When you think of Hawaii, the first things that pop to mind are sunshine, idyllic beaches, and pineapples, but have you ever wondered if it has ever snowed there?
Snow does happen in the state of Hawaii, though it is often seen as a warm weather destination for winter. Is there a surprising answer to this?
It’s always exciting to look up from a sunny beach and see a dusting of snow on the highest peaks of the volcanoes in Hawaii, although it’s rare.
Read on to learn more about where this happens and how to plan your trip in order to see this rare event!
Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Haleakala, the peaks of the three highest volcanoes, are the locations in Hawaii where snow occurs only a few times annually, and typically only at those places.
Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are the two tallest volcanoes in Hawaii and are situated on the Big Island.
In Hawaii, this volcanic mountain receives the most snowfall. It comes as no surprise that Mauna Kea stands as the tallest peak in the world, reaching an elevation of 13,803 feet above the sea level, making it the highest volcano in the state!
Mauna Loa, which stands at an impressive height of 13,679 feet, is the largest volcano on Earth. Located on the Big Island, this colossal volcano occupies over fifty percent of the island’s total land area. Quite astonishing, isn’t it?
Haleakala, located on Maui, has an elevation of 10,023 feet and is one of the lowest peaks. Despite not reaching the same heights as its counterparts, Haleakala’s summit remains cold enough to experience snowfall, distinguishing it from the others.
You’ll need to put on your warmest garments, and perhaps even several layers!
Throughout my initial year in Maui, the island experienced unprecedented snowfalls.
I have never been able to dream of the snow, but I didn’t go to get it. I headed up to play in the snow with some of my friends, and Polipoli State Park turned into a winter wonderland.
Since Polipoli State Park is situated at an elevation of only 6,200 feet, it holds the record for the lowest-ever snowfall in the state.
What is winter weather like in Hawaii?
With just two seasons (winter and summer), the Hawaiian islands provide perfect temperatures throughout the year.
In the sunlight, perfect for exciting expeditions, average temperatures usually reach 86 °F. The warmest months are from May through October.
When the temperature reaches 75°F, it is considered a cold day in Hawaii.
Rainfall can vary greatly depending on which side of the island you are on. Typically, the most amount of rainfall occurs during the months of March and April.
Three times that quantity acquires the western side. Within a year, an average of 10 inches of precipitation reaches the southern side, which was my place of residence back then. I initially arrived in Maui when I was taken aback.
The temperatures along the coastline generally exceed the temperatures at the peak of Haleakala, exhibiting a variation of approximately 30°F. The summits of Haleakala, Mauna Kea, and Mauna Loa experience cold weather throughout the year.
Even if there isn’t snow at the top of the volcanoes, you’ll want to dress warmly when going on a summit adventure.
Does it snow in the coastal region of Hawaii?
No snow has ever fallen on the coastal region of Hawaii, but powerful storms and low Kona swells strike the shores to the west and north.
The tropical climate and sea temperatures prevent the atmospheric temperature from decreasing significantly.
During Kona Lows, significant swells and massive surf can be dangerous and result in significant destruction along the coastal areas.
Depending on the wind and rainfall levels, you may not wish to enter the water.
A general guideline in Hawaii: if you’re uncertain, remain indoors. It’s also recommended to avoid bodies of water that seem brown or murky.
For rainy day activities, you can always visit the aquarium, local coffee shops, or spend the day getting souvenirs to bring home.
When does it snow in Hawaii?
Snow in Hawaii occurs most commonly during the winter season, specifically from December to February.
Although the snow usually doesn’t endure for a significant period, occasionally it may persist for a duration of 6 days.
Light snowfall can sometimes occur on the summit of Mauna Kea volcano during the warmer months from May to October.
Mauna Kea, located on the Big Island of Hawaii, boasts the highest elevation among all the volcanoes in the Hawaiian archipelago, reaching a staggering height of 13,803 feet.
So, if you’re looking to witness snow in Hawaii, the winter months are your optimal choice.
Snowboarding and skiing on Mauna Kea in Hawaii are not activities that I would recommend for those who are not adventurous.
It is also somewhat contentious among the native Hawaiians, since Mauna Kea holds great spiritual significance.
Kea Mauna can be hazardous for winter sports enthusiasts, particularly snowboarders and skiers seeking extreme conditions. In addition, there are no snow equipment rentals or ski lifts available.
❄️ How often does it snow in Hawaii?
Although Hawaii occasionally experiences snowfall, it is a rare occurrence.
Haleakala, Mauna Kea, and Mauna Loa experience the greatest accumulation of snowfall, occurring approximately once every year on average.
Haleakala is situated on Maui (my preferred island) and Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are situated on the Big Island.
Mauna Kea holds great significance in Hawaiian culture and, along with Mauna Loa, is situated on the Big Island.
Haleakala, situated on Maui, comprises 75% of the land on the Valley Isle. Among the three, only Mauna Loa remains an active volcano.
Normally, Hawaii experiences two to three storms annually. Snowfall usually occurs during Kona low storms, which are a type of cyclone with a cold core.
Kona lows can result in substantial precipitation, hailstorms, sudden floods, snowfall at higher altitudes, and strong winds leading to significant ocean waves.
The term Kona refers to the “leeward or dry” side of an island in Hawaiian language.
About 500 miles Northwest of the islands, there’s a low-pressure center, and the winds in a Kona storm are from the west.
If in doubt, don’t go out! It is a general rule. You might not want to be in the water if the surf is big.
🌨️ When was the last snowfall in Hawaii?
The most recent snowfall in Hawaii occurred earlier this year!
In January and February of 2023, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, both located on the Big Island of Hawaii, experienced winter storms.
In order to remove the clutter from the roads, authorities had to shut down the parks. Last January, both Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa experienced more than twelve inches of snow.
Haleakala, located in Maui, experienced snowfall in December 2022, although it did not persist for more than a day or two.
Can I ascend the mountain as expeditiously as I can, you can certainly count on it! Before the conclusion of this winter season, let’s hope for some snowfall, fingers crossed.
Where does it Snow in Hawaii?
Snowfall in Hawaii primarily occurs on the summits of the three tallest volcanoes in the region.
All three volcanoes on the big island of Hawaii, including Maui and the big island of Hawaii, are located on the big island of Hawaii and have peaks that exceed 10,000 feet.
Let’s discuss each of those volcanoes thoroughly!
1. Mauna Kea
Snowfall in Hawaii occurs most frequently on the summit of Mauna Kea on the largest island of Hawaii.
The peak located in Hawaii is the highest point above sea level, reaching 4,207.3 meters. The sacred mountain known as Mauna Kea is referred to as the “white mountain” and is considered the most sacred of all Hawaiian volcanoes.
Mauna Kea connects native Hawaiians to the realm of the gods and is an intimate element of native Hawaiian religion and culture.
During the summer season, there are instances when Mauna Kea experiences snowfall! Among the three peaks, this volcano is believed to receive the highest amount of snow, ranging from 35 to 75 inches annually.
Definitely worth a visit, the peak offers breathtaking sunsets, incredible stargazing, and a few hiking trails.
Up for a challenge? The 13.4-mile Humu’ula trail is a well-liked round trip trail with breathtaking scenery.
Make sure you come adequately equipped for cold temperatures. If you intend to go hiking, it is recommended to wear multiple layers of clothing in case the temperature changes.
Make sure to add some warm clothing to your packing list for your Hawaiian vacation, especially if you plan on hiking in the snow.
2. Mauna Loa
Mauna Loa is one of the biggest active volcanoes on the planet, erupting more than 33 occasions since 1843.
Loa Mauna, aptly named, is a tall mountain. It stands at an elevation of 13,679 feet above sea level and makes up over 51% of the landmass of Big Island.
In the latter part of 2022, the final eruption of this volcano lasted a total of 12 days. Impressive! The summit of this volcanic mountain spans a distance of 75 miles in length and 64 miles in width.
The volcano typically receives approximately 3.7 inches of snowfall per year.
Travelers to the Large Island in 2022 had the opportunity to witness a unique spectacle.
While lava spewed out from Mauna Loa, snowfall was occurring at the peak of Mauna Kea, which stands only 127 feet higher in elevation!
Called the “rising sun’s house” in translation, Haleakala Volcano is located on Maui island and stands at a elevation of 10,000 feet.
Since I relocated to the island in 2018, it experiences a minimum of one snowfall annually, receiving a smaller amount of snow compared to the other two volcanoes because of its lower altitude.
Regardless of the season, reaching the top of Haleakala gives the sensation of being on an entirely distinct celestial body.
I finished an 11-mile hike across the crater two weeks before unprecedented snowstorms. Despite the lack of snow, the temperature was extremely cold!
During that specific year, snowfall occurred on the island of Maui, with temperatures dropping as low as 6,200 feet in a state park known as Poli Poli.
Anyone fortunate enough to have the day off traveled to rural areas and had the opportunity to witness the snow firsthand!
When it snows again, rest assured that I will eagerly hop into my vehicle to get as close as I can!
If you’re planning a trip to Maui, it is recommended to allocate some time to explore the peak of the volcano.
If you want to watch the sunrise, you’ll need to advance reserve tickets. It’s worth driving up to the top to watch the sunset, and there’s a hike for any skill level.
The high elevation at the top often means it’s chilly. If you’re summiting any of the volcanoes, make sure to dress in lots of layers.
Which Islands in Hawaii experience the most snow?
Because of the high altitude of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, the largest island in Hawaii receives the highest amount of snowfall.
While you’re there, you should visit the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
There is a lot to do and see in the park, whether you spend multiple days or just one. Kilauea and Mauna Loa are two volcanoes that call this massive park home, which spans 523 square miles.
Interested in making a positive impact during your time in Hawaii? Take part in the Stewardship at the Summit volunteering initiative.
You will assist in the preservation of the ‘āina (land) by dedicating your morning to removing invasive Himalayan ginger along park trails.
Has it ever snowed in Honolulu?
With the coldest temperature ever recorded in Honolulu only going as low as 50°F, it’s probably not surprising that there has never been snow there.
At a mere 19 feet above sea level, the city hasn’t experienced such a low temperature since 1915!
Oahu, the island, has never experienced any snowfall. It is highly unlikely to occur in the near future, as the tallest mountain on the island stands at a mere 4,003 feet.
Does it snow in Hawaii?: Final Thoughts
Although snowfall in Hawaii is infrequent, it is a remarkable and thrilling event.
Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Haleakala are the three primary volcanoes where snowfall takes place. They are situated on the Big Island and Maui, respectively.
If want to see snow, your best bet is to plan a trip to Hawaii during the winter months (December to February).
Regardless of the presence of snow, every volcano in Hawaii is definitely worth exploring and provides a multitude of attractions that can be enjoyed throughout the year!