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A few weeks ago while my husband and I were in Hawaii, we splurged on a big excursion. It was totally worth it, and I loved it so much that I have to share our experience.
About Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano on the big island of Hawaii. If you count its height below the surface of the ocean, it would actually be the tallest mountain in the world. To get there, you start at sea level, and about two hours later you are at 14,000 feet in the air. The oxygen level is 40% less at the top.
At the summit, different companies and universities have powerful telescopes and observatories. The big draw of Mauna Kea is watching the sunset on top of the clouds. An added bonus is that once the sun goes down, the view of the stars is unbelievable.
Hawaii only allows 4-wheel-drive vehicles on the road to the top, and there is a checkpoint to monitor that. In addition, rental car companies do not allow cars up the summit road. Therefore, most visitors must book a tour.
Our Mauna Kea Tour
We booked through Viator and ended up with Hawaiian Eyes Tours. The cost was $220 each, so not cheap. The excursion has age and BMI restrictions due to the high altitude. Kids under Agee 14 are not permitted, and I believe the BMI max is 40.
The tour guides were knowledgeable and funny. They explained the terrain and the wild animals we saw on the drive. Our first stop was the Visitor Information Center at an altitude of 9200 feet, which is a required stop for all visitors to adjust to the altitude. We had a 45-minute stop there, which gave us time to use the restrooms and peruse the gift shop. Our tour guides supplied us with water and vegetarian sandwiches from a local restaurant (which were surprisingly yummy!)
As we made our way to the summit, we climbed above the clouds. It was amazing to see the sea of clouds at the top!
Since it was cold at the top (in the 30s), Hawaiian Eyes provided jackets and gloves.
We had fun with some photos while we watched the sunset. It really looked like we were watching the sun set over the ocean, but it was all clouds. In total, we were at the top for an hour.
After enjoying the sunset, we drove down to a slightly lower elevation and waited for the stars to come out. The tour company provided hot chocolate and tea.
The stars were AMAZING! I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many stars. We could easily see the Milky Way.
Our tour guide used a laser to show us constellations in the sky. We saw several shooting stars. Hawaiian Eyes set up a powerful telescope, and we could see the rings on Saturn. Wow!
Seeing the sunset and stars from Mauna Kea was the highlight of our trip. I can’t even describe how special it was to see those views. In total, our excursion lasted about 7 hours. If you visit the big island, I highly recommend this experience.
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.