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Mauna Kea Summit & Observatory Tours

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278 Reviews
Mauna Kea Summit & Observatory
Visiting the Mauna Kea Summit and Observatories gives you the feeling of being on top of the world for good reason: You’re actually pretty close. Standing at 13,796 feet (4,138 meters), the mountain is Hawaii's tallest and the highlight of many visitors' trips to the Big Island of Hawaii. The Mauna Kea Observatories (MKO) feature some of the world's largest telescopes, including equipment from Canada, France, and the University of Hawaii, due to its designation as an unparalleled destination for stargazing.

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.

Insider Tip
Sunrise and sunset are great times to visit Mauna Kea. Enjoy stargazing (offered nightly from 6 to 10pm) and hot 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.

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.

Practical Info

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.

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.
Address: Saddle Road, Hilo, Hawaii 96720, USA
Admission: Varies
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14 Tours and Activities to Experience Mauna Kea Summit & Observatory

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Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour

Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour

star-4.5
Experience big skies and incredible nighttime views on this Mauna Kea stargazing trip with a small group. Join no more than 28 guests for a pre-trip picnic at a historic Hawaiian ranch, proceeded by a ride in a 4x4 luxury van to the summit of the Big Island's tallest peak. After admiring a sunset view, continue down to 9,000 feet (2,743 meters) for a stargazing session, complete with a telescope, hot chocolate, and dessert. The trip also includes a guide and a hooded parka to keep you warm.
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  • 8 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$235.60
From
$235.60
Taking safety measures

Small-Group A Mars and Stars Photo Experience Mauna Kea Tour

Small-Group A Mars and Stars Photo Experience Mauna Kea Tour

star-5
Mauna Kea is home to the world’s largest observatory for optical, infrared and submillimeter astronomy—13 powerful telescopes from 11 different countries sit atop the mountain’s slopes. On this tour with a professional photographer guide, see the night sky like never before. Leave with stunning photos of your group with galaxies, stars, and constellations in the background. After your trip, your guide will send you a link to the photos.
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  • 2 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$212.27
From
$212.27

Maunakea Stellar Explorer HILO

Maunakea Stellar Explorer HILO

star-4.5
Hawaii’s natural wonders aren’t only on land and in the sea—the Big Island is also a prime spot from which to admire the wonders of the solar system. This tour is the only one that includes both afternoon solar viewing and nighttime stargazing, accompanied by astronomy experts. Visit Rainbow Falls and the Kaumana lava caves, then explore the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and use a state-of-the-art solar telescope and Dobsonian telescope to spot solar flares, galaxies, star clusters, and planets.
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  • 7 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$184.34
From
$184.34

Experience Hawai'i Big Island Helicopter Flight from Kona - Private Tour

Experience Hawai'i Big Island Helicopter Flight from Kona - Private Tour

star-4.5
Look down on the varied landscape of the Big Island from the air on a helicopter tour from Kona. This flight is longer than typical heli tours and provides the opportunity to be wowed by Hawaii’s amazing natural features, from waterfalls to volcanoes to rainforests. Fly along the coast and over Waimanu and Waipio valleys, and spot island industry like macadamia nut orchards. Upgrade to guarantee a window seat.
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  • 2 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$3,690.00
From
$3,690.00
Taking safety measures

Maunakea Stellar Explorer from KONA

Maunakea Stellar Explorer from KONA

star-4
Hawaii’s natural wonders aren’t only on land and in the sea—the Big Island is also a prime spot from which to admire the wonders of the solar system. This tour is the only one that includes both afternoon solar viewing and nighttime stargazing, accompanied by astronomy experts. Visit different destinations and use a state-of-the-art solar telescope and Dobsonian telescope to spot solar flares, galaxies, star clusters, and planets.
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  • 6 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$198.73
From
$198.73

Big Island - North Island Jungle Driving Tour

Big Island - North Island Jungle Driving Tour

star-5
Shaka Guide's driving tour app works like a tour guide in your car! On this tour drive along beautiful green coastlines, through tropical jungle roads, and go star gazing on the tallest mountain in the world. We've done our research so you will not miss a thing! Just sit back and listen to fun stories along the way. Skip the tour bus & explore Big Island at your own pace for a fraction of the cost with the best self-guided audio GPS tours for Hawaii! Rated the #1 best GPS tour app for Hawaii with over 6,000+ raving reviews and 200,000+ downloads. Why you need it: ✅ You don't need service because you can download the tours & use them offline ✅ Much cheaper than a tour bus at only $9.99 for lifetime access ✅ Save time planning your trip because we have the best stops lined up ✅ Freedom to stop and go as you please, unlike a tour bus where you are confined to the pre-determined route (no fun!) ✅ Hear cool and fun stories along the way (and some corny joke's that might make you laugh)
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  • 2 days
From
$11.99
per group
From
$11.99
per group

Big Island - South Island Coastal Loop Driving Tour

Big Island - South Island Coastal Loop Driving Tour

star-4.5
Come with us as we explore the fascinating volcanic landscape looping around the southern coast of the Big Island! Shaka Guide is your perfect companion with turn-by-turn directions, information on what to do & see, and a truckload of interesting stories and Hawaiian legends of this amazing island! Skip the tour bus & explore Big Island at your own pace for a fraction of the cost with the best self-guided audio GPS tours for Hawaii! Rated the #1 best GPS tour app for Hawaii with over 6,000+ raving reviews and 200,000+ downloads. Why you need it: ✅ You don't need service because you can download the tours & use them offline ✅ Much cheaper than a tour bus at only $9.99 for lifetime access ✅ Save time planning your trip because we have the best stops lined up ✅ Freedom to stop and go as you please, unlike a tour bus where you are confined to the pre-determined route (no fun!) ✅ Hear cool and fun stories along the way (and some corny joke's that might make you laugh)
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  • 2 days
From
$11.99
per group
From
$11.99
per group

Big Island Adventure Bundle: 5 Epic Audio Driving Tours

Big Island Adventure Bundle: 5 Epic Audio Driving Tours

star-4.5
Shaka Guide is an audio tour app that gives you the benefits of a guided tour with the freedom to explore on your own terms. This Big Island Tour Bundle comes with five socially-distanced audio driving tours: • South Island Epic Coastal Journey (8-10 hour tour) • North Island Jungle Adventure Loop (8-10 hour tour) • Kona Big Kahuna Loop (4-6 hour tour) • Kohala Coast and Backcountry Tour (3-5 hour tour) • Volcanoes National Park Tour (6-8 hour tour) The app uses GPS to give you turn-by-turn navigation to historic sites, popular attractions, world-class beaches and scenic hikes with stories about the places you’re visiting and music to entertain you along the way. All Shaka Guide Tours... • Never expire - take them multiple times or buy in advance • Work 100% offline - no data or wifi necessary • Let you take the tour when you want - download the tour and choose the day that works best for you *Please use the link in your confirmation email to download the app*
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  • 5 days
From
$24.99
per group
From
$24.99
per group

Mauna Kea Arnott's Adventures

Mauna Kea Arnott's Adventures

star-5
Our Mauna Kea Summit Tour is designed to showcase the beauty and wonder of one of the most impressive mountains in the world. Mauna Kea (meaning “white mountain”) is historically and culturally very significant to the Hawaiian people, and because of its contributions to geology and astronomy, to the world as well. Our local guides will enlighten you with the sacredness and cultural aspect of Mauna Kea. A spiritual high for many locals and visitors. #1 rated tour for adventure and photography.
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  • 6 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$208.38
From
$208.38

Big Island Mountain Biking on Anna Ranch

Big Island Mountain Biking on Anna Ranch

star-5
Experience the ultimate mountain-biking adventure on the Big Island during this 2-hour, small-group ride through 100 acres of private ranch land. Open up on the custom-built trails of this exclusive riding area situated amidst the rolling hills near the Kohala Mountains. During your trip you’ll admire amazing views of Mauna Kea, check out a 40-foot (12-meter) tall waterfall and navigate through fields of green pasture and craggy lava rocks. This small-group ride, limited to 12 guests, includes a guide, high-end mountain bike and helmet, hydration drinks and energy bars.
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  • 2 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$200.00
Price varies by group size
From
$200.00
Price varies by group size

Endangered Native Habitats

Endangered Native Habitats

star-5
Discover Hawaii’s remarkable wildlife on a full-day, small-group birdwatching tour into the Big Island’s Mauna Kea Forest Reserve. Travel on foot and by four-wheel drive as you explore dry forest and rainforest habitats that shelter the endangered palila honeycreeper, the Hawaii amakihi and the Hawaii ‘elepaio. Listen for the calls of endemic songbirds as you traverse an otherworldly lava trail, then follow a local, bird-loving guide along forest paths into the distinctive, high-elevation mamane-naio ecosystem.
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  • 12 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$218.85
From
$218.85
Taking safety measures

Private Island Tour in Hawaii with Pickup Included

Private Island Tour in Hawaii with Pickup Included

Relaxing & Stress-free Sightseeing guided by local residents – the whole island of Hawai’i and it’s splendor is awaiting you. Relax and let us worry about the drive as we guide you on an amazing customized private tour. Visit gorgeous beaches, exotic locations and all the wonders the island has to offer.
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  • 6 to 10 hours
  • Taking safety measures
From
$900.00
per group
From
$900.00
per group
Taking safety measures

Small Group Tour: Hawaii Deluxe Volcano Experience with Restaurant Dinner

Small Group Tour: Hawaii Deluxe Volcano Experience with Restaurant Dinner

star-5
See two of the largest volcanoes in the world and stop at one of the most active on this full-day, small-group excursion. First, drive between the Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes, stopping for lunch at Mauna Kea State Park. Then watch for current activity at Kilauea Volcano, the most active of the five volcanoes in Hawaii. Head to Kilauea National Park to see the beautiful landscapes and enjoy dinner at Kilauea Lodge. Hotel pickup and drop-off is included.
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  • 12 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$238.54
From
$238.54
Taking safety measures

Private Grand Circle the Big Island Mercedes Sprinter

Private Grand Circle the Big Island Mercedes Sprinter

Complete a circuit of the Big Island during this full-day circle tour. Riding in style on board a Mercedes Benz Sprinter van with your party up to 11 other family members or friends, stop at the island's highlights and landmarks, including Volcanoes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and South Point, the southernmost point in the U.S. While you travel, watch DVDs containing information about Hawaiian culture, traditions, and history onboard your vehicle. Pickup and drop-off at Kona hotels is included.
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  • 12 hours
From
$1,537.44
per group
From
$1,537.44
per group

Frequently Asked Questions

The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
Q:
What's the best way to experience Mauna Kea Summit & Observatory?