Winter is a great time of year to explore Waikiki’s tropical paradise. Temperatures range from the mid-60s to mid-80s and although the island of Oahu sees slightly more rain during the winter months, it is still a perfect time to enjoy the island. Visitors from mid-January through the end of February will notice fewer crowds, as this is typically the slower season on Oahu. You’ll also find better rates on Waikiki vacation rentals during this time of year, making for a more affordable vacation.
From outdoor activities to cultural attractions and winter festivals, there is something for everyone in Waikiki during the winter months. Check out some of our top recommendations below for what to do in Waikiki if you’re visiting in January.
Celebrate the New Year
Start off the New Year with Hawaiian flair! New Year’s Eve in Waikiki is a vibrant and spirited celebration that perfectly encapsulates the essence of Hawaii’s aloha spirit. The highlight of New Year’s Eve in Waikiki is undoubtedly the stunning fireworks display. The skies above the beach light up with a mesmerizing show, often launched from barges offshore. Locals and visitors gather on the sandy shores to witness the breathtaking fireworks, making it a memorable way to welcome the new year.
As the clock approaches midnight, the atmosphere in Waikiki becomes electric. The crowd counts down to the new year with joyful anticipation, and when the clock strikes twelve, the beach erupts with cheers, applause, and the exchange of hugs and well-wishes. For a night of fun for all ages, attend a luau at Rock-A-Hula or Paradise Cove. Experience the nightlife of Waikiki at one of the lively bars with live music, dancing, and enjoy delicious food from some of Oahu’s finest restaurants. Special New Year’s Eve events are found at local spots like Sky Waikiki or Tiki’s Grill & Bar, which both have great locations for viewing the fireworks show over Waikiki Beach.
Some people participate in a more spiritual and reflective New Year’s Eve tradition by taking part in the annual Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony at nearby Ala Moana Beach Park. Participants release lanterns onto the water in memory of loved ones and as a symbol of hope for the future. Overall, New Year’s Eve in Waikiki is a lively and inclusive celebration that welcomes all to join in the festivities. You won’t be disappointed!
Hit the Beach
Soak up the sun on Waikiki Beach, where the lively atmosphere and calm waves are perfect for a day in the sand. Head to nearby Ala Moana Beach Park where a wide range of beach activities, from volleyball to yoga, are available. For the classic white sand beach experience, go to Lanikai Beach on the eastern side of the island. In winter, Sunset Beach on the North Shore of Oahu offers a stunning beach scene with giant waves and expert surfers to watch.
Beaches around Oahu offer endless opportunities for water activities, and the water temperatures in winter typically do not dip below 70 degrees. Visitors will find rental shops for snorkeling, kayaking, and stand-up paddle boarding with no problem. Surfing is a popular pastime at most beaches, and the calm waters of Waikiki are perfect for beginners. Lessons and surfboard rentals are available from many shops along the beachfront.
Get Out on the Water
Oahu is home to hundreds of humpback whales, and winter on Oahu provides some of the best opportunities to see them up close. There are various tour operators in Waikiki offering guided excursions around the island. Sunset cruises and snorkeling excursions are also popular offerings that can be found in Waikiki.
Hawaii is well-known for its surf culture and every year it hosts several international surfing competitions in winter when larger waves create exciting surfing conditions. The Vans Triple Crown competition goes through January and showcases world-class surfers taking on the huge waves of Oahu’s North Shore. The WSL Pipeline competition and Da Hui Backdoor Shootout are two other big surfing events held on the North Shore in January. If you’re feeling inspired by these athletes, there are plenty of surfing schools in Waikiki that will teach you how to ride the waves.
Explore the Island
The natural beauty of Oahu provides some spectacular hiking, and the weather is January is perfect for getting out on the trails. Hiking Diamond Head or Koko Head in the winter is particularly enjoyable, as you’ll be able to take in breathtaking views of the ocean and surrounding islands. For remote and unique landscapes, visit Ka’ena Point State Park or Waimea Valley.
For the more adventurous, you can go on a helicopter tour or explore the nearby Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. Or take the moderately strenuous hike to Waimano Falls, where there is a rope swing waiting for a brave person to soar out into the deep pool.
Attend a Festival
The Lunar New Year kicks off in mid-January and there are many events around Oahu that celebrate the beginning of the Chinese New Year with traditional performances, lion dances, and fireworks. Events can be found at the Chinatown Cultural Plaza, as well as local shopping centers Royal Hawaiian Center and International Marketplace.
For lovers of craft beer, the Hawaii Beer Festival in late January is a must. The monthly Mele Hali’a (“To Recall Fondly”) event at the Waikiki Beach Walk is not to be missed, with live music and local performers sharing the traditions of Hawaii.
Every year in February, Honolulu hosts its own version of the legendary Mardi Gras celebration with block parties, live music, and a costume contest. Celebrate Fat Tuesday with a Hawaiian twist!
Experience Hawaiian History
Visit the Polynesian Cultural Center to learn more about Hawaiian culture. This interactive center offers educational experiences and live performances, as well as a variety of traditional village exhibits from different Polynesian cultures. A visit to Hawaii would not be complete without a stop at Iolani Palace or Queen Emma Summer Palace, where Hawaii’s last reigning monarchs lived and worked. The Hawaii Heritage Center also offers a glimpse into the diverse background of Hawaii’s people.
Visiting the Dole Plantation provides an opportunity to see how pineapples are cultivated, with educational tours, historical exhibits, and a pineapple maze. Or check out the Kualoa Nature Reserve, where you can tour famous film sets or have an ATV adventure in spectacular surroundings.
With its stunning beaches, vibrant culture, and exciting activities, Waikiki is an ideal destination for a winter holiday. Take advantage of the mild temperatures, lighter crowds, and lower accommodation rates, and book a Waikiki Beach vacation rental this winter!