The climate of Mauna Loa varies. Near the coast, the climate is humid tropical with dry winters on the south Kona side and dry summers on the southeast side. Inland, however, the climate is temperate, with periglacial conditions above 10,000 to 11,000 ft.

     Mark Twain described it as "all the climates of the world at a single glance of an eye", adding that "that glance would only pass over a distance of eight or ten miles." There are ten different vegetation zones on the island of Hawaii, and Mauna Loa encompasses all of them, from the kiawe and lowland shrubs zone found below 1,000 ft. to the Alpine stone desert above 10,000 ft.

Desert conditions prevail at high altidues
on Mauna Loa, such as at the National Park Service's
Red Hill cabin at about 10,000 ft elevation

Vegetation Zones of Mauna Loa and the island of Hawaii




Kiawe and lowland shrubs

Kiawe, koa haole, finger grass, and piligrass

Below 1,000 ft.

Lantana-koa haole shrubs

Lantana, koa haole, kiu, panini, ilima, and natal red top grass

Below 3,000 ft.

Open guava forest with shrubs

Guava, koa haole, lantana, Spanish clover, and Bermuda grass

Below 2,500 ft.

Mixed open forest

Ohia lehua, koa, Spanish clover, and Bermuda grass

2,500 ft.-4,000 ft.

Closed guava forest with shrubs

Guava, Boston Fern, Hilo grass, basket grass, false steghorn fern, kukui, and hala

Below 1,500 ft.

Closed ohia lehua rainforest

Ohia lehua, napuu tree, and olapa

1,500 ft.-7,000 ft.

Open koa forest

Koa, ohia lehua, rat tail grass, and hue pueo grass

4,000 ft.-7,000 ft.

Open koa forest with Mamane

Koa, mamane, hue pueo grass, pukiawe, and aalii

4,000 ft.-7,000 ft.

Open mamane-nalo forest with subalpine shrubs

Mamane, nalo, pukiawe, aalii, and ohelo

7,000 ft. -10,000 ft.

Alpine stone desert

Scattered mosses, silversword, and Hawaiian bent grass

Above 10,000 ft.


HCV Home Hawaiian Volcanoes Loihi Kilauea Mauna Loa Hualalai

This page created by Ken Rubin with assistance from Rochelle Minicola, and is
maintained by Ken Rubin ©,
Rochelle did this work under the auspices of the Kailua High School Community Quest work experience program, in cooperation with the Hawaii Center for Volcanology.
Other credits for this web site.

Volcano Quick Links

  • [loihi}
  • [kilauea]
  • [mauna loa]
  • [hualalai]
  • [Waianae]
  • [Mauna Kea]
  • General Reference

    Hawaiian volcano info:
  • [Geography]
  • [Islands' Formation]
  • [Active Volcanoes]

  • Links
  • UHM-GG
  • CSAV
  • VOG Forecast
  • HVO volunteer program.