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“Mauna Kea Adventure”

Arnott's Lodge and Hiking Adventures
Ranked #7 of 40 Outdoor Activities in Hilo
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: Arnott's Lodge and Hiking Adventures is a unique and special place for people to spend their Hawaiian stay on the Big Island and take our tours. Our tours consists of Mauna Kea Sunset/Stargazing, Volcano National Park and Valleys and Waterfall Tours. We also do private and custom tours to cater to your needs. Arnott's Lodge and Hiking Adventures was established in 1990 and we continue to give our guests an experience they'll never forget. Take advantage of our discounted tours when you stay with us for a minimum of 1 night. We provide a place to pitch your tent, dormitories, semi-private units, suites, deluxe and deluxe suites.
Reviewed May 2, 2013

Visiting Mauna Kea is a must do adventure during your visit to the Big Island. We stayed in Volcano Village during our time on the Big Island and it was an easy 30 minute drive to Hilo. Arnott's Lodge is simple to find and the staff there was friendly. The front desk agent offered to charge my cell phone while we waitied for the tour to begin. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to travel from Hilo to Mauna Kea, so having someone to speak about the area was great! Our guides were exceptional. They were young, native Hawaiians that were able to speak well of the history, culture of the Big Island as well as the geological and astronomical elements we encountered on the volcano. One guide was a student at the University of Hawaii with a focus on Astronomy and the other was an archeologist who had native roots dating back to the first Hawaiian settlers. During the ride, they spoke about the town of Hilo as well as the surrounding areas, definitely info I would not have the chance to learn about any other way. We took a quick stop at Rainbow falls in Hilo, a beautiful waterfall. It was worth taking a tour up the volcano. The altitude changes quickly and the guides took various stops to ensure that the group was acclimated to the change. You can by granola bars and other snack items at the visitors center. Arnott’s does not provide dinner, but it is easy enough to grab sandwiches in Hilo prior to the tour departure. You can always go to Ken’s House of Pancakes after the tour.After a brief stop at the visitors center we continued up the volcano. Even if I rented a Jeep, I would not feel comfortable driving this road. It is unpaved, there are no lights, it is narrow (one vehicle at a time) and it is on the side of a mountain..need I say more? The van was comfortable and safe. I felt safer knowing that the guides do this on a weekly basis and are familiar with the ride.
Once at the summit, the guides discussed the telescopes and who owns them etc. They were able to point out other volcanoes and points of interest. Back in the van after sunset they provided hot cocoa which was a nice treat. I wore a long sleeved shirt and a north face fleece and was still a little cold. Be prepared, it is cold on the summit, sometime as low as 30 degrees. Arnott’s does offer jackets if needed, but I recommend wearing long pants, a long sleeved shirt and a winter hat for sure. Once the sun sets all vehicles are required to leave the summit, because any additional lights disrupt the telescopes. The sunset and view is breathtaking, it is like nothing I have ever seen anywhere else. The volcano also has a spiritual feeling when you are up there, it is difficult to describe, but you feel liberated from the daily hustle and bustle of life when you are up there. One of the highlights from our tour was the trip down. Again, driving this is scary…leave it to the professionals! We stopped at the visitor center to do some stargazing. The guides took us to a more remote spot that was away from all of the other tours. They really took their time explaining and mapping out different constellations. Our guide, who majors in astronomy, really shined and even did a little trivia with the group. The other guide then did his own star tour, discussing the Hawaiian constellations and how the original settlers made it to Hawaii by using celestial navigation. It was great to hear both versions and actually make our all of the constellations. This is really the place for star gazing. Both guides took their time and answered everyone’s questions. I think we were the last group to leave the visitor center. It makes a big difference when the guides are passionate about what they do! We retuned back to Arnott’s lodge around 10:30. This tour was one of the highlights of our visit to Hawaii. There are no bells and whistles with this tour, just passionate people that love what they do and love where they are from.

Thank giuliag1983
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
AlohaArnotts, Manager at Arnott's Lodge and Hiking Adventures, responded to this reviewResponded May 2, 2013

Aloha to our friends from Boston! Thank you for taking the time to write such a good review! Arnott’s Lodge provides a wide array of amazing tours, and we are indeed very easy to find. We have had experience in Mauna Kea adventures for 20 years! We are very proud of our awesome tour guides, and are glad to hear that you appreciated them as well. They all do an exceptional job and are incredibly knowledgeable about so many different subjects. We feel very fortunate to have them! Our Mauna Kea tour is definitely a must to experience. The views from the summit are absolutely breathtaking, and the Hawaiian history of the area is fascinating. Our stargazing is also incredible!

Mauna Kea can also be very hazardous. The road is indeed very narrow and rutted, and is often icy or even covered in snow. That is just one reason why it is a good idea to take a tour, rather than attempt the mountain yourself! Our guides will take good care of you on your adventure. We are very happy that you had such a great time and we hope that you get the chance to visit Hawaii, and Arnott’s Lodge and Hiking Adventures, again soon!

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"mauna kea sunset"
in 34 reviews
"stargazing tour"
in 24 reviews
"visitor center"
in 33 reviews
"crater hike"
in 14 reviews
"guide david"
in 5 reviews
"rainbow falls"
in 36 reviews
"the big island"
in 40 reviews
"laser pointer"
in 12 reviews
"spectacular sunset"
in 6 reviews
"star gaze"
in 7 reviews
"unpaved road"
in 4 reviews
"hot chocolate"
in 12 reviews
"excellent driver"
in 5 reviews
"star gazing tour"
in 4 reviews
"great guide"
in 12 reviews
"wheel drive"
in 11 reviews
"tour van"
in 4 reviews
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Reviewed April 8, 2013

Once in a life time adventure. If you are on the big island this is a must stop in Hilo. Arnott's Lodge and Hiking Adventures offers all different kinds of adventures. From the small budget to the world traveler. They will take you to the volcano's, the water falls, state parks and more.
We choose the Mauna Kea Star Glazing Trip. WOW this is something all should see. You must be over 16 to go to the top because of altitude issues. But let me tell you this is worth every penny.
We were picked up by our two guides, one that is a Astronomy student at the University of Hawaii and the other a Cultural Anthropology student at the university. Together their knowledge in Hawaii history was amazing. Up 14,000 feet to the top of the world!
What a site to see. You are above the clouds and as you sit and watch the sunset over the top of Maui it is spectacular. AS the sun sets you head back to the visitor center at 9,000 feet for the most beautiful star glazing any where on earth. The talk that our guides gave was full of history, astronomy and even what the Hawaiians call the same star formations in Hawaiian.
This was one trip I will never forget.

Thank Sandy T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
AlohaArnotts, Manager at Arnott's Lodge and Hiking Adventures, responded to this reviewResponded April 27, 2013

Aloha to our friends from California, and mahalo for the awesome review! We are glad you had such a good time with our tours! Our tour guides are always amazing and knowledgeable, and we take great pride in their abilities! We offer many different tours, including trips to Volcanoes National Park, Mauna Kea, and a great tour to see the beautiful Valleys and Waterfalls in the area. We also often do customized tours at our guests’ request! We have 20 years of experience in running adventures to Mauna Kea, and it has paid off in having great tours for our guests that they will remember for many years to come.

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Reviewed February 23, 2013

We booked for the Mauna Kea Sunset & Stars tour in February. We met at Arnotts lodge for 2:45 to start the tour at 3pm.

The 4 wheel drive mini bus provided was very comfortable and our tour guide was David who was very knowledgeable of the local area.

On the way to Mauna Kea we had a small tour of Hilo which was very informative and then a stop at Rainbow Falls for 10/15 minutes. To be honest we would have rather skipped the rainbow falls stop (as we had already been and it's not what we paid for) to get to the Mauna Kea summit 10/15 minutes earlier.

We stopped at the visitor centre to get used to the altitude for around 30 minutes before starting the ascent to the summit, David did a great job of driving us there and there were some really good views along the way.

We got to the summit around 30 mins before sunset but as we wanted to take photos and look around it was all a bit of a rush, we could have done with an extra 10/15 minutes to take it all in before the sun actually started setting. There are a lot of observatories and the view is pretty amazing. Pretty much as soon as the sun has set you board the bus and start the descent back to the visitor centre. Take some extra layers as it is very cold, gloves are good too.

At the visitor centre David gave us a tour of the stars, Arnotts do not do this with a telescope but use a laser to point out the constellations, planets etc (which we preferred). David was once again very knowledgeable in this area and pointed out some really interesting stars for us. The stars here are pretty spectacular, they are very clear and you see parts of constellations that you haven't seen before. You can get to the visitor centre in your own car, the road is paved, it's from the visitor centre to the summit you need the 4 wheel drive - hence having to pay a tour company pretty much just for the ride. We saw the moon through the visitor centre telescope and it was amazing.

We got back to Hilo around 9pm.

We did enjoy the whole Mauna Kea experience but again would have liked a few more minutes before sunset (not stopping at Rainbow Falls), a lot of companies seem to ascend to the summit and to be honest they all really arrive and depart at similar times (they have to depart after sunset to limit the amount of light emitted). If you have your own 4 wheel drive you could set the timetable. Some of the other tour companies offer dinner but from what we saw it's just a TV dinner that's heated up in the microwave at the visitor centre.

It is an expensive trip for what you get (the ride to the mountain from Hilo and the tour guides time), as I've done it once I'm not sure I would pay to do it again. I would go to the visitor centre again though (under my own steam) to see the stars.

Thank y0dagreen
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
AlohaArnotts, Owner at Arnott's Lodge and Hiking Adventures, responded to this reviewResponded March 30, 2013

Aloha to our friend from England!! Thanks for the comprehensive review as it enables us to respond to some of your points which may benefit other readers. First, to address the price of the tour. We do offer a considerable discount to people who stay at least 2 nights at our #2 Trip Advisor rated Arnott's Lodge in Hilo. Next, the reason we visit Rainbow Falls is that many of our guests have come to Hilo and our lodge specially for this tour and our Volcano National Park Tour and would not otherwise see this waterfall. You mentioned that you would rather spent the time at the summit and the reason why most operators spend just the time surrounding sunset which seem brief to you is that with any increase in exposure people start to suffer from oxygen deprivation and this rises dramatically after half an hour to 45 minutes.

We are very pleased that you enjoyed David's STAR SHOW as we went through the telescope phase years ago and realized that 14 people standing in a line in the freezing cold was not a good idea when there's an AMAZING sky overhead begging to be interpreted for you. David knows the schedule of the space station and every major zodiac sign making it an exciting experience.

Thanks for choosing Arnott's Lodge & Hiking Adventures for your Mauna Kea Adventure. Aloha

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Reviewed December 30, 2012

I'm from Houston I really enjoyed Arnott's Lodge Tour of Mauna Kea back in September.

Their bans are comfortable. These are 4x4 so they can go up to the summit without problems.
They don't provide dinner, but that was no problem for me since I grabbed take-out at one of the excellent Hilo restaurants. I really liked the explanations during the tour of our guide Sunny. He is very knowledgeable about astronomy and botany and some engineering -having worked at one of the observatories in Mauna Kea. So if you if you are a tech/science geek you would enjoy a tour with him.

P.S. - The majority of rental companies would not let you drive up in their cars (check the rental agreement)

Thank NoliHtown
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
AlohaArnotts, Owner at Arnott's Lodge and Hiking Adventures, responded to this reviewResponded March 30, 2013

Aloha to our friends from Houston!! Thanks for the great review. We do select and train our guides very carefully and where ever possible they have knowledge of some important aspect of Mauna Kea before we hire them.

You are correct that we don't offer dinner, as we find that it is far more practical to give a slight discount compared to other companies and to encourage guests to bring their own food or purchase food from the ever expanding range available at the Visitor Center.

Thanks for mentioning that most rental car companies ban taking their vehicles up Mauna Kea. As there are 20% grades and an extremely poor 4 mile section of unpaved washboard surface which frequently throws up large rocks which can burst tires and break transmissions on low slung regular vehicles. Also many people suffer from various degrees of oxygen deprivation and as you are aware we carry oxygen in case a guest needs it.

We are happy that you enjoyed our Mauna Kea Adventure with us. We hope that you will stay and take advantage of other tours in the future. Aloha

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Reviewed December 29, 2012

We booked our trip through the cruise. They had told us it was "all newlyweds" who had booked and there would only be 12 people on our tour. So, we weren't impressed when we saw a ton of elderly people and a group of about 25, but when I said that we had paid for a smaller trip, the Arnott's guide put another group forward and put us on the smaller trip.

We ended up being part of a group of 13, including two other couples, and a family with 5 sons (such an amazing family, we really enjoyed our time with them!)

We had such a great experience, words and pictures really can't do it justice. Our guide, Macca (sp?) was knowledgeable, fun and engaging. The sites were breathtaking, the ride comfortable, we'd do it again in a heartbeat- though we'd try to book it online instead of through the cruise if we'd had more time to plan ahead- the cruise ship builds in a fee for themselves of course so it brings up costs.

Thank Jessika R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
AlohaArnotts, Owner at Arnott's Lodge and Hiking Adventures, responded to this reviewResponded March 30, 2013

Aloha to our friends from Canada!! Mahalo for the great review!! While fate obviously played a role in your tour with the family, we train our guides to work with the guests to provide the best environment possible. As you mentioned booking the tour online we must caution that the cruise line usually has all the best tours under contract and we are obligated to only do the cruise sponsored tours on the day they are in port. Many people do not realize the pains the cruiselines go to enforce high standards among their accredited operators. We look forward to seeing you when you return to the island independently as we have other great tours for you to do. Aloha

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