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Mauna Kea Summit & Observatory
Mauna Kea Summit & Observatory

Mauna Kea Summit & Observatory

Saddle Road, Hilo, Hawaii, 96720

The Basics

Mauna Kea tours depart from Hilo, Kona, and Waikoloa Village, and usually last upwards of eight hours. Whether you choose to visit for sunrise, sunset, a midday summit tour, or after-dark stargazing, the mountain makes for a popular day trip on the Big Island.

The Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station sits at 9,300 feet (2,790 m) and features interactive displays and videos, with telescopes, talks, and tours. It’s important to stop here even if you’re headed to the summit to acclimate to the altitude. In addition to checking out the magnificent night sky, you can learn about Mauna Kea’s formation and why the mountain is considered sacred to native Hawaiians.

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Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour
Likely to Sell OutLikely to Sell Out
Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour
star-4.5
$267.02 per adult
Traveler Favorite
Heaven on earth
What an amazing adventure. The sunset from the summit was incredible…high above the clouds in freezing wind the blue sky melted to shades of purple, orange and yellow as the sun slowly dipped below the horizon. Then Jason regaled us with tales of Hawaiian mythology as we headed down to base camp for an evening of crystal clear skies and a million stars. Our guide Jason was funny knowledgeable and a great guide. We saw planets, galaxies star clusters among other heavenly bodies….well worth the money time and trip! A memory for a lifetime!
Rebecca_H, Jan 2022

Recent reviews from experiences in Big Island of Hawaii

star-5
Our guide Hunter is very...
SZRUNG_S, Jan 2022
Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up
Our guide Hunter is very knowledgeable. pick up was on-time and the transportation van was clean. We ended up not seeing the sunset and stars due to the weather, but the view on top of the summit was still great.
star-5
Highly recommend
Youchun_N, Dec 2021
Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up
We took their Mercedes-Benz that day and it was very clean and comfortable. Snacks were delicious (and they had a lot of Chinese snacks which we loved very much). The star-gazing was awesome. The guide is knowledgeable and everyone had a chance to use the telescope. If you do not have an astronomy background, I highly recommend booking this tour instead of driving yourself.
star-5
Sunset Above the Clouds
Pamela_A, Sep 2021
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
Tour guide was knowledgeable and courteous. Van was comfortable and safe. Veggie and BLT sandwiches were good. Great experience viewing summit at sunset and viewing stars after sunset. Warm jackets provided. Photos taken by guide turned out great. The best option tour of Mauna Kea Summit if you are staying in Hilo. Met tour van at Gilbert Kahele Recreation Park. Excellent parking and clean restroom facility.
star-5
Great tour
sharyn_d, Jan 2022
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
Had a great time. The driver / photographer was great / great and the tour guide was very informative and friendly
star-5
Wonderful trip
Juiyu_L, Nov 2021
Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up
Excellent service and safety ensurance. They did the temp screening before on bus. Prepare good snacks while everyone is waiting and hungry! My driver is local from Hawaii, very friendly and take care! Wonderful trip!
star-5
Omg the Milky Way.
judith_g, Aug 2021
Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up
Hunter and Heather were great guides and worked hard to accommodate everyone. The stars were amazing. Plenty of snacks and well planned excursion. But please clean the bus windows as the views are everything and the windows were filthy!
star-5
One of the top adventures in life
John_B, Jan 2022
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
We truly enjoyed having Sean as our guide to share information during the trip, drive expertly, take photos, and educate us on the stars. He was very thoughtful and kind. The whole experience from the sunset to the stars was exceptional.
star-5
What a Blast
Jonathan_S, Jan 2022
Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up
The drive and botanical garden alone is remarkable. Coupled with the sunset from Mauna Kea and the stargazing afterwards, this trip proved to be a highlight of my stay. The tour operators are engaging, knowledgeable, and inviting. Don’t miss out on this.
star-5
Great tour of Mauna Kea
Stephen_A, Jan 2022
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
Watching the sunset and the star talk were great. Hiro, the guide, is an all-star. He was engaging and very well informed.
star-5
A must do when on the big island!!!
Gerry_B, Jan 2022
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
Our tour guide Stefan and his partner Hero were fabulous!! They were extremely knowledgeable and at the ready to answer all our questions. Hero’s story telling abilities was exceptional and he made learning about the constatations and stars so fun and interesting. Stefan’s photography skills are unbelievable the pictures he captured during the entire tour are amazing !! This tour is a must when on the big island! Thank you gentlemen for your professionalism and amazing talents!!
star-5
Breathtaking
Cheryl_F, Nov 2021
Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour
Wow! The trip was great. Jeff was so knowledgeable, really knows the night sky. He also shares Hawaiian lore and facts. You can tell he loves what he does. We saw Saturn, Jupiter, 3 nebula, the Milky Way. The Hubble satellite went over head. The sunset at the summit was beautiful. The trip was enjoyable. It’s a long day so be prepared. Dress warmly especially good shoes and socks. It’s cold up there.
star-5
It was really awesome....
Aniket_R, Jan 2022
Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up
It was really awesome. Loved it. The tour guide was really cool and friendly. However, the travel time was more than mentioned.

How to Get There

The Visitor Information Station is an hour’s drive from Hilo, via Highway 200. From Kailua-Kona, the drive takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes on Highway 190; from Waikoloa, it’s about 50 minutes via the Saddle Road to the visitor center. Camping is not allowed on Mauna Kea.

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Insider Tip

Sunrise and sunset are great times to visit Mauna Kea. Enjoy stargazing (offered nightly from 6 to 10pm) andhot chocolate (available for purchase) at the Visitor Information Station, or rise bright and early to drive up to the summit in time to watch the sunrise.

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What Makes Mauna Kea Ideal for Astronomical Sightseeing?

The Subaru Telescope, the W.M. Keck Observatory, and the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility take advantage of Mauna Kea’s ideal location near the equator and above most of the atmosphere’s water vapor, which means a clear view of stars in both of the earth’s hemispheres.

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Trip ideas


Best Ways to Summit Mauna Kea

You can make an ambitious go of the summit on your own (on foot or in a vehicle), or join an organized summit adventure tour during visiting hours (from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset). From the Visitor Information Station, a roughly 10-hour, roundtrip hike on a rugged trail takes you to the top and back. Be prepared for a workout, and be sure to wear layers and sturdy closed-toe walking shoes; you’ll encounter all kinds of weather as you ascend above the Big Island’s layer of cloud cover. You must bring your own water and pack out your waste; there are no amenities on the trail.

If you’d rather drive to the top, you’ll need a 4-wheel drive vehicle, plenty of water and sunscreen, and a keen eye for hazards. Depending on conditions, summit attempts can be particularly dangerous in winter. Mauna Kea is one of the only places in the world where you can drive from sea level to nearly 14,000 feet in a few hours.

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