Stargazing Experience You Are Looking for on the Big Island

The Big Island has so many bucket list experiences, this is one of them.

Summary: You will journey from sea level to the nearly 14,000-foot summit of Maunakea to reveal the wonders and world-class clarity of the Hawaiian night sky. Depart in the afternoon for a 7 to 8-hour experience to the top of the world (it feels like it) for world-class stargazing with an interpretative guide.

Mauna Kea Summit & Stars Highlights

  • Duration: 7 to 8-hours roundtrip journey
  • Rated: easy to moderate, ages 16+
  • Max group size is 12
  • Enjoy a warm picnic dinner at our private location and learn about Hawaiian star navigation
  • Learn about the historical accounts of early travelers through the mountain regions
  • Delight in the awe-inspiring Hawaiian sunset at the top of Mauna Kea, the highest point in the Pacific
  • Descend to a lower elevation after the sun sets and sip hot chocolate during a private star show with our 11” Celestron telescope
  • Three Pickup Locations: Tour departs from Hawaii Forest and Trails Headquarters (click for directions, 12-minutes north of Kailua-Kona), Waikoloa Queens’ Marketplace (click for directions), and Island Lava Java (click for directions) in Waikoloa Village Shopping Center.

Please read the restrictions and FAQ carefully before booking this experience. The biggest disappointment for attendees on this tour is the weather and moon. Stargazing depends on both so read below to understand the risks.

This tour fills up fast so book early and coordinate with the phase of the moon. Even a crescent moon will reduce the visibility of the cosmos. Check moon phases here for Hawaii. Weather is the biggest issue.

What if it’s cloudy on Mauna Kea? The summit and visitor center areas of Maunakea are generally above the clouds. Due to the high demand for this experience and the constraints of their permit, they are often unable to reschedule guests when cancellations occur. Therefore they try to avoid canceling tours if they can safely reach the visitor’s center and/or summit. Conditions constantly change on the mountain, and the weather is part of the adventure.

Mauna Kea Summit & Stars Tour

The journey from sea level to the nearly 14,000-foot summit of Mauna Kea reveals the wonders and world-class clarity of the Hawaiian night sky.

Schedule and Pickup Locations: The tour departs in the early afternoon. Trips depart daily from Hawaii Forest & Trail Headquarters in Kona, Queens’ Marketplace in Waikoloa Beach Resort, and Island Lava Java (click for directions) located in the Waikoloa Village Shopping Center. The total tour time is 7 – 8 hours, round trip.

Time: Tour is approx.  7-8 hours. Travel time round-trip is approx. 3.5 hours from Waikoloa resorts
Restrictions: Weather changes can occur quickly, and the access road to the summit can close without warning; therefore we cannot guarantee access to the summit or favorable conditions. Guests should be able to walk on uneven or rocky terrain. The temperature can dip below freezing when at high elevations on the mountain. They sometimes encounter cold, wet, or muddy conditions. Due to the high altitude, this tour is not advised for those with respiratory, circulatory, or heart conditions, pregnancy, or poor health. If you plan to scuba dive, do not plan to go to the summit within 24 hours after you dive due to the altitude. No children under 16. Other tour restrictions may apply – please contact Hawaii Forest and Trail at 808.331.8505 for more information.

Erica and I are big fans of Hawaii Forest and Trail for their types of tours and knowledgeable guides. Check out these other tours they offer. 

The Stargazing Tour Includes the Following:

  • Picnic style dinner
  • Assorted teas
  • Hot chocolate
  • Dessert

Hawaii Forest & Trail Provides the Following Gear:

They provide warm wear including, hooded parkas and gloves. A reusable water bottle may be available for purchase.

FAQs: Mauna Kea Summit & Stars Tour

  1. Are guests allowed to go into the observatories? There are currently no observatories open to the public.
  2. How cold is it at the summit of Mauna Kea? The average mean temperature is 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 Celsius.
  3. Is the vehicle ride bumpy and windy? For safety reasons the access road to the summit of Mauna Kea requires a four-wheel drive, so it can be bumpy. Our custom off-road motor coaches will get you to the top and back as comfortably as possible.
  4. What kind of telescope is used for stargazing? They utilize an 11” Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope.
  5. What is the guide to guest ratio? Our maximum guide to guest ratio is 1:14.
  6. How many guests do you take up per night? Their permit allows for a maximum of 2 vehicles per night, and our vehicles carry a maximum of 14 passengers each.
  7. Do you go up to Mauna Kea summit every night? We go every night, weather permitting.
  8. Are children allowed on this tour? Children under 16 are not permitted on this tour due to altitude.
  9. Is there much walking/hiking on this tour? There is minimal walking on this tour, the maximum being about 150 yards.
  10. I would like to see a specific astronomical event from the summit. How can I arrange this? Check out  Bishop Museum – Astronomy for upcoming celestial events, and whether they will be observable in the Hawaiian sky.
  11. Will there be snow on our trip? Snow is seasonal at Mauna Kea, with the heaviest snowfall occurring during the winter months.
  12. What if it’s cloudy on Mauna Kea? The summit and visitor center areas of Maunakea are generally above the clouds. Due to the high demand for this experience and the constraints of their permit, they are often unable to reschedule guests when cancellations occur. Therefore they try to avoid canceling tours if they can safely reach the visitor’s center and/or summit. Conditions constantly change on the mountain, and the weather is part of the adventure.
  13. Can I join the tour from Hilo? This tour only departs from Kona; the dinner location does not allow private vehicle parking, and there is no safe and legal place for you to leave your vehicle along Saddle Road late at night. Additionally, their permit does not allow guests to meet them at the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Center.
best stargazing tour Hawaii big island

About Hawaii Forest and Trail Team

Try to find another tour company with better reviews than Hawaii Forest and Trail. Even their sister company, Kohala Zipline, knocks it out of the park with reviews and A+ experience. We trust them with your Island of Hawaii vacation.

Rob Pacheco has a passion for the natural world of Hawaii. It is a passion that began almost as soon as he stepped off the plane here in 1990 and quickly realized that these islands contain diverse and unique ecosystems rivaling any place on earth.

Because of its isolation in the middle of the Pacific and its volcanic geology, Rob realized that Hawaii is a place unparalleled for studying evolutionary biology, extinction, endangered species, and conservation. It is a place where the fundamental lessons of creation and earth sciences could be seen, experienced, and understood.

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At the same time Pacheco, who had worked as a naturalist on the mainland, concluded most residents and visitors were only seeing Hawaii’s beautiful scenery and had little knowledge of Hawaii’s natural history. Pacheco decided to combine his passion with a vision: to share his passion for natural history with others and to help conserve Hawaii’s endangered environment by educating them about it. It was a vision that fit well with the growing worldwide interest in eco-tourism. Soon thereafter, and with the help of his wife Cindy whom he had met in Kona, the idea for Hawaii Forest & Trail was born.

One of the integral ideas the Pachecos instituted was to establish partnerships with private landowners that would allow tours to places with wild and remote native ecosystems that had been previously inaccessible. Hawaii Forest & Trail is one of the few tour companies allowed access to private lands and controlled-access wildlife refuges.

Another important element Pacheco built into Hawaii Forest & Trail was the practice of having knowledgeable and qualified guides. In 1993, when Hawaii Forest & Trail began offering its first adventures, Pacheco was “the only guide” for every trip.

Since then he has built up a team of guides with 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.

Book online directly with Hawaii Forest and Trail by using this link.

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