For many people, the climate of Hawaii is synonymous with endless days of sunshine and balmy sea breezes. However, Hawaii has a distinct winter season, and temperatures can drop significantly as you leave the low-lying coastal areas and travel up to the mountains.
Hawaii has mild winters. The average daytime temperature in Hawaii in winter at sea level is 78°F (25.6°C), while the temperature at night is about 68°F (20°C). However, the Hawaiian mountains are much colder than the low-lying coastal areas, and some mountainous regions also see snow.
You must learn about Hawaii’s winter season to pack appropriately and enjoy a comfortable vacation. This is especially true if you plan to explore the islands’ mountains. I will describe in this article how cold winters usually are in Hawaii, where you can expect snow, and how to remain warm in the mountains.
Winter Season in Hawaii
The winter season in Hawaii runs from November to April. The winter season is also the rainy season here because Hawaii gets most of its rainfall during these months.
Hawaii is the only American state to be located within the tropics. It is surrounded on all sides by the Pacific Ocean. The peculiar geographical location of Hawaii has a significant influence on its climate.
The temperatures are almost constant throughout the year. The winds blowing over the balmy waters of the Pacific Ocean and into the islands prevent the temperatures from dropping too much in winter.
To give you an idea: the average daytime temperature in summer at sea level is 85°F (29.4°C), while that in winter is 78°F (25.6°C).
The temperature rarely drops below 65°F (18°C) during winter in low-lying areas. However, nighttime temperatures can fall into the 50s and daytime temperatures, into the low 70s, after a cold front.
The mountainous regions of Hawaii, such as Haleakala on Maui, Kilauea on the island of Hawaii, and Kokee on Kauai, are much colder. Temperatures drop by 3.5°F for every 1,000 feet (304.8 meters) increase in altitude.
At altitudes above 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), winter temperatures drop into the 40s during the day and into the 20s at night. The summit of Haleakala, at a height of 10,023 feet (3,055 meters), can be as much as 30°F cooler than the coastal regions.
Does Hawaii Ever Have Snow?
Hawaii receives snow every year on the summits of the three tallest volcanic mountains of the state, Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, and Haleakala. However, the snow never reaches below 9,000 ft (2,743 m). There can be several feet of snow on the ground on most days in winter at elevations above 12,000 feet.
In winter, storm systems cause heavy snowfall at altitudes above 11,000 feet (3,352.8 meters). Often, high winds trigger blizzards and snow drifts in these regions.
Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are more than 13,000 feet (3,962.4 meters) high, while Haleakala is just above 10,000 feet (3048 meters). So, the stormy wintry conditions impact only Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.
If you want to learn more about this, check out my article about snow in Hawaii.
How To Stay Warm in the Hawaiian Mountains
A stay in the higher reaches of the mountainous regions of Hawaii is an enchanting experience. However, the mountaintops are much cooler than the lowlands, and you must remain warm to enjoy a comfortable stay.
Here are some tips to stay warm in the mountains of Hawaii:
Pack Multiple Layers of Clothing
Pack multiple layers of clothing when preparing for a trip to the Hawaiian mountains. You can put on or shed a layer or two when you want to warm up or cool down.
Here’s how you can layer up:
- The bottom layer of clothing should be a breathable fabric that soaks up the sweat and keeps you dry.
- The middle layer should be made of an insulating material like fleece that prevents the body heat from escaping.
- The outer layer should be made of a weatherproof material that will protect you from the elements.
Whether you are headed up the Haleakala to view a colorful sunrise or exploring the mountainous reaches of Mauna Kea, ensure that you take a packable puffer jacket that will keep you warm without adding weight to your baggage. Here are my top picks to help you make the right choice:
Who says jackets have to be bulky and shapeless and make you look as if you are wearing a tent?
This jacket from Amazon Essentials has contoured seams to create a fitted look, along with a stand-up collar and elastic cuffs for a stylish appearance. This water-resistant jacket with zipped pockets gives you and whatever you have stashed in the pockets ample protection from the rain and snow.
In winter, we lose a large amount of body heat through the head. Our ears are also more sensitive to frigid temperatures than other parts of the body and become painful if exposed to extreme cold, even for a short time.
This packable puffer jacket has a hood to protect your head and ears, so you remain warm and comfortable on the cold mountaintops.
Be Cool, and Don’t Get Hot
This may sound counterintuitive but read on.
Overheating makes you sweat. The sweat will conduct heat away from your body and make you cool, which you don’t want to be.
So, you need to layer up. Wearing multiple layers of clothing allows you to take off a layer or two if you feel yourself heating up.
There is no one-size-fits-all theory as to how cool you should be. Everybody sweats at different rates based on their individual bodily makeup, activity levels, and ambient temperature.
Just aim to be on the “cool” side of a bearable temperature.
Use a Hot Water Bottle To Warm Your Legs
If you are worried about not being able to fall asleep on chilly mountain nights, carry a hot water bottle with you. Tuck it between your legs when you go to bed and enjoy a sound sleep.
Using a hot water bottle to warm your legs is an eco-friendly way to stay cozy on a chilly night instead of cranking up the room heater.
You can also bring along warm legwear to sleep in.
Do Not Skip Meals
It is easy to lose track of time as you explore the mesmerizing mountains of Hawaii. You might even skip meals just to be able to roam around or capture the perfect light to take a shot.
However, skipping meals when you are in the cold mountains can slow down your metabolism. A sluggish metabolism makes it harder for the body to keep the hands, feet, and nose warm.
Pack plenty of protein-rich snacks as you explore the mountainous outdoors.
Final Thoughts: How Cold Does It Get in Hawaii?
The mountainous locations of Hawaii can get quite chilly and snowy in winter. And although the coastal areas enjoy balmy weather throughout the year, temperatures can plummet after a cold snap.
Arm yourself with information about the Hawaiian winter, so you can be prepared to enjoy your vacation no matter how bitter the cold is.