Mauna Kea Summit & Stars Adventure in Kona, HI

Hawaii Forest & Trail73-5593 Olowalu StreetKailua-Kona, Big Island, HI 96740
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Overview

Offered by Hawaii Forest & Trail, Maunakea Tour: Maunakea Summit & Stars Adventure offers an exciting experience for guests ages 16 and older to enjoy. The adventure includes a drive to the Mauna Kea summit to find picturesque views ideal for taking photos, a provided picnic-style dinner, a hooded parka and warm gloves, an interpretive guide of Hawaii’s spectacular cultural and geological history.

Good To Know

from Ashley, one of our Kailua-Kona, Big Island Travel Experts
  • Tour duration: 7-8 hrs round trip.
  • Recommended for ages 16 and over.
  • Parkas provided.
  • View a sea of night stars at a 9,000-foot summit.
  • Interpretive guide provides unique insight into the culture and geologic history of Hawaii.
  • Enjoy a private picnic dinner at Historic Humuula Sheep Station, located at 7,000 feet elevation.

Description

from Big Island Mauna Kea Summit & Stars Adventure
The drive to the summit of Mauna Kea is one you'll never forget. It's hard to believe you're in Hawaii as you climb to 13,796' elevation above sea level. Once at the summit we are afforded spectacular views of the horizon, Haleakala on Maui, Mauna Loa and Hualalai, and Mauna Kea's world-class array of telescopes. Mauna Kea is the world's tallest mountain, rising over 32,000 feet from the ocean floor to its summit, which is considered by many Hawaiians to be the most sacred place in all the islands.

Starting out from our headquarters in Kona, we travel up the coast over desolate lava flows for about a half hour before proceeding up the rolling pasturelands on the flanks of Mauna Kea. We arrive at our private dinner location at Humuula approximately 2 hours before sunset for a hot, picnic dinner served family style. After dinner and with a winter-style parka in hand, we’ll make the 45-minute drive to the summit. As you make your way up, you’ll be fascinated by your Interpretive Guide’s interpretation of Hawaii’s remarkable natural, cultural, and geologic history.

After sunset, we descend to the Visitor's Information Station at 9000' elevation. Here we set up our own telescope and have a stargazing party. Wrapped warmly in Arctic parkas, enjoying hot beverages and chocolate macadamia nut cookies, you will marvel at the brilliance of the Hawaiian night sky. Your Interpretive Guide will share with you stories of the world of the observable universe and offer you a personal and educational look at the heavens.

PLEASE NOTE: The tour time can change/fluctuate according to the time of the sunset.

Schedule: Afternoon trips depart daily from Hawaii Forest and Trail Headquarters, Waikoloa Kings' Shops, and the Junction of Highways 190 and 200. Tour Duration is 7 - 8 hours round trip.

Rated: Easy to Moderate; ages 16 and over.

Included in the Tour: Picnic style dinner of your choice (served hot), assorted teas, hot chocolate, and dessert.
Teriyaki Chicken - Served with brown rice, carrot, zucchini, bok choy, yellow squash with a garlic & white wine sauce, and a caramelized pineapple garnish (gluten-free)
Kalbi Beef Short Ribs - Served with brown rice, carrot, zucchini, bok choy, yellow squash with garlic & white wine sauce, and a caramelized pineapple garnish (gluten-free)
Vegetarian Thai Curry - Served with brown rice, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, portobello mushroom, sugar snap peas, green beans, zucchini, yellow squash, onion, bok choy (gluten & dairy free, vegetarian, vegan)

Gear Provided: Hooded parkas and warm gloves. Please contact customer service or Hawaii Forest & Trail with your parka sizes.

Group Size: Tour limited to a maximum of 12 guests.

Restrictions: Guests should be able to hike on uneven or rocky terrain. We sometimes encounter cool, wet or muddy conditions. Because of high altitude, this tour is not advised for those with respiratory, circulatory or heart conditions, pregnancy or poor health. Scuba divers should be aware of altitude dangers. No children under 16. Other tour restrictions may apply.

Reserve Hawaii Customer Reviews

3 Reviews
Susan O'Keefe
Fort Collins, CO
1 Review
Verified Traveler
"So Glad We Did This!"
July, 2016
Wow! What a great way to see the summit of Mauna Kea without worrying about driving up that summit road! Our tour driver Brett was very knowledgeable and fun. We loved having our own private star show too with the Hawaii Forest and Trail telescope. We would do this again.
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Tip: Carefully choose the time of month for your trip so you don't have a full moon.

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Kathy Knighton
1 Review
"Above the clouds"
July, 2015
My son and I went on this tour in June 2015. We both enjoyed the sites so much. The dinner was great and enjoyed the company. Our guide, Maka, was great he had a great enthusiasm that he shared with the entire group. They were on time to pick us up and was willing to meet another party on the way just so everyone was able to go. We made it to the top before sundown and what a beautiful site, above the clouds. After sunset we started down the mountain and stopped about half way where Maka took out his telescope and shared the knowledge he had of the constellations with us. Great tour and tour guide. If you ever get a chance to go please do, you will not regret.
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Tip: It is cold and windy at the summit.

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Bethany Bates
5 Reviews
"A beautiful site to behold!!"
January, 2015
When my friends told me were going up to the top of Mauna Kea, I didn't see what was the big deal. However, once you make it to the top it truly is awe inspiring. The fact that I was on the beach playing in the sun in the morning and watching people play in the snow in the afternoon is crazy. The sky is so clear which is why the have telescopes placed on the top of this mountain. The tour is a climb so we stopped half way up the mountain for 30 minutes at a rest stop to let everyone get use to the altitude. It was a nice time to stretch your legs. Don't miss this experience!!
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Tip: Parkas are provided for this cold trip. The snow usually occurs in the winter months.

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TripAdvisor Reviews
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Navigate40390202672
"A wonderful experience"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed January 16, 2019 NEW
Everything is awesome besides the cold temperature… It's the most romantic thing to meet the light from million years ago! Must go!
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WilliamW519
"Great guided walk in Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed January 16, 2019 NEW
My wife, adult son and I went on a guided walk through the forest in Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge on the slopes of Mauna Kea on a Hawaii Forest and Trail trip. Our guide was Gary and we had a great time. The refuge is working to preserve and restore the native high altitude forest on Mauna Kea and is home to a number of interesting and rare native Hawaiian birds and plants. Many are endemic to Hawaii. As a general matter, you can only enter the refuge with a guide. The birds were amazing, the plants quite interesting and beautiful and there were many beautiful views along the road to the refuge and on the trail. Gary was quite knowledgeable about the birds, plants and geology of the area. We had an interesting discussion. He did a great job spotting birds and plants. 3 of the 8 clients on the trip were birders. Two of us (including me) were hoping to photograph the native birds (lighting in a forest is often challenging for photography, but I got a number of good pictures of birds I had never seen before). And others (my wife and son among them) were out for a beautiful walk in an interesting forest. I think all had a good time. The logistics of the trip went well too. Breakfast and lunch were good and the van we drove in was comfortable. We will definitely go in another HFT trip.
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Navigate66215409594
"Fabulous tour!"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed January 16, 2019 NEW
My husband and I went on the sunrise tour and we both agree it was the highlight of our first vacation to Hawaii. We were amazed at how much of the night sky is visible at 4am from halfway up Mauna Kea, and our tour guide pointed out all the major constellations in southern and northern hemisphere. The view from the top is spectacular! Our guide said it was one of his best trips the whole year. The guides really take care of you and are extremely knowledgeable. I was having allergy related ear issues and our guide Jason kept checking to make sure I was Ok. Definitely go with this tour group - they are eco-friendly and people friendly.
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Jim C
Rome, Georgia
"Stunning views"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed January 16, 2019 NEW
A great early am tour! Recommend doing this while you’re still jet lagged (if coming from the mainland) to make the 2 am wake up is easier. Our guide, Matt,was very knowledgeable, having a geology background and previous work experience on the telescopes. He plied us with coffee and hot choclate, and gave us a great tour of the constellations from the North Star to the Southern Cross. He worked hard to keep us comfortable and informed. The summit was truly stunning. Great sunrise and views from almost 14,000 feet. The parka and blankets provided kept us warm enough. (Low 30s with no snow when we went). A tasty breakfast at a deserted 19th century ranch house down in the valley was a great finish.
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Sue B
Bettendorf, Iowa
"Moana Kae trip"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed January 15, 2019 NEW
Amazing tour...amazing food...amazing time! The tour starts at 3. You travel from sea level to 12000 feet with breaks to the amazing Moana Kae summit. After sunset, you are taken to a dark turnoff to look at stars. All food is great! A wonderful tour. Would love to take it again!
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Big Island Mauna Kea Summit & Stars Adventure is located at Hawaii Forest & Trail73-5593 Olowalu StreetKailua-Kona, Big Island, HI 96740
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Frequently Asked Questions about Big Island Mauna Kea Summit & Stars Adventure

Are guests allowed to go into the observatories?
Some observatories are open to the public daily until 4 PM. As our tour arrives after this time, the observatories are closed to visitors.

How cold is it at the summit of Mauna Kea?
Average mean temperature is freezing.

Is the vehicle ride bumpy and windy?
The access road to the summit of Mauna Kea is four-wheel drive only, so it can be bumpy. Our custom off-road motor coaches will get you to the top and back in safety and comfort.

What kind of telescope is used for star gazing?
We utilize an 11” Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope.

What is the guide to guest ratio?
Our maximum guide to guest ratio is 1:14.

How many guests do take up per night?
Our permit allows for a maximum of 2 vehicles per night and our vans carry a maximum of 14 passengers.

Do we go up to Mauna Kea summit every night?
We go every night, weather permitting.

Are children allowed on this tour?
Children under 16 are not permitted on this tour due to altitude.

Is there much walking/hiking on this tour?
There is minimal walking on this tour, the maximum being about 150 yards.

I would like to see a specific astronomical event from the summit. How can I arrange this?
Check out www.space.com/nightsky for upcoming astronomical events, and whether they will be observable in the Hawaiian sky.

Will there be snow on our trip?
Snow is seasonal at Mauna Kea, with the heaviest snowfall occurring during the winter months.

What if it’s cloudy on Mauna Kea?
The summit of Mauna Kea is normally above the clouds. If the weather (clouds, snow, ice or high winds) cause us to cancel the tour, there is no charge, of course.