View across the water at the skyline of Waikiki as the sunset glows golden on the left.

A beautiful sunset in Waikiki. Photo © Daniel Ramirez, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

O‘ahu is a popular winter vacation destination for a handful of reasons. Whether travelers are looking to take advantage of winter breaks or just opting to ditch a cold and snowy locale for a tropical paradise, they will be graced with comfortable weather and warm water in O‘ahu. O‘ahu resident Kevin Whitton—author of Moon O‘ahu: Including Honolulu & Waikiki—says, “A last minute decision to make a break for the endless summer is still doable!” For travelers making spur-of-the-moment plans to visit Hawai‘i’s Gathering Place, check out these top tips:

1. Take Advantage of Package Deals

Winter is high season for tourism in Hawai‘i, so stretch the dollar by booking a flight directly with an airline through their website. Then take advantage of package deals on airfare, lodging, and car rentals. Making the reservations and paying through one site saves time and money.

2. Fly Local

Hawaiian Airlines continues to prove itself as one of the most on-time, service-oriented carriers, and they still offer free meals on their flights. With a broad international and mainland reach, a host of daily flights stretch from busy hubs all the way to New York.

3. Try Something New

While most tourists are ushered directly to the iconic shores of Waikiki, consider staying in a quaint B&B in the windward seaside hamlet of Kailua. Separated from Honolulu by the towering Ko‘olau Mountains, travelers will hardly notice that about a million people live just over the hill.

4. Whale Watch

December and January are ideal months to whale watch. North Pacific humpback whales migrate from Alaska to Hawai‘i every winter, and they love to frolic in the waters around O‘ahu. Makapu‘u is one of the best vantage points for whale watching.

5. Catch Some Waves

Winter is the best season to witness world-class waves that break along the reefs of O‘ahu’s North Shore. The Seven Mile Miracle is home to iconic big wave breaks like Sunset Beach, Pipeline, and Waimea Bay. Every year, from November through December, the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing brings professional surfing’s elite to the North Shore to compete for the coveted crown.

6. Snorkel at Hanauma Bay

Big waves on the North Shore mean the conditions on the South Shore are most likely perfect for snorkeling and diving. For shoreline snorkeling, visit the Hanauma Bay marine protected area. For those into diving, there are a host of scuba diving operators out of Hawai‘i Kai and Kewalo Basin that explore South Shore dive sites.

7. Fish On

If the conditions are right for diving, that means that South Shore sport fishing is in full swing. Charter a boat out of Hawai‘i Kai or Kewalo Basin for half-day or full-day fishing adventures.

8. Be Prepared for Rain

For those looking to explore O‘ahu on the cheap, take advantage of the myriad camping sites, but be prepared for rain and adverse weather. As rainfall levels spike in the winter, prepare a backup plan when a cold front with heavy rain and cool north winds crosses the island.