Does It Snow In Hawaii?

Does It Snow In Hawaii?

Photo by melissa brawnerChristmas is a little different for people in Hawaii.

One thing that was odd growing up in Hawaii was that I never saw snow in winter. I never understood the concept of “seasons” because everything looked the same during summer, spring, winter and autumn. No snow ever fell… or so I thought.

Yes, Hawaii is warm year-round and there is no snow 99% of the time, but there are actually several occasions where snow can be found in Hawaii.

1. Weird Weather

Several times in my life, I have read about hail falling somewhere in Hawaii. The last time it hailed was in March of this year, 2012. If you don’t believe me, watch this video of a local guy reacting to hail falling into his yard (warning: there is some cursing).

Hail is a very, very, very rare sight in Hawaii because Hawaii’s warm atmosphere melts hail into rain. When hail fell earlier this year though, there was a weird weather caused by a tornado. The atmosphere became much colder than it normally is and allowed hail to reach land. The hail was record-setting, with pieces as large as 4.25 inches in diameter (source).

2. Snowy Mountains

Observatory at the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big IslandPhoto by Vadim Kurland

If you’ve hiked before, you’ll know that the temperature cools as you go higher in elevation. I hiked Mount Olomana in Kailua once when I was about 13 and I remember shivering at the top because it was so cold and windy. Well, Mount Olomana is about 1,600 feet above sea level, so can you imagine how cold it gets 10,000 feet above sea level? Enough to snow, maybe?

Haleakala is a volcano on the island of Maui and is 10,000+ feet above sea level. Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are both volcanoes on the Big Island that are 13,000+ feet above sea level. All three are known to have snow. And it’s not a little layer of snow on the volcanoes either – there is so much snow sometimes that people actually drive up and snowboard (see it to believe it).

3. If all else fails…

For the rest of us locals that want to see snow but aren’t lucky enough to see hail fall in our yard or do not want to drive 10,000 feet up a volcano, there’s always plan B:



It’s not traditional, white snow… but shave ice sure tastes a lot better.
Photo by: Steven Depolo

Closing Thoughts

When you live in Hawaii all your life and you see snow fall for the first time, it’s absolutely amazing. After a while though, it gets a little inconvenient, especially when it becomes dirty ice from all the people stepping on it. If you’re from a perpetually cold place and you can’t understand what’s so amazing about snow, just think of us-seeing-snow the same as you-seeing-beaches :).

2 thoughts on “Does It Snow In Hawaii?

  1. I never knew that it snowed on Mount Olomana! Maybe I’ll try to come visit again during one of the rainy seasons to see if I can catch a glimpse of it! The part about shaved ice made me laugh and you are right: you have to have some way to experience snow!

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