Mauna Kea Summit & Stars Adventure in Kona, HI

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


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.

Big Island 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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Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
"Awesome hike"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed March 22, 2019 NEW
Our guide was super informative and totally cool he explained the legends and took us to a water fall so we could take a swim, really cold but awesome.
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Chicago, Illinois
"The stars, the sun and Kim...."
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed March 22, 2019 NEW
We took the early morning star gazing and Mauna Kea Sunrise tour. At over $200 per person plus tip, it wasn’t cheap, but I’ll remember the night, and in the end isn’t that what it is all about? Even with a few caveats it was very memorable and we were all glad we did it. The skies were clear and constellations were incredible. We had a little less than a half moon, beware of the moon, we were fine. Sunrise over the clouds is something you won’t forget. I wish there was less traveling and more time at both spots. And now the small details: We showed up at 2:40 as requested but didn’t leave until after 3 and would have loved to have hit my snooze a couple of more times instead of waiting to rollout. We drove to 2 other pickups along the way. We drove up the mountain and we drove down the mountain and then to breakfast and then to drop off people at the other 2 locations. So you are in the van a very long time. You will spend the majority of time in the van. Anyways, layer up, or wear there parkas, it will get cold. I read about brownies, we never saw that. I heard and read about telescopes or binoculars to view the stars, we never saw either. Kim our guide did a very nice job with the laser point. Kim who I gave a tongue in cheek hard time for being “disgusting happy” at 3 AM was indeed a bowl of sunshine. My wife and I spent a lot of time asking her questions and just engaging in conversation during down time. When my daughter’s special meal didn’t show up, Kim gave her, her own breakfast sandwich. She probably does a lot of little things like that, it’s nice to see that what she does comes so effortlessly. I hope the company recognizes her as an asset.
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David B
"We saw the palia along with more than 30 other species including the pueo and Hawaii amakihi"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed March 21, 2019 NEW
This was the second time that my wife and I have gone on a birding trip with Hawaii Forest and Trail. It was excellent and I would recommend Hawaii Forest and Trail for anyone who is interested in seeing birds on the Big Island, especially rare endemic Hawaiian birds. Our goal on this trip was to see the palila, a Hawaiian honeycreeper, of which there are only about 1,000 left in the wild. Taj, our bird guide made it happen! We saw the palia along with more than 30 other species including the pueo and Hawaii amakihi. Taj has a wealth of knowledge, not only of birds, but plants, history, culture, and the Hawaiian language. This was a full 12 hour day beginning at 6:00am and we hiked 7 miles over some rough terrain. We will definitely go with Hawaii Forest and Trail again.
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Washington DC, District of Columbia
"Mauna Kea Summit Tour"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed March 20, 2019 NEW
My husband and I really enjoyed our Mauna Kea Summit and Stars tour with Geraldo. He is an excellent guide who is full of energy and endlessly positive. He shared lots of insights on the native Hawaiian culture and the relationship of this culture with Mauna Kea. That added a richness to our experience. He also taught us a lot about the amazing array of stars that are visible from outside of the Mauna Kea Visitor Center. He made the trip worthwhile even though we won't able to get to the summit since the road was closed above the Visitor Center because of ice.
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TripAdvisor user image
"Volcano tour"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed March 19, 2019 NEW
2nd time using organization. Melanie and Taz are awesome! Friendly & knowledgeable!! Will use 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 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.