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Best and Worst Times to Visit Florida

Average Florida weather
Average high and low temperatures (˚F), humidity (Relative %), rainfall (Inches), and ocean temperature in Florida by month. © 2020 Scott S. Bateman
Say the word "Florida" to someone from Europe, Canada, or the northern states of the U.S., and they are likely to picture hot weather, clear skies and wide, sandy beaches.

That's what most visitors want when they go to Florida for vacation, but that's not always what they get.

The best time to visit Florida depends on where you want to go and what you want to do. For example, if you want to hit the beaches in the northern part of the state, you should avoid traveling during the winter, when water temperatures are cool. But if you want to go to Magic Kingdom in Orlando, winter is good beause you avoid the intense heat and humidity of the summer months.

Quick Tips on Best and Worst Times

Best Times

  • Low rain and "cool" temperatures: April and November have the lowest rainfall. The average temperature is also somewhat cool, at least for Florida.
  • Low rain and warm temperatures: May and October have the best combination of low rainfall and warmth, but without blistering hot temperatures.
  • If You Want to Go to the Beach: For beachgoers, May is the best time to visit Florida, as rainfall is still moderate (except in Miami and West Palm Beach).
  • If You Want to Visit Disney World and Universal Studios: Late fall is the best time to go to Orlando, as both temperature and rainfall will be moderate.

Worst Times

  • A lot of rain: June has the most rain, followed by July through September.
  • Florida Keys: The peak rainy-season months of August through October.
  • Miami: June and September.

The risk of tropical storms (and even an occasional hurricane) is also highest during the late summer and fall because of the annual Caribbean hurricane season.

The arrival of Hurricane Dorian on the Florida coast in August 2019 is an example of the risk that comes with going to Florida during hurricane season.

Florida's official rainy season runs from May 15th through October 15th, during which time the state usually receives about 70% of its yearly rainfall.

Florida has a hurricane season because the Caribbean has a hurricane season. Florida's season starts and ends six months earlier than the Caribbean. The Caribbean season officially runs from June 1st to November 30th every year.

Bad weather usually forms in the eastern Atlantic and moves west. Sometimes that bad weather evolves into a tropical storm and may grow with intensity into a hurricane. These weather patterns also tend to travel in an arc that heads toward the Caribbean and then turns up along the U.S. coast. Sometimes the arc has little impact on the U.S. and other times it does.

In recent years, Florida has had few hurricanes hitting landfall or even coming close. But over the last 30 years, the state has the highest average rainfall from June through September because the impact of these tropical storms and hurricanes can spread over a wide area.

Worst Time to Visit Disney World in Orlando

This writer still remembers standing in a two-hour line waiting for a ride at Disney World in Orlando during the summer. A child sat on his shoulders. The temperature was above 90, not a cloud dotted the sky and the humidity was high. Sweat poured off every inch. It was a miserable day, followed by three more of the same.

The reality is that many families vacation in Florida during the summer (especially in Orlando) because kids are out of school. But in my opinion, it is the worst time to visit Disney World because of hot and humid weather, and should be avoided if at all possible.

Best Time to Visit Florida's Beaches

Walt Disney World
Late fall is one of the best times to visit Universal Studios, above, or Disney World in Orlando because of comfortable temperatures. Source: public domain
The best time to go to most beach destinations in Florida for warm weather is May through September.

But keep in mind that a mix of heat and humidity will be at its worst from June through August—the same months with the highest average rainfall. Without a doubt, the month with the best combination of warm weather and low rain for beachgoers is May.

A recent visit to Fort Myers Beach in August had hot and humid weather —- sometimes with the heat index nearing 100 degrees Fahrenheit —- except for thunderstorms that passed by every afternoon without fail. (The heaviest rainfall of the year usually occurs from June through August, according to 30 years of data from the National Weather Service.)

They came from the east, the remnants of Tropical Storm Cristobal. It was tolerable because we were on a beach and not in the much hotter and more humid interior part of the state, but it certainly wasn't ideal.

The busiest months in Florida are February and March, with January following closely behind. June and July are also quite busy. Flights and accommodation will be most expensive during these months.

If you want to avoid the tourist crowds (and the inflated tourist prices), November is the calmest month, followed by September and October.

Because Orlando is in the interior of the state, it has even higher temperatures during the summer than the coastal destinations. The best time to go to Orlando is November through May because of lower chances of rain and of course comfortable temperatures for standing in line for rides.

Florida Weather Tips By Season

Florida Weather in Summer

Nothing from stifling temps to hurricane-worthy downpours can stop hordes of tourists from visiting Florida during the summer, the most popular time of the year to visit. The summer months are popular because of families with children out of school. (Adults without children will find that the ideal combination of temperatures in the mid- to upper-80s plus lower chances of rain usually takes place in April and May.)

Weather in the Fall

The period of September through November shows a common pattern for almost every location in the state —- more rain in September and then less rain for the rest of the fall season.

The east coast of Florida sees continued high rainfall, especially Miami and West Palm Beach, because September is the worst month of the year for the Caribbean hurricane season. As a result, the east coast is susceptible to bad remnant weather.

Average temperatures drop about 10 degrees over the three-month period. A glance at each of the climate charts in this article will show that October is a good month to visit Florida because of a combination of lower rainfall and comfortable daytime temperatures.

Rainfall is even lower in November, but temperatures drop another five degrees or so, meaning ocean swimming will be uncomfortable at best.

Weather in Winter

Winter is the worst time to go to Florida beaches and among the best times to go to Orlando for Disney World and Universal Studios. Northern destinations like Jacksonville see average daytime high temperatures in the 60s Fahrenheit, while destinations as far south as Key West see daytime temperatures in the mid-70s.

In winter, no Florida destination is likely to have weather warm enough for sunning on beaches, let alone for swimming.

But winter also is one of the best times of the year; with the least rain, it is ideal for land activities such as visiting theme parks, golfing and other recreational sports. During the winter, avoid northern locations such as Jacksonville and Daytona and instead focus on the southern locations—Miami, Tampa and the Florida Keys. But don't expect Caribbean-like temperatures.

Weather in Spring

The same could be said about rain in the spring, except for the fact that it stays low only during March, climbs in April and climbs again in May. Likewise, temperatures get warmer in March and climb for the next two months. March remains too cool for sunbathing and swimming on most days, while April and May do better.

It’s worth pointing out that rainfall is still moderate for most places in May except for Miami and West Palm Beach, both of which see a slightly higher jump. Virtually every major destination in Florida sees average high temperatures rising into the 80s Fahrenheit during May.

Keep in mind that nighttime temperatures still average in the 60s during this time, which will make ocean waters cool in the mornings until the afternoon sun heats them back up.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

 > Category: Florida   

January 23, 2021
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