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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
Unique Experience with Great Guides
Our tour guide Wes and driver/photographer Aoki we're incredible. Not only did we learn a ton about Mauna Kea but we got some incredible photos of us during the sunset and against the Milky Way. They made sure we were well taken care of - I was feeling very light headed and they made sure I got oxygen and checked in on me regularly. A perfect way to experience a once in a lifetime experience. Highly recommend.
Elizabeth_M, 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
Unique Experience with Great Guides
Elizabeth_M, Jun 2022
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
Our tour guide Wes and driver/photographer Aoki we're incredible. Not only did we learn a ton about Mauna Kea but we got some incredible photos of us during the sunset and against the Milky Way. They made sure we were well taken care of - I was feeling very light headed and they made sure I got oxygen and checked in on me regularly. A perfect way to experience a once in a lifetime experience. Highly recommend.
star-5
A relaxing, educational & fun tour
Chung_T, Jun 2022
Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour
Our tour guide and driver, Jeff, is excellent! He is friendly, efficient, considerate, humorous and knowledgeable. We had a great time! His service is beyond our expectations!
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
Worth the Money
Bill_S, Jun 2022
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
Awesome experience! Driver/guide was very knowledgeable and did a fantastic job. Stargazing was a lot of fun too!
star-5
Tour of a lifetime
Ann_M, Jun 2022
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
This was one of the most beautiful, informative, exciting tours I’ve ever been on! Our guide- named Hero- was outstanding!
star-5
Incredible Experience
MillieBourgeois, Jun 2022
Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up
Amazing trip to the top of Mauna Kea. The view and sunset was extraordinary. Our guide very knowledgeable and interesting. The star gazing was really interesting and beautiful. It is a little hard to get around felt a bit light headed but definitely worth it. You do feel the altitude difference.
star-5
The most amazing tour...
Mitchell_J, Jun 2022
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
The most amazing tour while on our honeymoon! Worth it all to take the time to go! Wes our guide was the best! And our other tour guide took the best pictures! Unforgettable time!
star-5
One of the best experiences of my life!
Julia_D, Jun 2022
Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up
Okay, this trip goes in the top 5 best things I’ve ever experienced in my life! Gabe was amazing and taught us so much all the way up Mauna Kea and his counterpart Aiden did the most amazing job teaching us the constellations. Words can’t describe how breathtaking this experience was. BOOK NOW! You will not regret it!!!
star-4
Learned a lot
Stefanie_C, Jun 2022
Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up
Our guide, Gabe, was extremely knowledgeable and friendly. He made the experience richer with his explanations of the history, science, culture and his local perspective.
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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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