Best Time of Year for Birding in Hawaii – Revealed

Aloha, fellow bird enthusiasts!

As someone who’s been absolutely captivated by Hawaii’s unique birdlife for years now, I can’t wait to share my top tips and insights with you on making the most of your time in this avian paradise. Trust me when I say that once you witness these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat, it’s a memory that stays with you forever.

But here’s the thing – timing is everything! My boyfriend and I have navigated our way through sunlit forests and rain-drenched beaches alike, all in pursuit of those perfect bird watching moments (and many laughs along the way). So from one passionate birder to another, let me be your guide as we explore the best times for birdwatching in Hawaii together.

With countless hours spent studying native species and discussing techniques with fellow enthusiasts over the years, you could say that birdwatching has become somewhat of an obsession for me. This dedication to our feathered friends means I’ve got some seriously helpful tips up my sleeve – or rather, tucked away under my binoculars strap.

Warning: You might find yourself humming “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” while marveling at Hawaii’s captivating birds. It happens to the best of us!

So grab your field guide and adjust those binoculars – we’re about to embark on an unforgettable journey through Hawaii’s lush landscapes in search of its most fascinating feathery occupants.

#1 Best Islands for bird watching:

The top four islands for bird watching in Hawaii include Kauai, Big Island, Maui, and Oahu. These islands have natural habitats for the types of birds found in Hawaii, and let me tell you! 90% of birds found in these habitats are not found anywhere else on Earth in nature. 

In general, the Big Island is considered the best island in Hawaii for bird watching because it has the biggest population of regional birds. Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge offers various populations of native Hawaiian bird species in their native environment. It’s a top pick for all serious bird watchers. 

#2 How to prepare

This is an outside activity, whether done with an official tour or individually, and requires some preparation. Most bird watching requires walking and some hiking, so dress well and prepare good close-toed shoes. In tropical weather like Hawaii, it’s best to prepare for both rain and shine, so a raincoat and sunscreen are both good options. From personal experience, bug spray is also a must. 

Experienced bird watchers also know to bring plenty of water, head protection, snacks, and binoculars. Photography lovers will also have plenty of opportunities to take pictures of exotic species and native rainforest vegetation. 

#3 Visit The National Parks And Wildlife Refuges

Hawaii is rich in national parks and wildlife preserves and refuges. In part because it hosts an amazing collection of native and rare birds only found on the islands. It offers an opportunity for unique once in a lifetime observation of wildlife which should be respected and admired. For true lovers of birds, there are some amazing choices. 

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

We have visited this wildlife refuge twice, and both times we had an amazing time and much to see. The area is enchanting and full of gorgeous panoramic views and birds you won’t see anywhere else. Asides from beautiful scenery, a restored lighthouse, golf carts, and a great gift shop, the spot is truly rich in birds and other wildlife. 

The sanctuary displays fun and detailed information on the numerous birds protected by the sanctuary, and we were able to see all of them during our visits. One thing to remember is that you must make a reservation. Also, make sure you get access to the stunning lighthouse by checking ahead. The planning details are well worth it. 

Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge

This is a great off-the-beaten-path location where you won’t find a lot of people. It’s easy to find parking, take a short walk, and you are guaranteed to see up close many species of birds. When we visited I took great pictures of white coastal birds, nene (Hawaiian goose) birds, and groups of ducks. It’s an opportunity to see birds nesting, and the general scenery is gorgeous and tropical (as expected). 

Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge

To truly enjoy this place I recommend taking a guided tour (it’s also often closed to self-tours because of fear of transferring disease to the animals). But even without a professional guide in a small organized group, there is so much to see including African game birds, European songbirds, and more. This area is protected and with good reason. It’s home to almost all the species and the native populations of magnificent birds of Hawaii. 

#4 Take Advantage Of Bad Weather

Unlike some activities, birdwatching on a rainy day (if you are well prepared) can be a unique and exciting experience. Weather influences the behavior of birds and they are less active. Instead, they perch in trees and covered areas and remain still. Giving a bird watcher the perfect opportunity to closely watch the birds and even take some amazing pictures. Birds are waterproof, so if you make yourself waterproof as well, you are guaranteed a great time exploring their behavior and habitat. 

#5 Take a guided tour

An excellent option to get the best birdwatching experience and a professional tour guide is an organized tour. With a professional guide, you can be sure to see the largest collection of birds available in their natural environment. As a bonus, the trained guides are extremely knowledgeable and informative, sharing valuable information about each species, its habitat, and its behavior. 

Take a look at my recommended tours based on experience: 

Full-Day Hakalau Forest Reserve Bird-Watching Adventure

Duration: 12 hours (approx.)

Meeting point: Queen’s MarketPlace, 69-201 Waikoloa Beach Dr, Waikoloa Village, HI 96738 Island Lava Java Waikoloa, 68-1845 Waikoloa Rd, Waikoloa Village, HI 96738


Big Island: Full-Day Hike and Bird-Watching Tour with Lunch

Duration: 12 hours (approx.)

Meeting point: Pickup and drop-off from Queen’s Marketplace in Waikoloa and the local partner’s headquarters in Kona


Conclusion on the Best Time for Bird Watching

The Hawaiian islands are home to some of the most authentic and native examples of bird species. 

For lovers of birdwatching like myself, picking the right time and place can make all the difference. 

That’s why in my article above I have outlined all the necessary information to make sure you get the full experience! Following my advice, you will for sure enjoy extraordinary species in their natural environment, scenic views, and more.

Book one of my recommended tours, so you don’t miss out! 

Last Updated on May 1, 2023 by Brigitte