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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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Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
$266.67 per adult
Traveler Favorite
Must do experience!
Fantastic tour! Well organized and perfectly run from every aspect! Mr Aoki and Wes are absolutely fantastic! Would recommend to anyone!
Christian_K, Jun 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
Stefan is a fantastic...
Maureen_C, Jun 2022
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
Stefan is a fantastic tour guide! Stefan showed care and thoughtfulness. He was informative and provided time for customer’s needs (bathroom breaks and watching over customers with altitude fatigue), and allowed time to rest, with relaxing music. His picture taking is stellar! Thanks Stefan for a fantastic experience!!!
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-4
Wealth of knowledge
paulrleduc, Jun 2022
Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up
Derek and Gabe gave us a wealth of knowledge on wildlife and astronomy as well as creation stories of Hawaiian islands.
star-5
Shawn was great and super...
Marco_F, Jun 2022
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
Shawn was great and super friendly. He made the experience so fun and checked in on everyone constantly to ensure everyone was having a good time.
star-5
Amazing
Megan_S, Jun 2022
Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up
Gabe was great! The tour was amazing. Sunset, Stars, knowledgeable guides. Bumpy road to the top but not awful. Definitely would recommend to all. We would do it again!
star-5
a different world
jewelryyep, Jun 2022
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
The tour was great. Informative & exhilarating. I've never been to such a high altitude, and the landscape was so unique.
star-5
Great Tour!
Eric_B, Jun 2022
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
Great guide (Shawn) - so informative and amazing views. A great way to spend the day. Best tour I’ve done!
star-5
Amazing trip. The guide...
Vindhya_R, Jun 2022
Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up
Amazing trip. The guide was very enthusiastic and we enjoyed the whole trip tremendously. The star gazing and pictures are the highlight of the whole trip!
star-4
Felt like I was standing on Mars.
Mike_H, Jun 2022
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
Amazing experience. Knowledgeable, friendly tour guide. The only negative is that it was advertised to be A smaller tour with eight people or less. There were 12 of us jammed into a van. It was a little too tight. but otherwise definitely recommend doing this excursion.
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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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A:
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