all over the island.

Public transport options on Maui are minimal to non-existent, so if you want to explore the island beyond your base, you’ll want to book a rental car for your Maui trip.

We always use Discover Cars to book Maui car rentals. They search across a variety of rental car companies, both budget and brand, to offer you the best deals, AND they offer free cancellations. Plus, there are no hidden fees.

>> Check availability and prices on Maui car rentals now!

Where to Stay in Maui

Depending on whether you want a vacation rental with more room and the option to cook some of your meals, or you want a resort or hotel experience, and depending on which part of Maui you want to choose as your base, you have a variety of options.

By far the majority of visitors to Maui choose to base on the west side, where there is a large selection of accommodations available, from resorts and hotels to vacation rentals.

We suggest starting your search for Maui accommodations by browsing vacation rentals on VRBO. You can filter to choose a specific area, such as Kihei, Kapalua, or Wailea.

We have stayed in VRBO rentals in Kihei and Kapalua and find that the choice and quality are generally great.

>> Look for a Maui vacation rental on VRBO now!

More Maui Travel Inspiration

If you are considering a trip to Maui, read some of our other comprehensive guides to craft the ultimate Maui itinerary!

If you are a first-time visitor to Maui, start by reading our article on the best things to do in Maui. From beautiful beaches and lush rainforest to Maui’s volcanic crater, our round-up captures the most iconic Maui experiences and activities.

If you are dreaming of a winter getaway to a tropical paradise, read our guide on why you should visit Maui in winter!

If you are planning a brief first visit to Maui, here’s our 3-day Maui itinerary to help you flesh out your own trip! And if you are considering a couples getaway to Maui, read about the top romantic things to do in Maui!

Driving the Road to Hana is one of Maui’s bucket-list experiences. We have a comprehensive guide to the best stops on the Road to Hana, including waterfalls and short hikes on the way.

One of the top stops on the route is Wai’anapanapa State Park, which requires reservations. Read our full guide to Maui’s black sand beach in this popular state park!

Maui boasts one of only two national parks in Hawaii. Read our round-up of the best things to do in Haleakala National Park. We also have the ultimate guide to sunrise at Haleakala.

We also have a guide to the best hikes in Haleakala National Park, and in-depth hiking guides to the two most epic hikes in the park: the Sliding Sands Trail and the Pipiwai Trail.

Speaking of hiking, also be sure to check out our round-up of the best Maui hikes, from easy to challenging. Plus, peruse our complete guides to hiking the popular Kapalua Coastal Trail in northwest Maui, and the Waihee Ridge Trail for astounding views!

We also have a round-up of the best waterfalls in Maui, from the 400-foot Waimoku Falls to Upper Waikani Falls near Hana. Some Maui waterfalls can be seen from viewpoints whereas others require hiking.

Water activities are plentiful in Maui! Check out our epic guide to whale watching in Maui, and our guide to the best Molokini snorkeling tours and the best Turtle Town snorkeling.

If you’d rather snorkel from shore, read our round-up of the best snorkel spots in West Maui.

Every Maui itinerary should have plenty of beach time: there are so many beautiful beaches in Maui that you are spoiled for choice. We have a round-up of the best beaches in South Maui, plus a detailed guide to Wailea Beach in southwest Maui, and one for Maluaka Beach along the Turtle Town stretch of coast.

We also have articles on the much-visited Kaanapali Beach, the popular Napili Beach and local favorite Keawakapu Beach. Along the northwest side, Honolua Bay is a famous surfing spot, and Ho’okipa Beach, near Paia, is a windsurfing mecca.

If you are looking to experience a different side of Maui, plan a visit to the Iao Valley State Monument. The lush landscapes and serene ambience will wow you! Also read our guide to Maui’s state parks, which include popular Makena State Park, home to Big Beach and Little Beach.

Spend a day exploring Upcountry Maui. Some of the best things to do in Upcountry Maui include touring farms and gardens. Help milk goats, tour a tea farm, go wine tasting and much more.

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Discover the top reasons to visit Maui in winter, from epic whale watching to well-flowing waterfalls and more! #mauitravel #maui


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