While the island’s year-round, postcard-friendly climate means the weather forecast is almost always pleasant, a rainy day or two is not unlikely. Hawaii averages about 17 inches of rainfall a year and the wettest time of year tends to be during the winter months. Maybe an umbrella wasn’t the first item on your packing to-do list, but don’t fear; Oahu offers rainy-day friendly activities to keep you entertained while you plan your next beach outing.
Shopping + Spas
When the weather swells with wet and muggy air, you’re not relegated to holing up in the hotel. Enjoy free air-conditioning and treat yourself to a mini shopping spree at Kahala Mall, an enclosed mall filled with over 90 restaurants and stores. Find women’s boutiques like Fighting Eel and In My Closet and update your wardrobe with affordable pieces and made-in-Hawaii designs.
Rain or shine, visiting the Honolulu Night Market or the Art and Flea is one of the best events to find locally made gifts. Typically held once a month, the events feature a warehouse filled with local art, fashion and accessories, swimwear, music, food trucks and entertainment. If you are in town while an event is scheduled, be sure to check their social media sites for previews of vendors and artists.
Forget the gray skies and relax the day away with a little indulgence. Na Ho‘ola Spa (Hawaiian for “many healers”) was named by Kupuna and Kumu Aunty Malia Crave, where estheticians and therapists carry out her vision by promoting health and wellness through Hawaiian culture and its healing arts. Tucked in the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort, the two-story spa is known for its traditional Hawaiian treatments like lomi lomi and lomi wawae massage to rejuvenate the spirit.
Booking an appointment at Lather Spa and The Modern Honolulu gets you access the fitness center as well as the hotel’s exclusive, adults-only Sunset Pool, where you can sip cocktails between dips. The spa offers massage, body treatments, nail and waxing services and facials, with therapies ranging from tradition lomi lomoi massage to advanced technology oxygen-infusion treatments.
Marine Life + Fantastic Views
Explore marine life without stepping foot into the ocean at Waikiki Aquarium. The second-oldest aquarium in the United States is home to fish, turtles, coral, jellyfish and monk seals. Indoors, you can view tropical fish species through a 4,000-gallon public display, learn about marine life through interactive displays. Grab an umbrella and head outdoors because you won’t want to miss watching a monk seal feeding show.
While swimming and snorkeling during a downpour make for murky water with limited visibility, sinking 100-feet below water is safe and still offers great visibility of the ocean floor. At Atlantis Submarines Waikiki view tropical fish, coral and turtles through a large glass viewport as the submarine glides past sunken shipwrecks and other artificial reefs.
While a hike may not seem like the best place to go on a rainy day, waterfall hikes are often best after a heavy downpour. If the rain has slowed to a sporadic drizzle and you don’t mind a little mud, the 1.6-mile tropical trail at Manoa Falls comes alive and the 150-foot waterfalls cascade into a shallow pool. Just don’t forget the mosquito repellent.
Or, take the rental car out for a scenic drive of over the H-3 highway, where waterfalls spill over the Koolau Mountain Range after a heavy rain. Oftentimes, if it’s raining on one side of the island, it may be dry on another, so check the weather forecast even if it’s gray and stormy from your hotel window.
Museums + Theatres
Visiting museums or catching a play are great ways to get to know the island’s history or supporting local arts while avoiding the rain. Open Tuesday through Saturday, the Hawaii State Art Museum features an extensive collection of paintings, photos, sculptures and mixed media in three galleries and offers free at all times.
The Honolulu Museum of Art is the largest fine arts museum in the state, focusing on Asian Art and American and European works. View over 50,000 pieces, spanning over 500 years of art in their permanent collection. Admission is free every first Wednesday of the month and every third Sunday of the month for Bank of Hawaii Family Sundays from 11 am to 5 pm. General admission for adults 18 and over is $10 and also includes free entry to the Spalding House on the same day.
To learn about Hawaii’s storied history, visit the Bishop Museum, where you can get to know the islands’ past through ancient Hawaiian exhibits to a Planetarium to a Science Adventure Center and a Hawaii’s Sports Hall of Fame. Once designed to house Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop’s family heirlooms, the museum now holds the world’s largest collection of Polynesian cultural artifacts and natural history specimens.
History buffs will enjoy a day at the Pacific Aviation Museum. Occupying two seaplane hangars on the historic Ford Island, which survived the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. The 1930s era hangar exhibits vintage aircrafts and artifacts from World War II, including Japanese Zero planes, which crashed on Niihau. Self-guided audio tours and docent-led aviator and B-17E Swamp Ghost tours are available.
Visiting the only royal palace on United States soil is a must-visit for any traveler, regardless of weather. Built in 1882, the Iolani Palace was once home to King Kalakaua and his sister Queen Liliuokalani. Visitors can take a docent-led or self-guided tour of the grounds and view the opulent American-Florentinte-style palace while learning about the island’s controversial past.
If you’ve already been to Iolani Palace, take a tour of Queen Emma Summer Palace in Nuuanu Valley. From 1857-1885, this lush residence was once a retreat from Queen Emma, her husband King Kamehameha IV and their son Prince Albert. The historical landmark and museum displays the family’s possessions in their preserved Greek Revival-style home and is decorated with portraits of the royal family of Hawaii.
Formed in 1915, Diamond Head Theatre was previously known as The Footlights and Honolulu Community Theatre and still dubs itself the “Broadway of the Pacific.” The third oldest operating community theatre in the US offers a season of six theatrical productions, including musicals and plays, ranging from comedies, dramas and holiday classics.
Fronting three blocks of Hawai‘i’s famed Kalākaua Avenue, Royal Hawaiian Center stands upon grounds that were once the home of Her Royal Highness, Princess Bernice Pauahi, great-granddaughter of King Kamehameha I, who unified the islands of Hawai‘i into one nation in 1810. With more than 100 shops and restaurants, along with an extensive cultural and entertainment program, the Center offers a unique shopping experience in the heart of Waikīkī.