Mauna Kea

MAUNA KEA SUMMIT ADVENTURES

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Mauna Kea kuahiwi ku ha’o ika malie

(mauna kea is the astonishing mountain that stands in the calm), ‘since starting this outfit in 83’ with an ancient land cruiser and a basket full of dusty sweaters, my guides and i have had the enviable job of guiding inquisitive folks, like you, to the beauty of mauna kea. for us, guiding mauna kea isn’t a sideline, or the greatest new instagram spot. for us, it’s our passion, our responsibility, and our pleasure., we invite you to experience what is quite possibly the most dramatic and stimulating scenery to be found anywhere. journey with us to the top of this spectacular mountain in our 4x4 vans, enjoy a hearty meal, watch the breathtaking sunset and stargaze at the heavens..

E Komo Mai!

M. Pat Wright  Founder, Owner and Guide

mauna kea tour hawaii

The Highpoints of our tour:

  • Professional Guides: As the pioneer guide service on Mauna Kea we have over 60 years of combined experience on the mountain.
  • 4X4 Passenger vans:  All Mercedes fleet. Large windows, custom-built coach-style seating where everybody gets a great view and plenty of room.
  • Educational and Fun: Learn all about the island’s geography, culture and natural history from our experts. A laugh or three isn’t out of the question
  • Astonishing Scenery: See surrealistic landforms, strange cloudscapes and a panorama of the night sky like no other. Excellent photo opportunities abound!
  • Sunset at the Summit: The most dramatic spectacle in Hawaii.
  • Stargazing: Learn about the night sky from Polaris to the Southern Cross and see the treasures of the night sky through our powerful telescope. *
  • Trip Includes: This 7.5-8.5 hour excursion includes Arctic style parkas with hoods, a hearty and hot supper, gourmet hot beverages and convenient pick-up points.

* natural conditions permitting

mauna kea tour hawaii

Mauna Kea Sunrise Sunset & Stars

Mauna Kea Stargazing

The most epic experience on Hawaii’s Big Island

The breathtaking view you'll never forget.

Watch an amazing Sunrise/Sunset from the summit of Mauna Kea, nearly 14,000 ft. above the Pacific Ocean. Located in the center of Hawai’i Island, Mauna Kea has an unobstructed view of the horizon and offers a breathtaking vista that is hard to match. This view, coupled with its famous clear skies and dry crisp air, creates the perfect condition for absolutely stunning scenery.

My God, it's full of stars!

Mauna Kea is also known as one of the best stargazing spots in the world for its air clarity and total darkness. Our tours include ample time to explore the amazing star-filled night sky from where ancient Hawaiians believed the earth meets the universe.

Please note;

  • Our tours do not include meals. We provide light snacks.
  • Please bring warm clothes to wear under the provided parka. Read the FAQ to learn more about our Mauna Kea Tours.
  • We strongly encourage you to bring water. Staying hydrated can help you reduce the risk of altitude sickness.
  • You will be standing outside for roughly an hour while stargazing. If you have difficulty standing, please let us know in advance.
  • Gratuity is not included in the tour price but tips are greatly appreciated.

*Children 12 or younger are not allowed on our tours due to the high altitude. Seniors 81 or older may only participate in our Private Charter Tours for our guides to be more attentive to their health during the tour. **If the number of participants does not reach 3 by 24 hours before the tour departs, the tour will be canceled. Customers who have already applied will have the option to pay the difference to avoid cancellation.

3 convenient locations to catch your tour van

We provide 3 convenient pickup points in Kailua-Kona, Waikoloa Beach Resort, and Onizuka Visitor Center. Select an ideal location according to where you are staying or your activity of the day.

Don’t have a car? Or just don’t feel like driving? No worries! We can pick you up at major hotels and condos on the west side of the island. (Subject to an additional fee)

E Ola Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea is one of the most sacred sites for native Hawaiians and the Hawaiian culture. We are dedicated to promoting a deep appreciation of and respect for the natural beauty, culture, people, and history of Mauna Kea and Hawaiʻi Island. E Ola Mauna Kea – Let Mauna Kea Live!

We continue to receive and pass on the traditional teachings of Kumu Kaela Ching , our exclusive advisor to the Hawaiian culture.

Kumu Keala Ching

Tours operated by Taikobo Hawaii, Inc.

Taikobo Hawaii, Inc. has been providing guided tours to the summit of Mauna Kea since 1983 as well as other famous tourist destinations on the Big Island of Hawaii. We are one of the few companies that are officially authorized by Center for Maunakea Stewardship (part of the University of Hawaii at Hilo) to conduct commercial tours in this Hawaiian sanctuary.

We are dedicated to promoting a deep appreciation and respect for the natural beauty, culture, and history of the Big Island of Hawaii and the Hawaiian People by providing a variety of safe, enjoyable, and educational tours to visitors from all over the world, and by focusing company resources on the development of hospitable and knowledgeable guides and safe and comfortable tour vehicles.

mauna kea tour hawaii

Book Our Private Airport Shuttle and Get $10 Off Our Mauna Kea Tours

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Mauna Kea Summit and Stars

Activity times, what's included, description, operating hours and schedule.

  • The Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Tour operates every Monday through Saturday with some exceptions.
  • Tour start times change with the seasons.
  • Please see the calendar for actual times and availability.

Getting There

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🪐 The 5 Best Mauna Kea Stargazing Summit Tours [2024 Reviews]

Mauna Kea is a massive dormant volcano with a peak sitting at over 4,000 meters above sea level which makes it the highest point in all of Hawaii and the second-highest peak of an island on the entire planet.

Considered a shrine for worship and as a “home to the gods”, it is very important to Hawaiians, and its preservation is taken very seriously. Thanks to the extremely dry environment about it, it’s extremely clear and offers unmatchable views of the stars from the summit.

The best way to take advantage of this phenomenon is by going on a tour! We have all the best stargazing summit tours at Mauna Kea right here for you, so don’t go anywhere!

Be sure to see our reviews of Big Island helicopter tours , Big Island volcano tours and Big Island snorkel tours .

Best Mauna Kea Stargazing Summit Tours

Quick answer: the 5 best stargazing summit tours at mauna kea.

  • Best Value Tour: Sunset Stargazing Adventure w/ Free Photo at Mauna Kea Summit
  • Best Family Tour: Mauna Kea Stargazing Experience + Photos
  • Best Full Day Tour: Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
  • Best Sightseeing Tour: Maunakea Stellar Explorer From HILO
  • Best Small Group Tour: Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour

Mauna Kea Stargazing Summit Tour Reviews

1. best value tour: sunset stargazing adventure w/ free photo at mauna kea summit.

  • Duration: 7.5 to 8 hours
  • Departure:  Hotel pickup and drop-off available
  • Departure Time:  3:00 PM
  • Includes:   Pickup and drop-off (select locations), s nacks and hot chocolate, f ree DSLR night photos (sent via email), p arkas, g loves

Hawaii is a place full of natural beauty that never stops surprising or impressing us. It’s one of those states that no matter how much you visit, there’s always something to wonder at. With the Mauna Kea Summit: Sunset Stargazing Adventure w Free Photo Tour , you’re sure to be blown away by the entire experience.

This 8-hour tour starts off by you being picked up at your hotel, so there’s no need to deal with organizing transportation to another meetup point.

Make sure you bring comfortable clothes, and long pants that are flexible enough to move in easily. Due to the high elevation, the temperatures can drop to below freezing!

You’ll all start heading up to the summit, as your guide tells you about the importance of this magical place. They’ll speak about its relevance and cultural significance throughout history, as well as present-day.

They do offer a warm parka, gloves, and a hot drink as well so you stay comfy and never too chilly.

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Once you arrive to the top of the volcano, you’ll be able to really settle in and appreciate this incredible view.

Here, you’ll find the world’s largest collection of research telescopes, along with 2 of those that took the first photo of a black hole! Everyone will get to use a Celestron telescope to check out the amazing star views! Enjoy some hot chocolate and snacks as you watch the celestial wonders above you.

You’ll surely want to commemorate this moment, and what a better way than to have photos taken of you by a professional DSLR camera? The photos will be emailed to you afterward, displaying you against the starry sky!

More Information & Tour Booking

100% refund for cancellations within 24 hours of tour experience, other experiences you may enjoy:, 2. best family tour: mauna kea stargazing experience + photos.

  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Departure: Mauna Kea Forest Reserve , 44-5400 Daniel K. Inouye Hwy, Waimea
  • Departure Time:  9:30 PM
  • Includes:  All activities, professional photographer guide, parka jackets, complimentary medium resolution photos

Perhaps you like the idea of going to check out the magnificent luminous sky from the Mauna Kea summit, but don’t want to spend that much time up there. Maybe you have a packed schedule that won’t allow for it?

If so, we highly recommend the Mauna Kea Stargazing Experience + Photos that lasts 2 hours. You’ll start off by meeting up with your guide, where they’ll tell you about the area and what to expect.

This is a tour that’s recommended for people who have a moderate physical fitness level, and we highly recommend bringing warm clothing that you can comfortably “work out” in.

While they will provide you with warm parka jackets, it’s always best if you have something you know fits you well. Your guide will select a route depending on the weather conditions, that will offer you the best views possible.

You’ll be accompanied by an Analog-Astronaut and professional photographer guide who knows this area like the back of their hand.

Not only that, but they’ll tell you all about the galaxies, stars, and constellations in the sky. With a small group size maxing out at 12 travelers, you can ask them any questions you have.

We found the guide to be incredibly patient and knowledgeable, offering so much interesting historical information about the cultural relevance, geology, and the history of the volcano. There are blankets so you can lay on the ground and look up at the sky without craning your neck for a couple of hours.

The guide also takes incredible photos of you with the starry skies in the background, which turn out like some sort of masterpiece! Afterward, they’ll send you the photos via email later on so you can have them framed or share on social media.

3. Best Full Day Tour: Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)

  • Duration: 8 hours
  • Departure: Variety of locations available
  • Departure Time: 2:15 PM
  • Includes:  Dinner, bottled water, snow parka, ski pants, gloves, admission fee for Mauna Kea 4×4 passenger van, expert tour guide, DSLR camera photo, astronomical telescope

Next up, we bring you yet another highly-rated, 8-hour tour to the top of Mauna Kea. This is one of the most mind-blowing places to see the stars in the entire world, and for the best views we highly recommend checking out the Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour !

With complimentary sunset and star photos taken by your professional guide, you’ll have something to share with everyone else as well! The tour will pick you and the rest of your group up from the Target in Kona, though the time will vary depending on which time of year you go.

As you travel towards Mauna Kea, your guide will get acquainted with everyone and begin telling you some interesting facts about the volcano and how it is considered a holy place of worship.

Make sure you bring warm clothes that you can hike in, as well as comfortable shoes with a good grip/tread on them so you can more efficiently climb up the volcano.

Make a much-welcomed stop at the Onizuka Astronomy Complex, where you’ll check out their Visitor Center at an altitude of 9,000 feet. This is also crucial, to help everyone get acclimated to the altitude.

At this point, you’ll start to notice it getting a bit colder, so you can change into your warmer clothes. The gift shop here has some pretty cool stuff, so make sure to see their offerings, as well! If everyone would like, you can have an early dinner here and make sure to hydrate.

Next continue on your hike to the Mauna Kea summit, at an altitude of an impressive 13,796 feet! Here, you’ll see the beautiful observatory where you can explore, and see the sunset from one of the highest peaks in the world.

After the sun goes down, start gazing at the stars with their refractor telescope and razor pointer. The guide does an amazing job of explaining the constellations, planets, and stars that you will witness here.

They’ll also take marvelous photos of you with a professional camera, emailing these beautiful snaps afterwards.

4. Best Sightseeing Tour: Maunakea Stellar Explorer From HILO

  • Duration: 7 hours
  • Departure: 93 Banyan Dr, Hilo
  • Departure Time: 3:30 pm
  • Includes: Bottled water, professional guide, hotel pickup and drop-off, coffee and/or tea, dinner

While Hawaii has a ton of fascinating places to offer on land, it also has prime stargazing to admire! The Maunakea Stellar Explorer HILO is a 7-hour tour that will take you through beautiful water phenomenons, lava tubes, volcano summits, and much more!

If you want an action-packed Hawaiian adventure that encompasses a ton of different fascinating places this is it! We loved that this tour includes a complimentary hotel pickup so you don’t have to plan extra time and budget to get to your meetup spot.

Transportation is comfortable and climate-controlled so you don’t have to worry about being too cold or hot and humid. Start off in the charming little Hilo town, where your guide will start telling you all about the area and the stunning Rainbow Falls.

This famous waterfall looks like something from a storybook! The twin waterfall system stands at a whopping 80 feet tall, and if the time is right you’ll get to see the rainbow around them!

Head up the Wailuku River – the second-largest river in Hawaii. The route along here is gorgeous, and is anything but boring. Also known as Pe’epe’e Falls, you’ll eventually come across the Boiling Pots river feature.

Shaped by erosion and lava formations over time, it creates a pool of turbulent water that looks like it’s boiling. You can grab some impressive photos here!

Next, you’ll see the Kaumana Caves which is a section of the enormous lava tube system that transported lava 1.5 miles from Hilo-town in the late 1800s! Go inside to experience the high, cathedral-like ceilings before resting to enjoy a picnic lunch on top of them!

As the sun starts to go down a bit, your guide will take you to one of the best locations on Mauna Kea for stargazing at night. This will depend on the weather conditions, and they’ll let you see the sky, stars, and planets through their large aperture Dobsonian telescope.

Then go across Saddle Road located between both Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa which are two of the biggest volcanoes on the planet. Your guide will offer a fascinating narration on the different lava flows, environment, and wildlife found here.

They’ll set up a top-notch telescope so you can watch vibrant solar flares, sunspots, and more!

5. Best Small Group Tour: Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour

  • Departure: Hotel pickup and drop-off
  • Departure Time: Contact tour operator
  • Includes:  Guide, hooded parkas and gloves, hot picnic dinner, hot cocoa and cookies, private star show with telescope, local taxes

Sometimes bigger groups mean bigger fun, and this definitely holds true with the Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour . While it says “small-group” in the title, they take up to 29 passengers, which is one of the biggest we’ve seen.

It offers camaraderie while seeing these incredible places and even a delicious picnic! The tour does offer hotel pickup, so all you have to do is meet them in your hotel lobby ready with some comfortable walking shoes and clothing!

Board the 4×4 luxury van and get settled in while your guide tells you and your group about the area’s history, geology, flora and fauna, and more. We found the van to be very smooth and with ample leg room, making it that much more pleasant.

You’ll first stop at the Maunakea Visitor Information Station, where you’ll learn about Mauna Kea and its significance throughout history. Then, enjoy a hot picnic dinner where you’ll chat further and just enjoy the view before heading to the summit.

Make sure you’re wearing warm clothes as you’re going to head up above the clouds, all the way to the Mauna Kea Summit! Once you arrive, you’ll all be able to take some time and relax! Enjoy a magnificent sunset from above the clouds while seeing the Pacific Ocean as well.

Once the sun sets, the group will travel to a lower elevation to keep everyone more comfortable. Here, they’ll share their 11” Celestron telescopes designed to see what seems like every star and planet in the sky!

FAQs About Star Gazing at Mauna Kea

Why is mauna kea so good for star gazing.

What makes Mauna Kea so special for star gazing is its location above the clouds. As you ascend the mountain you leave behind the layer of moisture and pollution that often plagues the lower elevations. The air is thin and dry which makes for crystal clear skies and breathtaking views of the stars.

The altitude is not the only thing that makes Mauna Kea such a perfect location for astronomers. Being in the middle of the Pacific Ocean means that thousands of miles from any sources of light pollution. The isolation combined with the thin and dry air means that the night sky above Mauna Kea is one a very dark sky with clear air that doesn’t block the starlight.

Speaking from personal experience, the stars up there are something else! It’s like someone took a giant brush and painted the night sky with thousands upon thousands of twinkling lights.

Mauna Kea has several observatories, the two most noteworthy are the Keck Observatory and the Subaru Telescope . The observatories can take advantage of the mountain’s location and conditions to study the universe in detail that is not available in many other locations.

Can I Look Through a Telescope at Mauna Kea?

Yes you can look through a telescope at Mauna Kea, however access to the telescopes is highly restricted and requires planning and reservations. The telescopes on Mauna Kea are owned by universities and research institutions and not open to the general public.

There are a few ways for stargazing and to observe the night sky on Mauna Kea. One option is to visit the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station , which is located at an elevation of approximately 9,200 feet.

The center offers guided stargazing programs and exhibits that provide information about the telescopes and research being conducted on Mauna Kea.

Your best option is to participate in a stargazing tour, which is as you can image is a very popular activity! There are several tour companies that offer stargazing tours on Mauna Kea, which include transportation to the summit and access to telescope.

See our favorite tours above!

These tours usually require reservations in well in advance and may have age restrictions or other requirements.

Can You Drive to the Mauna Kea Summit?

Yes you can drive to the Mauna Kea summit. The road up to the summit is unpaved and steep with switchbacks and sharp turns. Not to mention the terrain is rocky so you need to have a four-wheel drive vehicle and be prepared for challenging driving conditions.

You should also know the altitude can give many people altitude sickness. As you ascend the mountain the air gets thinner and some people may experience headaches, nausea or other symptoms of altitude sickness.

Be sure you know the restrictions and guidelines when driving to the Mauna Kea summit.

Will Car Rental Agencies Let You Take a Car to the Mauna Kea Summit?

Some car rental agencies on the Big Island of Hawaii allow their vehicles to be driven up to the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station. You must check with the specific rental car agency you plan to use as many have restrictions or may not permit their vehicles to be driven up there.

The summit road is not paved so you need to have a four-wheel drive vehicle. If you do plan to drive a rental car to the Mauna Kea you need to check the rental agreement for any restrictions or additional fees that may apply. You may be required to buy additional insurance.

Tour Guides

The Sunset Stargazing Adventure at Mauna Kea Summit is our Editors Choice for the best stargazing summit tour at Mauna Kea

Robert Baker

Related articles, the 8 best maui & molokini snorkel tours [2024 reviews], 🤿 the 5 best oahu snorkeling tours [2024 reviews], 🚁 the 7 best oahu helicopter tours [2024 reviews], top 15 things to do in maui.

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Mauna Kea Stargazing: How to DIY and the 3 Best Tours

Mauna Kea Stargazing

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase through my links we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. Read about our affiliate policies here .

Stargazing atop one of the tallest mountains in the country is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and a must-do activity if you’re on the Big Island. Without any light or atmospheric pollution to distract you, you’ll be able to see the night sky filled with stars, galaxies, planets, and so much more. 

However, getting to Mauna Kea can be a bit tricky, as it requires a long drive up to a high-altitude climate. 

If you would like to do Mauna Kea stargazing during your trip, then you can either drive yourself or book an organized tour. To help you decide what’s best for your group, we’ll share the pros and cons of each so you can plan a memorable and stress-free trip stargazing experience.

Get the most out of your Big Island vacation Take a deep dive on the island with our Big Island Travel Guide , packed with everything you need to know for your trip! Let us help you find the best place to stay on the Big Island Save on your rental car with Discount Hawaii Car Rental , they’ve saved us thousands! To get to the top of Mauna Kea requires 4WD! Find even more great things to do on the Big Island .

What is Mauna Kea?

Mauna Kea is an inactive volcano on the Big Island. It’s the highest point in the entire state of Hawaii, with a peak that stands over 13,800 feet tall (making it a little over a hundred feet taller than Mauna Loa – one of the largest volcanoes on the planet).

Because of the high elevation, Mauna Kea is an excellent place for stargazing. With a dry, cloudless, and nearly pitch-black sky, Mauna Kea has the perfect conditions for astronomical observation. Not only is it open to visitors, but it’s also used by professionals and scientists, including NASA.  

What are the Mauna Kea Observatories?

Perched on the summit of Mauna Kea sits the Mauna Kea Observatories. This 525-acre plot of land is home to 12 different observational facilities and 13 telescopes. The University of Hawaii operates two of them, while the others are governed by other agencies and countries. 

As a visitor, you won’t be allowed to go inside the observatories or use the telescopes. The only exception to that is NOIRLab does a limited number of tours at noon to their Gemini North Telescope . You must drive yourself to the summit.

But if you make the trek up to the summit during the day, you might be able to see the astronomers at work. The domes will be open, and the telescopes will be swung into position! 

Mauna Kea Stargazing - Observatory

Besides being on the summit, you also have the chance to check out the visitor’s center, The Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station (VIS for short), which is located further down the slopes of the volcano.

Can You Visit Mauna Kea on Your Own? 

Yes! Although many people choose to visit Mauna Kea with an organized tour, it’s possible to go on your own. However, there are some rules and regulations you’ll need to follow if you plan to drive yourself up the volcano. 

The visitor center is open from 9 AM to 9 PM, although the road to the summit opens 30 minutes before sunrise and closes 30 minutes after sunset. You can visit anytime during operational hours, although many people like to come during sunrise or sunset for the view.

2-wheel-drive vehicles are not permitted past the visitor’s center, so be sure you go prepared! We’ll cover more on this below.

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Mauna Kea Stargazing: Visiting on Your Own

Organized tours are expensive and often take up an entire day. While it is great to have a knowledgeable guide with you, some people prefer to go stargazing on their own. If you are planning to head up to Mauna Kea without a tour, there are some things to keep in mind to make sure your trip goes as smoothly as possible.

Tips for Stargazing at Mauna Kea

Beware of altitude sickness.

As the tallest peak in Hawaii, the high altitude levels on Mauna Kea are no joke. In fact, the air at the summit contains 40% less oxygen than at sea level! If you aren’t adequately prepared, you may get Altitude Motion Sickness (AMS), which can cause headaches, drowsiness, nausea, and loss of balance among other symptoms.

To prevent getting sick, there are some safety precautions you should take:

  • Spend at least 30 minutes adjusting to the altitude change at the Visitor Center (9,200 feet)
  • Bring and drink lots of water to stay hydrated
  • Don’t drink alcohol before or during your visit
  • Don’t do too much strenuous activity at the top. You should save your oxygen!
  • Avoid high altitudes if you are pregnant, under the age of 13, or have poor general health

Join the Stargazing Program

Once a month, the Mauna Kea Visitor Center hosts a free stargazing event. As a group, staff members will take you to a private stargazing location where you’ll be able to spend two hours viewing the night sky. They’ll have telescopes set up and can answer any question you may have.

To join, make sure to reserve your place online in advance. You can come a bit early to watch the sunset before returning to the visitor center to start your stargazing experience.

Rent the Right Vehicle

To reach the summit of Mauna Kea, you’ll need to have a 4WD vehicle. The 8-mile drive from the visitor center to the peak is on steep, bumpy terrain, which means it’s not suitable for 2WD cars. If you don’t have an off-roading vehicle, you’ll still be allowed to go to the visitor center, although venturing any further is strictly prohibited.

When renting a car, make sure the rental company allows its vehicles to be driven up Mauna Kea. Some companies have regulations that prohibit this, so double-check before you leave the airport or rental car center.

It’s also important that you have enough gas to make it up to the summit and back. While the drive is doable on ½ a tank, we highly recommend filling up before going to Mauna Kea. You will burn a lot of gas as you make the climb to the summit. There are no gas stations after Waimea, so plan accordingly if you’re driving yourself!

Mauna Kea Stargazing - Jeep rental

Check out our rental car recommendations before you book!

Be Respectful

Mauna Kea is a sacred place, and according to Hawaiian mythology, the summit is home to benevolent spirits and gods, including Poli‘ahu, the Goddess of Snow. Historically, Hawaiian law stated that only high-ranking nobility were allowed up to the peak.  

While this has changed over time, it’s still vital that all visitors treat the volcano and the natural surroundings with respect. Make sure you stay on the road at all times and don’t pull over unless instructed.

Related reads: 9 Ways to Have an Authentic Hawaiian Experience The 6 Best Big Island Luaus by Location

Dress Warmly

As you might imagine, the top of Mauna Kea can be very cold. The average temperature at the peak is 32 degrees Fahrenheit (literally freezing!), although the wind chill can make it feel even colder.

For this reason, you’ll want to dress warmly. Make sure you have long pants, closed-toed shoes, and a warm jacket or sweater. You may also think about bringing thick socks, gloves, and a beanie, so be sure to add these to your Hawaii packing list !

Don’t Go Scuba Diving Before or After

Similar to flying, being at a high altitude can pose major risks for scuba divers. The decreased air pressure and build-up of nitrogen in the bloodstream can be extremely dangerous. If you want to go scuba diving after stargazing, you must wait at least 24 hours to adjust back to sea level.

The same applies to diving before your trip up the volcano. Because of the altitude change, you should also wait more than 24 hours to go up Mauna Kea if you’ve been scuba diving. 

How to Stargaze at Mauna Kea On Your Own

Now that we’ve gotten the safety information out of the way, let’s walk through what you’ll need to do to have an amazing experience stargazing at Mauna Kea!

One important thing to note is that the road from the visitor center up to the summit is closed 30 minutes after sunset. Therefore, you won’t actually be doing any stargazing at the peak. While you can drive up there for the view (and the bragging rights), you will be doing all your stargazing around the visitor center at a lower elevation.

Arrive Ninety Minutes Before Sunset

As mentioned, the road up to the summit closes 30 minutes after sunset. You’ll need enough time to make the drive and acclimate to the altitude change if you’re planning on watching the sunset from the top.

Therefore, we recommend getting to the visitor center 90 minutes before the scheduled sunset. That gives you 30 minutes to acclimate at the visitor center and another 45 minutes to 1 hour to drive to the summit. If there isn’t traffic, you can usually make the drive in about 30 minutes, although it can be longer if you’re stuck behind a slow driver.

Mauna Kea Stargazing - sunset

Give Yourself At Least 30 Minutes to Acclimate

We can’t stress this enough! Unless you want to spend your entire evening feeling sick and dizzy, It’s important to acclimate to the change in altitude. You don’t want to just drive straight from the beach up to the peak without stopping to adjust, as this can be extremely dangerous.

The visitor center is located 9,200 feet above sea level, so you need to stop here for at least 30 minutes before heading to the summit. However, the longer you have here, the better. Some visitors even spend several hours here just to make sure. 

There’s a lot to see inside, including photos, diagrams, and models. You can also pick up a book or souvenir at the gift shop while you’re waiting!

Drive from the Visitor Center to Mauna Kea Summit

If you have a 4×4 vehicle with an allowance to go up Mauna Kea, then you can head to the summit before sundown. Remember that the road is long (8 miles) and very steep (~5,000 feet), so take your time.

Give yourself at least 45 minutes to an hour to go up the road from the visitor center. While the drive should take just 30 minutes, it will likely take longer due to the number of cars, slow drivers, etc.

If there are high winds, ice, or lots of snow, the road up to the summit might be closed. Before you leave, check the road conditions to see if it’s open to visitors.

Watch the Sunset

Once you’ve reached the peak, bundle up in your warm clothes and go out to watch the sunset. It’s a breathtaking sight to see it descend below the clouds. Make sure to bring your camera (and some sunglasses), as the colors are stunning from this high up.

Drive Back Down to the Visitors Center for Stargazing

Remember, you can only stay up at the peak for about 30 minutes after sunset. The road down to the visitor center can be quite dangerous in the dark, so you won’t be allowed to stay for too long. 

But once you arrive back at the visitor center, it’s time to go stargazing! 

Why Stargazing is Better at the Visitors Center

Despite what many people think, the visitor center is better than the summit for stargazing! That’s because it’s at a lower altitude, which means there’s more oxygen in the air. Getting less oxygen makes it harder to see the stars, even though you’re technically closer to them!

However, the summit is still the ideal place for astronomers. The telescopes they use aren’t affected by the lack of oxygen, which is why they’re situated at Mauna Kea’s peak, but many astronomers control the telescopes and view the images at lower elevations.

So, don’t be upset that you can’t stay on the summit after dark. The visitor center is still at a high enough elevation to make your stargazing trip a memorable one!

Mauna Kea Stargazing stars

Find even more great things to do on the Big Island: 21 Incredible Things to Do on the Big Island 32 of the Best Things to Do in Hilo (+nearby) The 21 Best Things to do in Kona (+ tips to know before you go) 12 Epic Things to Do in Kona with Kids The 15 Best Things To Do In Waikoloa

The Best Mauna Kea Stargazing Tours

While a DIY drive-up Mauna Kea is doable, it might be easier to go with a tour group. Not to mention, it’s always nice to have a knowledgeable guide with you to answer any questions you may have and help you see even more.

We recommend a tour for stargazing if you’re hesitant about the drive. Driving up or down the mountain at night is difficult – the road is windy, and completely dark, and the change in altitude is significant. Thankfully, there are some great options available if you prefer to go on an organized stargazing tour.

Stargazing Tour with Photos

A lot of stargazing tours last the entire night (10 to 12 hours!), which may not fit your schedule if you’re short on time. However, this stargazing tour is only 2 hours long, so it’s perfect for those who have other activities planned.

The tour is led by James, an analog astronaut and professional astrophotographer. He uses a telescope and laser pointer to show you exactly where to look for the most breathtaking views of the night sky. He’ll also take professional photos of you with the starry backdrop so you can have a unique souvenir to remember your time on the volcano.

Because this tour doesn’t go up to the summit, it’s suitable for kids or those with health issues. And if the weather or stargazing conditions are bad, you’ll get a full refund or opportunity to move your tour to a later date.

Mauna Kea Stargazing - Astrophotography

If you’re trying to get great photos throughout your vacation, check out our favorite photo spots .

Twilight Volcano and Stargazing Tour

This full-day tour allows you to experience the best of what the Big Island has to offer. You’ll start your morning with a coffee tasting at a local Kona coffee farm before heading to Punalu’u Black Sand Beach (one of the most unique beaches on the island!). From there, you’ll visit Hawaii Volcanos National Park, where you’ll see the Kilauea Iki Lookout, steam vents, and Halema’uma’u Crater.

After dinner at a local restaurant (which is included along with a picnic lunch), you’ll head up to Mauna Kea for an evening of stargazing. 

Mauna Kea Summit Tour

If you’re staying in Hilo, this is one of the best stargazing tours you can join. They’ll pick you up at a central location and whisk you up the slopes of Mauna Kea for an unforgettable evening. After a warm picnic dinner, you’ll visit the summit for a spectacular sunset before heading back down to the stargazing spot. 

Admire the different constellations and space objects through the telescope while sipping hot chocolate to stay warm. Your guides will also take photographs of the night sky that you’ll get after your tour! 

Parkas and gloves are provided, which is a huge perk if you don’t want to pack yours from the mainland. However, stargazing is not guaranteed, as cancellations due to poor or cloudy conditions may occur. Refunds are not offered for unfavorable conditions.

Kohala Coast Stargazing

Getting up to Mauna Kea can be a time-consuming venture. However, there are closer stargazing spots you can visit that don’t require lengthy drives, heavy coats, or acclimatizing to the high altitude.

This stargazing experience takes place at the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort , which is just 45 minutes from Kailua-Kona. Even though it’s at sea level, you can still enjoy dramatic views of the night sky with their high-tech telescopes! We did this tour and saw the moon, Saturn, and tons of stars, so it’s definitely worth it if you don’t want to make the long journey to Mauna Kea.

We highly recommend this tour for kids as it only lasts for one hour. And if your little ones are under 5, they get to go for free! Honestly, we were a little hesitant about this tour but we all had a great time and learned so much. We took our kids and our parents with us, and it was great for all ages.

Mauna Kea Stargazing

Check out more can’t miss Big Island tours and activities: Tried and Tested: The 5 Best Manta Ray Night Snorkel (or Dive) in Kona The 10 Best Big Island Farm Tours You Won’t Want to Miss The 9 Best Big Island Snorkeling Tours

The Easiest Big Island Trip Planning

We make planning a trip to the Big Island simple  with our itinerary . This itinerary includes excursion days designed to take you on a planned route around the island to explore the best things to see and the best places to eat.

We are going to Oahu, Maui, and Big Island over the course of 21 days, so I have loved your itineraries–seriously they are a must-have lifeline for planning a trip to Hawaii! Kim S.

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The step-by-step itinerary takes you to all the best beaches, snorkeling spots, restaurants, and sights. You’ll get six carefully planned excursion days to help you see the can’t miss stops no matter how limited your time is.

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Mauna Kea stargazing

I'm the co-founder, with my husband Jordan, of The Hawaii Vacation Guide. We have lived on Maui and Oahu and continue to travel, experience, and learn about the Hawaiian Islands. We travel with our kids, Henry and Edith. I am a planner! I love to plan trips from the mainland and island-hopping adventures, excursion days, and everything in-between. I spend a lot of my time in Hawai'i on a SUP and my favorite time of year in Hawai'i is whale season!

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Epic Tours

MAUNA KEA STARGAZING TOURS ON THE BIG ISLAND OF HAWAI'I

Mauna kea stargazing experience + free photos.

Travel by starlight to the dormant Mauna Kea volcano in Hawai’i! With our stargazer guarantee, we make sure to take you out on the nights with the most amazing shows, led by our Pro Astro-Photographer James. Book your Mauna Kea stargazing tour online today!

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Epic Tours Has Over 300+ Five-Star Reviews on Tripadvisor!

So surreal.

"Absolutely breathtaking trip! James was our guide and he couldn’t have been more knowledgeable about the constellations. He knew exactly what to do when a few clouds began to come in, and made the trip so enjoyable. There were coats available for us, and chairs too, plus our pictures turned out to be phenomenal. Such a surreal experience!"

Worth taking the trip

"Views of sunset from top of the Mauna Kea were amazing and the stargazing experience was pretty good. Leaving the difficult driving to the professionals was one of the best decisions we made in the Hawaii vacation. Also the addition of dinner and the jackets for the cold were very helpful."

Would recommend

"This tour was great! The location and times are well thought out to not be interrupted by others or even light from the moon. James is extremely knowledgeable and you can tell he really loves what he does. It was well worth waking up in the middle of the night to see the breathtaking views of the Milky Way, constellations, and planets."

Unique and well worth it

"This was just the coolest experience. James was so knowledgeable and answered everyone's questions. The entire process from start to finish was thought out with care. Everyone at home was gushing about the pictures. This tour is 100% recommended and worth every penny."

Arnotts Lodge

Hawaii Accommodations and Adventure Tours

Mauna Kea Summit Tour Hilo, Hawaii

Mauna Kea Sunset

The Mauna Kea Summit Evening Tour

Join us on an epic adventure to one of the most amazing mountains in the world-- Travel from sea level to the summit of Mauna Kea at 14,000 ft./4200 m. in one evening for trip that you'll remember for a lifetime!

What We Offer:

  • A small group tour with a maximum of 13 passengers.*
  • A professionally guided, informative tour in a 4wd van or SUV. Relax knowing you are in good hands with our drivers!
  • A brief stop at Rainbow Falls in Hilo (for guests picked up in Hilo only.)
  • A chance to learn about a place rich with cultural, astronomical, and geological history.
  • A view from the summit at sunset**
  • Starshow at 9,000 ft. with our trained guides using a handheld laser**
  • Jackets are available upon request.
  • A tour departure from Hilo. We offer pickups at most of the major hotels in Hilo, or we can meet guests at the Onizuka Visitors Center. We do NOT pick up guests in Kona or Waikoloa.

*This tour currently has a minimum requirement of 2 passengers to run.  

**Weather permitting.

***Arnott's Lodge may occasionally offer a daytime tour to Mauna Kea. Check our calendar for availability. The schedule for this tour is different from our regularly scheduled evening tour.

Lodge Guest Discount! Guests who stay at least one night at our lodge in Hilo are eligible for a discount on the Mauna Kea Summit Evening Tour. The tour must be taken within 30 days of the lodge stay date. Please contact us if you are one of our lodge guests and would like to take this tour.

What to bring: Closed-toe footwear, warm clothing, a light dinner, water, sun protection, and your camera.

We highly recommend that guests bring their own binoculars if possible, as it can enhance your experience tremendously when you have equipment that you are familiar with. Ensure that you have practice using them and that you are comfortable with adjusting them as needed. For an article on why using binoculars can be great for stargazing, click here.  

Our goal:   Our main objective is to reach the summit of Mauna Kea. We understand that our guests come to visit Mauna Kea for many different reasons. Whether your goal is to try to understand the cultural and spiritual importance, to add the mountain to your list of high points visited, or to study its unique geology and history; we are here to help you reach the top. Weather:    Mauna Kea is occasionally hit by passing clouds or bad weather which does not close the road.  If the road is open to the summit, our tour WILL proceed.  We cannot guarantee that you will see sunset or stars as we have no control of cloud coverage and spontaneous weather.  Both the phase of the moon and cloud coverage can affect stargazing ( See here .) Check out Mauna Kea's webcam http://mkwc.ifa.hawaii.edu/current/cams/

Restrictions:

This tour is not recommended for anyone with heart or respiratory problems, high blood pressure, motion sickness, back pain, pregnant women, children, anyone in poor health, or anyone who has scuba-dived within the last 48 hours. We strongly recommend that you not take this tour if you have indulged in alcohol to excess the night before, or if you have had any alcohol to drink the day of your tour. You must be 13+ to take this tour.  As a general health indicator all guests must be able to walk at least 100 yards briskly and to climb into the van unaided.  If you have a health condition that you believe may be affected by altitude changes, or if you are unsure, please consult your doctor before booking this tour. Step stools are rated for 250 lbs/115 kg and guest must be able to occupy a single seat space. Please read our FAQ on Mauna Kea.

Difficulty Level : Challenging

Charters, groups, private Sunrise, Day and Evening Tours also available; inquire at [email protected] or call/text/whatsapp us at 808-339-0921 for availability.

Please read our detailed page along with our terms and conditions  on Mauna Kea before booking!

We have a 48 hour cancellation policy.  If you cancel outside of 48 hours to the date of your scheduled tour, a $49 cancellation fee will be assessed.  If you cancel within 48 hours of the date of your scheduled tour, there is no refund offered for any reason. This includes unforeseen events, illnesses, and injury. We always recommend travel insurance in case of unforeseen events.

Road closures: If we are aware of a road closure that will affect the course of the tour before the tour begins, we will let you know and offer you the option to continue with the tour or reschedule (if possible). If you choose to continue with the tour knowing that a road is or may be closed and you may not make it to the summit, no refund will be offered in that instance. 

Please ensure that you provide the correct contact contact information during your booking. Our staff will send you a confirmation notice containing information about this excursion, including meeting times, meeting location, and any preparations necessary. Please read and keep this emailed notice to make sure you are properly informed for this tour.

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mauna kea tour hawaii

Mauna Kea Summit & Stars

Mauna kea summit tours.

Watching the sunset from the slopes of Mauna Kea is an amazing experience. The clear skies of Hawaii offer an incredible perspective as the sun slowly slips over the horizon into the Pacific. Mauna Kea’s natural, cultural history, and geology will come to life as Hawaii Forest & Trail’s interpretive guides share their knowledge.

After enjoying a warm dinner outdoors and a scenic sunset, you’ll experience a starlit sky unaffected by light pollution. Savor a cup of hot chocolate as you view the night’s sky through our 11″ Celestron Telescope. Views are compliments of Mother Nature.

Guests are transported in comfortably spaced 12 passenger 4WD vans with a dedicated interpretive guide. Hawaii Forest & Trail will take care of all your needs, from warm parkas, gloves, walking sticks, water, dinner, and hot chocolate. It’s time to plan your Big Adventure!

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Maunakea Summit & Stars Give Back Experience

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Mauna Kea Summit Tours

by SuperVacation®

mauna kea tour hawaii

Stars and Sunset Small-Group Mauna Kea Summit Adventure+Free Astro Photos

  7 hours

 Challenging

 View an amazing sunset from the summit of Mauna Kea and learn about the stars and planets.

Pick up locations West Side:

1: Kona Commons Bank of Hawaii 74-5457 Makala Blvd, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, USA

Pick Up Time: 2:20pm( October - February ). 2:50pm( March, August, September). 3:20pm( April - July ) 

2: Waikoloa Starbucks, 69-201 Waikoloa Beach Drive #1001 K-1, Waikoloa Village, HI 96738, USA

Pick Up Time: 3:00pm( October - February ). 3:30pm( March, August, September ). 4:00pm( April - July )

Pick up locations East Side:

3: pm Hilo Hawaiian Hotel - 71 Banyan Dr, Hilo, HI 96720, USA

Pick Up Time: 2:55pm( October - February ). 3:25pm( March, August, September ). 3:55pm( April - July )

4: Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo - a DoubleTree by Hilton, 93 Banyan Dr, Hilo, HI 96720, USA

Delight in the awe-inspiring sunset at the top of Mauna Kea, the highest point in the Pacific

Your guide will share historic accounts of the Big Island

Stand amidst the world’s largest collection of research telescopes

See two of the eight telescopes which took the first photo of a black hole 

Sip hot beverage during your private star show with a Celestron telescope

Your guide will take a photo of you and the stars with our DSLR camera and we will email it to you.

What's included?

Entry or admission fee

★  Comfortable 4X4 passenger van as transportation ★  Snacks and hot beverage during our star show ★  Jackets an Gloves are provide to keep you warm ★  Our experienced tour guide will teach you about the history of Mauna Kea and show you our amazing night sky with a laser pointer ★  Get closer to the stars with our professional Celestron telescope ★  Get a nice photo of you and the stars with our DSLR camera 

Tip or gratuity

An optional tip of $5-10 per person for good service is customary in Hawaii and is very much appreciated by your guide.

Please note

WE ARE BACK!

Our Mauna Kea Summit tour is starting up again on March 1st. Super Vacation Hawaii is following all COVID-19 guidelines.  Each passenger must provide proof of quarantine or  a negative COVID-19 test with the HTA Safe Travels program . Please provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccine record if you were immunized. Masks must be worn at all times during the tour, and social distancing must be practiced while outside of the tour vehicle. Our guides will administer temperature checks and a health screening questionnaire to all guests. Please call, text, or email us with any inquiries.

Weather changes can occur quickly and the access road to the summit can close without warning, therefore we cannot guarantee access to the summit or favorable conditions. Please wear pants and comfortable shoes. We will provide parkas and gloves for you. The temperature can dip below freezing when at high elevation on the mountain. Guests should be able to walk on uneven or rocky terrain. We sometimes encounter cool, wet or muddy conditions. Because of high altitude this tour is not advised for those with respiratory, circulatory or heart conditions, pregnancy or poor health. Scuba divers should be aware of altitude dangers. No children under 12. Other tour restrictions may apply. You will sign a wavier before the tour departure, mahalo

What do I need to bring?

Suitable shoes for walking

Comfortable Winter pants

Water bottle

Extra battery for your camera

A light dinner

Please choose correct time for specific pick up locations

3:20 pm Kona Commons Bank of Hawaii

3:55 pm Hilo Hawaiian Hotel

4:00 pm Hilo Naniloa Hotel

4:00 pm Waikoloa Starbucks

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Exploring Mauna Kea: A Comprehensive Travel Guide to Hawaii's Magnificent Peak

Dimple

Mauna Kea, Hawaii’s tallest peak, is a symbol of natural wonder and cultural significance. Rising majestically above the Hawaiian Islands, it offers visitors a plethora of experiences, from stargazing at its world-renowned observatories to hiking its scenic trails and exploring its rich cultural heritage. This guide aims to equip you with essential information and insider tips to make your trip to Mauna Kea truly unforgettable, ensuring you make the most of this iconic destination.

  • Marvel at the vastness of the universe and witness celestial wonders with telescopes provided by observatories atop the mountain.
  • Experience breathtaking sunsets and sunrises from the summit of Mauna Kea.
  • Nature enthusiasts can explore the mountain’s unique ecosystem, including rare silversword plants and elusive native birds.
  • Traverse rugged terrain and witness the dramatic changes in landscapes as you ascend to heights of over 13,000 feet above sea level.
  • Educational tours offer insights into groundbreaking discoveries and the cutting-edge technology used to explore the cosmos.

Mauna Kea Volcanoes Area - Big Island, Hawaii

Genesis of Fire (1 Million Years Ago - Present)

Mauna Kea’s fiery origins trace back over a million years ago when it emerged as a hotspot volcano. Erupting relentlessly for hundreds of thousands of years, it gradually built its colossal structure, shaping the landscape over time.

The Dormant Transition (250,000 - 4,000 Years Ago)

Around 250,000 years ago, Mauna Kea’s eruptions began to wane, signaling a transition towards its current dormant state. Over millennia, its volcanic activity decreased, with the last known eruption occurring roughly 4,500 to 6,000 years ago.

The Sacred Peak (Pre-Colonial Hawaii - Present)

In the rich tapestry of Hawaiian tradition, Mauna Kea’s summit holds profound spiritual significance. It serves as a sacred nexus, bridging the earthly realm with the heavens above. Access to its heights was restricted, reserved solely for chiefs and priests who sought communion with the divine.

Science and Modernization(1960s - Present)

As the modern era dawned, Mauna Kea’s lofty altitudes and crystal-clear skies beckoned pioneers of scientific exploration. In the 1960s, the Mauna Kea Observatory was born, catalyzing a renaissance in astronomical research. From its vantage point, it became a beacon of discovery, propelling humanity’s understanding of the cosmos to new heights.

However, alongside the pursuit of scientific discovery, Mauna Kea’s present is marked by a complex interplay of tradition and progress. The presence of the observatory has become a focal point of contention, as some Native Hawaiians perceive it as a desecration of sacred land. This ongoing cultural conflict underscores the nuanced narrative that continues to shape Mauna Kea’s identity.

Top Attractions at Mauna Kea

Mauna kea visitor center.

Located amidst the breathtaking landscape of Mauna Kea, the Visitor Center serves as a gateway to understanding the mountain’s profound significance. Offering a range of facilities and services, including informational exhibits and educational programs, visitors can delve into the geological, cultural, and astronomical wonders of the peak. From interactive displays to guided tours, the center provides an immersive experience for all ages. Before your visit, remember to check the center’s operating hours and consider arriving early to make the most of your time exploring this captivating destination.

Mauna Kea Observatory

Landscape view of the Mauna Kea Observatory unit from the driveway.

The observatory complex stands as a beacon of scientific discovery and celestial wonder. Comprising a network of cutting-edge telescopes and research facilities, the observatory offers unparalleled stargazing experiences and informative guided tours. Visitors have the opportunity to witness groundbreaking astronomical research and marvel at the beauty of the night sky from one of the world’s premier observatory sites. However, it’s essential to adhere to visitor guidelines and regulations to ensure the preservation of this delicate environment and the safety of all guests and researchers alike.

Mauna Kea Summit

Mauna Kea Summit on Big Island of Hawaii

Standing at the summit of Mauna Kea offers a breathtaking experience, but access comes with regulations to preserve this sacred space. Visitors can witness awe-inspiring sunrises and sunsets against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean from this lofty vantage point. Exploring hiking trails and viewpoints reveals panoramic vistas of the island’s diverse landscapes. However, given the high altitude, it’s crucial to take safety precautions, including acclimatization, hydration, and awareness of altitude-related symptoms, to ensure a safe and memorable adventure to the summit of Mauna Kea.

Mauna Kea Beach

Mauna Kea Beach Hawaii (Kaunaoa Bay)

Perfect for relaxation and recreation, visitors can indulge in swimming, snorkeling amidst vibrant coral reefs, and soaking up the sun’s rays on the idyllic shores. The beach offers convenient amenities, including showers, restrooms, and beach equipment rentals, ensuring a comfortable day by the sea. For a memorable visit, consider arriving early to secure a prime spot, and don’t forget to bring sunscreen, snacks, and plenty of water to stay hydrated under the Hawaiian sun.

Things to Do

Stargazing experiences and guided tours.

Milky Way over telescope domes on Mauna Kea, HAwaii.

Delve into the wonders of the night sky as expert astronomers guide you through celestial phenomena and unveil the mysteries of the universe. Whether you’re a seasoned stargazer or a novice astronomer, these immersive experiences offer a unique opportunity to witness the beauty of the cosmos from one of the world’s premier observatory sites. Don’t miss the chance to gaze upon distant galaxies, nebulae, and planets against the backdrop of Hawaii’s star-studded skies, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Hiking trails and viewpoints

On the way to the top of volcano - Mauna Kea, Hawaii

Traverse rugged terrain, lush forests, and volcanic landscapes as you explore the mountain’s majestic surroundings. Whether you’re seeking a stroll or a challenging trek, there are trails suitable for all skill levels, offering unparalleled opportunities to immerse yourself in Hawaii’s natural beauty. Be sure to pack essentials like water, sunscreen, and sturdy footwear, and don’t forget your camera to capture the awe-inspiring vistas along the way. From panoramic overlooks to hidden gems waiting to be discovered, hiking on Mauna Kea promises unforgettable experiences for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages.

Wildlife spotting and nature walks

From rare bird species to unique plant life, the mountain is teeming with fascinating creatures and ecosystems waiting to be explored. Guided nature walks offer insights into the delicate balance of this unique environment, allowing visitors to connect with nature on a deeper level. Keep your eyes peeled for native species such as the Hawaiian honeycreeper and the endangered palila bird, and don’t forget to tread lightly to minimize your impact on the fragile ecosystem. Whether you’re an avid nature enthusiast or simply seeking a tranquil escape, wildlife spotting, and nature walks on Mauna Kea promise unforgettable encounters with the natural world.

Witness the sunset and the sunrise

Mauna KeMauna Kea

Experience the magic of Mauna Kea’s sunrise and sunset, two breathtaking spectacles that paint the sky with hues of orange, pink, and purple. Whether you choose to witness the first light of day breaking over the horizon or bid farewell to the sun as it dips below the Pacific Ocean, both moments offer unforgettable vistas and a profound connection with nature. From the summit’s lofty heights to secluded viewpoints along the coast, find the perfect spot to soak in the beauty of these celestial displays and create memories that will last a lifetime. Don’t forget to arrive early to secure a prime viewing location and dress warmly to ward off the mountain’s chilly temperatures, ensuring a comfortable and awe-inspiring experience.

Tips for Visiting

  • Take time to acclimate to the high altitude to avoid altitude sickness.
  • Stay hydrated and avoid strenuous activities until fully acclimated.
  • Layer clothing to accommodate temperature changes throughout the day.
  • Bring warm clothing, including jackets and hats, as temperatures can drop significantly at higher elevations.
  • Drive cautiously on mountain roads, especially considering steep inclines and potential adverse weather conditions.
  • Follow marked trails and heed any warnings or advisories from park rangers.
  • Respect designated areas and avoid disturbing wildlife and natural habitats.
  • Dispose of waste properly and minimize your environmental impact by practicing Leave No Trace principles.
  • Support local conservation efforts and consider volunteering or donating to preservation initiatives.

Nearby Attractions and Side Trips

Picture of Hilo, Hawaii on a sunny day with snow-capped Mauna Kea in the backgroundl

Discover the natural wonders of the Big Island with visits to iconic sites such as Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, where you can witness the awe-inspiring power of active volcanoes and explore lava tubes and craters. Immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of nearby towns and villages like Hilo and Waimea, where you can explore local markets, museums, and historic sites, offering insights into Hawaiian traditions and customs. For thrill-seekers and adventure enthusiasts, a plethora of exhilarating activities await, from zip-lining through lush rainforests to snorkeling in pristine marine sanctuaries or embarking on helicopter tours for a bird’s-eye view of the island’s breathtaking landscapes. Whether you’re seeking natural wonders, cultural immersion, or adrenaline-pumping adventures, the surrounding areas of Mauna Kea promise unforgettable experiences for every traveler.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Mauna Kea the tallest mountain in the world?

No, Mauna Kea is not the tallest mountain in the world when measured from its base to its summit. However, if measured from its base on the ocean floor, it is the tallest mountain in the world, standing approximately 33,500 feet (10,200 meters) tall.

Why is Mauna Kea so special?

Mauna Kea is renowned for its astronomical observatories due to its ideal conditions for stargazing. Its high altitude, clear skies, and minimal light pollution make it one of the best locations on Earth for observing the cosmos. Additionally, the mountain holds significant cultural and spiritual importance to Native Hawaiians.

What is the highest mountain underwater?

The highest mountain underwater is also part of the Hawaiian Island chain, and it is known as Mauna Kea’s neighbor, Mauna Loa. When measured from its base on the ocean floor, Mauna Loa surpasses Mauna Kea, reaching approximately 30,000 feet (9,100 meters) above sea level.

Will Mauna Kea erupt again?

Mauna Kea is considered a dormant volcano, meaning it is not currently erupting but has the potential to erupt again in the future. While there is no indication of an imminent eruption, scientists continue to monitor volcanic activity on the island of Hawaii, including Mauna Kea, for any signs of unrest.

Are there any environmental concerns associated with activities on Mauna Kea?

Yes, there are environmental concerns related to human activities on Mauna Kea, particularly regarding the construction and operation of astronomical observatories. These concerns include habitat disturbance, impacts on native flora and fauna, and cultural sensitivities.

Is it possible to visit Mauna Kea's observatories?

While access to the summit is restricted, there are guided tours available for visitors to explore the mountain’s observatories and learn about its scientific significance.

How to Get There

To reach the summit of Mauna Kea by car, one must first drive to the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station (VIS), accessible from Hilo via Highway 200 (Saddle Road) and then turn right onto Mauna Kea Access Road. It’s crucial to note that the final segment of the road to the summit is steep and unpaved, requiring a four-wheel drive vehicle. Visitors should also acclimate to the altitude at the VIS for about an hour before proceeding to the summit.

Alternatively, for those preferring not to drive, several tour companies offer guided trips to Mauna Kea, including transportation by bus. These tours often include stargazing sessions with telescopes, informative talks about the astronomical research conducted at Mauna Kea, and warm clothing rental for the cold temperatures at the summit. Booking in advance is highly recommended as these tours are popular and spots fill up quickly.

Unveil the Wonders of Mauna Kea!

Mauna Kea beckons with a plethora of unforgettable experiences, whether you’re exploring its informative visitor center, gazing at the stars from its summit, or lounging on the pristine sands of its beach. As you plan your visit, remember to tread lightly and respect the cultural and scientific significance of this majestic volcano. By embracing responsible tourism practices, we can ensure that future generations will continue to marvel at the beauty and wonder of Mauna Kea.

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Mauna Kea Tour by Hawaiian eyes tour

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Enjoy a great experience on the Mauna Kea the tallest mountain in Hawaii! Summit Sunrise Tour and Summit Sunset & Stargazing Adventure are available. Book Now on our official website!

mauna kea tour hawaii

Mauna Kea Summit Sunset & Stargazing Adventure

Sunset & Stargazin

This spectacular Mauna Kea sunset and stargazing tour will bring you the most beautiful sunset you've ever seen in your entire life, at least, one of the most. The stars and sunset from above the clouds, at 13,803 ft! You can reach to the summit by a car! After a gorgeous sunset, we'll move down to the night sky lights up with thousands of glittering stars. ※ Estimated pickup time will be between 1:30~2:30pm @Kona area. ※ We don't discount even if we meet up at Hilo district. ※ It'll depend on traffic and weather conditions, but we'll drop you off around 9-10pm at Queen Market Place. ※We recommend to wear the long sleeve, pants, and sneaker Our tour is included down blow. ・Guide (English Speaking) ・Snow jackets, pants and gloves ・Bottled water ・Hot Drinks ・Light meal (Normally BLT sandwich. Let us know ahead of time if you want to change to Veggie sandwich) ・Oxygen cylinder ・Astronomical telescope ・Admission fee for Mauna Kea summit

Days of week: Sun,Mon,Tue,Wed,Thu,Fri,Sat

Kona, HI, USA

mauna kea tour hawaii

Maunakea Summit Sunrise Tour

Sunrise Tour

After enjoying the starry sky observation at the Onizuka Center with an altitude of 2,800 m before dawn, we will head to Mauna Kea summit 4,205m, the highest peak in the Pacific, where the world's observatories gather. Star Gazing & Sunrise that you can see at Mauna Kea summit will be amazing! It is also known as the highest power spot on the Big Island of Hawaii It will be a special memory of your trip to Hawaii!

Days of week:

Big Island of Hawaii

Island of Hawaii

  • Top 5 Big Island Beaches
  • Things to Do on the Big Island
  • Big Island Road Trips
  • Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Island, also known as “The Big Island,” is the largest of the island chain. As self-explanatory as it is stunning, the Big Island boasts some of Hawaii’s most varying landscape. Unique in its encompassing 12 separate climate zones, visitors here will marvel at the dramatically different temperatures and scenic beauty that span across each distinct area, ranging from the warmth found amid balmy coastal jungles in Puna to the snowcapped peaks dotting the slopes of Mauna Kea. Beach goers get their fill of sunshine and sand at any of the five star resorts located along the Big Island’s Kona coast and within the resort area of Waikoloa, while those seeking a more quiet, casual experience will adore Hilo, a sleepy little bayside town speckled with small mom-and-pop shops. The must-do on Hawaii Island is a visit to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

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EARTH LAB: HAWAII

Spring Term 2024

“It’s a Beautiful Day”: Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa

As the sun rose on our fifth day of our adventures on the Big Island, we were greeted by a stunning scene of Mauna Kea rising above Hilo Bay. For the first time on our trip, we were greeted by a proper sunrise and clear skies, which allowed us to admire where we were headed later in the day.

But first, we had a relaxing morning to enjoy, beginning with a snorkel expedition with classmates. With low tide our launch and landing   was difficult, but we were able to enjoy high-visibility and beautiful coral reefs.

Then it was time to visit the jewel of town on a Saturday, t he Hilo Farmer’s Market. With fresh fruits, vibrant art, and handmade jewelry, the class was able to experience authentic Hawai’i. I was able to snag a few gifts for family and friends, including earrings for mother’s day and eat at a local food hotspot: L&L.  

L&L Downtown Hilo

Finally, it was time to travel up Saddle Road to 6,000 feet in elevation and visit Pu’u Huluhulu. As we began our ascent, we were blanketed in a colossal rain-storm—which the van struggled to get through. As soon as we reached 6,000 feet, the rain passed and we entered a picturesque landscape with sweeping views of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.

Mauna Kea from Pu'u Huluhulu

We began by visiting Pu’u Huluhulu, or hairy hill. Pu’u Huluhuluis a 210 foot tall 400-year-old forested cinder cone right across from the Mauna Kea turn off of Saddle Road. Pu’u Huluhulu is also an important ecological forest for native plants and birds and a sacred Hawaiian site.

After leaving Pu’u Huluhulu, we briefly stopped at the Mauna Kea State Recreation Area for a bathroom break, we decided we would take advantage of the beautiful weather and climb Mauna Loa. The December 2022 eruption of Mauna Loa caused for over one mile of the Mauna Loa access road . The average depth of lava over the road is ~30 feet throughout the flows which begin at 9000 feet in elevation.

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  1. Mauna Kea Summit Adventures

    Sunset at the Summit: The most dramatic spectacle in Hawaii. Stargazing: Learn about the night sky from Polaris to the Southern Cross and see the treasures of the night sky through our powerful telescope. Trip Includes: This 7.5-8.5 hour excursion includes Arctic style parkas with hoods, a hearty and hot supper, gourmet hot beverages and ...

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    Mauna Kea Summit Tour with Free Night Star Photo. 773. The 13,803-foot (4,207.3-meter) peak of Mauna Kea is Hawaii's highest point, and a popular spot for star-gazing. With this tour, travel up to the summit with your guide, stop for dinner at the Onizuka Astronomy Complex, then arrive at the summit in time to watch the sunset.

  3. Mauna Kea Summit Tour with Free Night Star Photo

    The 13,803-foot (4,207.3-meter) peak of Mauna Kea is Hawaii's highest point, and a popular spot for star-gazing. With this tour, travel up to the summit with your guide, stop for dinner at the Onizuka Astronomy Complex, then arrive at the summit in time to watch the sunset. As dark sets in, enjoy a guided stargazing experience and marvel at the stars and planets using a refractor telescope and ...

  4. Maunakea Summit & Stars Adventure

    Journey from sea level to the summit of Mauna Kea, 14,000 feet up and experience the wonders and world-class clarity of the Hawaiian night sky during our Mauna Kea tour. skip to Main Content. 1-808-331-8505. 808-331-8505. ... Hawaii Forest & Trail works with Hawaii's premier DMC's and incentive houses to provide activities and events for ...

  5. Mauna Kea Summit Adventures Sunset & Stargazing Guided Tour with

    Experience Hawaii's most popular attraction! Visit the summit of Mauna Kea to witness one of the most breathtaking sunsets in Hawaii. Next, travel to Mauna Kea Visitor Center and enjoy a guided stargazing tour with telescopes. Includes parka & gloves

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  7. Mauna Kea Sunrise Sunset & Stargazing Tours

    Taikobo Hawaii, Inc. has been providing guided tours to the summit of Mauna Kea since 1983 as well as other famous tourist destinations on the Big Island of Hawaii. We are one of the few companies that are officially authorized by Center for Maunakea Stewardship (part of the University of Hawaii at Hilo) to conduct commercial tours in this ...

  8. Mauna Kea Summit and Stars

    Operating Hours and Schedule. The Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Tour operates every Monday through Saturday with some exceptions. Tour start times change with the seasons. Please see the calendar for actual times and availability.

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    This Mauna Kea summit sunset and stargazing experience starts with easy pickup from one of the three options: Hilo, Waikoloa Village, or Kailua-Kona. Get picked up in a comfortable 4x4 van with the rest of your small group that's limited to just 14 people. Once you reach the Mauna Kea summit by vehicle, get suited up in a provided jacket and ...

  10. Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour

    Experience big skies and incredible nighttime views on this Mauna Kea stargazing trip with a small group. Experience a warm pre-trip picnic, proceeded by a ride in a 4x4 luxury van to the summit of the Big Island's tallest peak. After admiring a sunset view, continue down to 9,000 feet (2,743 meters) for a stargazing session, complete with a telescope, hot chocolate, and dessert. The trip also ...

  11. How to Visit MaunaKea: Stargazing Tours and DIY Guide for 2024

    A stargazing journey from sea level to the nearly 14,000 foot summit of Maunakea reveals the wonders and world-class clarity of the Hawaiian night sky. This tour lets you see the sunset among some of the world's best telescopes and then takes you for a private star show at 9000 ft. with an 11" Celestron telescope.

  12. Maunakea Summit & Stars

    Spend an evening on Big Island's Mauna Kea summit watching the sunset and taking in the stars of the night sky. The view of the night sky is unmatched from atop the highest volcanic peak on the islands. A hot dinner al fresco and cultural storytelling and lore is included. Transportation is also included. The tour is 7-8 hours in total.

  13. Deluxe Big Island Of Hawaii Stargazing

    STARGAZING TOURS ON BIG ISLAND OF HAWAII. Viewing the stars from the clear skies of Mauna Kea on the Big Island will leave you in awe. The dark sky policy here ensures the views are unmatched. Professional and amateur gazers alike leave with a heightened understanding of the vastness of our universe. Available only on the Big Island, stargazing ...

  14. The 5 Best Mauna Kea Stargazing Summit Tours [2024 Reviews]

    Mauna Kea is a massive dormant volcano with a peak sitting at over 4,000 meters above sea level which makes it the highest point in all of Hawaii and the second-highest peak of an island on the entire planet. Considered a shrine for worship and as a "home to the gods", it is very important to Hawaiians, and its preservation is taken very ...

  15. Mauna Kea Stargazing: How to DIY and the 3 Best Tours

    Mauna Kea Summit Tour. If you're staying in Hilo, this is one of the best stargazing tours you can join. They'll pick you up at a central location and whisk you up the slopes of Mauna Kea for an unforgettable evening. After a warm picnic dinner, you'll visit the summit for a spectacular sunset before heading back down to the stargazing spot.

  16. Epic! Tours

    Mauna Kea Stargazing Experience + Free Photos. From $259. Travel by starlight to the dormant Mauna Kea volcano in Hawai'i! With our stargazer guarantee, we make sure to take you out on the nights with the most amazing shows, led by our Pro Astro-Photographer James. Book your Mauna Kea stargazing tour online today! Learn More.

  17. Mauna Kea Summit Tour Hilo, Hawaii

    Charters, groups, private Sunrise, Day and Evening Tours also available; inquire at [email protected] or call/text/whatsapp us at 808-339-0921 for availability. Please read our detailed page along with our terms and conditions on Mauna Kea before booking! We have a 48 hour cancellation policy.

  18. Mauna Kea Tours

    Book your Mauna Kea stargazing or sunset tour today! skip to Main Content. 1-808-331-8505. 808-331-8505. Book Now. Menu. Big Island Experiences. Interests - Find tours by interest. ... Hawaii Forest & Trail will take care of all your needs, from warm parkas, gloves, walking sticks, water, dinner, and hot chocolate. ...

  19. Mauna Kea, Island of Hawaii

    Mauna Kea: Our most recommended tours and activities. 1. Hilo/Waikoloa: Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stargazing Tour. Get your photos taken by the stars during this sunset and stargazing adventure on the summit of Mauna Kea. Learn about the area from your guide as you sip on hot chocolate and eat snacks.

  20. Book Tour

    7 hours. Challenging. View an amazing sunset from the summit of Mauna Kea and learn about the stars and planets. Pick up locations West Side: 1: Kona Commons Bank of Hawaii 74-5457 Makala Blvd, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, USA. Pick Up Time: 2:20pm ( October - February ). 2:50pm ( March, August, September). 3:20pm ( April - July )

  21. Exploring Mauna Kea: A Comprehensive Travel Guide to Hawaii's

    Mauna Kea, Hawaii's tallest peak, is a symbol of natural wonder and cultural significance. Rising majestically above the Hawaiian Islands, it offers visitors a plethora of experiences, from stargazing at its world-renowned observatories to hiking its scenic trails and exploring its rich cultural heritage. ... Educational tours offer insights ...

  22. Mauna Kea Tour by Hawaiian eyes tour

    Maunakea. Sunset & Stargazin. This spectacular Mauna Kea sunset and stargazing tour will bring you the most beautiful sunset you've ever seen in your entire life, at least, one of the most. The stars and sunset from above the clouds, at 13,803 ft! You can reach to the summit by a car! After a gorgeous sunset, we'll move down to the night sky ...

  23. Big Island Travel Guide

    Things to Do on the Big Island. Big Island Road Trips. Volcanoes National Park. Hawaii Island, also known as "The Big Island," is the largest of the island chain. As self-explanatory as it is stunning, the Big Island boasts some of Hawaii's most varying landscape. Unique in its encompassing 12 separate climate zones, visitors here will ...

  24. "It's a Beautiful Day": Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa

    As soon as we reached 6,000 feet, the rain passed and we entered a picturesque landscape with sweeping views of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. We began by visiting Pu'u Huluhulu, or hairy hill. Pu'u Huluhuluis a 210 foot tall 400-year-old forested cinder cone right across from the Mauna Kea turn off of Saddle Road.