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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
US$267.02 per adult
Traveler Favorite
Great services! Great value!
Really appreciated their discount on cloudy weather. And communicated to us way in advance!! Tour guide/driver is very informative and careful on driving. Learned so much Hawaiian history from guide!!! Good food and nice comfy and warm amenities for the summit, including hot beverages and parka, etc. Excellent service. Highly recommended!!!
Andy_S, Mar. 2022

Recent reviews from experiences in Big Island of Hawaii

star-5
Beautiful trip
Peter_H, Mar. 2022
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
Shoyo was an extraordinary host - with many talents, good story telling, kindness, and commitment to our safety. We highly recommend the tour.
star-5
Experiencing something new!
Gregory_L, Feb. 2022
Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up
My wife and I had an amazing time. Our guide was very knowledgeable, humorous, and safety conscious. They provided jackets and gloves which we ended up needing. The ride was safe as they have a vehicle equipped for the terrain. We took some of the best photos in our travel history here!
star-5
Spectacular Sunset
Michelle_C, Jan. 2022
Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up
This was an incredible tour! Our guides Donna and Hunter were awesome. Hunter wad extremely knowledgeable. It is easy to see why Mauna Kea is such a sacred location to the Hawaiian people. It was magical seeing the sunset above the clouds. The guides ensured everyone's safety. The parkas and gloves were very appreciated! I think the star gazing part of the tour could be shortened a little, we were about an hour late getting back to Kona. I would highly recommend this tour to others!
star-5
Eye-opening experience
Bangyu_H, May 2022
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
Hiro was an amazing guide, he can speak Japanese fluently as well. And he provided us with wealth of information throughout the tour. His explanation about the zodiac and Big Dipper was well-informed! During star-gazing he and his team prepare hot cocoa and green tea for us to drink; for dinner we have sandwich and it was so tasty. No one in the group got altitude sickness.
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
Best experience
Maria_C, May 2022
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
We had the best time on the tour. Wes and Aoki were amazing. They made sure everyone was okay the whole time with the altitude changes and took great photos of us. This is a must do experience in the Big Island and was definitely the highlight of the trip.
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-4
Cool experience
kimberly_J, May 2022
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
Hiro was a fabulous guide and very safe driver. Seeing the sunset from so high was thrilling. The moon was full, so we couldn’t see many stars, but Hiro did everything he could to make things interesting.
star-5
Great services! Great value!
Andy_S, Mar. 2022
Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour
Really appreciated their discount on cloudy weather. And communicated to us way in advance!! Tour guide/driver is very informative and careful on driving. Learned so much Hawaiian history from guide!!! Good food and nice comfy and warm amenities for the summit, including hot beverages and parka, etc. Excellent service. Highly recommended!!!
star-5
You have to do this!
Paula_A, Mar. 2022
Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour
Amazing experience! No photos can capture the awe inspiring sunset or vastness of the stars you can see!
star-5
Worth every penny, we highly recommend it
April_L, May 2022
Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up
We had an amazing time with the tour guide Hunter, he’s so knowledgeable and we’ve learned and seen so much through him. His hospitality made us feel welcomed. This tour is worth every single penny and we highly recommend it.

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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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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Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
Q:
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