The climate of Kiribati is tropical, hot all year round, with considerable differences in rainfall, in fact the islands are scattered in the centre of the Pacific Ocean, along the Equator, spanning a vast area, and in the central and eastern part of the country a strange phenomenon occurs: the islands in the Equator receive a cool sea current from the east, coming even from South America, which makes the climate more arid.

Cool current in the Kiribati Islands

- In the west, the Gilbert Islands, from which the name of the entire archipelago is derived, have an equatorial climate, rainy throughout the year, with a rainier season from December to April, and a relatively less rainy season from May to November. Banaba Island (or Ocean Island), located apart from the others in the south-west, has a similar climate.
In the capital South Tarawa, where the daytime temperature is around 31 °C (88 °F) throughout the year, 1,900 millimetres (75 inches) of rain per year fall, with a maximum in January of 270 mm (10.5 in), and a minimum in September and October of 90 mm (3.5 in) per month. Heading south, the rainfall decreases gradually, until it reaches about 1,500 mm (60 in) in the southernmost islands of the group.
Here is the average precipitation in South Tarawa.
Average precipitation - South Tarawa
South TarawaJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec. (mm)2552001901751451351651251101101202101940

Here are the average temperatures of South Tarawa, which as you can see are very stable.
Average temperatures - South Tarawa
South TarawaJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)252525252525252525252525
Max (°C)313131313131313131313131
Min (°F)777777777777777777777777
Max (°F)888888888888888888888888

The sea is warm all year round as well, as you can see in the following table.
Sea temperature - South Tarawa
South TarawaJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Sea (°C)292828292929292929292929
Sea (°F)848282848484848484848484

- In the central area, the Phoenix Islands, almost completely uninhabited, are more arid, so that in the only inhabited atoll, Canton, just 500 mm (20 in) of rain per year fall, with little rainfall from October to February, and moderate rainfall in the rest of the year.

- In the east, the Line Islands, or Equatorial Sporades, almost in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, are very extended in latitude, and the rainfall amount varies depending on the area: the central islands, despite being near the Equator, are semi-arid, while the northern islands are rainy, because they lie within the Intertropical Convergence Zone. So, only 450 mm (17.5 in) per year fall in Malden Island, just south of the Equator, and precipitation exceeds 100 mm (4 in) per month only in April and May; it reaches 1,000 mm (40 in) in Christmas Island (or Kiritimati), just north of the Equator, with heavy rains practically only in March and April.
Here is the average precipitation in Christmas Island.
Average precipitation - Christmas Island
Christmas IslandJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec. (mm)11580135170951159570503545501050

The rains become much more abundant in the northern Fanning Island (or Tabuaeran), which in fact has a lush vegetation, and receives 2,100 mm (83 in) of rain per year. Here, however, rainfall drops below 100 mm (4 in) between September and November, but even August is acceptable, with 115 mm (4.5 in) of rain. More to the northwest, Washington Island (or Teraina) is even rainier. Continuing northwest along the line in which these islands are located, we find two US-owned atolls, Palmyra and Kingman Reef, still with an equatorial climate, hot and rainy all year round.
In the southern islands (Vostok, Caroline, Flint) the rains are at an intermediate level, in fact they receive slightly more than 1,000 mm (40 in) of rain per year.
However, even here the temperature is high all year round, as we can see from the averages of Christmas Island.
Average temperatures - Christmas Island
Christmas IslandJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Christmas IslandJFMAMJJASOND
Min (°C)252525252424242424242424
Max (°C)303031313131313131313131
Min (°F)777777777575757575757575
Max (°F)868688888888888888888888

In these eastern islands, the sea is warm all year round, even though it's just cooler than in the western ones, so that the water temperature is around 27/28 °C (81/82 °F).


So far we have talked about the average temperature and rainfall, but it must be said that the Kiribati Islands are strongly influenced by the phenomenon known as El Niño, as well as its opposite, La Niña. With El Niño, the eastern current which carries relatively cold water from South America, slow down, therefore the climate becomes warmer and rainier than normal, while with La Niña the eastern current becomes even more intense, so that the climate becomes cooler and drier, leading to recurrent drought, which in these atolls, flat and devoid of streams, can cause major problems.

Tropical cyclones

Being practically at the Equator, the Kiribatis are outside of the area where cyclones form. However, being flat islands, they can sometimes receive anomalous waves, especially if they are combined with high tide, as happened in Tarawa, with Cyclone Pam in March 2015, and with Cyclone Tia in November 1991 (both were cyclones of the southern hemisphere).
In theory, the southern Line Islands (Vostok, Caroline Flint) are located at the edge of the area where they can form, in the period from November to April, although cyclones are rare in this area.

When to go

The best time to visit the Western Kiribati Islands (i.e. the Gilbert Islands) runs from May to November, or better from September to November, because it is the least rainy. The Phoenix Islands, being drier, can be visited all year round, as well as the central Line Islands, while in the southern Line Islands, the period from November to April can be avoided for safety, because of the risk of cyclones.

What to pack

All year round, tropics-friendly, loose fitting clothing, sun hat, a scarf for the breeze, a light sweatshirt for the evening; light raincoat or umbrella, especially in the Gilbert Islands.