Long days of sunshine and fairly mild year-round temperatures make Hawaii an all-seasons destination. Most resort areas are at sea level, with average afternoon temperatures of 75°F–80°F during the coldest months of December and January; during the hottest months of August and September the temperature often reaches 90°F. Higher "upcountry" elevations typically have cooler and often misty conditions. Only at mountain summits do temperatures reach freezing.
Moist trade winds drop their precipitation on the north and east sides of the Islands, while the south and west sides remain warmer and drier. Rainfall can be higher in summer months, while winter brings higher surf and windier conditions.
Many travelers head to the Islands in winter, specifically from mid-November to mid-April. This high season means that fewer travel bargains are available; room rates average 10%–15% higher during this season than the rest of the year.
You can see humpback whales clearly off the western coast of Hawaii Island from November to May. The Ironman World Championship triathlon takes place every October in Kailua-Kona. Shortly after the Ironman, the first 10 days of November are devoted to the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival. Each day brings numerous caffeinated events including cooking, picking, and barista competitions, and, of course, the coveted cupping competition, which measures the taste and quality of coffee from participating estates. Connoisseurs from all over the world flock to Kona for the festival, nearly every local coffee farmer participates, and the whole west side of the island goes crazy for coffee.
If you happen to be in the Islands on March 26 or June 11, you'll notice light traffic and busy beaches full of families—these are state holidays not celebrated anywhere else. March 26 recognizes the birthday of Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, a member of the royal line who served as a delegate to Congress and spearheaded the effort to set aside homelands for Hawaiian people. June 11 honors the first island-unifying monarch, Kamehameha I; locals drape his statues with lei and stage elaborate parades.
May 1 isn't an official holiday, but May Day marks an important time when school kids and civic groups celebrate Hawaiian culture and the quintessential island gift, the flower lei.
Statehood Day is celebrated on the third Friday in August (admission to the Union was August 21, 1959).
Most Japanese and Chinese holidays are widely observed. On Chinese New Year, homes and businesses display bright-red good-luck mottoes, lions dance in the streets, and everybody eats gau (steamed pudding) and jai (vegetarian stew).