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How to see snow in Hawaii mountains
While it might seem like an oxymoron, snow does fall in Hawaii! In fact, the state’s highest peak, Mauna Kea, is technically the tallest mountain in the world if measured from the sea floor. Yes, from the sea floor, the summit of Mauna Kea is taller than Mount Everest!
However, don’t worry; while you can see snow in Hawaii mountains, it is not going to cause blizzard warnings or blizzard conditions in other parts of the island. However, you might see a few inches of snow on the tallest mountains during the winter season.
Don’t worry; the rest of Hawaii is nearly always a tropical paradise. You’ll always be able to find a warm and sunny spot in Hawaii, even when there is snow at the highest elevation.
Just don’t like that you’ll find ski lifts, ski areas, or ski resorts in Hawaii – you won’t! Hawaii is absolutely not a ski destination. The snow is isolated to the very high altitudes of the peak of Mauna Kea and occasionally the highest point of Maui, Haleakala.
Do I need a car to see snow in Hawaii?
You’ll need a rental car to access either Mauna Kea or Haleakala. In fact, you should get a Jeep! You’ll find the best prices anywhere at Discount Hawaii Car Rental. You can pick up your car from any of the airports in Maui or the Big Island.
Where can you see snow in Hawaii?
Mauna Kea has a sub-artic climate, and it regularly snows during the winter months. According to the National Weather Service, the Haleakala summit in Maui also sees snow about once every five years.
These are the only parts of the island chain with the tallest volcanoes. The other islands do not have these high elevations and do not see any snow.
Does it snow on all the Big Island summits?
Mauna Kea is the most famous dormant volcano on the Big Island. However, the summit of Moana Loa is actually even higher than Haleakala and can also experience snow at the top of the mountain.
What is the average temperature in Hawaii?
For all of Hawaii, the average summer high is 85, and the winter high is 78. Overnight lows average about 10 degrees cooler than the average high. So you can see that the warm tropical weather is pretty much year-round.
However, the average temperature at Mauna Kea Observatory, the highest point in Hawaii, has highs only in the 40s. Lows can dip into the teens! So while you are not likely to find heavy snowfall or feet of snow on the volcanic peaks, it’s very possible to see snowy mountains in the distance.
If you live in a cold climate, you can enjoy the white mountain from a distance on the beach, sipping a mai tai!
How tall are the mountain tops in Hawaii?
From the sea floor, Mauna Kea is 13,803 feet.
The second tallest volcanic mountain in Hawaii is also located on Hawaii’s Big Island. Mauna Loa is 13,679. Mauna Loa volcanoes was active back in 2022 for the first time in almost 40 years! However, there is currently no lava flow.
Mount Haleakala is perhaps even more famous than the first two, thanks to the popular Haleakala sunrise tour. The summit of Haleakala is 10,023 feet.
Those three are the highest volcanic mountains in Hawaii. Hualali – also located on the Big Island of Hawaii, is just over 8000 feet from sea level. The rest of the volcanoes in the Aloha state are under 6000 feet.
How to see snow in Hawaii
Hawaii is a tropical island and the coldest temperature at lower elevations would never be considered “cold.” However, you can see snow at the top of Mauna Kea or Haleakala – occasionally. In order for a chance to see snow in Hawaii, you’ll need to travel during the winter months and hope to get lucky.
There’s no guarantee it will snow, but your best chance to see snow is on the Big Island. Here are a few other Big Island travel tips:
- Kona Coffee Farm Tours
- 25 best things to do in Kona
- 50 things to do on the Big Island
- The best restaurants on the Big Island
- The 15 best golf courses on the Big Island
Where is the best place to stay in Hawaii in the winter?
If you’re visiting Maui or the Big Island in the winter, don’t worry, the resort areas on all Hawaii islands are nowhere near the highest peaks. A major winter storm will never happen near your resort.
The resort area on the Island of Hawaiʻi is just north of the Kona airport, in the Waikoloa/Kohala area. Some of my favorite places to stay include:
- Mauna Kea Beach Hotel (not the same as Mauna Kea volcano!)
- Fairmont Orchid
- Westin Hapuna Beach
- Four Seasons Hualalai
The island of Maui has two main resort areas, Kaanapali and Wailea. If you want something closer to Haleakala, I recommend Wailea. Although, honestly, it’s not too far of a drive from either area!
Some of my favorite places to stay in Maui include:
Does Hawaii have bad weather?
I’m often asked if there’s a “best time” to visit Hawaii, and the answer is no. At least, not for the weather. The Hawaiian islands all have micro-climates and weather changes. The worst time to visit Hawaii is when tourism is busiest, summer, holidays, etc.
However, you generally won’t find things like strong winds, heavy rain, flash flooding, or cold weather at all. Even if you do see some rain, you can typically drive a few minutes and get away from it. All islands have a “wet side,” but the resort areas are typically not located there.
The Kona coast is famous for warm weather with very little heavy rainfall. You won’t experience a winter weather advisory. Even heavy rains are unlikely, and you’re unlikely to experience a flood watch or even a weekend of wet weather in Kona.
The Kona area is one of the best places to be to avoid bad weather. Although, of course, you really never know what you’ll get! The weather is unpredictable, but I can say for sure that the top of Mauna Kea is the only place it’s likely to snow at all.
If you go further up the coast on the west side of Maui island, you might find some gusty winds up by Kapalua and above. These wind gusts don’t happen all the time, but if this is a concern, try to stay near Kaanapali Beach or further south. The high winds typically do not affect other parts of the island.
How to see snow in Hawaii mountains
I hope this post about how to see snow in Hawaii mountains was informative. You should also check out The best island to visit in Hawaii in December and The Best Time for Whale Watching in Hawaii if you plan to visit Hawaii in the winter.
More Hawaii travel tips
Want even more ideas for things to do during your Hawaii vacation? Check out:
- 30 things you should never do in Hawaii.
- Hawaii Black Sand Beaches
- What to wear on vacation in Hawaii
- The 12 best scenic drives in Hawaii
Although I am a Hawaii Travel Agent, I am only taking on a few clients per month. You can contact me if you’d like more information. I recommend starting with my Hawaii travel guide if you plan to DIY your vacation!
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