Hawaii, a state in the US with many islands, is known for its tropical climate. And whether or not it snows in Hawaii has always been a mystery for those not living there (or who haven’t ever been there).
The climate in Hawaii can be different within a few miles. Mount Waialeale is the wettest, receiving a total of 11684mm of rain per year, and a few miles away from there, Mount Waialeale receives less than 254mm. This explains why only 3 parts of Hawaii receive snow.
During winter (Hawaii’s rainy season), the islands and other areas with 9000 feet elevation and below experience fog and mist instead of snow. Only the three parts with 10,000-13,000 feet elevation receive snow.
Given the weather dynamics and the non-popularity of snow in Hawaii, it is natural for people to wonder if it snows in Hawaii. The answer is: yes. It does snow in Hawaii but only in places elevated above 10,000 feet. They include Haleakala, Mauna Loa, and Mauna Kea, the three highest volcanic mountains in this sun-kissed state. Other areas, such as Hualalai, Pu’u Kukui, and Kaunu o Kaleihoohie, get cold but do not receive snow.
Why does it Snow in Hawaii?
Hawaii experiences a “Kona Low,” a Polynesian term that means “leeward storm.” This means Hawaii’s wind direction changes dramatically. Kona Lows can occur even in summer, but a 2017 study from the International Pacific Research Center at the University of Hawaii found that the snowfall on volcanic mountains could gradually decrease due to climate change.
When does it Snow in Hawaii?
Snow falls on the three mountains of Hawaii at any time during the year, especially during July, April, and October, and mostly during the wet season (the wet season is a part of winter and runs from December to February). The Winter season is from October and April. During the winter period, temperature decreases below 50degF (18degC) in the islands, and the peak of the mountain’s temperature drops below its freezing point.
Each year, the peak of the mountains is covered with between 2-8 inches (50.8-203.2mm) of snow. Sometimes, they are even hit by a storm, making it dangerous for people.
Does Hawaii Get Cold?
It is difficult to ignore the significant temperature drop that occurs in winter in areas around Hawaii’s snow mountains. While the rest of Hawaii doesn’t get snow, nearby areas experience the cold downdraft.
Although Hawaii is a tropical destination, you’d be surprised that within a few miles from one point, one place could feel extremely cold while another is tolerable. Mount Waialeale is an example; it is a spot that receives 1,168 cm of rain each year and is one of the wettest places in the world. You can see a dramatic drop in rainfall index by only 25 centimeters if you move a little further toward Na Pali Kona Forest Reserve.
Hawaii’s Snow Mountains
Three volcanoes in Hawaii receive snow; however, snow rarely reaches below 9000 feet and is usually gone within days.
Haleakala, located on Maui Island, is 10,000 feet high and hasn’t erupted for 400 years. The name Haleakala means “house of the sun” and attracts tourists who want to see sunrises or sunsets. Haleakala, the lowest volcano mountain in Hawaii, receives less snow than Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. However, it has a trail that leads to the summit.
Mauna Loa is the largest of Hawaii’s snow mountains and that of the world. With its literal translation ‘Long Mountain,’ the active volcano’s dome measures 75 miles long and 64 miles wide, and it stands nearly 13600 feet above sea level.
It makes up nearly half of Hawaii’s landmass. In early 2021, it was reported that it might be waking up from its last eruption in 1984. This active volcano is located within striking distance from Kailua Kona, the main tourist center, and Captain Cook.
Mauna Kea (almost 13,800ft) is the highest but dormant mountain among the snow mountains of Hawaii. It can sometimes be covered by snow in summer, and the locals often call it “White Mountain” because of its near-constant below-freezing point temperature.
This makes it a favorite among professional skiers. Its summit, however, is uninhabitable and dominant in alpine tundra and lava rock. In winter, the average temperature at Mauna Kea is somewhere between 25- and 40-degree Fahrenheit, and it’s between 30-60 degrees during the summer season.
The Mauna Kea Observatory is located 14,000ft above the cloud line, and it is believed that clouds form only once per year above it.
You can still enjoy your stay in Hawaii, despite the snowcapped mountains. Ranking as the happiest and less-stressed state in the US, you’re always just a few steps away from a beach.
Can You Ski in Hawaii?
Although Mauna Kea has been a popular ski area, it is now only open to professionals. According to the Mauna Kea Ski Corporation, Mauna Kea has been designated a National Science Reserve and is not maintained as a skiing area. According to the Hawaii Ski Club, there are no lifts; however, a road leads to the summit. A 4-wheel-drive vehicle is required if you want to climb to the famous observatories.
Hawaii’s Record-Breaking Snowfall
On April 6, 1938, Mount Haleakala experienced the first-biggest snow covering as much as six inches.
In December 2016, residents near Mauna Kea experienced snowfall when the mountain’s tip was capped by over two feet of snow.
In January 2021, Hawaii’s three snow mountains had their second-biggest snow covering since the monitoring started in 2000.
In conclusion, it does snow in Hawaii. Although snow is most common on the Big Island’s three volcanic mountains, other areas experience small amounts. Hawaii is a great place to visit, whether you are planning a trip or a quick getaway. You’ll create unforgettable memories with stunning landscapes of lush forests and waterfalls cascading down the mountainside.
Also Read: Are there snakes in Hawaii?