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Does It Snow In Hawaii? (Find Out!)

Does It Snow In Hawaii? (Find Out!)

Yes, in fact, snow does occur in Hawaii.

It almost feels like a lie. Many around the world (including ourselves) think of Hawaii as one sunny tropical destination – after all, it is globally advertised as a sun-kissed state. Hawaii homes some of the most beautiful blue beaches, off the hook waves, stunning lush tropical national parks and landscapes, making it one breathtakingly gorgeous island destination.

But there is more to it – like snow. Still, does not sound believable? But bear with us as we make sense of this wild weather phenomenon.

Check out this related article: Hawaii Ecosystems

Is Snow Rare In Hawaii?

Big Island Snow
Snowfall in Big Island Hawaii

It’s not really rare. In fact, it happens at least once every year. But only to regions at 10,000 feet elevation or higher. It usually takes place during the wet season and sometimes in April, July and October. So, it’s safe to assume the volcanic mountains in Hawaii receive a fair bit of snow.

Why? Well, Hawaii experiences a weather phenomenon known as a ‘leeward storm’ (Kona Low’ in Native Hawaiian). It describes how Hawaii’s wind direction is constantly changing – creating this snow effect. However, the sad thing is reports suggest that this wonder might turn into a thing of the past as climate change continues to deteriorate.

Does it Snow in the Coastal Regions of Hawaii?

Hawaii Coastline

No. During the winter season, there is a significant temperature drop. (below 64°F), but that’s mostly around the large volcanic mountains of Hawaii and not really all across the islands, specifically close to the coastal region (yay!).

You might also be interested in: Are there Snakes in Hawaii?

Which Islands Experience Snow in Hawaii the Most?

Snow in Hawaii - Big Island

It is a tricky question. While snow is mostly seen and experienced on the peaks of volcanic mountains like Haleakala on Maui island, and Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea on Hawaii’s Big Island, there is the possibility of snow reaching other elevated regions of Hawaii through a snowstorm. Mainly if they are near these mammoth mountains.

Like the Polipoli State Park. It is a breathtakingly beautiful state park, and it is more commonly known to be a hiker’s paradise. Found on Maui Island, which also homes the titan volcanic mountain Haleakala and the lush Kula Forest Reserve. Perched at a level of approx. 6,200 feet, this state park was transformed into a snow haven in 2019.

Snow is not regular in all regions of Hawaii – especially regions at lower elevations. But that doesn’t mean that they are unaffected by the snowy phenomenon.

If the snow falls heavy, this can create a strong cold front, resulting in a massive downpour and in a very extreme case, a blizzard. This happened in 2021 in the southern parts of the Hawaiian Islands. The National Weather Department went as far as to warn of possible snowfall.

Some American media outlets went as far as to publish headlines like “This Weekend, Hawaii will get more snow than Boston”.

Places to Visit in Hawaii During the Snow Period

If you are looking for a chillier holiday vacation in Hawaii (no judgement – you do you), then there are mountains you can explore.

Haleakala

Haleakala means ‘House of the Sun’. Resting in a quiet reign in the Haleakala National Park of the Maui Islands, this mountain is visited by all types of travellers. But mainly by those who share a passion for hiking.

Standing at 10,000 feet, this volcanic peak is dormant- showing no whatsoever sign of erupting in the last four centuries. Yes, it is known for being one of the most ideal places to witness the magical sunsets and the sunrises and many more incredible nature trails that can be explored in depth.

Yet it does experience a bit of snow. How cool is that? (No pun intended – or was it?)

Mauna Loa

Despite being rooted on a tropical island surrounded by golden sand and stunning beaches, Mauna Loa is one of the most massive snowy mountains in Hawaii and globally as well. Mauna Loa literally translates to the ’Long Mountain’, and it homes an actual active volcano – with the dome measuring up to approx. 103 kilometres wide and 120 kilometres long.

Standing at a height of approx. 13,600 feet, Mauna Loa actually makes nearly half of the landmass of Hawaii. And it is a mountain that acquires a rather thick coating of snow during the wintery season. Under the blizzard conditions, the crown of Mauna Lao accumulates a significant amount of snow, and that can have some direct and indirect impacts on the rest of Hawaii.

Mauna Kea

This dormant volcanic mountain is also the tallest one in Hawaii. Its giant peak stretches up towards the heavens to a height of approx. 13,800 feet. It basically means you get a lot of snow – even during the hot summer season.

This mountain has earned the nickname ‘white mountain’ by the locals. The summit is exceedingly challenging to reach. It is even labelled as inhabitable since the temperature is almost always below the freezing point. (No exaggeration here)

Fun fact: The Mauna Kea Observatory is placed at a height of 14,000 feet and is always above the cloud line, but just once a year the clouds form right above, giving it an out-of-this-world view of the surrounding, far-stretching landscape of Hawaii!

Can you Go Skiing in Hawaii?

Yes, Mauna Kea is the most recommended destination to go skiing while in Hawaii. Bear in mind that it’s not exactly recommended for beginners and is more of a ski destination for experienced professionals.

It is mainly because the slopes are not maintained as a ski area. It is in fact, a National Science Reserve. There are no lifts to take you to the highest slopes but a trail. So if you consider yourself a novice in skiing, this may not be the place to start.

Has Hawaii ever Experienced a Freeze?

At least once a year the peaks of Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Haleakala can experience a temperature drop up to or near the borders of the freezing point. But as we all understand now, this doesn’t necessarily become a climate constant for all of Hawaii. It does have its effects in other ways. Like unyielding rainfall and strong winds.

Hawaii has, however, experienced some record-crashing snowfalls.

In 1938 – Mount Haleakala experienced a snow carpet up to approx. 6-inches.

In 2016 – Mount Mauna Kea was capped by nearly 2 feet of snow.

And in 2021, all three mountain peaks (Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Haleakala) recorded the most amount of snow since 2000.

Conclusion

Yes, it snows in Hawaii. The sun-kissed state, full of lush tropical beauty, has its chilly moments- especially around the peak of its three biggest volcanic mountains.