Dreaming of a White Christmas? In Hawai‘i?

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Mauna Kea snowman. March 15, 2015. Image: Chelsea Demello

Mauna Kea snowman. March 15, 2015. Image: Chelsea Demello

Every year at about this time, many locals are laughed at when they say they hope it snows.

Snow in Hawai‘i?

Yes, snow in Hawai‘i… while not in our yards and clogging our streets and highways, we have snow on our beloved mountains that is often described as a coarse “shave ice.”

Between one and two feet of snow fall each year in the mountains above 5,000 feet elevation on Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.


Standing 13,802 feet above sea level, Mauna Kea’s peak is the highest point—not just on Hawai‘i island—but in the entire state.

As lofty and majestic as of Mauna Kea is, its full height is not visible. When measured from its ocean base, Mauna Kea is over 33,000 feet tall, making it the world’s tallest mountain from base to summit.

That makes it taller than Mount Everest at 29,029 feet.

At just 120 feet lower than Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa is considered the largest volcano on our planet, with an estimated volume of approximately 18,000 cubic miles.


It is also interesting to note that while it hasn’t happened in recent history, it has also snowed on Hualālai.

A 1937 photo shows all three mountains covered with a thick blanket of snow that dipped down to the lower elevations of the mountains.

Hualālai is the westernmost, third-youngest and the third most active of the five shield volcanoes that form the island of Hawaiʻi, following Kīlauea and the much larger Mauna Loa.

Many locals are fond of taking their boogie boards and inner tubes up to the mountain tops to ride down the slopes.

Christmas on Mauna Kea, 2008. Photo credit: Crystal Richard

Christmas on Mauna Kea, 2008. Photo credit: Crystal Richard


There are a few people who actually make the trek up to the top with skis and snowboards to enjoy the unique experience of skiing in Hawai‘i.

Many visitors find it odd or funny to see locals with coming down from the mountains with the beds of their trucks filled with snow. They take the snow home and have fun

They take the snow home and have fun building snowmen in their yards or even on the beach, even though they know they won’t last there for very long.

Although it may not be common knowledge, a white Christmas is actually possible and quite often has happened here on the Big Island.

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