Mauna Kea Summit
Mauna Kea Summit
4.5
About
At 13,796 feet, this peak offers an incredible view of lava, desert, the valley and Mauna Loa.
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  • joe1212
    San Francisco, California255 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Need 4x4 or AWD also with manual first/second gears
    FYI to others wondering about driving up. We were there July 2023 in a rental AWD and were NOT allowed up. Rangers had a literal checkpoint at the visitor center to inspect cars and required 4x4 or AWD…and also first and second manual gears. Logic is you need the car in those lower gears so “transmission/engine braking” slows the car and you do not have to ride the brakes on the way down. Our AWD only had a “low” mode which was not enough to satisfy the rangers. Also, they literally will stick their head in your car to view your transmission option. Be warned! FYI photo attached is a rising moon, milky way, stars taken just with an iPhone 14 ProMax at the visitor center.Also, I did drive up to the summit in a normal 2WD car like 10 years ago. Absolutely beautiful and get up there if you can!
    Visited July 2023
    Written July 16, 2023
  • Leslie B
    24 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Mouna Kea Vistas
    We didnt actually make it to the summit (you require a 4 x 4 or they wont let you up), however the view from the lookout on top of the hill across from the visitor's center was amazing. It was a clear night on the mountain but down below the clouds were slowly enveloping the valley giving a spectacularly surreal aura to the place. This was one of my wife's (and mine) favourite places on the island. (Although we went at sunset, we heard sunrise are greta here also).
    Visited July 2023
    Traveled as a couple
    Written July 19, 2023
  • Dallas Traveler
    148 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Great trip to the summit
    We rented a 4WD Jeep and drove to the summit. The park ranger makes sure you have at least 1/2 tank of gas and that you know how to put the Jeep in the correct gear, etc. We had no problems at all and the road is paved for at least half the distance from the visitors center to the summit. If you are not a confident, capable driver I would not recommend driving yourself. There were several tour buses at the top but a lot of people in their own 4WD vehicles too. You must stop at the visitor center for at least 30 minutes before going up. They have a nice gift shop and the rangers are informative. We left our lodging in Volcano about 4 pm and had plenty of time to get there, visit the visitor center, drive up and explore before watching the amazing sunset. It is really cold up there so take a jacket. We bought a blanket at the visitor center and we were glad we had it. There are portable restroom facilities at the summit too but my kids said they were pretty nasty.
    Visited August 2023
    Traveled with family
    Written August 6, 2023
  • Traveler
    65 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    GO
    Drove to first station at 9,000+ feet Well worth the effort and drive, especially if your a stargazer. Amazing view of milky way and stars. You'll rarely see at sea level. Cold at 9,000 feet. Wear a cover (maybe 2). Laser pointing of stars and clusters by staff and worth the wait time to see. Very descriptive. Once in a lifetime opportunity to see the galaxy.
    Visited August 2023
    Written August 8, 2023
  • COTraveller33
    Silver Spring, Maryland3,670 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    Worth the Stop
    So - we didn't make it to the summit ( no 4WD and kids under 13 ). But we stopped at the visitor's center, and sunset hill. Great experience. Fun, short hike. Definitely worth it. With view of the sun via telescope and screen, Great merch. Friendly and helpful staff. The right back down to Kona or Hilo after sunset is no-joke. Especially with the fog, dark, lack of lights, and grade of decline. Would recommend: Yes Would re-patronize: Yes
    Visited June 2023
    Traveled with family
    Written August 23, 2023
  • Anna N
    5 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Incredible Sunset Spot
    Do your research in advance to know what to expect in terms of the process for driving up and the car and health requirements. The road up was very manageable in our opinion. The views at the top were SO spectacular and the sunset was one of the coolest we have ever seen.
    Visited November 2023
    Traveled as a couple
    Written November 6, 2023
  • Esther P
    2 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Views for Days
    Reaching the summit of Mauna Kea was a highlight of our time in Hawaii. Being at 13,000+ feet in elevation was an experience. We took the trip up in a 4x4 van and it was definitely something we will remember forever. The views from the summit were amazing. We totally want to come back and do a sunset and stargazing tour.
    Visited February 2024
    Traveled as a couple
    Written February 28, 2024
  • Manarola3
    Austin, Texas101 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Be sure to follow the rules!
    Beautiful! I’m so glad the locals prevailed and kept the Summit the way it is; prevented the building of a huge observatory. There are already a number of them, but thankfully these will be all. The quiet summit above the clouds is a unique place and sacred to Hawaiians. Be aware that the 4WD requirement is strictly enforced. Also be sure you have at least 1/2 tank of gas. Our Truro person rented us a Jeep with only 1/4 tank of gas. We didn’t notice it. The kind agent at the Ranger Station pointed it out, and we returned to Hilo for more gas. We would not have made it up the mountain and back if he hadn’t told us!
    Visited April 2024
    Traveled with family
    Written April 20, 2024
  • murphy3120
    107 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Worth the Effort
    We arrived at the visitors centervaround 615, as we heard parking could be a challenge. At that time there were plenty of spots left. Nice small Center with bathrooms. We walked across the road to join lots of others at the top of a hill for sunset viewing. Lots of people but it felt festive, not crowded. A lot of folks left after that but we (4 of us) laid on a beach blanket to 830 to see the stars. It was cold but worth it - breathtaking. Road is steep but we'll marked and maintained.
    Visited June 2024
    Traveled with family
    Written June 18, 2024
These reviews are the subjective opinion of Tripadvisor members and not of TripAdvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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Lee L
84 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2021
This was such an awesome experience! Driving up, it was drizzling and so foggy I was worried we wouldn't get to see anything. I was praying God would let us see just one good view of the susset. Walking up it was all still foggy and cloudy, we started to leave, but dragged around a little bit then the fog started to lift and we started to see the mountains peaking... next thing we knew the sunset starting turning all colors of red. What a beautiful sunset! So glad we did it and didn't turn back.

On a side note, a kid ran up and fell to his face. His siblings were giggling so we laughed too until we realized he wasn't playing. His mother said he ran all the way up, with the altitude change, just nearly fainted. We were only at the visitor center but it still is no joke. Please take pre-caution.
Written July 26, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

April.Lincoln1
Kenai, AK13 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2020 • Couples
This should be at the top of your tour list for the big island! If you have any anxiety or breathing issues you should NOT do this tour as you will only ruin it for the rest of your group. Breathing becomes difficult as you summit and you definitely have a dizzy feeling come over you.
Dress warm is an understatement, you will need to have warm winter jackets and every point on your body covered do to cold temperatures and wind.
Written February 25, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

maitaimike2015
Laguna Hills, CA253 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2021
I have been to the summit on two previous occasions with Mauna Kea Summit Adventures, (excellent outfit). Their tours are kind of pricey, but worth it if the weather is cooperating. The sunsets, and view of the night sky is amazing. This visit, we all decided to take a trip up early, on a clear view gorgeous day. On the drive up from Kona, we could see that both Mauna Kea & Mauna Loa, had a good bit of snow well below the summits. Our original plan was to stop at the Onizuka visitor center. Finding that it was closed, we checked with the rangers, and having an AWD vehicle, headed for the summit. (your rental car contract may have certain prohibitions, so go at your own risk).

The dirt road was bone dry, with little wind, so all went well. (if you have driven off road, and follow their safety protocols, you should have no issues). Of course we were a little under dressed, but sending photos to friends and family of us in the snow, in Hawaiian shirts and shorts was hilarious. We saw others building snowmen, making snow angels, & sledding on boogie boards. I would recommend layering for freezing temps. You are often going from sea level to 13,796 ft., so altitude sickness can be an issue.

Also, make sure you have plenty of gas in the tank. If you are bringing food, there are picnic tables at the visitor center, yet only porta-potties, as it is still closed at the time of my review. Knowing the weather forecast is crucial before you go. The various telescopes at the summit are not open to the public, just so you know. It was totally worth it on this visit, while on our way to Hilo.

Mahalo.
Written March 13, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

MindyMidwest
5 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2020 • Couples
Visited the Keck Observatory Information Center before driving up Mauna Kea in a beautiful new Jeep Wrangler rented from National. You will want a true four-wheel drive vehicle to go to the top; all-wheel drives are not permitted. Stop at the way-station for mandatory acclimatization to the high altitude. There, you can purchase hot drinks, snacks, souvenirs and educational materials. Continue upwards on a narrow switchback road with terrifying dropoffs. At the top, it is windy and ranges from cold to subarctic. You can see the observatories, but there are no tours and no attendants. One has indoor modern restrooms and an area for viewing some of the machinery of the telescope. Don't stay too long; the air is thin, and you may become dizzy or sick from lack of oxygen. It's a unique and slightly scary adventure!
Written March 10, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Jason Davis
Hwaseong, South Korea21 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2020
Amazing views from what feels like the top of the world. Quite strange to see a good bit of snow in Hawai'i. 4WD is a must-have to get to the top, along with a short 30+ minute stop at the visitor's center to get better acclimated. At the top, just getting out of the vehicle and walking around was causing us to get light-headed. I also proposed to my girlfriend while at the top, she said yes, during the day to be less crowded. Overall a breathtaking experience. Coming down was hard, which is where the 4WD low comes in handy.
Written January 30, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

0617merS
Columbus, OH92 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2021
I would highly recommend the sunrise, we were there with 8 other vehicles, so not crowded at all, and the sunrise view doesnt have the telescopes in the view, and it was nice to drive down during the light hours and enjoy the view coming down. The roads were great, easy going, they do recommend 4 wheel drive, especially for the drive down, you ride your breaks for a good portion of the drive. Also, we did acclimate for 30 min at the visitor center, which gave us time to see the stars, amazing stars...and in no way, if you get altitude sickness can you drive back down! you can check the visitor center webiste to see if the access road is open. also, we saw non 4x4 vehicles off the side of the road at an easter view point waiting there for the sun rise as well.
Written March 23, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

BGKF
North Vancouver, Canada10 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2020
4x4 vehicle is required to gain access beyond the visitor's centre, though the road was not too rough when we visited. A half hour stop is recommended at the visitor centre in order to acclimatize, but this was easily accomplished as the visitor centre was very interesting and informative. The summit was amazing, at 14 400 feet / 4200 metres! Lots of snow; cold and very windy. Sunglasses, a down jacket with a hood plus gloves were all that I needed. It was quite amusing watching the tour bus guests donning full alpine expedition suits! Sunset was spectacular. Park rangers asked us to leave at 19:00. Easy drive back to the visitor centre for stargazing, though next time I would park in one of the pullouts away from the visitor centre, as there was constantly vehicle headlights or waving flashlights from other tourists interrupting the blackness of night. Billions of stars, what a spectacular night!
Written March 21, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

George H
San Jose, CA98 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2020 • Couples
A terrific trip to the mountain top started with a visit to the Keck headquarters in Waimea. It was helpful to learn about the mission and technology before heading to the summit to see the real deal. We stopped at the information center at 9000 feet to acclimate and look around for a while. It was good to have a sturdy fwd for the died road to the top. Climbing, the views were increasingly impressive on a sunny day as we neared the snowy summit. We went inside the Keck dual-telescope facility where we could view the 10-meter mirror system being maneuvered around. Outside it was very windy with unmatched spectacular views in all directions. Coming down was a careful drive with more great views - an excellent outing.
Written February 27, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Paul S
4 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2022
Booked our tour with Mauna Kea Summit Adventures. Had a wonderful experience and the food was pretty good, too! Our guide (Travis) did an excellent job of providing local history and making the whole trip fun, entertaining, and educational. We learned a lot, witnessed a pretty amazing sunset, and had plenty of time to view multiple celestial objects through one of the large and pricey telescopes provided and set up by MKSA near the visitor center. (One telescope for each of the two vans in the tour.) Well executed and highly recommended.
Written May 1, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Mary
4 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2020 • Family
We were able to go to the visitor center and do a 30 minute acclamation. (We are from Minnesota so we are used to cold.) it was about 20 degrees and very windy. Thought the doors of the Tahoe were going to fly off. Winds are about 80 mph.
Did not hang around for star gazing do to cold and the full moon out.
Written January 11, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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