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.