How to Make the Most of Hawaii’s Rainbow Season

rainbow season
(c) Elfi Kluck. Photo: Elfi Kluck

What began as a symbol of hope in the Old Testament, and brilliantly morphed into the LGBT movement’s defining flag, is also something celebrated by travelers around the globe (in particular, one auto-tuned hiker in northern California made a meme out of the phrase “double rainbow” back in 2010).

Hawaii has long been associated with rainbows, and for good reason: in Honolulu, the undisputed “rainbow capital of the world,” rapid weather fluctuations, mixed with sudden drops in elevation from mountains (where rainclouds form and linger) to sunny beaches make rainbows a near daily occurrence.

rainbow season
Daisuke Kishi

And the rainy season, which starts in late fall, is when they really start to explode.

Deanna Rose, founder of Indigo Elixirs, a Manoa Valley-based botanical skincare and custom perfume line, calls her home an “epic rainbow zone.” She explains: “There’s actually a street (Lowery Avenue) that cuts horizontally across the center of the valley, parallel to the ocean, and is referred to as the 'rain line'—if you live ‘mauka’ in relation to the line (that is, on the mountain side), it’s way rainier that if you live ‘makai’ (on the ocean side). Because rain is constantly sweeping the back of the valley and mixing with sun beaming down the front of the valley, the result is ridiculous rainbows all the time.”

As for best rainbow-watching in the area, Deanna says the higher you go, the better. Take a panoramic cruise, for example, along Tantalus Drive, which spits you out at Puu Ualaokua Park lookout point, offering views of Diamond Head and Punchbowl Crater. Or try hiking along Waahila ridge, on Manoa’s east side, which peers down over neighboring Palolo Valley. Stellar rainbow views all around—and if you’re lucky, you may even witness a circular rainbow, something only visible from way above.

hawaii rainbow season
Deanna Rose/ Indigo Elixirs

One travel writer who grew up in Hawaii recalls childhood car trips down Pali Highway, and the illusion of "driving through" rainbows. “At least, that’s what my parents called it when we were kids. No matter what, there are beautiful views, with or without rainbows.”

For more information on weather patterns around the different islands, check out this guide on the best time to visit Hawaii.

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