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Winter, otherwise known as hooilo, is peak season in Hawaii, with many choosing to escape the colder climates around the world in favor of the islands’ balmy warmth. From whale watching to surfing, these are some of the most popular activities to try if you are planning on spending hooilo in Hawaii.

Whale Watching
From the end of December to early May, the waters of Hawaii are filled with humpback whales, who have migrated back to warmer temperatures for the winter season. This makes the wintertime ideal for whale watching in Hawaii, and there are many great spots from where you can do so. In addition to watching them from shore, you will also find a number of whale watching tours operating during the winter, and these are well worth trying if you want to see a whale close-up. Another unforgettable experience is to dive underwater and listen to a whale song, as these haunting melodies, which are produced by the males, can be heard from up to 12 miles away.

With the sun not being as intensely strong in the winter, heading out for a long hike is a great way to spend the day while exploring Hawaii in detail. The trail that takes you up 10,000 feet to the crater of dormant volcano Mt. Haleakala passes through one of the most geologically diverse areas of the state, and is well worth the hike if you really want to see all that Hawaii has to offer, while those who want something less strenuous can choose from the many hiking trails on Big Island, crossing everything from beaches to lava pools.

Surfing has deep roots in Hawaii, believed to be a spiritual practice that allowed Native Hawaiians to engage with the Gods. While surfing was a sport that was once reserved for royalty, it is now loved by many, with the winter months in Hawaii being peak surfing season. For those who want the biggest and most dangerous waves, the spots to head to are the Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay, but you need to be extremely experienced to try your hand at these. If you are surfing for the first time, then the waters of Maunalua Bay are gentle and calm, and there are not usually crowds of people around.

Hawaii is a state that loves its local festivals, and there are plenty to be found in the winter months, giving you the opportunity to truly immerse yourself in the islands’ culture. The ‘Iolani Luahine Hula Festival is held at the end of January, showcasing authentic hula dances that date back to ancient times, while the Annual Kona Surf Film Festival is a festival that combines film with Hawaii’s love of the ocean.

Seasonal Cuisine
The local food in Hawaii is often one of the highlights for many visitors, and the winter months bring with them a few seasonal ingredients that locals really look forward to each year. From huge, creamy avocados to juicy mangosteen and tangerines, you will find these ingredients featured on many menus during hooilo.

Heading to Hawaii for the winter is a great way to escape the bitter cold for a while and spend some time in a tropical paradise. However, since hooilo is peak travel time in Hawaii, be prepared for larger crowds of people at attractions, and make sure to book everything as far in advance as possible.

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