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What Will the Weather on Maui be Like Next Week?

The Weather Forecast is: Who Knows?

It’s very common for us to receive a phone call or a chat request from someone who says, “My tour is next week, and the forecast calls for rain.” A shrugging-type response is common. While it may be true that the forecast calls for rain, it doesn’t mean much to locals. That’s because, for the most part, your run of the mill online weather forecast for more than a few days in advance will not be accurate. Most reporting that isn’t island-specific is reporting weather that’s happening in some vague, central location, like an airport that is nowhere near your destination. The truth is, there is no way to make an accurate prediction of island-wide weather on Maui more than a day or two in advance. And even then, there have been lots of times when a “100% chance of rain” brought nothing but sunny skies and vice-versa. Why is the Hawaii weather forecast so tricky to predict? For starters, it’s a tiny spit of land surrounded by surrounded by deep water–big water, ocean water. There are somewhat reliable weather patterns around the island, but large or severe weather systems moving along the Central Pacific are, literally, hit or miss on the huge Pacific canvas.

Weather Trends Based on Micro-Climates

With the exception of periodic unstable weather patterns and cooling or rainy fronts moving past the islands from offshore systems, there’s a different kind of local weather forecast based on the island’s micro-climates. The western shores of Lahaina and Kaanapali are usually sunny, with winds picking up late morning. The southern shores of Kihei and Wailea are usually hot, dry and sunny. The north shore gets the lion’s share of the wind, and Haiku is where most of the north shore rain falls. As you travel the windward (north-northeast) side of the island toward Hana, the weather becomes increasingly wetter.  The summit at Mount Haleakala is usually very windy and at least 15-20 degrees cooler than the coasts. In fact, there’s ice or snowfall at the summit each winter. Kula, Makawao and Pukalani are at higher altitudes, and lie within the volcano’s rain shadow, which means they enjoy cooler temperatures and less rain than the north shore towns.

Will it Rain in the Rain Forest?

In a word, yes. The Rappel Maui activity site receives at least a little rain every day. It’s what keeps the waterfalls flowing and the landscape green. It’s the reason we operate rain or shine. When heavy rains or prolonged rains cause the waterways to flood, we stay out of the direct flow of the stream, and use rappel stations that are a safe distance from high or swift water. The more severe the flooding, the farther away we get from the stream.  Unless we’re expecting a tropical depression or storm, we probably won’t be able to tell you exactly how much rain there will be in the rainforest more than 48 hours in advance of your tour. The El Nino and La Nina years can sometimes make weather patterns more predictable. Because of the nature of the Rappel Maui activity, along with the activity location, the activity is very rarely cancelled due to severe or dangerous weather.

Island Topography and Geography

Maui’s land features are the main determinates for most of our weather patterns.  What most visitors don’t understand is that, while the island is relatively small, each one of the Hawaiian Islands has a collection of micro-climates. That’s why, if you call us very concerned about the amount of rain your’re watching from your Kaanapali hotel the day before or day of your tour, we will tell you that the weather for one part of an island is usually completely different from another, even if there’s only a few miles (as the crow flies) between them. Maui has more than a dozen micro-climates, for example, and so the weather in Lahaina and Kihei will likely be hot and dry most of the time, while the mountains within eyeshot of these locations are sometimes the wettest place on the earth.

Wind Direction Plays a Part in Weather Approaches

When offshore weather is approaching from the south and blows northward, it’s known as a kona wind. When weather is blown from the north toward the south, its know as a trade wind. Trade winds are the most common wind direction, and are responsible for keeping the island pleasantly temperate and vog-free.

We’re Here to Talk Story

Do you want to talk about the weather? We are ready to take your call and give whatever insights we can about the island and its ever-intimate relationship with nature. Our phone hours are 7 AM to 7 PM, Hawaii time, every day of the year. Or get your fingers tapping and chat with us online.

How Does Weather Affect a Rappel Maui Tour?

WHEN IS THE WEATHER WET IN HAWAII?

Some recent weather history on the Hawaiian Islands: the summer of 2015 was a very active one. It marked one of the strongest El Niño patterns in recorded history, which meant that warmer water temperatures along the equator brought higher numbers of tropical storms and hurricanes across the Pacific Ocean. El Niño was blamed for other strange weather patterns on the mainland that winter. There was flooding in some parts of the world, and severe drought conditions in others well into the spring of 2016. Here in Hawaii, the storm activity that crept across the Central Pacific made for noticeably wet weather. In 2016, that spring and summer never dried up; the moderate to heavy rains continued for the rest of the year, with some areas of the island receiving twice as much rain as usual. In early 2017, the weather began to settle into a more normal pattern; however, the weather in the rainforest is very unpredictable. If you are wondering what the weather is going to be like during your scheduled tour date, you may have to wait until 48 hours before your tour, unless a larger front, system or tropical storm is forecast. Also keep in mind, weather can vary wildly from shore to shore. It’s common for the weather in Kaanapali to be dramatically different from the weather in Haiku.  We can tell you how much rain has fallen or is expected at the activity site within the next few days.

WHAT DO WE DO WHEN IT RAINS?

A near-falls descent.

When heavy rain falls over the northern part of the island, it impacts Rappel Maui tours in a few ways.  We operate rain or shine, and we tell all of our guests to expect at least a little rain, even if it’s a few minutes of mist. There is frequently rain in the rainforest, and it’s evident from how lush and green the surroundings are at the activity location that is just a few miles from one of the wettest parts of the island: Hana. If heavy rains or prolonged periods of steady rains cause the streams to swell to levels that are unsafe for swimming, we operate the classic tour on a normal schedule and use alternative rappel stations that are a safe distance from the water course. Sometimes those stations are right next to the waterfall flow, ending in the ponds, and other times, when the falls are roaring and raging, we use jungle walls and cliffs that are farther away from the stream flow. The times when we do not operate due to weather is when extreme conditions cause road closures, landslides or widespread outages.

SAFETY FIRST

The main role of your guides is to make sure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable day. Safety is their first priority, and a generous portion of their attention is spent on looking out for one of the least forgiving dangers of rappelling: flash flooding. There are times when the water in the streams is not high or swift, and there’s blue sky above. Danger is not obvious to the average guest, but the guides opt to use rappel stations not directly in the water course. What gives? The local papers are full of accounts of visitors and locals alike getting stranded–or much worse–after seemingly safe conditions turned ugly within the period of a few seconds. When guests ask guides what made them veer from the preference of using the waterfalls, there’s usually a good reason based on ground saturation, the weather upstream, and river gauge readings taken before the tour began. Guides don’t take chances with your safety or theirs; if invisible dangers change your tour, and you’re unsatisfied or concerned, please call the reservations line to talk about your personal experience.  And if you’re ever interested in seeing for yourself what can happen when untrained explorers are caught off guard, this video and accompanying story is an excellent cautionary tale.

 

Five Reasons Why Rappelling is the Perfect Rainy Day Activity on Maui


If you’re visiting Hawaii in January, February or even March, there’s a good chance that you’ll experience some of the island’s cooler, wetter weather.  During some of these winter months, there’s even some snowfall at the top of the Big Island’s and Maui’s volcanic peaks. If you just spent a hefty sum to flee your frozen hometown for a week, no one can blame you for craving the sunny tropical beaches of Hawaii.  But if you’ve got a few soggy, gloomy days in front of you, take heart: We’ve got the perfect rainy day outdoor activity for you while you’re on Maui.

What Makes Rainforest Rappelling Such a Great All-Weather Go-To Tour?

1. Your destination is a rainforest canyon.

With so many outdoor activities on the island being weather dependent, we’re one of the few tours that can safely operate in virtually any kind of weather. That’s why one of the first things we say is: Rain or shine, we go.  How is this possible? Your tour is designed to take place in a rainforest canyon; that means that when it’s raining, you’re witnessing the jungle at its best and most normal state. It’s beautiful, it’s fragrant, it’s cool and it’s natural. When you see it you’ll know where the saying “right as rain” comes from. You’ll have time to listen to the pitter-patter of the drops falling on the plants and trees while the birds sing along.  When other tours must close up shop when high wind and high surf advisories threaten the island, we take you to a secluded area tucked into a snug valley protected by natural cliffs and rainforest canopy.  The weather on the windward side of the island is volatile and unpredictable, yes, but during the winter months, it can be some of the best weather on the island. Will you get wet? Yes, but…

2. You’re going to get wet anyway.

Anyone signing up to go waterfall rappelling is signing up to get wet. Whether that water is falling from the sky or the 50-cliff in front of you, it’s pretty much all the same stuff. This is outdoor adventure. Unless you’ve shown up in a business suit, the rain makes a pleasant sight and sensation that takes a lot of people back to a time when they thought it was fun to play in the rain. And it is!

3. It’s easy to get comfortable.

When it’s rainy, breezy or foggy, you’ll likely get fewer mosquito bites. When it’s sunny and hot, the waterfalls and pools make the perfect place for some chill time. When it’s chilly, a long-sleeved rash guard or wetsuit top under your flotation jacket is just the ticket for staying toasty, and there’s plenty of time for you to remove or add layers as conditions change.  After your tour, you can towel off and change into some fresh togs in one of the private on-site changing rooms. Ask your guide for some warm air in the van on the way back if you’re still feeling chilly.

4. It’s the most unique rainy day activity ever.

Anyone can go to the movies or stay inside when it’s rainy. It takes courage and savvy to take advantage of what most people would call “bad weather.” Going rappelling when everyone else is wandering around the lobby isn’t just making lemonade out of lemons, it’s making lifetime memories out of a rainy day. Embrace it!

5. Your bragging rights are irrevocable.

Hawaii is one of the most remote places on the Earth, with 10 of the 13 climate zones, and more endemic plant and animal species than you can shake a stick at. Not only were you here, a place where one island is getting bigger every second and a whole new island is brewing under the ocean’s surface, but you perched yourself at the top of a 6-story cliff and safely stepped off the edge.  You faced fears, danced with gravity and made new friends. You rocked it.  When most people return from vacation, they say, “I need to go on a diet.” What will you say?

What to Wear on a Rappel Maui Tour in Wet or Cooler Weather

This long-sleeved rash guard plus life jacket is great for staying toasty in rainy, cool winter weather.
This long-sleeved rash guard plus life jacket is great for staying toasty in rainy, cool winter weather.

During the winter months, the weather can get rainy and cool on Maui.  Since we operate tours rain or shine, that means you may (or may not) want to adjust your rappel tour attire.  You’ll still wear the special footwear that we provide you. It’s a rubber booty with a felt sole that’s designed for traversing wet rocks and muddy surfaces, and keeps your feet and ankles protected while you’re rappelling and swimming.   But your best bet for preparing yourself for a day in the elements is to know yourself.

If you know that you’re sensitive to cold water, consider bringing some special items with you, such as a wetsuit top or a diving fleece top or pants.  (If, once you get a visual on the conditions at the rappelling site, you decide you don’t need them, you can leave them in the van or the supply shed.) You can usually rent these at your nearby dive shop, or you can occasionally buy them at Maui’s own COSTCO.  If you’re not sure about making a special trip to the dive shop or mall, wear a sleeved rash guard or quick-dry tee shirt (pictured, right). Paired with your personal flotation jacket, this is a great combo for staying warm in rainy, cool winter weather.

If you want to really maximize your thermal comfort, bring with you a small towel and/or tee shirt, and stow them in a plastic waterproof bag, such as a Ziplock. (Double-bag them for insurance.) You can keep these with you in the dry keg that’s provided with a backpack, which you can then use to dry off and warm up after a waterfall rappel. Since you’ll have some time in between rappels, this is when you’re most likely to–literally–chill out.  Remember that you’ll have an opportunity to warm up by way of exercise during the brief workout at the end of your rappels. It’s the climb back up to the top that we refer to as The Stairmaster.

Make sure to bring a dry, warm change of clothing with you. If you know that it takes you a while to warm up after a day in the elements, think layers: Shorts, sweatpants, tee shirt, hoodie, maybe some socks. After lunch and a ride back to the dryer, sunnier side of the island, you’ll be right as rain. Have more questions about other nuances of a Rappel Maui tour? Phones are all the way live from 7 AM to 7 PM, 7 days a week.  Call us to talk story anytime.