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It’s hard to believe that there are seasons in Hawaii, but there are actually two – “kau” (summer) and “hoolio” (winter). Although the change may not be as noticeable in the islands as it is in other states, if you visit Hawaii between December and February, you can feel the difference.

As if large swells and rainy weather aren’t obvious enough – winter in the islands is full of holiday festivities and seasonal fun. From the annual tree lighting and displays at Honolulu Hale to world-famous surf competitions, the aloha state is the perfect place to ring in the holidays.

If you’re planning to hang ten in Hawaii during winter here are few of our favorite things to do during this most wonderful time of the year.

Shine Bright with the Honolulu City Lights

All is merry and bright on Oahu when Santa arrives at Honolulu Hale. The annual event has become a holiday tradition for most island families. Festivities begin with the Electric Lights Parade that ends outside of Honolulu Hale where Oahu’s mayor lights the city Christmas tree. The parade features school bands and local organizations who march down King Street spreading holiday cheer with festive and bright holiday floats. If you miss the event you can still stroll through Honolulu Hale on foot or cruise by on the popular trolley tour throughout the holiday season.

Snowboard on Mauna Kea

Have you ever imagined snowboarding in Hawaii? Now you can! Atop Mauna Kea Summit on the Big Island temperatures are cold year-round but between December and February, they can reach an icy 25 to 40 degrees. This creates inches of snowfall and creates a winter wonderland in paradise. The public is welcome to snowboard and ski down the summit but ski lifts and equipment rentals are not available nearby. Plan ahead and bring your own gear, jacket, and don’t forget lots of sunscreen since you are still in Hawaii after all.

Countdown to Christmas at the Polynesian Culture Center

There’s no better way to celebrate the season in true island form than with a visit to Polynesian Cultural Center. Rated the number one paid visitor attraction on Oahu – Polynesian Cultural Center showcases the cultural heritage of Polynesia through hands-on activities and experiences all year – but when you visit between Dec. 9 through 22, you’ll be gifted with holiday-inspired events during the Thirteen Days of Polynesia. The special event features a festive line-up of live music, Christmas canoe rides, snow days, and activities for the keiki. Get the most of your visit by booking your Polynesian Cultural Center package online today!

See a Hawaiian Christmas Tree

Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii’s way to say Merry Christmas and a Hawaii Christmas would not be complete without a Hawaii grown Christmas tree. It may not be as dreamy and white as in the mainland, but at Helemano Farms on the north shore of Oahu you can experience the scents and excitement of finding the perfect Christmas tree in paradise. The farm is home to a variety of trees that residents or visitors can cut down and take – including Norfolk Pine, Leyland Cypress, Blue Ice, Japanese Yoshino Cedar Trees, and Caroline Sapphire. Although you won’t be able to take your Hawaii Christmas tree home with you, the farm is still the perfect backdrop for your island-style holiday photos.

Go Whale Watching

Just as the warm waters attract out of state visitors, they are also a favorite destination for migrating whales. Humpback whales are spotted in Hawaii throughout the year but between January and March, they often frolic in shallow waters during their annual migration. This makes winter the best time for whale watching tours and to catch a glimpse of whales from shore. Although whales can be spotted up and down the Hawaii coast, the best spots to see these visitors are from Makapuu Lighthouse on Oahu, Poipu Beach on Kauai, and the Kohala Coast on the Big Island.

Check Out a Surf Contest

Hawaii is known for its big surf and during winter the swells only get bigger! On Oahu’s north shore, swells can reach record-breaking and dangerous heights, but for some it’s the perfect platform to hang ten. Between November and December of every year, Sunset Beach is home to one of the largest surfing competitions in the world, the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. Pack up for a beach day and head out early to grab a sandy, front row seat as the best of the best from around the world compete to catch killer waves.

Photo Credit: Salty Glass Co.