Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea: Our most recommended tours and activities

Mauna Kea: Summit Sunset & Stargazing Trip with Photo

1. Mauna Kea: Summit Sunset & Stargazing Trip with Photo

Get your photos taken by the stars during this sunset and stargazing adventure on the summit of Mauna Kea. Learn about the area from your guide as you sip on hot chocolate and eat snacks. Choose from pickup and drop-off options at several locations.  Delight in the awe-inspiring sunset at the top of Mauna Kea, the highest point in the Pacific. Get cozy with a parka, gloves, and hot drink as you learn historic accounts of Hawaii, the Big Island, from your guide. Stand amidst the world’s largest collection of research telescopes and see two of the eight telescopes which took the first photo of a black hole. Enjoy your very own private star show with a Celestron telescope. Capture your experience forever with photos taken by your guide on a DSLR camera. Get emailed these photos after your experience. After your unforgettable evening with the stars, depart back to your pickup location for drop-off.

Mauna Kea: Stargazing Experience with Free Photos

2. Mauna Kea: Stargazing Experience with Free Photos

Explore a secluded stargazing spot on the slopes of Mauna Kea. Stargazing on this summit has never been allowed for any individual or tour group; all other tours do their stargazing on the side of a busy road near the highway, but this tour allows you access to a remote spot located miles from any highway.  Head to the meeting point and grab a parka jacket. Hear about this unique spot from your guide, as they use a green laser to point out constellations, planets, space objects, and hopefully some fast-moving shooting stars. Your guide will also take some photos of the best objects in the night sky with an astro-modified camera/lens for you to check out later. Next comes everyone's favorite part; have some fun posing for astro-photos with the stars in the background. 2-3 photos taken during the experience will be sent to you after the trip. Look back on these photos, touched up with Lightroom photo-editing at no extra cost.

Hilo: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Waterfalls Flight

3. Hilo: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Waterfalls Flight

Take a helicopter ride over ever-changing scenery at Volcano National Park with this tour from Hilo. Journey over black sand beaches where lava once flowed into the sea. Take off from Hilo and fly directly to Volcano National Park. See the caldera of the Kilauea volcano. Admire the Pu'uo'o' volcanic cone. Snap pictures of the massive volcanos Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Discover new lava fields that are forming and go over old lava fields. View how waterfalls create a deep blue pools amid jungle greenery.

Mauna Kea: Stellar Explorer Tour from Hilo

4. Mauna Kea: Stellar Explorer Tour from Hilo

Visit Rainbow Falls and the Kaumana Caves before heading to your stargazing location. Travel across Saddle Road between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, 2 of the tallest and biggest volcanoes on Earth. To complete your tour, your guide will take you to one of the preferred locations on Mauna Kea for nighttime stargazing. Observe the deep sky and planetary objects through a large aperture telescope, under one of the darkest and most pristine skies on planet Earth. Enjoy narration from expert astronomers, who have written articles for well-known magazines and worked at world-class observatories for decades. The telescopes are a true purist way to view the night sky. Their fast focal ratio enables you to see sprawling wide-field views of objects that are simply not possible with other telescopes.  Weather permitting and depending on what is visible in the current sky, you can observe galaxies, nebula, star clusters, planets, double star systems, the moon, and much more.

MaunaKea Stellar Explorer From Kona

5. MaunaKea Stellar Explorer From Kona

For an out-of-this-world experience, check out Maunakea Stellar Explorer. The in-house stellar explorers are the best and most experienced in Hawaii, with one having created the Mauna Kea Visitor’s Center and operated it for a decade. Staff have written noted articles and reviews for well-known astronomy magazines and have worked at world-class observatories. Next, you’ll travel across Saddle Road between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, two of the tallest and most massive volcanoes on Earth. Your National Park Service trained guide will discuss the volcanology, geology, and history of these monstrous wonders, as well as providing in-depth narration on the various lava flows and flora and fauna that you’ll be passing by. While you’re taking in the breathtaking terrestrial views, your guide will prepare some heavenly views just as stunning. Setting up a state of the art solar telescope for your viewing pleasure, your specially trained guide will let you safely watch the sun come alive in true color with vibrant solar flares, sunspots, prominences, and any other current activity, weather permitting. Lastly, your guide will take you to one of the preferred locations on Mauna Kea for nighttime stargazing. You’ll observe deep sky and planetary objects through a large aperture Dobsonian telescope under one of the darkest and most pristine skies on planet Earth. The Dobsonian telescopes are a true purist’s experience to view the night sky. Their fast focal ratio enables you to see sprawling wide field views of objects that simply aren’t possible with the types of telescopes used by other tours. Depending on what is visible in the current sky and weather permitting, you’ll observe galaxies, nebula, star clusters, planets, double star systems, the moon, and much more; all the highlights and showpiece objects like you’ve never seen before. 

Big Island: Kona Experience Hawaii Helicopter Tour

6. Big Island: Kona Experience Hawaii Helicopter Tour

Enjoy a true Hawaii experience with a premier helicopter adventure. You can explore all five volcanoes, hidden white and black sand beaches, lush waterfalls which cascade down 2,000-foot valley walls, breathtaking coastlines and 11 different climate zones. Hawaii is the largest of the islands, and thanks to Kīlauea and Mauna Loa, it’s still growing. Upon departure from Kona Airport, you will fly over the world-famous Kona coffee district and the slopes of Hualālai and Mauna Loa. You can learn about the unique history, geology, and culture of the "big island" through a special two-way communication system that lets you ask questions and get to you know your pilot. Arriving over Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you’ll start the hunt for red-hot lava at Kīlauea, the world’s most active volcano, and continue around the Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō Vent. In winter, you’ll see snow atop Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. You can also watch for the sun glinting off the handful of astronomical observatories positioned on Mauna Kea, where scientists have the best earthbound views of the universe. Afterwards, you will head toward toward East Hawaii’s lush rainforests and the incomparable Kohala valleys. The views here are so spectacular that even the pilots, who see them on a daily basis, often say this area is their favorite hidden gem to share with visitors and guests. Rounding out your trip, you’ll enjoy a birds-eye view of iconic beaches, including Hāpuna Beach and Kua Bay, consistently voted as some of the best beaches in the world.

Big Island: Self-Drive Sightseeing Road Trip

7. Big Island: Self-Drive Sightseeing Road Trip

Explore Hawaii’s youngest and largest island and change the way you see the Big Island with this narrated, self-drive road trip. Visit historic sites, popular attractions, world-class beaches, and scenic hikes. Hear local stories, legends, and fun facts about the places you’re visiting and listen to unique Hawaiian music to entertain and relax you along the way. Drive across barren lava fields that are wedged between two active volcanoes. Visit a black sand beach and taste Hawaiian coffee and macadamia nuts on local farms. Be adventurous and go cliff diving or take advantage of the beautiful nature and take a scenic hike. See the tallest mountain in Hawaii at night for the ultimate stargazing experience. This adventure is great for families and solo travelers alike.

From Kona: Elite Volcano Hike

8. From Kona: Elite Volcano Hike

Explore Hawaii’s explosive side on foot with this tour. First, travel across Saddle Road between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, two of the tallest and biggest volcanoes on Earth. Learn more about the volcanology, geology, and history of these wonders from your National Park Service certified guide and enjoy an in-depth narration of the various lava flows and flora and fauna that you pass by. Afterward, explore Kaumana Caves, part of the lava tube system that brought lava as close as 1.5 miles from downtown Hilo in 1881 and take a peek inside the dramatic cathedral-like space. Next, head to Mackenzie State Recreation Area, where the historic eruption took place in 2018. Take a hike along the now-closed highway, and then follow the lava flow through the pine forest to the altered coastline and cliffs overlooking the new black sand beach. Afterward, head to Isaac Hale Beach Park. Be sure to check out the boat launch ramp, now sitting in a pond cut off from the ocean by a berm of lava and don’t forget to look for steam still rising from the cooling lava as you drive across it before stopping for a picnic-style lunch. Next travel to the crown jewel, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Briefly visit the Kilauea Iki Overlook before heading off on foot down the paved road to Keanakakoi. Get a birds-eye view of the Kilauea Caldera and the enormous Halema’uma’u Crater. Pass by the famous Sulphur Banks, through ancient forests of tree ferns, and look for native bird species and incredible rock slides. Enjoy some dinner after your sightseeing.

High Country Private 4x4 Adventure with Sunset Dinner

9. High Country Private 4x4 Adventure with Sunset Dinner

Hidden, Rare and Unique: A One of a Kind Adventure! Discover the natural beauty of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea on this 4x4 adventure day trip. Look for rare plants and birds in Mauna Kea forest reserve with your naturalist guide. Admire views of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on a sunset picnic.  Be picked up from the comfort of your accommodation and hop aboard a comfortable, fully customized, Toyota Sequoia that truly is a rugged yet luxurious 4X4 adventure vehicle. Travel on a road built through lava flows in a Martian-like landsacpe as you explore the northern flank of the largest volcano on earth, Mauna Loa. Take in the sights of from the Mauna Loa Observatory which has been recording atmospheric changes since the 1950’s and boasts the longest record of direct measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere. Explore the rare and lesser known high elevation dry forest around the slopes of Mauna Kea volcano. Search for the endangered and endemic Hawaiian Honey creeper the Palila (Loxioides bailleui), the last finch-billed honey creeper in the main Hawaiian Islands. Witness other rare and endemic birds such as the Hawai‘i ‘Amakihi, ‘Apapane, Hawaiian hawk, and the Hawaiian short-eared owl. Hawaii has some of the best birding opportunities in the world due to the evolution of the islands and the presence of the rare bird species. Go for a guided walk through the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve and learn about the unique plants and animals found in the area. Get a better view of birds with the use of provided Nikon ProStaff binoculars. Marvel at Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa as you enjoy a delicious picnic dinner in the sub-alpine dry forest. Stargaze with a top-of-the-line Vaonis Stellina telescope at a private location before returning to your accommodation.

Kailua-Kona: Volcano and Kohala Landing Helicopter Tour

10. Kailua-Kona: Volcano and Kohala Landing Helicopter Tour

See the immense beauty of Kailua-Kona on Hawaii’s Big Island. Depart from Kona International Airport for a helicopter tour over the Kona coffee district and towards Kohala. Explore the mountains with a special landing after skirting 3 towering volcanoes: Hualālai, Mauna Kea, and Mauna Loa. Venture into the area surrounding Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to hunt out any current lava activity and see historic flows frozen in time. Sweep north to Hilo town and the lush rainforests of the east. Notice how the windward side of the island is transformed by the water caught by the mountains. Next, disembark deep in Kohala and walk the same fertile valleys that Hawaii’s King Kamehameha the Great did as a child. Learn about local legends, culture, and diverse wildlife in an area normally only accessible by hours of hiking. After exploring on the ground, take to the air again to view the drastic landscape change from windward to leeward, and see world-famous white-sand beaches and resorts on the route back to Kona.

Other Sightseeing Options in Mauna Kea

Want to discover all there is to do in Mauna Kea? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Mauna Kea

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 163 reviews

This was amazing! There was nothing like stargazing from the top of Hawaii! You know your in the right place when your surrounded by the worlds most advanced telescopes. The views were out of this world, and so were the guides. Suoer friendly, knowledgeable and accommodating. They made the experience fun and comfortable.

Sam, our pilot, was knowledgeable and shared good history on the evolution of the land as well as the volcanoes in the region. She also made sure all passengers had a good share of flying and sighting the various calderas. Safe and great way to see big island from the sky!

The flight was really fantastic! The pilot was super nice and told a lot of interesting things about Hawaii. You always felt safe and could enjoy the spectacular view. An absolutely unique experience and the highlight of the holiday.

Great experience. Stargazing at 3700 m altitude. We were there on the new moon and were therefore able to marvel at an incredible starry sky. The price is a little high, but the experience was worth it.

It was really nice, no stress and everything worked great. The pilot even explained a lot about the country. I would have liked to see more but waterfalls and volcano was definitely there.