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“A definate must do!”
Review of Mauna Kea Summit

Mauna Kea Summit
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Ranked #2 of 137 things to do in Kailua-Kona
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Owner description: At 13,796 feet, this peak offers an incredible view of lava, desert, the valley and Mauna Loa.
Reviewed July 18, 2013

If you want to go to the top of the mountain (almost 14,000 ft), get there before 6pm, in the summer! I had no idea sunset was around 7:30pm or so in July. The park ranger at the visitor's center (around 9,000 ft) will not let you go up to the top if you get there after 6pm he told us. Reason being the car lights interfere with the observeratories at the top. He highly recommended we come back though. Next time! The visitor's center is still cool though! There is a great site mountain that you can hike up a few hundred yards to get a great sunset over the clouds. I read on this site that you need to stay at the visitor's center to acclimate to the altitude, and that is definately correct. Right before the visitor's center I started to have a slight headache and felt a little light headed. Walking even makes you a little short of breath and I'm a fit male in my 30's. They say drink water and eat sweets to help. It did, after about 40 min. I also read on this site do not go to the top of the mountain without a 4 wheel drive vehicle; that's rediculous. Just go! it's not that bad. But make sure coming down the mountain you know how to put your car in low gears to save your brakes. Even though we didn't get to go to the top the trip to the visitor's center was still awesome. Driving our Jeep rental, top down, very neat views, listening to an awesome radio station 102.7, and driving through the clouds was one of the coolest experiences of our entire hawaiian trip! But it got so cold we had to put the top back on our jeep. Since we couldn't go to the top of the mountain we chilled out at the visitor's center. The inside is mostly for kids, but outside we got to look through the large telescopes the amatures always have set up. Got to see Saturn and all of it's rings, plus a neat galaxy with billions of little stars. When it got completely dark, one of the volunteers gives a very interesting hour long talk (with a laser pointer) about all of the stars, the milky way, planets, constellations, navigation, etc. One thing I learned during the talk is that viewing the stars at the visitor's center is actually better than if you were at the top because there is more atmosphere (80% vs 60% at the top). Turns out you need oxygen to see stars with your naked eye. When we first got to the visitor's center about 30 min before sunset it was 58 degrees, when we left it was about 45 degrees. It was July 7th.

3  Thank Dalas B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed July 18, 2013

Our visit to Mauna Kea was one of many highlights of our two week dream family trip (mom, dad, teenage daughter) to the Big Island. The saddle road was not nearly as difficult to drive as we'd been led to believe (hwy 180 around Kailua-Kona and our daily commute up and down the Napo'opo'o Road to Kealakekua Bay were much more challenging). The visitor centre was a wonderful source of information: the best path to experience sunset above the clouds, the 1/2 dozen telescopes set up and reset to different planets, clusters, etc. and a wonderful star show after dark. It was bloody cold and windy up there though. We so-called hearty Canadians were freezing in jeans and sweatshirts. Definitely needed head and hands covered but it was worth it to be on top of the world for a couple more hours.

1  Thank MNToronto
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 15, 2013

There is a paved road from Hilo or Kona over the 'saddle' and up to the public 'observatory' building/shop at about 10,000ft. It is a much better road from Hilo.The climb up is steep in parts but very straightforward.The road turns to crushed lava rock from the public observatory up to the summit (steep in parts) where there is again a paved road around the telescopes.
We hired an SUV from Harpers which is permitted to travel up to the top. The issue apparently is brakes overheating on the way down - due to the thin air and the constant descent. You need to use engine braking..so a manual gearshift would be ideal. The altitude did make the engine behave strangely - hardly surprising as we also felt a bit odd at 14,000 ft. It was cold and windy - we wore ski jackets - but very beautiful looking out over the island and to the north we could see other islands in the Hawaiian chain. We passed through cloud on the way up but it was clear and sunny at the top. There is also a public viewing room at the SE end of the Keck Telescope(s). Well worth the visit. That's the largest of the telescopes.

1  Thank Bruce H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 15, 2013

We drove our rental car to the summit, but would hesitate to recommend anyone doing this without knowing the risks (loss of rental insurance, very steep and windy road). The view of the sunset behind the Keck Observatory was "other-worldly". We stopped at the Visitor Center on the way back down, and enjoyed free viewing of planets, stars and galaxies through about a dozen different telescopes. It was a childhood dream come true! It was cold and windy at the top, and got colder as the night went on. There was hot chocolate available for $1 while we watched the stars. Awesome.

Thank Colin K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 14, 2013

Must visit. Be there by around 7 to see it in day light and at around 8, it gets dark and the astronomy gurus have a show and tell which is very very very good.

Thank rraghus
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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