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The Four Seasons of Maui

January 8, 2013

An island which has been voted by Conde Naste readers as the best island in the world an unprecedented 17 times, it’s no secret that Maui is one of the world’s foremost vacation destinations.

Despite the island’s popularity, however, there is one reason which constantly seems to pop up amongst visitors as to why Maui will always be a vacation destination instead of a permanent home:

“I absolutely love it here, but I just don’t think I could live without seasons.”

To be clear, just because children in Maui grow up learning that Santa Claus arrives in an outrigger canoe doesn’t mean that Maui doesn’t have four distinct seasons. I’ll repeat it again. Maui does have four seasons, and I’m not just talking about the hotel. Entirely noticeable, the only difference is that the four seasons of Maui are just a little different than those back on the Mainland.

Confused? Let’s compare.

Spring on the Mainland: Wildflowers and the first summer heat wave

Spring on Maui: Mangoes, Jacaranda, and the first south swell

Any Maui resident with a tin roof knows when mango season has suddenly arrived. It literally announces itself with a thud. Traditionally viewed as an indicator of summer, the first of Maui’s mangoes actually begin dropping to the ground sometime around early-April. By the time June rolls around the streets around Lahaina town are usually awash in squashed mango residue and every roadside stall from Kapalua to Kihei has a cardboard sign advertising fresh mangoes for sale.

Meanwhile, in the Upcountry areas of Makawao and Kula, the jacaranda trees during springtime begin to blossom with brilliant purple flowers and cover Haleakala highway in a blanket of violet. There are few things as relaxing as an early morning drive Upcountry when the sunlight hits the green of the pastures and the airy, purple flowers drift gently to the ground.

Finally, April or May is usually the time when the first waves begin to appear on the south shores of the island from Makena to Lahaina. Generated by hurricane-strength storms spinning east of New Zealand, the first of the Southern Hemisphere’s autumn storms create the waves which will become Maui’s first springtime waves.

Summer on the Mainland: BBQ, Beach, Long Days, Tubing on the lake

Summer On Maui: BBQ, Beach, Long(er) Days, Parasailing, Windsurfing

summer in maui - kyle ellison

While Maui residents are known to hit the beach and BBQ during all seasons of the year, the arrival of the south swells seem to pack the roadside beach parks more than usual with informal gatherings awash in 12-packs, island tunes, and waxed up longboards. Although the days in Maui don’t fluctuate more than 1 ½ hours given its proximity to the equator, that extra hour is still enough to squeeze in a few more beers and a few more waves before the sun goes down.

Summer in Maui isn’t just seen onshore, however, as there’s also a marked difference as to what’s going on out in the water. On the west side of the island the most notable difference is the re-emergence of parasailing boats operating off of Lahaina and Kaanapali. Outlawed for five months of the year due to the arrival of the humpback whales, by the very first light of May 15 parasail canopies can be seen zipping up and down the coast in a circular whirlwind which will seemingly continue unabated until their legislatively-mandated departure on December 15.

Meanwhile, on the north shore of the island off of Paia and Kanaha Beach Park, the summer months bring a consistency in the northeasterly tradewinds which turn Maui into one of the premier windsurfing destinations on the entire planet. While the big wave windsurfing takes place during the winter months at nearby Ho’okipa Beach Park, windsurfers during the Maui summer can conceivably windsurf every day from May through October with little worry that the wind will fail to materialize during the warm afternoon hours.

Fall on the Mainland: College football and autumn leaves

Fall on Maui: College football and the first north swell at Honolua Bay

surfer (2) - kyle ellison

What? Just because we’re the most isolated archipelago in the world doesn’t mean we can’t follow college football. While the football action on the Mainland is still entertaining, the entire island instead rallies behind the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors who provide the closest thing to professional sports that the state will most likely ever have.

College athletics aside, what really ushers in fall is the arrival of the first north swell at Honolua Bay, an iconic right-point break which ranks as one of the top waves on the planet. When the first cold front of winter comes through sometime during October, the 10-15 ft. waves which arrive at Honolua are the result of the same cold front which will eventually drop snow on the Rockies and bring frost to the middle and eastern portions of the nation. In the same way that the first frost or dump of autumn leaves reminds you of what’s around the corner, surfers across the island see the first indicator of winter on the horizon and start waxing up their boards and strengthening their paddling muscles for the winter to come.

Winter on the Mainland: Snow and Skiing

Winter on Maui: Whale Watching and Tow-Surfing

whale -kyle ellison


Even though the first humpback whale of the season is usually spotted sometime during mid-October, whale season in Maui officially kicks off on December 15 and runs all the way until May 15. Despite the apparent length of this five-month long season, the peak months of prime whale watching season are the final two weeks of January through the end of March. During these ten weeks not only do hordes of whale watching boats shuttle a slew of visitors into the shallow waters of the Au’au Channel for a chance at glimpsing the protected species up close, but roadsides are also clogged with tourists and locals alike who pull over to get a glimpse of a mother and calf frolicking in the nearshore waters.

Meanwhile, over on the north shore, each winter the world’s best watermen flock to Maui for the chance to whip in to some of the largest waves on the planet at the big-wave, tow-surfing spot popularly known as “Jaws”. Even though there are only a handful of individuals on the island who are physically capable of undertaking such an extreme challenge, when a large north swell is looming on the horizon a buzz goes out throughout the island as to whether or not “Jaws” will be breaking. When it is, a crowd numbering in the hundreds can usually be found standing on top of a cliff in the middle of a pineapple field watching in awe as teams of professional surfers navigate the fury of the ocean.

With whales and waves dominating the winter in Hawaii, it’s only a matter of time before that first mango drops on your tin roof and you find yourself racing through the four seasons of Maui all over again.

Kyle Ellison is a freelance writer based in Maui, Hawaii who frequently finds himself in obscure international destinations. Over the course of traveling through 60 different countries, he has taken part in everything from climbing mountains in Borneo to eating clams while scuba diving in an underwater Vietnamese cave. Despite his penchant for novelty and adventure, the beautiful island of Maui will always be the corner of the world where he calls home. All of Kyle’s writing and adventures can be found by visiting his website,  Kyle is also an ambassador and contributor to VacationRoost.

Check out VacationRoost’s Hawaii Lodging options to plan your next trip.

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  1. The Four Seasons of Maui

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