Myself and my partner drove up to Mauna Kea summit on a weekday afternoon. Had read a lot of discussion about organized tours, lethally dangerous roads etc..... My take on it as below:
Road: Is steep for sure, but HAS been graded and although its not 'made road' its a long way from a mountain track. Unless your only driving experience has been giant freeways then this ISNT a challenging drive. We had a Nissan SUV, was 4x4 but really didn't need to be- a Camaro convertible joined us at the summit. Its less about the car and just about driving sensibly and to the conditions- if you ride the brakes for 8 miles then you will cook them.... Low range on the automatic box is helpful.
Views and the Summit: Absolutely breathtaking- like a 360 degree version of outside the airline window. We went up in late afternoon, got sunset and stargazing on the way down. Was cloud at about 8k but cleared as we climbed. Yes, its cold....windchill brings it way down and you WILL need a coat and long trousers. Japanese tour groups going up looked like they were heading for Everest....its not that bad, think cold windy European winter......
Visitor Centre: Limited and a bit busy (especially after dark)- staff friendly but would not go out of my way to ONLY go there. Big telescopes set up after darkness, stars crystal clear even without them.
Definitely an experience Id recommend overall, be sensible, don't pay 200 bucks for an 8 hour tour, head up yourself and enjoy the experience.
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