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Do you need to bring a rain jacket to Kauai?

Waipouli Beach Resort Kauai

Short answer: Yes, it’s a good idea to bring a lightweight, compact rain jacket to Kauai.  It doesn’t take up much space in a suitcase.  Kauai is one of the wettest Hawaiian islands.  Keep in mind, it’s not necessary for warmth so the lighter the better. A water-resistant windbreaker will do.  If you do get a bit wet it’s not the end of the world because it’s warm; you won’t get the chill that I’m all too familiar with in Vancouver, BC where we live.

In 2018 we spent two incredible weeks in Kauai. We went in March (Spring Break).  What a stunningly beautiful island.

Before going we knew it was one of the rainier, wetter Hawaiian islands (we’ve been to Maui several times).  While we hoped it wouldn’t rain, we kind of expected it.  Sadly, Kauai delivered with the rain.  Our first week we put up with quite a bit of rain. Fortunately, it was mostly sunny the second week.

What’s the weather like in Kauai?

According to frommers.com, “it rains every day somewhere in the islands at any time of the year.” But, usually not for more than three days straight. In fact, days in Hawaii will often be a mix of sun and brief rain—making for beautiful rainbows. Still, if you make the trip during the rainy season of November through March, the skies will be grayer.

Kauai in particular, according to travelfashiongirl.com, “is home to Mt. Waialeale, which is one of the wettest places on earth.” The east and north sides tend to be cooler and moist, while the west and south sides are hot and dry. High up on the mountain peaks, it can get relatively chilly, and the weather can be drastically different from one side of the island to the other. If you don’t like the weather where you are, you have a good chance of finding weather you do elsewhere on the island.

How much rain does Kauai get each month?

Waipouli beach overcast

Overcast skies on Waipouli beach resort on the island of Kauai

If you’re loathe to bring a rain jacket, you could play the odds by average rainfall by month in Kauai.  Check out the following chart setting out the average monthly temperature, rainfall and daylight hours for Kauai:

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Kauai average monthly rainfall and temperature chart

Source: Tripsavvy.com

As you can see from the above chart, November, December and March are the wettest months by quite a bit. Given we went in March, it’s not surprising we had quite a bit of rain.

Compare that to average monthly rainfall in Maui. The following chart sets out average monthly rainfall for different parts of Maui:

Average monthly rainfall in Maui

Source: Mauihawaii.org

As you can see, Kauai receives quite a bit more rain throughout the year than Maui.

In fact, Mount Waialeale located in the middle of Kauai is one of the wettest places on earth averaging a mindblowing 450 inches of rain each year. Now keep in mind that the mountain receives more rain than the low-lying beach areas, but it still means quite a bit of rain on all of Kauai.

Mount Waialeale on the Island of Kauia

Mount Waialeale on the Island of Kauia.

What type of rain jacket should you bring to Kauai?

My hunch is that by now you’ve decided a rain jacket is probably a good thing to bring to Kauai.  In fact, it’s pretty important because it’s warm when it rains.  You can still enjoy the outdoors and while getting wet when it’s warm is hardly the end of the world, you might get tired of being soaked unless enjoying the pool or the ocean.

You should bring a very, very lightweight, breathable rain jacket. Do not bring a waterproof jacket except a poncho is a good option because you can quickly throw it on to deal with bursts of rain then take it off and pack it away.

Examples:

BALEAF Men's Waterproof Rain Jacket Lightweight Outdoor Running Cycling Golf Rain Coat Hood Packable Black Grey S

FROGG TOGGS Standard Ultra-Lite2 Poncho, Carbon Black, One Size

At the end of the day, it should be a rain jacket that does not heat you up, is compact and has some water-repelling capabilities.  This really opens it up to brands and types of rain jackets.

Is it worth going to Kauai if it rains so much?

That entirely depends on what kind of vacation or trip you want.  We probably won’t go back.  For us, Hawaii is all about sun and fun.  The rain was annoying.  Sure, we enjoyed the pools, the beaches and some sightseeing despite the rain but we would have preferred no rain.  We did not go to Kauai to explore the rich vegetation the island offers.

Which brings me to the main point.  Kauai has incredibly lush vegetation throughout. It is beautiful and if that is what you wish to see, then Kauai is definitely worth it. We went with young kids who wanted to swim in pools, build sandcastles on the beach and do minimal sightseeing (although they loved the caves).

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What else should I bring to Kauai?

If you’re new to the climate and activities of a Hawaiian vacation, you might be wondering what to pack. Other than a rain jacket, below are some must-have items to get the most out of your stay on Kauai.

Water shoes

You’ll be able to pack lighter and get the most out of your investment if you get waterproof shoes with a nice tread that can double for wearing in the ocean and on hikes. Especially considering many hikes in Kauai are to waterfalls, and there’s always a good chance of rain, waterproof shoes make it so you never have to change your footwear no matter what activity you’re doing. In the ocean, they can keep you from gashing your feet on sharp coral or slipping on the algae. Regardless, with all the mud and red dirt around Kauai, you’ll want to bring shoes you can clean off after all your adventures in the outdoors.

Swimwear

Bringing a swimsuit on a Hawaii vacation is a no-brainer, but make sure to bring more than one. With all the humidity and the amount of time you’ll spend in the water, you’ll want to have a better chance of having a suit that’s dry at all times. If you really want to be prepared, pack a swimsuit in your carry-on if you’re checking a bag, to ensure you still have one should your luggage get lost. Also, bring a cover-up you can throw over your suit so you can go from beach to restaurant and back without a problem.

Especially if you plan to go snorkeling, paddleboarding, or surfing, a rashguard is an important addition to your swimwear for Hawaii. Rashguards provide you with fifty-plus UPF protection against hours in the strong Hawaii sun and protection from getting scratched up from your board. They can also keep you warm because, even in warm Hawaii water, it’s possible to get chilly after hours in the ocean.

Clothes for warm weather

This might be another obvious one, but you’ll most likely want to leave your jeans at home—they’ll just make you hot. If you plan to eat at an upscale restaurant, nice sandals and a sundress or khakis and an aloha shirt will usually do. You’ll probably want to avoid high heels since they’ll get stuck in the commonly unpaved areas around Kaui’s restaurants. You’ll be much more comfortable in the sticky humidity if any clothes you bring—from shirts to shorts to dresses—are made up of light, breathable fabric such as linen. Some good flip-flops, of course, are necessary for the beach, along with sturdier sandals for walking around town.

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By contrast, a light sweater is another item of clothing you’ll want to add to your Hawaii travel bag. Kauai can be windy, especially at night, and having a sweater handy will help keep you from getting too chilly.

Waterproof protection for your electronic devices

If you plan to bring your electronic devices out on the water with you, it’s best to be prepared to keep them safe. A waterproof phone case will protect your phone from both the ocean and the rain. A dry bag can also help keep your devices dry while on a boat or kayak. Finally, to prevent losing your devices in the ocean, a flotation wrist-strap can help them stay afloat on the surface if you happen to drop them in the water.

Reef-safe sunscreen

Most sunscreens contain chemicals known to destroy plant and animal life in coral reefs like that of Hawaii. Using reef-safe sunscreen will help make sure all the fish and turtles you enjoy on your snorkeling adventures will be there for everyone to enjoy and benefit from for years to come.

While we’re on the topic of protecting the environment, it’s also a good idea to bring your own water bottle on your trip. According to kauai.com, “plastic water bottles that you purchase have to be shipped off-island for recycling,” so it’s more sustainable to bring a reusable one. Also, plastic shopping bags are banned on Kauai, so you might want to bring your own reusable shopping bag as well.

What are the best places to visit while on Kauai?

In the Kauai Revealed guidebook, locals reveal the best locations to experience while on Kauai—from beaches to restaurants to hiking trails. There’s even a map on the back of the book, giving you an easy visual for finding the best spots on the island.

According to explorenowornever.com, the hike you cannot miss on Kauai is the Kalalau Trail on the Napali Coast. They also recommend a snorkel and sailboat tour to get the best views of Kauai’s green island cliffs. For the best travel seasons, they suggest either September through November or April through June for a cheaper, less-crowded experience—and better weather.