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 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 knowledge 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 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.

This tour is great for: Couples, sight-seers, and adventurers.

Schedule: Afternoon trips depart daily from Hawaii Forest and Trail Headquarters, Waikoloa Kings' Shops, and select resorts. Tour Duration is 7 - 8 hours round trip.

Rated: Easy to Moderate; ages 16 and over.

Included in the Tour: Hooded winter parka, hot picnic dinner at a private location, private star show with a telescope, hot cocoa, coffee, tea, and cookies.
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Menu:
Teriyaki Chicken (gluten-free) - Served with brown rice, carrot, zucchini, bok choy, yellow squash with a garlic & white wine sauce, and a caramelized pineapple garnish.
Kalbi Beef Short Ribs (gluten-free) - Served with brown rice, carrot, zucchini, bok choy, yellow squash with garlic & white wine sauce, and a caramelized pineapple garnish.
Vegetarian Thai Curry (gluten & dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan) - Served with brown rice, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, portobello mushroom, sugar snap peas, green beans, zucchini, yellow squash, onion, bok choy.

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

Restrictions:
Physical: Persons with respiratory or heart conditions, pregnant women, or those in poor health should not access the summit. Scuba divers, please note that summit altitude is over 13,000 feet (4000 meters).
Age:Children under 16 are not allowed on summit tours.

What to bring and wear: Closed-toe shoes and long pants.

Temporary road closure:
Due to a temporary road closure, a modified itinerary referred to as Maunakea Sunset & Stargazing is being provided to all guests. All guests must call Hawaii Forest & Trail at (808) 331-8505 4 days in advance of the tour to confirm the modified itinerary.

Tripster 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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Barbara F
Ann Arbor, Michigan
"a highlight of our trip to the big island"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed January 25, 2020 NEW
We enjoyed this tour very much, including the excellent picnic dinner (chicken teriyaki from Lava Java restaurant) served at "base camp," to the panoramic view and sunset from the summit of Mauna Kea, and the excellent stargazing experience at 12800 feet. Justin, our guide, was very personable as well as knowledgable. He gave us a lot of information and was able to answer our questions. We took turns looking through the telescope with his assistance when we needed it. The hot chocolate and warm brownies were wonderful. It's very cold, so the parkas, gloves and blankets provided were helpful. Dress warmly and let an experienced guide take you on this adventure, especially since rental cars are not allowed on the bumpy partiallyunpaved road.
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romanwang180
Taipei, Taiwan
"GOOD SERVICE"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed January 25, 2020 NEW
The Service is good Heraldo is very kind~ and introduce is very good~ please keep the spirit forever ^.^
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Pioneer311474
"Stargazing adventure rocks!"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed January 22, 2020 NEW
Heraldo from Hawaii Forest and Trail was one of the most knowledgeable, friendly and approachable guides we have experienced in Hawaii. Brought us up to Mauna Kea, explained to us novices the various constellations with his steep astronomy knowledge, and shared tonnes of personal anecdotes of his 2 decades in Hawaii. Truly enjoyable!
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katarzynanikhamina
"Mauna Kea summit, AKA Brooklyn girl sees stars!"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed January 21, 2020 NEW
My husband & I were in Hawaii for 2 weeks on vacation. We did Summit & Stars on our last night - we were very lucky that the weather cleared before we had to fly home & that the road to Mauna Kea had recently re-opened after being closed for some months due to protests...Google it.) We had attended the Birding trip with Hawaii Forest & Trail the previous week & so already knew they are great! We could have driven up ourselves as our Jeep had 4WD, but we didn't want to risk getting stranded if we got altitude sickness...and we don't have our own telescope!  Our tour guide (Jeff) was very knowledgeable & passionate about the island of Hawaii, its volcanoes, and the stars. My husband loves space, so I knew he'd love this. To my surprised I LOVED it! I hail from Brooklyn where I've lived most of my life, I had never seen this many stars!!! You feel like you're on another planet. We drove up to the top of Mauna Kea to watch the sunset, then came down a little ways off the summit to see the stars through Jeff's telescope. We learned about the constellations & individual stars that were used for wayfinding, their Greek names & Polynesian names both. Hot chocolate and brownies were served at this point - DELICIOUS! There was snow at the summit! HF&T provides parkas & mittens, but you will definitely want long pants, warm socks, and closed-toe shoes. I wore leggings, & sweatpants that I picked up at Target in Kailua. The only suggestions for future improvements would be: -Set ground rules for the group in the beginning (for ex we had some issues with non-English speakers talking loudly to each other while Jeff was presenting the star show, which interfered with our enjoyment). -Let folks know what to expect hour in terms of schedule/bathroom breaks (the tour is 8 hours) -Make the dinner something simpler - the breakfast and lunch served on the Birding tour were AMAZING (and from what I understand prepared in-house at HF&T, but the dinner was catered by Lava Java). It reminded me of airplane food - traditional dinner food simply does not travel well! -At the summit, a "local" in an SUV complained that we were blocking his view of the sunset, and got a bit threatening with our guide. Jeff handled it as best he could, asking everyone at the summit (not just our group) to stay away from this individual's car; he didn't want any trouble. But I really could not believe that a local person would be so hostile, on an island known for the spirit of Aloha
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ayda3102
Tampa, Florida
"Great tour"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed January 21, 2020 NEW
Had an amazing time. Definitely recommend them for anyone looking for a great tour and guide. Rob was awesome
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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.