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How’s the weather on Maui?

A picture speaks a thousand words. This photo is very typical of the cloud and rain coverage on Maui and, to a practiced eye, tells you exactly what to expect around the island.

You can see how the windward areas (meaning areas exposed to the trade winds out of the northeast) get most of the clouds and how Hana is dry, but farther uphill it’s cloudy, feeding the waterfalls. Kihei and Lahaina (called leeward areas) are warmer, drier and sunnier than the rest of the island because they are shielded from the northeast trade winds.

Notice how the clouds don’t go all the way to the top of Haleakala, except where they are squeezed into the Ko‘olau Gap; it’s because of a temperature inversion at the 6,000 foot level. (The air actually gets warmer above that for a few thousand feet, causing the temperature-sensitive clouds to dissipate.) The top of West Maui Mountain is cloudy, as usual. The northeast trade winds build up along the bottom of Haleakala, heading southwest along the flank, and are directed off into the sea near La Pérouse Bay, leaving Kihei and Wailea calmer.

To get current weather forecasts,  call (808) 944-3756. Call (808) 572-7873 for a surf forecast or check our website.

This is quintessential Maui trade wind weather until about 1 p.m. Then more clouds will build as the island heats up, causing the air to rise, cool and condense into clouds. The summit of Haleakala may cloud up. Winds will increase all around the island as ocean air rushes in to replace the rising air.

The Different Weather Regions

What does all this mean? It means the weather is radically different around the island. Many times we’ve been at the airport in Kahului and seen people coming off the plane looking gloomy and worried. “It’s so windy and rainy here,” they often say. Sometimes we wish the county would erect a sign at the airport saying, “No worry, da weatha stay mo betta in Kihei and Lahaina.”

Maui Weather
Maui Weather

In the leeward area of South Maui, Kihei and Wailea will be warmer and drier. Winds that have just been squished between the two mountains will travel south along the Kihei coast, veering slightly offshore, so winds will be lighter the farther you go down the Kihei coast until you get to La Pérouse Bay. There the fierce wind from the bottom of the island meets calm air, creating a distinct wind line over the span of about 100 feet. That means mornings are usually calm from Makena to South Kihei. In the afternoon, however, onshore breezes will form to fill the void from the heated rising air, and the trade winds that have been absent along the coast at Makena and Wailea will start wrapping around the island parallel to the coast here. This means strong afternoon winds. Winters are less windy. The sunnier and hotter it is, the stronger the afternoon winds will be. If there’s heavy cloud cover over much of Haleakala, the afternoon winds will diminish. (We’re trying to avoid sounding like weather geeks, but if you understand the weather processes here, it helps you plan your day.)

High temperatures will average 80 °F in the winter, 86 °F in the summer. South Maui nights can be cooler than in Lahaina because the air that has built up atop Haleakala during the day will tumble down to the bottom. If your condo has a skylight, you may notice puffs of cool air coming down from it at night.

Rainfall in leeward areas is light and variable. For instance, one year there were only seven days with rain in Kihei. It was going to total 4.75 inches for the year until New Year’s Eve brought another 4.75 inches, doubling the year’s rainfall tally. Other years have seen 20 or more inches of rain.

In LahainaKa‘anapali and Kapalua, the exact direction of the trade winds is crucial. Lahaina is usually protected from the trades. There are fewer afternoon breezes in Lahaina than Kihei, making it warmer. High temperatures are 82 °F in January and 88 °F in August and September. As you head toward Ka‘anapali, at some point the trade winds that you’ve been protected from in Lahaina will complete their wrap-around from the other side, making wind a semi-constant companion. That’s good if you like cool breezes, bad if you are trying to get a golf ball from Point A to Point B. It also means that the ocean is more susceptible to whitecaps and poor visibility north of Lahaina. Kapalua, farther north, is even windier, more drizzly and has the worst weather of any of the resort areas.

Just south of Lahaina, Olowalu would normally be protected from the trade winds, except for one slight detail. Its large, rain-cut valley leading to the center of West Maui Mountain connects with rain-cut ‘Iao Valley on the windward side, cracking the mountain in two and making a natural diversion ditch for the wind to rip through, leaving Olowalu windy.

Kahului gets a concentration of winds deflected along the northern part of Haleakala that slither around the island here and are squeezed between the two mountains. So it’s almost always windy in Kahului. This has made Kahului one of the greatest places on the planet for windsurfing and kiteboarding. Big-time riders from all over the world make pilgrimages here.

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Ma‘alaea at the south end of the valley gets a concentration of wind and dust that has been squeezed between the mountains, making it one of the windiest places on the island.

Hana is sunnier than most people think since the clouds usually form farther uphill, but it is more vulnerable to whatever the trade winds bring to the island. Most of the time Hana has beautiful weather, but sometimes systems can bring rain that can last for days, especially in the winter. The temperature is incredibly equitable. Average high in February is 78 °F, and the average high in September is only 84 °F. How’s that for a change of season?

The summit of Haleakala has an average high of around 50 °F and low of 32 °F in February and reaches a scorching 58 °F and a low of 38 °F in August. It’s usually not as windy after sunrise, but any wind on a cold morning can cut right through you.

Upcountry areas, such as Kula and Pukalani, are cooler due to their elevation and less windy.

Average humidity around the island ranges from 65–75 percent.

In general, windward areas like Hana and Kahului get most of their rain at night and in the early morning. Leeward areas like Kihei and Lahaina get their more sporadic rain in the late afternoon and early evening.
Ocean temperatures average 75 °F in February, 80 °F in September.

For more info on any of the islands, download our Hawaii Revealed app.

Mahalo.