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Mauna Kea Summit & Observatory Tours

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Mauna Kea Summit & Observatory
Visiting the Mauna Kea Summit and Observatories gives you the feeling of being on top of the world for good reason: You’re actually pretty close. Standing at 13,796 feet (4,138 meters), the mountain is Hawaii's tallest and the highlight of many visitors' trips to the Big Island of Hawaii. The Mauna Kea Observatories (MKO) feature some of the world's largest telescopes, including equipment from Canada, France, and the University of Hawaii, due to its designation as an unparalleled destination for stargazing.

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.

Insider Tip
Sunrise and sunset are great times to visit Mauna Kea. Enjoy stargazing (offered nightly from 6 to 10pm) and hot 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.

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.

Practical Info

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.

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.
Address: Saddle Road, Hilo, Hawaii 96720, USA
Admission: Varies
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NEW TO VIATOR

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

Stand atop Hawaii’s tallest mountain for two unparalleled experiences: sunset and stargazing. Board a 4WD vehicle upon pickup in Hilo and find yourself on the snow-dusted summit of Mauna Kea in no time. After viewing the night sky through a professional telescope, a picnic meal and hot beverage await. Jackets and gloves are provided to keep you warm.
  • Duration: 7 to 8 hours
  • Duration: 7 to 8 hours
From  
US$225.00
From  
US$225.00
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NEW TO VIATOR

Hawaii's most Spectacular Tour - Mauna Kea Summit and Stargazing

Visit the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station, located at 9,200 feet (2,800 meters), to learn about this world-renowned astrological observatory—the largest of its kind in the world. Once you’ve adjusted to the altitude, travel to the mountain’s summit to see the sunset and later, look at the night sky through a powerful telescope.
  • Duration: 8 hours
  • Duration: 8 hours
From  
US$225.00
From  
US$225.00
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NEW TO VIATOR

Private Tour of Mauna Kea Summit Sunrise

This is a private guided adventure tour with a comfortable luxury 14-passenger van. This tour will give you an incredible and unique experience of a magnificent summit sunrise at Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain on earth. Find yourself in a time-lapse that will leave you speechless as you watch the transition from starry night to sunrise at the highest peak of the Pacific Ocean. The tour begins at your hotel early morning and stops at Visitor Center, where you will stargaze at 9,000 ft. elevation and adjust your body to the higher elevation. You will then move and watch world-famous sunrise at the summit of 13,700 feet elevation. Watching the sunrise on the top of world’s highest volcanic crater will give you special moments to explore its gorgeous views of the sky changing colors info deepest oranges and reds above the thick clouds. Picnic breakfast will be provided on the slopes of Mauna Kea after for you to enjoy warm beverages and food to make this tour even more enjoyable.
  • Duration: 7 to 8 hours
  • Duration: 7 to 8 hours
From  
US$2,580.00
From  
US$2,580.00
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Big Island Adventure Combo: Helicopter, Zipline and Lava Tour

Experience Hawaii’s most impressive natural wonders by land and by air on this unforgettable Big Island adventure! Soar above a tropical river gorge on an 8-track zipline course that includes one of the longest lines in Hawaii, and fly over Mauna Loa and Kilauea volcanoes on a thrilling helicopter ride. Explore Hawaii’s explosive history with a guided trek through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and enjoy dinner with a glass of wine or wine tasting.
  • Duration: 14 hours
  • Duration: 14 hours
From  
US$573.36
From  
US$573.36
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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. Join no more than 28 guests for a pre-trip picnic at a historic Hawaiian ranch, 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 includes a guide and a hooded parka to keep you warm.
  • Duration: 8 hours
  • Duration: 8 hours
From  
US$235.00
From  
US$235.00
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Experience Hawai'i Big Island Helicopter Flight from Kona

Look down on the varied landscape of the Big Island from the air on a helicopter tour from Kona. At about one hour and 45 minutes, this flight is longer than typical heli tours and provides the opportunity to be wowed by Hawaii’s amazing natural features, from waterfalls to volcanoes to rainforests. Fly along the coast and over Waimanu and Waipio valleys, and spot island industry like macadamia nut orchards. Upgrade to guarantee a window seat.
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Duration: 2 hours
From  
US$559.00
From  
US$559.00
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1 day tour from Oahu to Big Island - Mauna Kea Summit & Volcanoes National Park

Explore our Once-in-lifetime exclusive tour that you can’t find anywhere else. Two of the planet’s most spectacular landscapes on Big Island, Mauna Kea, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, can now be visited on the same day from Oahu island with our Prime Grand Big Island 1 Day Tour. This 190-miles small group tour is a magnificent experience to explore the wonders of Hawaii volcanoes national park and the grandeur of Mother Nature of Mauna Kea in a day. You can explore the clouds and an endless sky at the top of Mauna Kea and discover the myths surrounding what is currently known to be the world’s largest active volcano. This day tour also includes fascinating attractions on the Big Island like Kona Coffee Farm, Saddle Road, Rainbow Falls, and Hilo town.
  • Duration: 14 to 15 hours
  • Duration: 14 to 15 hours
From  
US$490.00
From  
US$490.00
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Volcano by Air and Land: Helicopter, Coach, and Walking Tour of Volcanoes National Park from Kona

Experience the best of Volcanoes National Park on this adventurous Big Island helicopter tour, where you can easily see lava, steam, and cinder cones while circling above the volcano, and then touch down nearby to explore the park’s volcanic formations on foot. Throughout the day, expert pilots, guides, and drivers will accompany you to discuss the park’s history and legends, as well as the fascinating natural geology that changes by the day. To guarantee a helicopter seat by the window seat, upgrade to the preferred seating option for an unobstructed view.
  • Duration: 10 hours
  • Duration: 10 hours
From  
US$784.00
From  
US$784.00
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Expedition Big Island Air Tour- Kapalua Departures

Get an unbeatable aerial view of some of the world’s most active volcanoes on an air tour of the Big Island from Maui. Soar in a fixed-wing Cessna plane over the dramatic craters and valleys of the Big Island’s Volcanoes National Park, looking for sparks and lava flows erupting from Kilauea Volcano. Admire the stately peaks of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, plus waterfall-studded valleys and the dramatic sea cliffs of Waimea. Large viewing windows and live narration from two pilots ensure you don’t miss a thing.
  • Duration: 2 to 3 hours
  • Duration: 2 to 3 hours
From  
US$549.00
From  
US$549.00
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Mauna Kea Sunrise Experience

Start your morning on the Big Island on top of the world (literally) during this 6-hour sunrise trip to the peak of Mauna Kea. Watch the first rays of light peek across the horizon from the 13,000-foot (3,900-meter) summit before descending for an included continental breakfast and visit to the Mauna Kea Silversword plant enclosure.
  • Duration: 7 hours
  • Duration: 7 hours
From  
US$199.00
From  
US$199.00
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Stargazing, Lava Cave and Waterfalls + Free Photos

Spend an unforgettable evening exploring volcanoes, and stargazing, on a truly off the beaten path adventure on Hawaii’s Big Island. See an active volcano, and then drive through the rainforest to see waterfalls, and an unusual Lava tube cave. Sit down for a sunset dinner in a Japanese garden, and then stop at Volcanoes National Park to see the volcanoes up close without the daytime crowds. Finally drive up Mauna Kea for spectacular stargazing through a telescope while you sip hot chocolate.
  • Duration: 7 hours
  • Duration: 7 hours
From  
US$279.77
From  
US$279.77
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Big Island - South Island Coastal Loop Driving Tour App

Come with us as we explore the fascinating volcanic landscape looping around the southern coast of the Big Island! Shaka Guide is your perfect companion with turn-by-turn directions, information on what to do & see, and a truckload of interesting stories and Hawaiian legends of this amazing island!Skip the tour bus & explore Big Island at your own pace for a fraction of the cost with the best self-guided audio GPS tours for Hawaii!Rated the #1 best GPS tour app for Hawaii with over 6,000+ raving reviews and 200,000+ downloads. Why you need it:✅ You don't need service because you can download the tours & use them offline✅ Much cheaper than a tour bus at only $9.99 for lifetime access✅ Save time planning your trip because we have the best stops lined up✅ Freedom to stop and go as you please, unlike a tour bus where you are confined to the pre-determined route (no fun!)✅ Hear cool and fun stories along the way (and some corny joke's that might make you laugh)
  • Duration: 6 to 10 hours
  • Duration: 6 to 10 hours
From  
US$4.99
From  
US$4.99
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Big Island - North Island Jungle Driving Tour App

Shaka Guide's driving tour app works like a tour guide in your car! On this tour drive along beautiful green coastlines, through tropical jungle roads, and go star gazing on the tallest mountain in the world. We've done our research so you will not miss a thing! Just sit back and listen to fun stories along the way.Skip the tour bus & explore Big Island at your own pace for a fraction of the cost with the best self-guided audio GPS tours for Hawaii! Rated the #1 best GPS tour app for Hawaii with over 6,000+ raving reviews and 200,000+ downloads. Why you need it:✅ You don't need service because you can download the tours & use them offline✅ Much cheaper than a tour bus at only $9.99 for lifetime access✅ Save time planning your trip because we have the best stops lined up✅ Freedom to stop and go as you please, unlike a tour bus where you are confined to the pre-determined route (no fun!)✅ Hear cool and fun stories along the way (and some corny joke's that might make you laugh)
  • Duration: 2 days
  • Duration: 2 days
From  
US$4.99
From  
US$4.99
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Endangered Native Habitats

Discover Hawaii’s remarkable wildlife on a full-day, small-group birdwatching tour into the Big Island’s Mauna Kea Forest Reserve. Travel on foot and by four-wheel drive as you explore dry forest and rainforest habitats that shelter the endangered palila honeycreeper, the Hawaii amakihi and the Hawaii ‘elepaio. Listen for the calls of endemic songbirds as you traverse an otherworldly lava trail, then follow a local, bird-loving guide along forest paths into the distinctive, high-elevation mamane-naio ecosystem.
  • Duration: 12 hours
  • Duration: 12 hours
From  
US$215.00
From  
US$215.00
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Waterfall Heli-Trek: Big Island Helicopter Tour and Hiking Adventure

Two of the best ways to explore the Big Island of Hawaii are by air and your own two feet—both of which are possible with this Big Island helicopter tour and hiking adventure. Begin by exploring the island by air on a scenic flight, where you’ll experience the fury of Kilauea Volcano in Volcanoes National Park, and pass over pasture lands, black-sand beaches, and waterfalls that spill toward the coast. You’ll next touch down in North Kohala, the home of King Kamehameha, to hike through valleys and lush rainforests that were once inhabited by kings.
  • Duration: 8 hours
  • Duration: 8 hours
From  
US$794.00
From  
US$794.00
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Ultimate Hawaii Waterfalls combo Dolphin Boat Tour

Experience Hawaii’s whales, waterfalls and wildlife with a 2.5-hour tour of the Hamakua coastline on a 40-foot (12-meter) catamaran from Hilo. Learn about this history of this lush region as you navigate past the old town, a sugar mill and some beloved local surf spots. Between December and April, watch humpback whales breach and play in the ocean, and visit a trio of waterfalls that tumble from coastal cliffs to the ocean. Get a glimpse of old Hawaii in Onomea Bay, where a tropical forest thrives on the protected coast.
  • Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes
From  
US$145.00
From  
US$145.00
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2-day Hawaii Vortex Tour

There is something about Hawaii's healing energy that nourishes body, mind & soul and encourages spiritual growth unlike anywhere else in the world! Journey and explore eight different energy vortexes that are around the Big Island over a two-day period. Experience the Big Island's power points (vortexes, magnetic anomalies, craters, bays, and inlets) and allow the subtleties of these landscapes into your mind, body & soul. Bathe in the healing, creative and transformative energies that Hawai'i is known for.Hawaii is home to some of the most powerful concentrations of earth energies on the planet and each island has a unique vibe and attractive force that calls to people. Many subtle energy researchers believe the Hawaiian Islands act as the heart chakra of the planet, a place of unconditional love & healing.Hawai'i as a whole is known to be a spiritual power spot and so a vortex site here is a place where one can feel the spiritual healing energy, or mana, most strongly.
  • Duration: 2 days
  • Duration: 2 days
From  
US$500.00
From  
US$500.00
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Big Island Mountain Biking on Anna Ranch

Experience the ultimate mountain-biking adventure on the Big Island during this 2-hour, small-group ride through 100 acres of private ranch land. Open up on the custom-built trails of this exclusive riding area situated amidst the rolling hills near the Kohala Mountains. During your trip you’ll admire amazing views of Mauna Kea, check out a 40-foot (12-meter) tall waterfall and navigate through fields of green pasture and craggy lava rocks. This small-group ride, limited to 12 guests, includes a guide, high-end mountain bike and helmet, hydration drinks and energy bars.
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Duration: 2 hours
From  
US$189.00
From  
US$189.00
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