Hawaii’s Surf Seasons

Hawaii’s Surf Seasons2018-12-20T16:52:26-09:00
Winter swells create high surf conditions on the North Shore of Oahu. Joshua Rainey/Shutterstock.com
Winter swells create high surf conditions on the North Shore of Oahu
Joshua Rainey/Shutterstock.com

Although Hawaii’s coastal ocean temperature stays relatively consistent throughout the year, ocean conditions can change drastically depending on the season. Seasons also affect various facing shores in different ways. Some beaches can be calm and gentle during the summer, but rough and dangerous in the winter. Being aware of seasonal patterns can help you make a better plan for picking a beach.

Waimea Bay-summerWaimea Bay-winter
In the summer, calmer, clear conditions are frequent at Waimea Bay on the North Shore of Oahu. But in winter, this same beach is consistently pummeled by high surf and powerful shorebreak.
Andmir/Ryan Janssens/Shutterstock.com

Wave conditions are localized, so if a beach seems too dangerous for your skill level, you can often find calmer conditions at another beach in a different part of the island.

Related Link: List of Lifeguarded Beaches and Schedules

Summer Season: May through October

Summer typically means calmer waters on all beaches. Larger swells can happen on south shores, generated by winter storms in the southern hemisphere. Trade winds coming from the northeast can also increase surf for north and east facing shores.

North Shores: Flat-to-small waves, areas exposed to trade winds can see larger swells.

East Shores: Strong trade winds can create large, rough waves.

South Shores: Large swells can arrive frequently.

East Shores: Swells from the north can wrap around to create high surf.

Winter Season: November through April

During winter, you can expect extremely high surf at many north and west shore beaches. Powerful Pacific storms to the north drive huge swells towards the islands, creating the big waves Hawaii is known for. Waves generated from these storms can create dangerous and unpredictable conditions.

North Shores: Consistent huge and dangerous swells. Inexperienced/novice surfers and swimmers of any skill level should avoid entering the water at these beaches during high-surf conditions.

East Shores: Strong trade winds can create large, rough waves

South Shores: Flat-to-small waves.

West Shores: Swells from the north can wrap around to create high surf.

More Ocean Safety

Know Your Limits Checklist

List of Lifeguarded Beaches

Ocean Hazards: Strong Currents

Ocean Hazards: Dangerous Shorebreak

Beach Warning Signs

Safety In the Ocean

Snorkeling Safety

Beach Safety for Families

DOH
Drowning-Prevention
Honolulu Ocean Safety Division
Kauai County Ocean Safety
Maui-Lifeguard
Hawaii-Ocean-Safety-Fire-Dept
Drowning-Prevention-seal

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