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Mauna Kea Summit & Observatory
Mauna Kea Summit & Observatory

Mauna Kea Summit & Observatory

star-5
1,242 Reviews
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
$246.07 per adult
Traveler Favorite
Starry Night Adventure
Jeff was enthusiastic, personable and knowledgeable. What an amazing experience! It was as if we were in the heavens… above the clouds witnessing the magic of nature with a glowing sunset and the emergence of the starry sky. We all affirmed seeing the largest brightest shooting star of our lives. Truly magical.
Wagners, Jul 2021

Recent reviews from experiences in Big Island of Hawaii

star-5
Great night out!
Alessandro_C, May 2021
Best and Cheapest Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
Our tour guides were super nice and knowledgeable. Van was extremely clean and they took great care of us. Also, they took amazing pictures of us, even with the stars. Thank you!!!
star-4
Loved most of it
Safety_First, May 2021
Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up
I loved learning about the stars. This was an outstanding trip. Even though it was a thoroughly great experience, it didn't feel COVID-safe. There were 9 people on our bus which didn't allow for any distancing. We were enclosed for an 30-60 minutes at a time. Masks were required, but this was a lot of close exposure. As long as you're ok with that, this is a phenomenal trip.
star-5
Amazing and unique experience, good tour guide, comforting snacks, and great memories
Angel_KS, Jul 2021
Mauna Kea Summit and Stars: Small-Group Adventure Tour with Astro Photos
Amazing and unique experience going up volcano. As you ascend, it looks more and more like a desert. When you get to the summit, it feels like you're on another planet because of the astrological research observatories around, you're above the clouds and the terrain is different. Good tour guide, well-organized tour, comforting snacks, and great memories from the high-quality photos they captured.
star-5
Thank You!
Karen_V, Jul 2021
Mauna Kea Summit and Stars: Small-Group Adventure Tour with Astro Photos
Thank you! It was an incredible experience. The tour team was knowledgeable, kind, and thoughtful. I enjoyed the gorgeous sunset and stars.
star-5
Mauna Kea
Zachary_S, Jul 2021
Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up
This was a great trip. Lane, our tour guide, was very knowledgeable and provided everything we needed to have a great time.
star-5
Mauna Kea is a must see!
Sadaf_A, Jul 2021
Mauna Kea Summit and Stars: Small-Group Adventure Tour with Astro Photos
Bronson was so knowledgeable about geology, astronomy and earth science! The star gazing was phenomenal.
star-5
Fantastic Views!
Patrick_G, Jul 2021
Mauna Kea Summit and Stars: Small-Group Adventure Tour with Astro Photos
Loved the trip! We took a shuttle from near our condo and the bus driver, Tony, was awesome and had some really interesting stories about his experiences with volcanoes. Branson took us up to the summit and was knowledgeable and accommodating. The views from the top were otherworldly. One of the best sunsets I've ever seen. It was very cold, but they did a good job in preparing you. Can't wait for the email with our pictures from the excursion. Highly recommend.
star-5
An incredible experience
Ernie, Jul 2021
Best and Cheapest Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
This trip was incredible! Wes was our tour guide and he provided us with so much information about the history of this great land. Aki’son was a fantastic driver and a phenomenal photographer. The whole experience was so worth it. A beautiful sunset and clear sky for a night of star gazing. Highly recommend!!
star-5
An Experience Like No Other
Tyler_G, Jul 2021
Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up
This was a fantastic experience! The views were breathtaking and the summit was freezing but worth it.
star-5
Incredible experience!
Donna_M, Jun 2021
Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour
Awesome experience, the sunset was beautiful but the star gazing was majestic!!!!! Highly recommend!
star-5
An event for everyone.
WILLIAM_K, Jun 2021
Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour
Sunset, moon rise, and star gazing. Jason is a wealth of knowledge snd gave us a truly great experience.
star-4
We enjoyed it!
Carley_M, Jul 2021
Mauna Kea Summit and Stars: Small-Group Adventure Tour with Astro Photos
The view at the top was incredible. It was very cold (30 degrees) all the way at the top but completely worth it. The visitor center was kinda a waste of time bc there wasn’t enough time for everyone to get inside due to restrictions. Looking at the stars and the planets was neat too!

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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