Has it Ever Snowed in Hawaii?: Where and When to See Snow in the Aloha State
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When you think of Hawaii, the first things to pop to mind are pineapples, idyllic beaches, and sunshine, but have you wondered “Has it ever snowed in Hawaii?”
The surprising answer? It has! Even though Hawaii is often seen as a warm weather destination for winter, snow does happen in the Aloha State.
While rare, it’s always exciting to look up at the volcano peaks from a sunny beach and see a dusting of snow on Hawaii’s highest volcanoes.
Read on to learn more about where this happens and how to plan your trip in order to see this rare event!
Has it ever snowed in Hawaii?
Snow in Hawaii only happens a few times a year, and normally only at the summits of the 3 tallest volcanoes: Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Haleakala.
Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are the two highest volcanoes in Hawaii and are located on the Big Island.
Mauna Kea is the highest volcano in the state at 13,803 feet above sea level. The highest mountain in the world, it’s no surprise that this volcano gets the most snow in Hawaii!
Mauna Loa has an elevation of 13,679 feet and is the world’s largest volcano. It takes up more than half of the land mass on the Big Island. Which is crazy!
Haleakala is on Maui and is the lowest of the three at 10,023 feet. While it’s not as high as the other two, even without snow the top of Haleakala is cold.
You’ll want to wear your warmest clothes, and maybe even multiple layers!
During my first year in Maui, the island saw record-breaking snowfalls.
Polipoli State Park turned into a winter wonderland and some of my friends headed up there to play in the snow. I didn’t get to go, but it’s been my dream to hunt down the snow ever since.
Since Polipoli State Park is only 6,200 feet in elevation, this is the lowest-ever snowfall on record in the state. How cool is that?
When does it snow in Hawaii?
Snow in Hawaii happens most frequently during the winter season: from December to February.
While the snow doesn’t normally last very long, sometimes it will linger for up to 6 days.
It does occasionally lightly snow on the peak of the volcano Mauna Kea in the warmer months of May to October.
Mauna Kea, located on the Big Island, has the highest elevation of all the Hawaiian volcanoes, clocking in at a whopping 13,803 feet!
So, if you’re wanting to see snow in Hawaii, the winter months are your best bet.
I wouldn’t get your heart set on winter sports in Hawaii, as snowboarding and skiing on Mauna Kea isn’t for the faint of heart.
It also is a little controversial among the local Hawaiians, as Mauna Kea is a sacred mountain.
Plus, there are no ski lifts, or snow equipment rentals. Best suited for extreme skiers and snowboarders, winter weather sports on Mauna Kea can be hazardous.
❄️ How often does it snow in Hawaii?
While Hawaii gets snow, it doesn’t happen often.
Averaging about once a year, the peaks of Haleakala, Mauna Kea, and Mauna Loa experience the most snowfalls.
Haleakala is located on Maui (my favorite island) and Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are located on the Big Island.
Mauna Kea is a sacred part of Hawaiian culture and, alongside Mauna Loa, is located on the Big Island.
Haleakala is on Maui and makes up 75% of the land on the valley isle. Of the three volcanoes, only Mauna Loa is active.
Snowfall typically happens during Kona low storms, a type of cyclone with a cold core. Normally the state of Hawaii gets between two to three of these storms annually.
Kona lows can cause heavy rain, hailstorms, flash floods, high-elevation snow, and high winds causing large surf.
The term Kona is a Hawaiian-language term for the “leeward or dry” side of an island.
The winds in a Kona storm are from the west, and occur when there’s a low-pressure center about 500 miles Northwest of the islands.
You might not want to be in the water if the surf is big. A general rule of thumb in Hawaii is: “If in doubt, don’t go out!”
🌨️ When was the last snowfall in Hawaii?
The last snowfall in Hawaii was 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.
Last January, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa both had over a foot of snow. Officials had to close down the parks to clear the roads of debris.
Haleakala, on Maui, had snowfall in December of 2022, but it didn’t last longer than a day or two.
My fingers are crossed for some snow before this winter season ends! You better believe I’m going to be making my way up the mountain as quickly as I can.
Where does it Snow in Hawaii?
Snow in Hawaii falls mainly on the peaks of the three highest volcanoes in the state.
All three volcanoes have peaks above 10,000 feet and are located on two different islands- the big island of Hawaii and Maui, my home.
Let’s talk about each of those volcanoes in depth!
1. Mauna Kea
Snow in Hawaii happens most often on top of Mauna Kea on the big island of Hawaii.
The peak, located at 4,207.3 m above sea level, is the highest point in Hawaii. Considered the most sacred of all Hawaiian volcanoes, Mauna Kea means “white mountain.”
Mauna Kea connects native Hawaiians to the realm of the gods and is an intimate element of native Hawaiian religion and culture.
The volcano is estimated to get between 35-75 inches of snow a year, the most of any of the three peaks. Sometimes Mauna Kea even gets snow in the summer!
Well worth visiting, the summit features fantastic sunsets, amazing star gazing, and some hikes.
Like a challenge? The 13.4-mile Humu’ula trail is a popular out-and-back trail with amazing views.
Make sure to come prepared for cold temperatures. If you’re hiking, you’ll want to wear layers in case the temperature varies.
2. Mauna Loa
Mauna Loa is one of the largest active volcanoes in the world, erupting over 33 times since 1843.
Making up over 51% of the Big Island’s landmass, Mauna Loa stands 13,679 feet above sea level. Aptly named, Mauna Loa stands for “long mountain.”
The dome of this volcano measures 75 miles long and 64 miles wide. Wow! Its last eruption lasted for 12 days in late 2022.
The volcano only averages about 3.7 inches of snowfall a year.
Visitors to the Big Island in 2022 got to see a rare sight.
While lava spewed from Mauna Loa, snow was falling on the top of Mauna Kea- only 127 feet higher in elevation!
Meaning “house of the rising sun”, Haleakala Volcano stands 10,000 feet tall and is located on the island of Maui.
Receiving less snow than the other two volcanoes due to its lower elevation, it has had at least one snowfall a year since I moved to the island in 2018.
No matter the time of year, the summit of Haleakala feels like a completely different planet.
I did an 11-mile hike through the crater two weeks before record-breaking snowfalls. Even without snow, it was incredibly cold!
That year, snow fell on the island of Maui as low as 6,200 feet in a state park named Poli Poli.
Anyone lucky enough to have the day off made their way upcountry and got to see the snow firsthand!
Next time it snows you can bet I’ll be hopping in my car to get as close as I can!
If you’re planning a trip to Maui you should set aside some time to visit the volcano’s summit.
There’s a hike for any skill level, and it’s worth the drive up to the top to watch the sunset. If you want to watch the sunrise, you’ll need to reserve tickets in advance.
Make sure to dress in lots of layers if you’re summiting any of the volcanoes. The high elevation means it’s often chilly at the top.
Does it snow in the coastal region of Hawaii?
No snow has ever fallen on the coastal region of Hawaii, but during Kona Low Storms powerful swells strike the north and west shores.
The warm climate and ocean temperatures prevent the air temperature from dropping very low.
During Kona Lows, big swells and large surf can be hazardous and cause serious damage along the coastal regions.
Depending on the wind and precipitation levels, you might not want to get in the water.
A general guideline in Hawaii: when in doubt, don’t go out. You also want to avoid brown or murky water.
For rainy day activities, you can always visit the aquarium, local coffee shops, or spend the day getting souvenirs to bring home.
Which Islands in Hawaii experience the most snow?
Due to the elevation of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, the big island of Hawaii experiences the most snow.
While you’re there, you should check out the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Comprising 523 square miles, this massive park is home to two volcanoes: Mauna Loa and Kilauea. Whether you spend one day or multiple in the park, there is lots to see and do.
Want to give back while you’re in Hawaii? Participate in the Stewardship at the Summit volunteer program.
You will help take care of the ‘āina (land) by spending your morning clearing out invasive Himalayan ginger on park trails.
Has it ever snowed in Honolulu?
With the coldest temperature ever recorded in Honolulu only going as low as 50°F it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that there’s never been snow in Honolulu.
At only 19 feet above sea level, the city hasn’t seen that low of a temperature since 1915!
No snow has ever been recorded on the island of Oahu. With the highest peak sitting only at 4,003 feet, it’s not likely to happen anytime soon.
What is winter weather like in Hawaii?
With only two seasons (winter and summer) the islands of Hawaii offer ideal temperatures all year long.
The hottest months are from May through October. Average temperatures typically hit 86 °F, which is ideal for fun adventures in the sunshine.
During the winter months of November and April, temperatures will typically range from 75 to 80°F. It’s a cold day in Hawaii when it’s 75°F.
Rainfall is typically the highest between March and April. Rainfall can vary greatly depending on the side of the island that you’re on.
I was shocked when I first came to Maui. I was living on the south side at the time which gets an average of 10 inches of rain in a year. The west side gets nearly triple that amount.
However, the peaks of Haleakala, Mauna Kea, and Mauna Loa are cold year-round. Temperatures at the summit of Haleakala are typically 30°F lower than the temperatures at the coast.
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 Hawaii?: Final Thoughts
While it does snow in Hawaii, it’s a rare and exciting occurrence.
Snow occurs at the top of three volcanoes: Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Haleakala. These volcanoes are located on 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).
No matter what time of year you go to Hawaii, each of the volcanoes is well worth visiting and has lots to offer, whether there is snow or not!
About the Author: Val McArthur
Val McArthur is a communications specialist living on the island of Maui since 2018. She grew up in Guatemala where she developed a taste for high-quality coffee, the outdoors, and multicultural experiences. She’s always on the lookout for new countries to go to and coffee to drink!