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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
$267.02 per adult
Traveler Favorite
My favorite excursion on our Hawaii trip!
Our tour guide, Jason was extremely knowledgeable and made the trip even better! The views at the summit were absolutely stunning! The star gazing afterwards was the best we’ve ever seen. Jason sent us photos of constellations that he took while together. It was a thoughtful extra touch. Thank you!
Sarah_N, Jan 2022

Recent reviews from experiences in Big Island of Hawaii

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
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
My favorite excursion on our Hawaii trip!
Sarah_N, Jan 2022
Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour
Our tour guide, Jason was extremely knowledgeable and made the trip even better! The views at the summit were absolutely stunning! The star gazing afterwards was the best we’ve ever seen. Jason sent us photos of constellations that he took while together. It was a thoughtful extra touch. Thank you!
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-5
Amazing tour
Sonoa_A, Jan 2022
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
Amazing sunset and stargazing tour. Views that you can see in very few places on earth. They provided water, a gourmet veggie sandwich and hot chocolate/tea. Wes and Mr Aoki were very professional and took incredible pictures!
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
Simply Amazing!
vfr2ygzvhm, Jan 2022
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
This tour was amazing! I would highly recommend it for anyone that’s looking at the stargazer tours.
star-5
Excellent experience! The...
Jennifer_C, Jan 2022
Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up
Excellent experience! The guides were excellent!! The stargazing was fantastic. Snacks and accommodations were great
star-5
DO IT
Elizabeth_G, Jan 2022
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
This was one of the best tours we have ever done. Shawn was extremely knowledgeable and made us feel comfortable during the entire ride. Seeing the sunset from Mauna Kea was breathtaking, but even more so was the stargazing portion of the trip. My husband and I had never seen the milky way so clearly, and we certainly had never had pictures taken in front of it :) beautiful experience, you can’t miss it!
star-5
Once in a lifetime experience
Casey_A, Jan 2022
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!)
Stefan and Hero were great guides, very knowledgeable, and they took great photos of our group! Would highly recommend this trip to anyone!
star-5
On top of the world!
Lena_M, Jan 2022
Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up
Spectacular view of the sunset!! The crew was awesome! They were very knowledgeable, attentive and fun!

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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