Snow at the Mauna Kea observatory on the Big Island, Hawaii

Has Hawaii Ever Had Snow? (Where, When, & How Often?)

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Has Hawaii Ever Had Snow?

Have you ever gazed upon a Hawaiian beach, blue skies, and sunshine for miles and wondered if snow has ever graced the islands?

Well, it might surprise you to learn that despite Hawaii’s tropical climate and long summers, snow does occasionally fall on the Aloha State. Although snow in Hawaii is not common, it has been recorded on the highest peaks in Hawaii on Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii.

Our friend Melodie from Travel Must Do’s will show us where, when, and just how often it snows in Hawaii.

Has It Ever Snowed In Hawaii?

Yes! It has snowed in Hawaii, but it is very rare.

The highest mountains of Maui and the Big Island are generally impacted by Hawaii blizzards that bring snow to elevations above 11,000 feet. This includes Haleakala, Mauna Loa, and Mauna Kea – the three highest volcanic mountains in Hawaii.

Does it snow in Hawaii? Snow on Mauna Kea is evidence that it does!

Other areas, such as Hualalai, Pu’u Kukui, and Kaunu o Kaleihoohie, may get cold during the winter months but do not receive snow.

So while you won’t be building a snowman at the beach anytime soon, you can still find snow caps at Hawaii’s highest peaks. 


Where Does It Snow In Hawaii?

When snow falls, it usually only falls on the highest peaks of Maui and the Big Island, including Haleakala, Mauna Loa, and Mauna Kea. Let’s take a look at where it snows on each of these Hawaiian Islands.

Snow On The Big Island

Snow on the Big Island usually falls on the peaks of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. With elevations of 13,796 feet and 13,678 feet, respectively, these two mountain ranges are some of the highest points in Hawaii.

Although snowing isn’t common in Hawaii, when it does happen, it is usually concentrated around the Hale Pohaku area at the 11,000 feet level. This is a popular camping and hiking spot for visitors who want to experience Hawaii’s winter wonderland.

Snow on Mauna Kea, Big Island of Hawaii

Mauna Kea has been receiving snow since records began in 1929, although it has increased in recent years due to climate change.

In the mid-20th century, the average snowfall rate was about 7 inches a year. By 1991, that number increased to 18 inches yearly and is expected to continue rising in the future.

❄️ The best times to see snow on Mauna Kea are usually December through February.


Snow On Maui

Snow on Maui usually falls on the slopes of Haleakala, with elevations reaching as high as 10,023 feet. This dormant volcano is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Hawaii and offers incredible views from its summit, especially at sunrise and sunset.

❄️ Snowfall on Haleakala is rare but does occur mainly between December and February.

Snow on Haleakala Volcano on Maui, Hawaii

In 1978, a significant snowfall on Haleakala caused a mini snowstorm that left up to 8 inches of powder on the mountain’s summit. This event was captured by local news stations and remains one of the most memorable winter storms in Hawaii’s history.

Snowy days are also known to occur at other locations on Maui, such as the Koolau Gap, although these are much less common. Koolau Gap on Maui is a valley located in between two mountains, with elevations reaching as low as 3,200 feet above sea level.

Snow in the Koolau Gap is much rarer than on Haleakala, but it does occasionally happen during especially cold winters.


FAQs

If you’re curious to learn more about the snow in Hawaii, here are some answers to some of the most often-asked questions:

Does it snow in Honolulu, Hawaii?

No, it does not snow in Honolulu. The coldest temperature ever recorded in Honolulu was 52°F on January 20th, 1969. The nearest locations to experience snowfall are Haleakala on Maui and Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island. 

How often does it snow in Hawaii?

Snow in Hawaii is quite rare, but it can happen anywhere from once every few years to a few times per winter season. The best chances for snowfall occur on the highest peaks of Maui and the Big Island between December and February. 

Mauna Kea snow on Big Island

Does it snow in Hawaii every year?

No, it does not snow in Hawaii every year. The chances of snowfall depend on the winter weather conditions and can vary greatly from one year to the next.

What is the record snowfall in Hawaii?

The highest recorded snowfall in Hawaii was in 2016 when 24 inches of measurable snow fell on the summit of Mauna Kea. This event was unique in that it was the only snowfall below the 13,000-foot level on record.

The second-highest recorded snowfall was in 1978, when 8 inches fell on Haleakala.

What is the coldest day ever in Hawaii?

The coldest day recorded in Hawaii was on January 2014. Temperatures dropped to 12°F at Mauna Kea that day, which is the lowest temperature ever recorded in the state.

Where does it snow the most in Hawaii?

The highest peaks of Mauna Kea and Haleakala on the Big Island and Maui are the most likely spots to experience snowfall in Hawaii. These two mountain ranges are some of the highest points in Hawaii and have seen some of the highest recorded snowfalls in the state.

Mountaintop view from Haleakala, Maui

Does it ever snow at sea level in Hawaii?

No, it does not snow at sea level in Hawaii. The warm climate and ocean temperatures help keep the air temperature above freezing even during cold winters.

Snow at sea level is only possible when the air temperature drops below 32°F for an extended period of time.

Can I snow ski in Hawaii?

Yes, you can snow ski in Hawaii! Mauna Kea on the Big Island is one of the most popular skiing and snowboarding resorts in the state.

The mountain towers above the ocean at 13,796 ft and features a road to the summit that provides access to ski terrain as well as a world-class observatory.

Snow on Hawaii mountain of Mauna Kea at the observatory

When it snows, a 4-wheel drive vehicle is required to reach the summit and ski.

Has there been a blizzard in Hawaii?

Yes, there has been a blizzard in Hawaii. On January 2020, the Big Island of Hawaii experienced blizzard conditions which brought an estimated 1-3 feet of snow and 100-125+ mph winds to Mauna Kea.

This is one of the most memorable winter storms in Hawaii’s history and was unique for being the only time a blizzard had been reported in the state.

Fortunately, due to its remote location, no one was hurt or injured during this rare event.

Has it ever snowed in Hawaii? Snow on the mountains in the distance show that it has snowed in Hawaii.

The storm also provided some of Hawaii’s best skiing and snowboarding conditions ever seen by both locals and visitors.

The access road to the summit was closed at times due to drifting snow and high winds, but the mountain was still open for skiing and snowboarding.

Events such as these are extremely rare in Hawaii, but they show you can experience some truly unique and spectacular weather in Hawaii from time to time!


The Wrap-Up

The answer to the question “Has Hawaii ever had snow?” is a definite “yes.” But does it normally snow in Hawaii? No.

While it is not common, snow in Hawaii can occur on its highest peaks during certain times of the year. The Big Island and Maui are the most likely locations for snowfall, but other areas such as Koolau Gap have also experienced occasional flurries.

For those looking to experience a wintery wonderland in Hawaii, the best chances are usually around December through February when temperatures drop enough for condensation to turn into ice crystals and form snowflakes.

With warm Hawaiian sunshine and incredible mountaintop views of the island landscapes, experiencing a winter storm here can be an unforgettable experience.

So if you’re feeling adventurous and want to see snow in Hawaii, now you know where to go!