Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Tour sunset at the summit

Experience a Mauna Kea sunset or sunrise tour!

Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Tour summit with snow

Reach the highest point in Hawaii on a Mauna Kea Summit tour

Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Tour sunset at the summit

Begin your Hawaiian day like never before, on the Mauna Kea Sunrise Experience

Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Tour picnic dinner

On the Mauna Kea Summit & Stars tour, a picnic style meal halfway up the mountain

Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Tour 4 wheel drive van

4 wheel drive van takes you to the 13,700 foot summit

Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Tour summit with snow

Nearing the Mauna Kea Summit - Mauna Loa (long mountain) is in the background

Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Tour map

Map of the Mauna Kea Summit observatories

Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Tour stars

On the sunset tour, stars come out in force after dark in the crisp, dry air

Computer-guided telescope let's you view the night sky (sunset tour only)

Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Tour sunset at the summit

Sunsets from the summit are truly magnificent!

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Discover the what makes Mauna Kea the center for cultural practice and scientific research as you journey from sea level to summit.  The professionals of Hawaii Forest and Trail will guide your through the journey of space and time.   As you ascend the 13,796′ summit of Mauna Kea, learn about the incredible evolution and changes the Hawaiian islands have gone through.  The drive to the summit of Mauna Kea is one you’ll never forget. Once at the summit you are afforded spectacular views of the horizon, Haleakala on Maui, Mauna Kea’s world-class array of telescopes. You’ll experience the spiritual energy of what many Hawaiians believe to be the most sacred place in all the islands. At the summit you’ll stand on top of the world’s tallest mountain – from the ocean floor Mauna Kea is over 33,000 feet high! In your hooded parka you’ll stand in awe – at both natures sublime creation and man’s astonishing technological achievements.  We offer 3 awe-inspiring tours of Mauna Kea!

Mauna Kea Summit & Stars

On the way up the mountain the tour stops at a historic ranch outpost for a hot, picnic style dinner. After dinner the tour continues to the summit of the world’s tallest volcano for a sensational sunset view. Stand in awe amidst the largest collection of telescopes on earth and witness some of the most dramatic vistas you’ll ever experience.

After sunset the tour descends back down to the Visitor’s Information Station at 9000’ elevation. Your interpretive naturalist guide will set up an 11” Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and, in the crystal clear atmosphere, the wonders of the Hawaiian night sky come into focus. Wrapped warm in Arctic parkas, with hot beverages and chocolate macadamia nut cookies, you will marvel at the brilliance of the Hawaiian sky. Enjoy your guide’s entertaining “talk story” of the infinite world of the observable universe which offers you a personal and educational look at the heavens.

Schedule: Daily departure around 2:30pm from Hawaii Forest and Trail Headquarters (73-5593 A Olowalu St., Kailua-Kona, HI 96740 Click to view map), Waikoloa Queen’s Marketplace (69-201 Waikoloa Beach Dr, Waikoloa, HI 96738 Click to view map), and at the parking lot at Puu Huluhulu Cinder Cone (located at Mile Marker 28 on Highway 200, also known as “Saddle Road.” Click to view map).

Duration: 7 – 8 hours

Reservation: This tour is very popular and has limited space. Reserve your seat as soon as you know you want to do this tour!

Tour includes: Dinner – choice of grilled chicken, short ribs, or vegan curry.   Assorted teas, hot chocolate, and dessert also included.

Mauna Kea Sunrise Experience

Begin your day at the top of the tallest volcano in the world.  First you will see the night sky on the slope of Mauna Kea, and then catch the first morning light that turn the sky into shades of red, purple, orange, and blue!  Amidst the world’s largest collection of research telescopes, discover the scientific and cultural importance of Mauna Kea.  You will have breakfast at Onizuka Visitors Center, and then take a short walk through the Maunakea Silversword enclosure.

Schedule: Daily departure around 3:10am from Hawaii Forest and Trail Headquarters (73-5593 A Olowalu St., Kailua-Kona, HI 96740 Click to view map), Waikoloa Queen’s Marketplace (69-201 Waikoloa Beach Dr, Waikoloa, HI 96738 Click to view map), and at the parking lot at Puu Huluhulu Cinder Cone (located at Mile Marker 28 on Highway 200, also known as “Saddle Road.” Click to view map).  Pick up is available at select resort locations.

Duration: 6 – 7 hours

Group Size: 14 max

Tour includes: Continental Breakfast – assorted sliced fresh fruit, fresh baked banana bread , croissants, boiled egg, yogurt, granola, 100% Kona Coffee, Hot Cocoa & Assorted Teas.

General Information
What to Bring & Wear: Layered clothing, long pants, close toed shoes.

Gear Provided: Hooded parkas and warm gloves. Parka sizes – (small, medium, large, x-large, xx-large) All parkas are men’s sizes – so women may wish to select one size smaller than normal.

Restrictions: Because of high altitude this tour does not allow those with respiratory, heart, or circulatory conditions, people in generally poor health, or pregnant women. Scuba divers should be aware of altitude changes and avoid doing this tour shortly after diving. Minimum age for this tour is 16.

Cancellation Policy: Cancellations must be made at least 48 hours before the start of the event.

Hilo Pick Up Option – Mauna Kea Voyage

Mauna Kea Voyage is operated two to three times a week based upon demand, and requires a minimum of four people to confirm a tour. It is journey from sea level to Mauna Kea’s summit. Learn about the connections of Hawaii’s ancient practice of navigation and the modern pursuit of information. At Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo, you will have a pre-opening tour and private planetarium star show. Also on this road trip, walk through a koa forest in a state preserve, see endangered Maunakea silversword, and experience stunning views of Hawaii Island and Maui.

Schedule: Pick up around 8am from Hawaii Forest and Trail downtown Hilo store (224 Kamehameha Ave, Hilo, HI 96720 Click to view map). This tour is oriented toward people staying in the Hilo area, but it is possible for guests to drive from the Kona area (allowing ample time for the drive, which can exceed 2 hours depending on the exact location of your accommodations).

Duration: 7 – 8 hours

Tour includes: Park entry fees, deli lunch, and beverages.

Gear Provided: Daypacks, walking staffs, and warm wear.

mauna kea
Views from the highest point in Hawaii
sunset from mauna kea summit
Sunset from the Mauna kea summit

CMauna Kea Summit and Starsruise Ship Passengers

The Mauna Kea Summit tours are not available for cruise ship passengers. We recommend doing either the Sunrise Bike Tour on Maui or the Haleakala Sunrise Van Tour on Maui.

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Activity Tips

Kevin Ditamore – Owner / Manager

When you stand at the summit of Mauna Kea and look across at the summit of Mauna Loa, it is easy to forget that you are in Hawaii. The extreme climate and barren landscape provides a startling difference from the rain forests of Hilo or the heat of Kona and Waikoloa. About three months out of the year there is a very good chance you will see snow … yes … SNOW … at the top of this mountain! When we did this tour it was the first week of May, and a late-season storm had just dusted the summit with 4″ of fresh snow. It makes the tour even more beautiful and surreal!

The summit of Mauna Kea requires a 4 wheel drive vehicle; it is not possible to drive in your rental car. If you’ve rented a Jeep Wrangler you would be OK, however your rental car contract will probably forbid you from driving on this road. Besides, without the tour you won’t get the telescopic look at the night sky and you won’t get the benefit of the guide’s informative narration. You probably won’t be bringing a parka with you to Hawaii either and they are provided on this tour.

The most important tip is to remember the implications of high altitudes. The air is MUCH thinner here … this is not a good place for people who are in poor health or are pregnant. Scuba divers should be extra cautious and allow plenty of time before and after a dive when scheduling this tour.

One other consideration … BOOK ONE OF THESE TOURS EARLY because availability is very limited. The number of people allowed at the summit of Mauna Kea per day is strictly regulated.

On the sunset tour, after leaving the summit, an extended stop is made at the visitor’s center at the 9,000 foot level where your guide will set up a computer-aided telescope and give you a tour of the night sky. If you come at a full-moon the sky will be so bright it will be difficult to see stars, but you’ll get some unbelievable looks at the moon’s surface. On the sunrise tour, you get to see more of the mountain in the daytime.

The first two tours (the sunset and sunrise) are oriented toward people who are staying in the Kona and Waikoloa areas (where most of the resorts are located on the Big Island). Please note that if you are staying in Hilo or some out-of-the-way vacation rental somewhere else on the Big Island you will have a rather long drive to meet up with these tours. Hawaii Forest and Trail will meet you at at the parking lot at Puu Huluhulu Cinder Cone. This is located at Mile Marker 28 on Saddle Road (Highway 200), which is at the Mauna Kea Summit Road intersection. A better option for Hilo guests is the third tour, which does the journey to Mauna Kea during the day and departs from Hilo town. West side guests may participate in this third tour option if they desire, but it will require a long drive to Hilo.

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