I’ve always been a big fan of expecting the worst but hoping for the best, and that line of thinking has served me well over the years. Especially during a recent trip to Hawaii.

Basically, it rained the entire time. Like, it never stopped. It was raining when I arrived, and it never let up. The only sunshine I saw over that 3 day period was during the taxi ride to the airport to fly back home to the mainland.

And you know what? It ended up being one of my best visits to Hawaii ever.

Scott climbing a volcano on the big island of Hawaii
Fun fact: climbing a volcano on the Big Island is just as much fun in the rain as it is when it’s sunny and nice. Yes, you’re still going to rip your favorite pair of shoes to pieces, but it’s all part of the experience.

First of all, yes, Hawaii is still fun in the pouring rain…

Guess what? It rains in Hawaii. Quite a bit actually. But don’t worry, there are still plenty of fun and interesting things to do when the weather isn’t cooperating:

  • Visit a museum: Oahu has several museums that are worth exploring, such as the Bishop Museum or the Honolulu Museum of Art.
  • Go to an indoor aquarium: The Maui Ocean Center or the Waikiki Aquarium are great options to stay dry while enjoying marine life.
  • Take a cooking class: Learn how to make traditional Hawaiian dishes like poke or kalua pig while staying dry indoors.
  • Visit a spa: Treat yourself to a relaxing spa day and enjoy a massage or facial.
  • Go shopping: Hawaii has plenty of indoor shopping centers where you can shop for souvenirs or new clothes.
  • Watch a movie: Catch a movie at one of Hawaii’s many movie theaters.
  • Visit a brewery or distillery: Hawaii has several breweries and distilleries that offer tours and tastings.
  • Take a yoga class: Many yoga studios in Hawaii offer indoor classes that can help you relax and stay active – even in the rain!
  • Explore a botanical garden: Hawaii has many beautiful botanical gardens that can be enjoyed even in the rain, such as the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden (my favorite) or the Lyon Arboretum.
  • Take a drive: Hawaii is beautiful no matter what the weather, and hopping in a rental car and seeing the sights is a great way to take in the beauty of it all while staying (mostly) dry.
Driving in the rain in Hawaii
Of all the suggestions I just listed, hopping in a car and doing a road trip around the island is my favorite wet weather activity in Hawaii. Note the the butt pucker factor can quite high though (so it’s not for the timid). It rains really hard here sometimes!
Rainy Hawaii shoreline
Hrmph. I can only imagine what this would look like under bright sunshine. Still, I guess I’d much rather be out here in the pouring rain than walking through the adult diaper section on my way to the Cheetos aisle at my local Walmart back home.

How I managed to have fun in Hawaii despite all the rain

1). I didn’t have an overly detailed itinerary

The ability to pivot and change directions at a moment’s notice is what allowed me to salvage this trip.

Yeah, I thought it might be fun to replicate some of the fun I had on my last Waikiki trip, but nothing was set in stone.

As a matter of fact, I had a mental plan for nearly whatever kind of weather I was going to experience. I basically stepped off the plane telling Mother Nature to bring it (however she saw fit). I was ready for anything.

Rainy Waikiki beach
By the way, this is what happens when you dare Mother Nature to “bring it” in Hawaii. She certainly delivers (especially if she doesn’t like your attitude).

Had I expected nothing but sunshine and blue skies the entire time, I probably would’ve been really ticked off when looking at the weather forecast.

Going with the flow and embracing the rain was fun. Would I have preferred sunshine blue skies? You betcha. But it also wouldn’t have allowed me to experience things that I did.

2). I focused on enjoying the moment

Every time I started feeling depressed thinking about all the rain during this trip, it didn’t take long for me to come to my senses and realize that this was still a lot more fun than a normal weekend at home.

Rainy Hawaii scenery
Yes, I was soaked right down to my underwear as I stood out here taking pics of the scenery, but it was totally worth it. I didn’t even swear once!

It’s not often I get the chance to jet off to Hawaii and leave the stresses of normal adult life behind. Just enjoying the fact that I was seeing things I’ve never seen before in the most beautiful part of the world was enough to keep me happy and pushing forward.

We take too much for granted in this life, bouncing from one thing to the next without thinking, so taking a moment to stop and look around was an incredibly refreshing feeling.

3). I learned to embrace the beauty of Hawaiian rain

Have you ever experienced a heavy Hawaiian rain storm? I don’t mean looking out at the pouring rain from the comfort of your 5 star hotel room.

I’m talking about being out in the rain without an umbrella, barefoot, and grinning from ear to ear as you feel every rain drop pelt you with a cold sting.

No? Well I’m here to tell you that you’re missing out on one of life’s amazing little pleasures.

Driving through big island Hawaii jungle
Pro tip: having the safety of a car to retreat to when you’re hearing scary jungle noises is highly recommended. Hawaii comes alive in the rain!

The rain in Hawaii just hits different. It sounds different as well. The mix of rain falling on large palm fronds with exotic birds singing in the background is something special. It’s a soundtrack you aren’t going to find many other places on earth.

4. I turned it into a scouting trip

One of my dream jobs has always been to be a location scout for the Hollywood movie studios. They essentially pay you to fly around the world searching for just the right location to shoot movies and TV shows, and for a traveler who needs a day job, it doesn’t get much better than that.

That’s why I always morph into “scout mode” whenever I’m on a trip that isn’t going as planned. I’m essentially giving up on the current trip, throwing in the towel on trying to make it the epic adventure I wanted it to be.

Instead, I start planning my return trip (the redemption trip, as I like to call it) because hey – I’m always looking for an excuse to travel and trying again always sounds like a good idea.

rainy Honolulu airport
< Arnold Schwarzenegger voice > I’ll be back. < / Arnold Schwarzenegger voice > You can count on that.

For the remainder of the trip, I’m mentally taking notes about the things I want to see next time. There will always be a next time.

A few final words about making the most out of a rained out Hawaiian vacation

Making the best of unfortunate situations is a completely mental process, and it does take practice.

I remember all too well the feeling of being an impatient 8 year old boy who never got to eat what he wanted for dinner. It wasn’t until I was in my mid 20s when I learned that expecting amazing things to happen every moment of every day was a sure fire way to be miserable.

Hope for the best, plan for the worst, and if at first you don’t succeed, you can always visit Hawaii again. It’s not going anywhere (I promise).

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