As the morning traffic backs up on the Pali Highway below me and kids chatter and file into class at the middle school across the street, it’s easy to almost hear fall strolling into September. It’s that “shoulder season” that tourism and service industry people know settles down after the peak summer holiday months. Folks are back at work, kids are back at school, and Hawaii’s most popular visitor attractions see a dip in attendance. Business is down, but business is still good. I’ve always figured the fall shoulder season to fall between Labor Day and Halloween, and New Year and Easter in the Spring.
This might be the best time of year to visit Hawaii. It’s easier to get tickets for the Pearl Harbor tour, to find accommodations at Volcano House on the Big Island, to enjoy the pristine beaches of the North Shore on Oahu before the professional surfing circus clamors in with its attendant crowds, traffic congestion, and “I-took-a-selfie-with-a-monk-seal” punters that make the area sometimes problematic to negotiate.
In the fall shoulder season, the harrowing nature of wobbly cyclists on main drags in Lahaina on Maui and Kona on the Big Island is somewhat lessened. Kailua on Oahu is bearable. Simple, seasonal data says as much, as does the abundance of anecdotal evidence available from anyone who lives here and works in the visitor/service industries.
And that’s why this is the best time to visit Hawaii. It’s just easier to find your own, quiet Hawaii at places which, during peak the travel seasons, might otherwise be overrun. It’s life-changing to be able to talk to a docent at the Mauna Kea Observatories Visitor Center when they’re not swamped with visitors wanting gluten-free popsicles, or to speak with a park ranger at Waimea Canyon on Kauai that isn’t pulling their hair out because people refuse to heed posted parking safety protocols and restrictions.
In the shoulder season, the famous Matsumoto’s Shave Ice on Oahu’s North Shore might not have a line like the DMV. If you’re a golfer, you can probably get a tee-time at any of Hawaii’s more famous courses for cheaper than you could in July. And, of course, airfares in the off-peak seasons are cheaper.
Soon, the weather will change, if only just perceptibly. Nights will get cooler, and windward and mauka showers will more frequently fall throughout Hawaii. But summer is still here. For those who visit, and for those who live here, it’s the time make Hawaii your own.