Mauna Kea Summit
Mauna Kea Summit
4.5
About
At 13,796 feet, this peak offers an incredible view of lava, desert, the valley and Mauna Loa.
Suggest edits to improve what we show.
Improve this listing
Tours & experiences
Explore different ways to experience this place.
What is Travellers’ Choice?
Tripadvisor gives a Travellers’ Choice award to accommodations, attractions and restaurants that consistently earn great reviews from travellers and are ranked within the top 10% of properties on Tripadvisor.

Top ways to experience Mauna Kea Summit and nearby attractions

See what travellers are saying
  • Lee C
    Auburn, Indiana3 contributions
    Mauna Kea Summit Adventures guide Fernando was exceptional!
    We traveled up Mauna Kea for a sunset on February 25th 2023 with Mauna Kea Summit Adventures guide Fernando. His extensive knowledge of Big Island volcanic history (he seemed to know the year and origin of every lava flow that we passed on the way from Kona), Mauna Kea, the observatories at the top and just general astronomy was impressive! We were glad that he was driving and not us, as the cinder road switchbacks past the visitor center were scary, not to mention driving back down after dark. And we passed a line of vehicles waiting for inspection on the way up, which could have been us had we driven instead. The lasagna meal at the visitor center and the parkas and the star gazing afterwards were a nice touch. But the vistas and the sunset are memories that will last forever! B
    Visited February 2023
    Travelled as a couple
    Written 13 March 2023
  • Shajini
    Toronto, Canada18 contributions
    Breath-taking views
    I wasn't expecting to go to the summit (I thought the road was closed the day we went). Turns out, the road was open so we decided to drive up, and I'm so glad we did! The views are incredible and seeing the observatories (which were closed) was worth the drive. You definitely need a vehicle with 4WD. The air is noticeably thinner up there, so take your time and bring water and snacks.
    Visited April 2023
    Written 9 May 2023
  • Inna G
    Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey122 contributions
    Arrive early, before it gets dark, to make it all the way up
    We visited the visitor center but were not able to visit the summit, arrived too late. Note: you need to be at the visitor center earlier - if you intent do star gaze at the summit. Before 6pm for sure but I would check. Acclimate for 30 min at least, and have a 4X4 car with lower gear so that the troopers let you drive up, and you must make it to the top before it starts getting dark. On your way back you need to adjust to altitude change again. Tho use with sensitive ears will certainly feel it even going down from the visitor center.
    Visited May 2023
    Travelled as a couple
    Written 23 May 2023
  • joe1212
    San Francisco, California250 contributions
    Need 4x4 or AWD also with manual first/second gears
    FYI to others wondering about driving up. We were there July 2023 in a rental AWD and were NOT allowed up. Rangers had a literal checkpoint at the visitor center to inspect cars and required 4x4 or AWD…and also first and second manual gears. Logic is you need the car in those lower gears so “transmission/engine braking” slows the car and you do not have to ride the brakes on the way down. Our AWD only had a “low” mode which was not enough to satisfy the rangers. Also, they literally will stick their head in your car to view your transmission option. Be warned! FYI photo attached is a rising moon, milky way, stars taken just with an iPhone 14 ProMax at the visitor center.Also, I did drive up to the summit in a normal 2WD car like 10 years ago. Absolutely beautiful and get up there if you can!
    Visited July 2023
    Written 16 July 2023
  • Leslie B
    23 contributions
    Mouna Kea Vistas
    We didnt actually make it to the summit (you require a 4 x 4 or they wont let you up), however the view from the lookout on top of the hill across from the visitor's center was amazing. It was a clear night on the mountain but down below the clouds were slowly enveloping the valley giving a spectacularly surreal aura to the place. This was one of my wife's (and mine) favourite places on the island. (Although we went at sunset, we heard sunrise are greta here also).
    Visited July 2023
    Travelled as a couple
    Written 19 July 2023
  • Dallas Traveler
    149 contributions
    Great trip to the summit
    We rented a 4WD Jeep and drove to the summit. The park ranger makes sure you have at least 1/2 tank of gas and that you know how to put the Jeep in the correct gear, etc. We had no problems at all and the road is paved for at least half the distance from the visitors center to the summit. If you are not a confident, capable driver I would not recommend driving yourself. There were several tour buses at the top but a lot of people in their own 4WD vehicles too. You must stop at the visitor center for at least 30 minutes before going up. They have a nice gift shop and the rangers are informative. We left our lodging in Volcano about 4 pm and had plenty of time to get there, visit the visitor center, drive up and explore before watching the amazing sunset. It is really cold up there so take a jacket. We bought a blanket at the visitor center and we were glad we had it. There are portable restroom facilities at the summit too but my kids said they were pretty nasty.
    Visited August 2023
    Travelled with family
    Written 6 August 2023
  • Traveler
    71 contributions
    GO
    Drove to first station at 9,000+ feet Well worth the effort and drive, especially if your a stargazer. Amazing view of milky way and stars. You'll rarely see at sea level. Cold at 9,000 feet. Wear a cover (maybe 2). Laser pointing of stars and clusters by staff and worth the wait time to see. Very descriptive. Once in a lifetime opportunity to see the galaxy.
    Visited August 2023
    Written 8 August 2023
  • COTraveller33
    Silver Spring, Maryland3,409 contributions
    Worth the Stop
    So - we didn't make it to the summit ( no 4WD and kids under 13 ). But we stopped at the visitor's center, and sunset hill. Great experience. Fun, short hike. Definitely worth it. With view of the sun via telescope and screen, Great merch. Friendly and helpful staff. The right back down to Kona or Hilo after sunset is no-joke. Especially with the fog, dark, lack of lights, and grade of decline. Would recommend: Yes Would re-patronize: Yes
    Visited June 2023
    Travelled with family
    Written 23 August 2023
  • Anna N
    6 contributions
    Incredible Sunset Spot
    Do your research in advance to know what to expect in terms of the process for driving up and the car and health requirements. The road up was very manageable in our opinion. The views at the top were SO spectacular and the sunset was one of the coolest we have ever seen.
    Visited November 2023
    Travelled as a couple
    Written 6 November 2023
These reviews are the subjective opinion of Tripadvisor members and not of TripAdvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Most Recent: Reviews ordered by most recent publish date in descending order.

Detailed Reviews: Reviews ordered by recency and descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as waiting time, length of visit, general tips, and location information.

Popular mentions

4.5
4,625 reviews
Excellent
3,719
Very good
665
Average
171
Poor
31
Terrible
41

kevan j
Norman, OK1,436 contributions
Dec 2023 • Friends
This is the ultimate adventure on the Big Island as far as I'm concerned! I will remember this trip for the rest of my life...WOW! There are two ways to get to the summit of Mauna Kea...rent a 4x4 and drive up the steep and rough road yourself, or take a tour and let someone else worry about the driving. We went with a tour and are so glad we did. The tour van started in Hilo and drove up to the visitor center at 9,000 feet where we stopped for a half hour to get somewhat acclimated. We then climbed back into the van and rode up to the summit and the group of observatories up at the top. We stopped a few times on the way up to enjoy the views and arrived at the top in plenty of time to watch the sunset...ABSOLUTELY SPECTACULAR! Tallest mountain in the world! Far above the clouds. Only three things rose above the endless sea of clouds: Mauna Kea itself, Mauna Loa (300 feet shorter), and Haleakala the great volcano on Maui in the distance. I could not stop smiling...absolutely breathtaking! I give this place my absolute highest recommendation ever! After the sun went down, the stars came out. We were there during the new moon so the sky was absolutely amazing! Never seen anything like it!

Caveats: (1) It is very cold at the top so be sure to bring plenty of protection. (2) There are restrooms at the top. (3) We used Arnott's Adventures, which was excellent. They provided extra coats for us and were very good. However, I'm sure the other tour companies are also good.
Written 26 December 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

smhr
Pickering, Canada277 contributions
Nov 2023 • Couples
Amazing place. Will strongly recommend going there to watch the sunset from above the clouds and also to see the stars after that

There is no cost / fees for this attraction

Mauna Kea has 2 main spots. The first one is the visitor center. You can drive to Mauna Kea's visitor center in any vehicle, The road to the visitor center is well paved ie a regular road and very straight forward to drive on. Even if you go up to the summit, you will need to come down here to watch the stars.

If you wish to go further up from the Visitor Center, then you can only do that on an AWD vehicle. The reason being that the road beyond Visitor Center is unpaved and somewhat difficult to drive on. You will be doing all the driving on this road using manual shift. The park rangers at the visitor center will talk to you and will confirm that you have been at the visitor center for at least 30 minutes before letting you go up. This is because they want to make sure that you have climatized at this altitude. They will also confirm that you dont have a heard condition, have not gone snorkeling that day etc. They will explain to you how to drive the car and what to do to come down. Coming down is more dangerous than going up but if you follow their advice and drive in a lower gear (ie 1st and sometimes 2nd) then you should be ok. The only thing that you will be doing at the summit will be to watch the sunset from above the clouds. It takes about 30 mins to go up to the summit from the visitor center. This is definitely worth it.

Immediately after the sunset, you will be asked to come down. The drive down is tricky and you will see that no one is rushing. Every one will be in their first or 2nd gear. It will take about 30 mins or so to come down to the visitor center. Once you are there, the park rangers will check the temp of your brakes to confirm that it is not overheating. They do that with a temp gauge and takes them approx 30 secs per car to get the reading.

If you want to see the stars, and you should. then you will do that from the visitor center. There will be a staff member who will explain the various star configurations using a laser pointer. Its pretty cool. The presentation is informal and lasted for about 45 mins. The staff member was very nice. She hung around afterwards for about an hour to answer any qs and for chit chats

It gets really cold up there at the summit and at visitor center , so you must bring a jacket and dress for the temps to be around 0C / 32 F. You can go inside to the visitor center to get warmed up though. Everyone does that.

When at visitor center, you should always park in designated parking areas. This is extremely important for your safety as the lava around you may not be stable. Not worth taking a chance.

I will definitely recommend this
Written 14 November 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Susan N
9 contributions
Nov 2023 • Family
We decided to take the drive up to the visitor center. There is a lot of information to get just there. We didn’t go up to the summit. Didn’t have a four wheel drive.
Written 14 November 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

TravelingFam
Omaha, NE658 contributions
Nov 2023 • Couples
Plan ahead. You will need to arrive at visitor center 45-60 min before sunset. They ask you to wait for 20 min there, then you can drive another 15-20 min to the top. While waiting you can go to visitor center gift shop. Some snacks and drinks. And sometimes educational video inside about the area. Bathrooms and port-a-potty’s available at visitor center.
Then drive to the top. The sunset is just amazing! We usually bring our winter coats, hats, gloves. You Will need 4WD vehicle with low gear for coming down. Miles 1-4 from visitor center is rough terrain. Then paved next 1-2 miles. Sunset takes about 90 seconds once it hits horizon so be ready. Some short hikes available at top. Respect sacred grounds nearby.
Some port a pottys available at top. Huge telescopes begin to move shortly after sunset so it’s neat to see them in action.
After sunset come down in low gear. They check your breaks at the end and if too hot you need to wait at visitor center another 30-45 min. Sometimes tours have laser with stargazing tours. If you don’t have the equipment you can also book through local tour companies.
If you have the vehicle and clothing it’s just the gas to get there! No charge.
Written 9 November 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Anna N
6 contributions
Nov 2023 • Couples
Do your research in advance to know what to expect in terms of the process for driving up and the car and health requirements. The road up was very manageable in our opinion. The views at the top were SO spectacular and the sunset was one of the coolest we have ever seen.
Written 6 November 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

MJE123123
Scappoose, OR20 contributions
Oct 2023 • Couples
This tour was a little different than I expected. I know the plan was to go to Mauna Kea to see the sunset and star gaze. I would like to have stopped along the way to take pictures of some of the beautiful views. It was too hard to snap pictures out the window while the bus was moving and there were lots of turns in the road. We first stopped at the visitor center/gift shop to eat at a picnic area with restrooms nearby. We did not want the listed menu and when I called the company ahead of time, we found out we could get sandwiches. I had ordered a ham sandwich and a turkey sandwich, but then we got two ham sandwiches, and I don’t eat ham. I took off the ham and had a cheese sandwich, but was pretty disappointed. For some reason, my sandwich also came with a jalapeño chips which I couldn’t eat! I had clearly told them one of each when I set it up, so it was very frustrating. That was the last place we were at with a regular bathroom; the rest of the night was porta-potties until the way home. There was a section of unpaved road that ran for 4.5 miles which was rough travel. When we got to the summit, it was very cold and the altitude was a little difficult to deal with and made me really tired. I had to take a few minutes to catch my breath a few times. I actually waited in the tour van until it was close to sunset then got out to watch the sunset and take pictures. It was hard to get a good spot for the sunset since people were walking around and there was no defined area to stand and watch the sunset. It was a pretty sunset, but the journey there was such that I don’t think I would do it again though I can now say I was at almost 14,000 feet altitude. The observatories were really interesting to see. The highlight of this trip was the star gazing. John, our tour guide, was so knowledgeable in all areas of our tour, but especially in star gazing. He used a laser to point out constellations and the telescope to show us Saturn, Jupiter, a nebula and the moon and they were absolutely beautiful! It made us so excited seeing constellations through a telescope! He also took pictures using a special, expensive camera the company has, and then emailed them to us! The star gazing was the highlight of the whole tour. I would have enjoyed just doing the star gazing since the summit, though pretty, was to me not what I expected for viewing from that point. Mostly I would say be prepared for altitude issues and porta-potties. If you don’t mind that, the tour would be good.
Written 25 October 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

AMBER D
Las Vegas, NV18 contributions
Sept 2023 • Couples
We enjoyed a beautiful sunset at the summit of Mauna Kea! Bring warm clothing & an insulated mug with hot tea! Braving the bumpy ride & cold are well worth it!
Written 5 September 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

COTraveller33
Silver Spring, MD3,409 contributions
Jun 2023 • Family
So - we didn't make it to the summit ( no 4WD and kids under 13 ).

But we stopped at the visitor's center, and sunset hill.
Great experience.
Fun, short hike.

Definitely worth it. With view of the sun via telescope and screen,
Great merch.
Friendly and helpful staff.

The right back down to Kona or Hilo after sunset is no-joke. Especially with the fog, dark, lack of lights, and grade of decline.

Would recommend: Yes
Would re-patronize: Yes
Written 23 August 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Traveler
NEVADA71 contributions
Aug 2023
Drove to first station at 9,000+ feet Well worth the effort and drive, especially if your a stargazer. Amazing view of milky way and stars. You'll rarely see at sea level.
Cold at 9,000 feet. Wear a cover (maybe 2). Laser pointing of stars and clusters by staff and worth the wait time to see. Very descriptive. Once in a lifetime opportunity
to see the galaxy.
Written 8 August 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Dallas Traveler
149 contributions
Aug 2023 • Family
We rented a 4WD Jeep and drove to the summit. The park ranger makes sure you have at least 1/2 tank of gas and that you know how to put the Jeep in the correct gear, etc. We had no problems at all and the road is paved for at least half the distance from the visitors center to the summit. If you are not a confident, capable driver I would not recommend driving yourself. There were several tour buses at the top but a lot of people in their own 4WD vehicles too. You must stop at the visitor center for at least
30 minutes before going up. They have a nice gift shop and the rangers are informative. We left our lodging in Volcano about 4 pm and had plenty of time to get there, visit the visitor center, drive up and explore before watching the amazing sunset. It is really cold up there so take a jacket. We bought a blanket at the visitor center and we were glad we had it. There are portable restroom facilities at the summit too but my kids said they were pretty nasty.
Written 6 August 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Showing results 1-10 of 3,762
Is this your Tripadvisor listing?
Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.
Claim your listing

MAUNA KEA SUMMIT: All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (with Photos)

Frequently Asked Questions about Mauna Kea Summit