Let the world know what you think

Mauna Kea Summit Adventures

Hawaii, United States

Hawaii, United States
View Map
Overall Experience: 7 / 10
Date Visited: Friday, May 16, 2008

Mauna Kea Summit Adventures is one company (of many) that offers tours up to the summit of Mauna Kea, and night-time star gazing. The road up to the summit of Mauna Kea is not fully paved and a 4x4 is required to drive on it. Most rental car companies will not allow you to drive rental cars there.

Mauna Kea Summit Adventures has a number of pick up locations where visitors can join the tour. In Kona, the pick up location is at the Buns In The Sun restaurant.

The most important thing to note about the tour is that if there is a moon, your ability to see the stars will be severely decreased. If you're going on the tour for star gazing, make sure you book the tour during the time of month when the moon is not out. If the moon is shining, you will have the same view from up the mountain as you do from any brightly lit city. This was a big disappointment to our group.

Although the tours are occasionally canceled due to poor weather, they can often predict the poor weather in advance. Since there are so many professional observatories on the summit, they have pretty good weather forecasts.

Overall, I didn't think this tour was all that special. There were some other groups that stopped higher up on the mountain, and they may have had a better view. I was quite disappointed in the star view, but that's the moon's fault. If I were to do this tour again, I would make sure to go when the moon isn't visible.

Tour Itinerary

Our tour started at 3:00pm, when we were picked up from the Buns In The Sun restaurant. Our tour guide narrated our drive to the summit. The bus was fairly nice, and held 13 people plus the driver. One member of our group was on crutches, but everyone managed without any problems.

The road was quite a bit better than the road to Haleakala. We stopped once at 3:50pm, and again at 4:10pm, before making it to the visitors center at 5:05pm.

At the visitors center, we had a few minutes to look around, use the bathrooms, and eat dinner. A couple of dinner choices were available, but at the time of booking, we chose the chicken option. From what we saw, it looked like the best.

The chicken dinner had a lot of meat. Unfortunately, it didn't have much flavor. The rice was also very bland, but the soya sauce helped with that. There were a few tiny chunks of pineapple that added some flavor. That was a nice touch. The dinner also came with a brownie for dessert - it was delicious.

The visitors center looked quite good - it had some neat videos and informational display boards. Unfortunately, we didn't get much time to spend there. We departed the visitors center at 5:55pm, and drove to the summit. There, our guide told us the names of some of the telescopes, and we had the opportunity to watch the sun set, and some of the telescopes open. That was definitely a neat experience.

The summit is located at 14,000 feet. Mauna Kea is actually the tallest mountain in the world (measuring from base to peak), although it is not the highest. Being on the summit was a really neat experience. We were high above the clouds, and the view was really unique. It looked like we were in some sort of space landscape.

It was quite cold at the summit, but the provided coats and gloves helped keep us warm. It was really impressive to see the huge telescopes up close, and even more impressive when the telescopes started moving and opening.

The lower air pressure on the top of the mountain didn't give any member of our group any noticeable discomfort. Nobody engaged in any physical activity, but even going for short walks got a little bit tiring.

We stayed on the summit of the mountain until 7:30pm, when it was starting to get a bit darker. We then drove back to the visitors center for a bathroom break. That took 30 minutes. At 8:15pm, we left the visitors center, and proceeded to go down the mountain a bit further for our star viewing.

I was very disappointed in the nighttime visibility. We really couldn't see any more stars than we could in a populated, bright city. It was a big disappointment the moon was so big and bright. I thought that we should have gotten a nighttime discount.

The star gazing experience consisted of our guide pointing out a couple constellations, and allowing us to look at a few neat phenomenon in the sky (such as a cluster of stars, alpha and beta centauri, a dual star, a globular cluster, Saturn and the moon). Since there were a lot of people in our group, we really only got about 5-10 seconds to look at each object in the sky. The telescope was good enough that we could see the rings around Saturn, and the space between the rings.

For me, the neatest thing was being able to see the Southern Cross. It would have been awesome to see what the night sky looked like without the moon. The moon was so bright that I was able to write this review in a notebook using just the moonlight.

When we finished the star gazing, each member of the group was given one hot beverage (we chose hot chocolate), and a cookie. We boarded the bus again at 9:30pm, and headed back to our pick-up location.


It is freezing cold (often below freezing) on the summit of the mountain. Fortunately, Mauna Kea provides warm coats and gloves to wear. These are quite helpful, but make sure to wear warm pants and shoes.


The Mauna Kea Summit Adventure tour costs $197 after tax.

Estimated Visiting Time

This is really a 7-8 hour event. We were picked up at 3pm, and made it back close to 11:00pm.

review contents

Tour Itinerary
Estimated Visiting Time

related reviews

More reviews in Hawaii, United States


Been here? Want to write your own review of this attraction?

Review this attraction

linked reviews

Buns In The Sun
Haleakala National Park