Hawaii is known for its warm tropical climate, but even paradise has some frigid spots. If you’re wondering where the coldest place in Hawaii is, you’ve come to the right place.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The summit of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano on the Big Island, is the coldest place in Hawaii.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore Mauna Kea and other chilly spots around the Hawaiian islands. You’ll learn exactly why certain areas get so cold, what the record low temperatures are, and what visiting these frosty destinations is like.

Mauna Kea Summit

The Mauna Kea Summit is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable places in Hawaii. Located on the Big Island, this majestic dormant volcano stands at an impressive elevation of 13,796 feet (4,205 meters) above sea level. As you ascend to the summit, you’ll find yourself entering a world of breathtaking beauty and extreme conditions that make it the coldest place in Hawaii.

Highest Elevation in Hawaii

At its peak, Mauna Kea proudly holds the title of the highest elevation in the entire state of Hawaii. Its towering height allows visitors to experience a unique perspective as they gaze out over the stunning landscape below. The summit provides an unparalleled vantage point, offering panoramic views of the surrounding islands, lush forests, and the sparkling Pacific Ocean.

Frigid Temperatures

The frigid temperatures at the Mauna Kea Summit are what truly set it apart from the rest of Hawaii. Due to its elevation, the summit experiences average temperatures that can drop below freezing, especially during the winter months. It’s not uncommon for temperatures to reach as low as 10°F (-12°C) at the summit, making it a true winter wonderland in the middle of the Pacific.

The extreme cold is caused by a combination of factors, including the high altitude, lack of atmospheric moisture, and strong winds. These factors contribute to the formation of icy conditions and snowfall, which blanket the summit in a rare display of snow-capped beauty. Visitors to Mauna Kea are advised to come prepared with warm clothing to fully enjoy the experience without being affected by the biting cold.

Observatories at the Summit

Despite the challenging conditions, the Mauna Kea Summit is home to some of the world’s most advanced astronomical observatories. The clear, dry air and minimal light pollution make it an ideal location for scientific research and stargazing. These state-of-the-art observatories attract scientists and astronomers from around the globe who come to study the stars, galaxies, and celestial phenomena that can be observed from this unique vantage point.

The Mauna Kea Observatory, operated by the University of Hawaii, is one of the primary research facilities on the summit. It houses a variety of telescopes, including the world-famous Subaru Telescope and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope. These cutting-edge instruments enable scientists to explore the mysteries of the universe and make groundbreaking discoveries in the field of astronomy.

If you ever find yourself in Hawaii and are looking for a truly extraordinary experience, a visit to the Mauna Kea Summit is an absolute must. It offers a chance to witness the beauty of nature in its purest form while also providing a glimpse into the wonders of the universe.

Haleakalā Crater

If you think of Hawaii, you probably imagine beautiful sandy beaches, lush rainforests, and warm tropical weather. But did you know that Hawaii is also home to one of the coldest places in the state? Welcome to Haleakalā Crater, a majestic volcanic crater located on the island of Maui.

Elevation and Climate

Haleakalā Crater is situated at an elevation of over 10,000 feet above sea level, making it one of the highest points in Hawaii. As you ascend the winding road to the summit, you’ll notice a dramatic change in the climate. The temperature drops significantly, and the air becomes thinner, making it harder to breathe. The unique combination of high elevation and the surrounding Pacific Ocean creates a microclimate within the crater.

The climate at Haleakalā Crater is known as a “subalpine desert” due to its dry and arid conditions. The crater acts as a barrier, blocking the trade winds from reaching its interior, resulting in less rainfall. The lack of precipitation, coupled with the high elevation, contributes to the cold temperatures experienced at the summit.

Record Lows

When you visit Haleakalā Crater, be prepared for the chilly temperatures that can drop below freezing, especially during the winter months. In fact, the record low temperature recorded at the summit was a bone-chilling −12 °C (10.4 °F). It’s not uncommon to experience frost or even snow on occasion, turning the crater into a winter wonderland amidst the tropical paradise of Hawaii.

This extreme cold weather can catch visitors off guard, so it’s essential to dress warmly and come prepared with layers, hats, gloves, and sturdy footwear. The frigid temperatures may be a surprise to those expecting the typical Hawaiian climate, but they offer a unique experience and a chance to witness a different side of the island.

Exploring Haleakalā Crater and witnessing its breathtaking beauty is an unforgettable experience. Whether you visit during sunrise or sunset, the stunning views and the crisp mountain air will leave you in awe. So, if you’re up for an adventure and want to escape the heat of the beaches, consider adding Haleakalā Crater to your itinerary – just don’t forget to pack your warmest clothes!

Other Notable Cold Spots

Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area

Located on the island of Maui, the Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area is known for its cooler temperatures and lush greenery. Situated at an elevation of about 6,200 feet, this park offers a welcome respite from the heat and humidity of the lower elevations. With its misty landscapes and towering trees, it almost feels like stepping into a different world. The average temperature here is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius), making it one of the coldest spots in Hawaii.

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, this park offers a range of activities such as hiking, camping, and birdwatching. The trails winding through the park will lead you to breathtaking vistas and hidden waterfalls. Don’t forget to pack a warm jacket and some sturdy hiking boots when you visit Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area, as the weather can be quite chilly, especially in the early morning and late evening.

Waimea, Hawaii (The Big Island)

Waimea, also known as Kamuela, is a town located on the Big Island of Hawaii. Despite being situated in the tropics, Waimea experiences cooler temperatures compared to other parts of the island. The reason for this is its higher elevation, as the town is nestled in the rolling hills of the Kohala Mountain range.

With an average annual temperature of around 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius), Waimea offers a pleasant change from the warm coastal areas. The town is known for its ranching history and is often referred to as “Paniolo Country,” a nod to the Hawaiian cowboys who once roamed these lands. Visitors can explore the charming town center, browse local boutiques, and enjoy a meal at one of the many farm-to-table restaurants.

Hāna, Maui

Hāna is a small town located on the eastern coast of Maui. Despite its tropical location, Hāna experiences cooler temperatures due to its unique microclimate. Surrounded by lush rainforests and bordered by dramatic cliffs, Hāna offers a tranquil escape from the heat of the lowlands.

The average temperature in Hāna hovers around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius), providing a refreshing break from the hotter parts of the island. Visitors can explore the famous Road to Hāna, which winds through stunning landscapes and offers breathtaking views of waterfalls, black sand beaches, and vibrant floral displays. Don’t forget to pack a light jacket or sweater when you visit Hāna, as the weather can be cooler and more unpredictable than other parts of Maui.

For more information on these cold spots and other unique destinations in Hawaii, check out the official Hawaii tourism website https://www.gohawaii.com/.


While Hawaii is tropical overall, there are some surprisingly frigid spots like Mauna Kea and Haleakalā. These high elevations get cold enough to see snow in winter! So if you’re looking to escape the heat, head up to the mountains for a taste of cooler weather in paradise.

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