Tour Summary: A stargazing journey from sea level to the nearly 14,000 foot summit of Maunakea reveals the wonders and world-class clarity of the Hawaiian night sky. This tour lets you see the sunset among some of the world's best telescopes and then takes you for a private star show at 9000 ft. with an 11” Celestron telescope.
- Enjoy a private picnic dinner at Historic Humuula Sheep Station, located at 7,000 feet elevation
- Your guide will share historic accounts of early travelers through the mountain lands
- Awe-inspiring sunset at the top of Maunakea, the highest point in the Pacific
- Stand amidst the world’s largest collection of research telescopes
- Sip hot chocolate during your private star show at 9,000 feet elevation with an 11” Celestron telescope
- During your tour the guide will take professional pictures of deep-space objects using a Stellina digital observation station (part camera, part observation station). These pictures will be sent to you after the tour!
- Small-group tour limited to a maximum of 12 guests per guide, ensuring a personalized experience with a naturalist guide
Important: Pregnant women and children under the age of 13 are not permitted on this tour. You also should not have scuba dived within 24 hours of the tour.
|(excluding taxes & fees)||$275|
Tour Provider: Hawaii Forest and Trail
Tour start time: Between ~1:30pm and 3pm
Duration: 7 to 8 hours
Departure from: Kailua Kona
Pick-up available? Yes! From several locations between the Hawaii Forest & Trail headquarters in Kona and the Gilbert Kahele Recreational Park on Saddle Road (including some Waikoloa resorts). More details available during the booking process during the "Where are you staying" step.
Included: Hooded parkas and gloves. Picnic style dinner, assorted teas, hot chocolate, and dessert
Cancellations: Customers will receive a full refund with 24 hours notice of cancellation. Private tours customers will receive a full refund with 72 hours notice of cancellation. Cancellations within the cancellation period and “no-shows” will be charged the FULL AMOUNT of the tour.
Read more: about stargazing on the Love Big Island website in our stargazing guide.
The Mauna Kea summit an stars stargazing tour takes you to the peak of Mauna Kea to see an amazing sunset from the tallest volcano on our planet, and afterwards to a private location for a professional stargazing experience.
Pickup and return
This tour depart from Kona between 1pm and 3pm (there are several pickup locations north of Kona towards MaunaKea). The 7 to 8 hour (round trip) tour will have you back in time for desert at your own place.
Picnic Dinner at a historic Hawiian ranch
During the tour you travel up Mauna Kea for a small-group sunset and stargazing tour by luxury 4WD van. Leave the off-road drive to the pros, and ride from Kona or Waikoloa to a historic Hawaiian ranch for a picnic dinner.
Sunset viewing at the Maunakea Summit
After dinner you continue to Mauna Kea (the Big Island’s tallest peak) for sunset. Mauna Kea is hands-down our favorite location in the state to see the sun set, as the combination of all the sunset colors with world-class telescopes, an ocean of clouds, and many volcanic tuft cones, is magical.
After sunset you head down the mountain to a dark and secluded location to observe constellations and hear commentary from your guide, while keeping warm with the provided jackets and hot chocolate.
Your guide brings two powerful telescopes for stargazing: an 11” Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and a Stellina Observation station. This latter telescope is part camera and part telescope and has an integrated camera that is used by your guide to take HD pictures of deep space objects. These pictures will be send to you by your guide after the tour as yet another souvenir of this unique experience.
Maunakea Summit & Stars Give Back Experience
For a limited time only the Mauna Kea Stars and Summit experience can be combined with an extra stop during which you are invited to “give back” to the island by helping out with conservation work at the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative!
This Give Back experience only takes place on Wednesdays and differs from the Mauna Kea Stars and Summit experience in the following ways:
- You depart 75 minutes earlier than the standard Mauna Kea Summit and Stars to make a 1 hour stop at a rare and endangered native dry forest habitat.
- Participate in some conservation work such as seed collection, while learning about The Waikoloa Dryforest Initiative and how they are revitalizing critical habitat.
- A portion of the proceeds from each guest is donated to the Waikoloa Dryforest Initiative to perpetuate their conservation work.
Why is the Mauna Kea Summit so special?
For astronomers Hawaiʻi is one of the best places of the world to observe the stars. There are many world-class observatories on the 4,207 m (13,802 ft) high summit, which looks so other worldly that is also used to simulate living on other planets for months at a time!
If you like looking at the stars or telescopes a visit to the Big Island is not complete without some serious stargazing. What better place to do so than on the highest volcano in the state?
From the summit you can see the sun dip below the clouds in a spectacular explosion of color, framed by (snowy) peaks, old volcanoes, and futuristic world class telescopes.
MaunaKea facts and trivia 🤩
MaunaKea erupted last more than 4000 years ago and is not considered an active volcano anymore. The MaunaKea summit is the highest point of the state of Hawaiʻi, 13.796 ft above sea level. There have even been glaciers on the volcano during colder periods!
The story of Maunakea gets better. Because the volcanoes on the Big Island are so heavy and because a large part of the volcanoes is hidden under water, MaunaKea is actually higher than Mount Everest. Measured from the base on the ocean floor MaunaKea rises over 10,000 m (33,000 ft) high!
Image credit for most images used on this page: Hawaii Forest & Trail.
Hawaii Forest & Trail is a highly respected local tour company that has operated on the Big Island since 1993. They have gained access to private and restricted lands and are widely recognized as a tour company that has passionate and knowledgeable interpretative guides, all of which translates into consistent stellar reviews from their past guests.
Hawaii Forest & Trail is fully certified by the Sustainable Tourism Association of Hawai’i. This means that their tours are eco-friendly, culturally educational and operate as sustainable as possible.
The HFT staff are picked to have strong academic backgrounds in biology, geology, Hawaiian culture and history, and extensive natural history field experience. It’s not enough for the guides to simply “know things”, they must also have a real passion for Hawaii’s natural world and enthusiasm for sharing it.
Giving back to the community
The vision of Hawaii Forest & Trail is to share the splendor of Hawai’i and inspire a deep connection with our natural world. They donate a small amount ($1 per guest) to a fund that makes donations to non-profit organizations whose mission and work aligns with at least one of the following criteria:
- benefits the conservation of Hawaii’s native ecosystems, species and landscapes.
- promulgates the understanding and practice of Hawaiian culture and the dissemination and understanding of Hawaii’s natural and cultural history.
- promotes and facilitates an appreciation and interaction with nature, especially programs that are youth oriented.
It is the intent of the fund to give preference to entities who are based or whose work is performed in the communities where they operate tours.
Now that the indoor mask mandate has been lifted and the Hawaii Safe Travels Program has been discontinued, Hawaii Forest & Trail takes the following steps to align with the new state requirements:
- Masks are no longer required indoors or inside vehicles.
- Guests are welcome to wear masks if they prefer while on tour.
- If guests display symptoms of illness on tour, i.e., sneezing, coughing, or not feeling well, they will be asked to wear a mask which will be provided by the guide.
- The guides may still may wear a mask if they are more comfortable wearing one.
- Guests must still complete a Health Questionnaire prior to their tour
Exception to the mask requirements:
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – Guests and Guides are required to wear a mask while in the vehicle when entering the park and inside any park facilities. Guests are not required to wear masks outside the vehicle or while they are driving to and from the park in the vehicle. This policy may change when the Federal Government updates their policy on April 18, 2022.
We are affiliate partners with Hawaii Forest and Trail meaning that we receive a percentage for each successful booking made through our website. This happens without any additional charge to you! (read more on the use of those links on our website here).
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