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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
$246.07 per adult
Traveler Favorite
Experience of a Lifetime
My husband and I were most excited for this experience on our trip to Maui and the Big Island, and we ended the trip with this experience as by far our favorite. Our tour guide, Justin, made the experience both so culturally enriching and fun all while making sure everyone in the group was safe. This tour is truly a once in a lifetime experience. We couldn’t recommend this tour enough!!
Rylie_B, Oct 2021

Recent reviews from experiences in Big Island of Hawaii

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
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
Great night out!
Alessandro_C, May 2021
Best 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
Breathtaking and incredible
Philicity_S, Oct 2021
Mauna Kea Summit and Stars: Small-Group Adventure Tour with Astro Photos
This was my favorite part of our trip to big island. The view from the summit of Mauna Kea was absolutely breathtaking. Our tour guide Ridge was amazing and very informative.
star-5
Incredible experience!...
Trinity_M, Oct 2021
Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up
Incredible experience! The views were phenomenal and Flip, our driver to the summit, made the trip even better with his fun spirit, all the history and info he shared as well his reccomendations. It was a clear night and Stargazing was awesome!
star-5
Heavenly!
Phyllis_L, Oct 2021
Mauna Kea Summit and Stars: Small-Group Adventure Tour with Astro Photos
Experiencing the vibrant hues of the setting sun as it slowly descended into the clouds below was spectacular! The evening's weather was surprisingly pleasant, there was NO wind... we all gazed in awe of this viewscape above the clouds... absolutely surreal! Hunter was a knowledgeable guide; his easy going & friendly manner made us all feel right at home at 14,000 feet!! We highly recommend this adventure & are already considering coming back to the Big Island to do it again!
star-5
Hiro was a fantastic tour...
William_S, Oct 2021
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
Hiro was a fantastic tour guide. The whole event was well planned and easy. They supplied everything needed like dinner, hot drinks, stargazing, etc. Great trip to take while visiting the big island.
star-5
Excellent tour, very...
MaryJ_R, Oct 2021
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
Excellent tour, very knowledgeable and courteous guide. Also, we loved the hot chocolate. Thank you very much for a unique experience!!!
star-5
Every part was great
Cristine_L, Oct 2021
Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up
Everything about the trip was great, I'd suggest going on a day without a full moon/early moonrise if you can, but even with a full moon there were still a lot of stars to see, a beautiful sunset, and even some other islands in the distance. Our driver was very friendly and gave some great local recommendations for other things to do on the island. The company was also very accommodating when I accidentally booked the wrong pickup location.
star-5
Maunakea summit
Rebeca_S, Sep 2021
Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour
Awesome and surreal experience. Jason was our tour guide and he made sure we were comfortable and enjoying ourselves . He was very knowledgeable and an great driver.
star-5
Wonderful tour guide!...
Rafay_K, Oct 2021
Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up
Wonderful tour guide! Great snacks and smooth drive. 100% Recommend this during your stay. Detail stargazing direction.

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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