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Mauna Kea Summit – tickets, prices, timings, what to expect, FAQs

The Mauna Kea Summit is a renowned and iconic destination on the Big Island of Hawaii that holds a unique place in natural and scientific history.

Mauna Kea soars to an elevation of around 4,205 meters (13,796 feet) above sea level, making it not only the tallest volcano in the Hawaiian archipelago but also a globally renowned location.

The summit is home to world-class observatories operated by various institutions, including NASA, the European Space Agency, and the University of Hawaii. 

The summit of Mauna Kea is known for its breathtaking panoramic views, unique landscapes, and distinct ecosystems. 

However, Mauna Kea extends beyond its natural beauty. Its altitude, stable conditions, and minimal light pollution make it an ideal location for astronomical observations. 

The summit is the best place to explore the coexistence of nature, science, culture, and the rich heritage of the Hawaiian islands.

This article covers everything you must know before booking tickets to the Mauna Kea Summit.

What to expect at Mauna Kea Summit

Visiting the Mauna Kea Summit offers a memorable experience that seamlessly blends natural beauty, scientific exploration, and cultural significance.

As you climb the slopes of Mauna Kea, you can see the breathtaking panoramic views of surrounding landscapes, including lush forests, rolling hills, and the vast Pacific Ocean.

The journey from the base to the summit takes you through various ecosystems, from tropical rainforests to alpine deserts.

The summit hosts some of the world’s most advanced astronomical observatories, operated by various research institutions.

You can take guided tours or participate in stargazing programs, where you’ll have the opportunity to observe and learn about celestial objects through powerful telescopes.

The high elevation, clear skies, and minimal light pollution make Mauna Kea an exceptional stargazing location.

Watching the sunset and sunrise from the summit is a mesmerizing experience you’ll remember forever.

Activity Price
Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up $266
Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour $295
Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!) $297
Mauna Kea Stargazing Experience + Photos $307

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Where to book tickets

Tickets for Mauna Kea Summit can be purchased online or at the operator’s ticket counters.

Online ticket prices tend to be cheaper than tickets at the counters.

When you buy online, you can avoid the long queues at the ticket counters. 

When you book early, you also get your preferred time slot.

Because some attractions sell a limited number of tickets due to their high demand, booking early helps avoid last-minute disappointments.

How do online tickets work

Visit the Mauna Kea Summit ticket booking page, select your preferred date, time slot, the number of tickets you wish to buy, and buy the tickets right away.

After making the purchase, you will receive the tickets in your email.

Ticket printouts are not required.

You can show the e-ticket on your smartphone and join the tour.

Mauna Kea Summit ticket price

Tickets for the Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Free Astro Photos Hilo Kona Waikoloa Pick Up are priced at US$266 for visitors aged 13 and above.

This experience is not recommended for visitors under the age of 13.

Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour tickets are priced at US$295 for visitors aged 13 and above.

Visitors under the age of 13 are not allowed.

Tickets for the Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo!) are priced at US$297 for visitors aged between 16 and 70. 

Visitors under the age of 16 or over the age of 70 are not permitted to participate.

Tickets for the Mauna Kea Stargazing Experience + Photos are priced at US$307 for visitors aged between 13 and 55.

For visitors aged 12 and below, the tickets cost US$286 for entry.

This experience is not recommended for senior citizens over the age of 55.

Mauna Kea Summit tickets

Mauna Kea Summit tickets
Image: MaunaKea.com

Experience the beauty of a sunset and stargazing on a small-group trip to Mauna Kea, the highest point in the Hawaiian islands. 

Your guide will pick you up in the afternoon and take you to the summit in a 4×4 van. As the sun sets, you can change into a warm jacket and gloves and enjoy a hot beverage. 

Learn about the numerous research telescopes located here during a breathtaking celestial show.

This unforgettable experience will take you to the top of Mauna Kea, where you can watch the sunset and see the stars come out. 

Your guide will provide round-trip 4×4 van transit, warm jackets and gloves, hot drinks, and professional photographs.

Ticket Price: US$266

Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour tickets

Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour tickets
Image: MaunaKea.com

Join a small group on a stargazing adventure to Mauna Kea for spectacular night sky views. The trip begins with a cozy pre-trip picnic followed by a luxurious 4×4 van ride to the summit of the Big Island’s highest peak.

As you admire the sunset, your guide will take you down to 2,743 meters (9,000 feet) for a stargazing session, complete with a telescope, hot chocolate, and dessert. 

You’ll stay warm and comfortable in a hooded parka provided for you. Experience a private stargazing show using Celestron telescopes on Mauna Kea while learning about Hawaii’s history, culture, and ecology. 

Ticket Price: US$295

Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo) tickets

Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour (Free sunset and star photo) tickets
Image: MaunaKea.com

Join an unforgettable journey to the breathtaking beauty of Hawaii’s highest point Mauna Kea, which stands at 13,803 feet (4,207.3 meters). 

Join a guided tour to the summit, where you can witness a stunning sunset and stargazing adventure. 

You will begin with dinner at the Onizuka Astronomy Complex before proceeding to the summit to see the stars and planets using a refractor telescope and razor pointer.

The tour guide will provide winter clothes, hot drinks, and a light dinner to keep you warm as you pose for group photos during sunset and stargazing sessions. 

You can choose from three different pickup and drop-off locations, and the tour guarantees an intimate small-group experience with a maximum of twelve people.

Ticket Price: US$297

Mauna Kea Stargazing Experience + Photos tickets

Mauna Kea Stargazing Experience + Photos tickets
Image: Viator.com

Embark on an exhilarating journey to Mauna Kea, the world-renowned stargazing destination. 

You’ll be accompanied by an Analog-Astronaut and a skilled photographer on tour to witness the captivating beauty of the night sky. 

You can capture awe-inspiring photos of your group against the backdrop of galaxies, stars, and constellations. 

Your guide will share a link to the photos after the trip. Prepare to indulge in the magical universe of stars and beyond, guided by a team of professionals.

Ticket Price: US$307

Save time and money! Explore Helicopter Tours in Hawaii and witness volcanoes, lush mountains, waterfalls, and pristine beaches from the sky. This bird’s eye experience is an opportunity to enjoy the thrill of your life. You might even land in the middle of a desert, winery, or snow!


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Meeting point for Mauna Kea Summit

The meeting point for the Mauna Kea Summit tours depends on the tour option you select.

Check the booking page to know the exact meeting location before arriving.

Mauna Kea Summit timings

The Mauna Kea Summit tours operate from 6 am to 10 pm daily.

How long does the tour take

How long does the tour take
Image: MaunaKea.com

The tour duration of the Mauna Kea Summit can vary depending on type of tour, the activities included, and the time of day.

Sunrise tours depart in the early morning hours, often before dawn, to ensure visitors reach the summit in time to witness the sunrise. These tours last around 8 to 10 hours, including travel time, acclimatization stops, and the time spent enjoying the sunrise spectacle.

Sunset and stargazing tours also involve travel time to the summit and time for acclimatization and stargazing activities. 

These tours start in the late afternoon and last around 6 to 8 hours, depending on the specific itinerary and the time of year.

Tours focusing on daytime activities, such as visiting the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station, learning about astronomy and culture, and enjoying the panoramic views, can last around 4 to 6 hours.

The road to the summit is steep and winding, and driving slowly and carefully is recommended, especially due to the high altitude.

Best time to visit Mauna Kea Summit

The best time to go to Mauna Kea Summit is in the early mornings and evenings to witness the stunning sunrise or sunset. Both experiences offer spectacular views and unique lighting conditions.

To catch the breathtaking sunrise, depart in the predawn hours and reach the summit before daybreak. 

If you prefer to experience the mesmerizing sunset, arrive at the summit in the late afternoon to witness the stunning evening display and take part in stargazing programs.

The Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station (VIS) usually opens in the morning, and you can learn about astronomy and the mountain’s cultural significance and enjoy the views.

If you prefer a less crowded experience, consider avoiding holidays and summer (May to August) vacation periods, as this is a peak tourist season in Hawaii.

Fall (September to November) and Spring (March to May) is generally a good time to visit Mauna Kea, offering a more peaceful and less crowded experience.


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FAQs about Mauna Kea Summit

Here are some frequently asked questions about the Mauna Kea Summit.

What is the Mauna Kea Summit’s elevation?

Mauna Kea Summit stands at an elevation of approximately 13,796 feet (4,205 meters) above sea level, making it the tallest volcano in the Hawaiian Islands and one of the highest points in the Pacific.

Why is Mauna Kea significant for astronomy?

Mauna Kea’s high elevation, clear skies, and minimal light pollution make it an excellent location for astronomical observations. It hosts a cluster of world-class observatories operated by various institutions, offering researchers unparalleled views of the universe.

Are there tours to the Mauna Kea Summit?

Guided tours are available for visitors who want to experience the Mauna Kea Summit.
These tours often include transportation, informative guides, and opportunities for stargazing, sunrise/sunset viewing, and learning about the mountain’s cultural and scientific significance.

Do I need to acclimate to the altitude before visiting the Mauna Kea Summit?

The high altitude of the summit can cause altitude sickness for some individuals. Spending time at lower elevations before ascending to the summit can help acclimate.

At a lower elevation, the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station allows visitors to adjust before heading higher.

Is the road to the Mauna Kea Summit accessible to all vehicles?

The road to the summit is steep, unpaved, and challenging to navigate. It is highly advisable to use a four-wheel-drive vehicle, as the road conditions can be demanding. Additionally, it’s worth noting that certain rental car companies may have restrictions on allowing their vehicles to be driven to the summit because of these road conditions.

What is the weather like at the Mauna Kea Summit?

The weather at the summit can vary significantly. It’s generally colder and windier than at lower elevations, and snowfall can occur during the winter months. Be prepared for rapidly changing conditions and colder temperatures.

Can I visit the Mauna Kea Summit without a tour?

You can drive to the summit independently, but it’s crucial to be well-informed about road conditions and altitude-related considerations.  Joining a guided tour is recommended for a safer and more informative experience.

Can I see the sunset and sunrise from the Mauna Kea Summit?

Both sunrise and sunset views from the summit are absolutely breathtaking. Specialized tours are readily available for these experiences, and choosing to visit during these times provides awe-inspiring vistas and exceptional lighting conditions that make the visit truly remarkable.

What should I bring for a visit to Mauna Kea Summit?

Essential items include warm clothing, sturdy shoes, water, snacks, sunscreen, and medications. If you intend to engage in stargazing activities, it’s wise to bring layers of clothing and blankets to keep warm during the cooler nighttime temperatures.

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This article was researched & written by

Edited by Rekha Rajan & fact checked by Jamshed V Rajan

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