Mauna Kea Summit Tour – Big Island Activities

Mauna Kea Tour with Hawaii Forest and Trail

The most common question I am asked is “What is the one tour you recommend for someone on their first Hawaii Vacation?” I tell everyone who is going to the Big Island that they must go on the Hawaii Forest and Trail Mauna Kea Summit Tour.

Mauna Kea Telescopes Summit Tour


In about two hours you can go from warm, sunny Big Island Beaches to the snow-capped summit of Mauna Kea. Mauna Kea is 13,796 feet above sea level and rises over 32,000 feet from the ocean floor to the summit.

We climbed aboard a comfortable mini bus in Kona. Our friendly tour guide, Nate, began telling us interesting stories and information as we journeyed past desolate lava flows towards Saddle Road.  We made a stop and we were served a delicious, hot picnic dinner of Barbecue Chicken.

Big Island Food Mauna Kea Tour


After dinner Nate passed out winter parkas and we drove 45 minutes to the summit. It was interesting to see the changes in landscape. As we got closer to the top the landscape appeared almost moonlike.

Big Island Tours Mauna Kea


At the summit we soaked in the breathtaking views and watched as the sun slipped below the horizon.

Mauna Kea Sunset Tours


Mauna Kea is one of the best sites in the world for astronomical observation. The summit is home to 13 telescopes from 11 countries. These telescopes are the largest optical/infrared telescopes in the world.

Mauna Kea Sunset Hawaii Snow


The Mauna Kea Summit can be cold. Hawaii Forest and Trail provided us with gloves and warm parkas. Snow is seasonal at Mauna Kea. The heaviest Mauna Kea snowfall occurs during the winter months.

Mauna Kea Summit Hawaii Snow


After sunset we went to the Visitor’s Information Station at the 9,000 foot elevation. Nate set up an 11” Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. I was blown away by the star show we experienced. Nate told us about different stars and constellations while we took turns looking at them through the telescope. The views of the night sky combined with the information about what we will witnessing was chilling. It was a humbling experience to see how small we are in the universe.

As we drove back to Kona I tried to process all of the sights I had experienced on the Mauna Kea Summit tour. From the changing landscapes, the stunning sunset on the top of a snowy mountain to the brilliant star show, I could not believe all of the sights I had seen in one day.  It was a reminder that no matter how small we may feel in the scheme of the world, we each have an opportunity to make a positive impact.

Check out our video “Hawaii Forest and Trail Mauna Kea Summit Tour”


The Mauna Kea Summit Tour often sells out over a week in advance. Be sure to reserve the Hawaii Forest and Trail Mauna Kea Summit Tour early. If this tour is sold out on your desired dates be sure to check out the Mauna Kea Voyage Tour.

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About Elizabeth

Elizabeth has been blogging about the best Hawaii Activities for over 7 years. She loves sharing the Aloha Spirit.
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One Response to Mauna Kea Summit Tour – Big Island Activities

  1. John Fradella says:

    Great Blog!

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