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Mauna Kea in rental car?

Thousand Oaks...
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Mauna Kea in rental car?

I understand that rental cars can now use Saddle Road (not the case when we were last on the Big Island back in Sept 2010). Do we need a 4wheel drive rental to get up to the Visitors Center of Mauna Kea or is the road now suitable for standard rental cars? We would love to go as that is one of the few things we couldn't fit in last time. If not, which tour company do you recommend? We arrive tomorrow and will be on the island for 10days and so hopefully will be able to get up there weather permitting.

Fayetteville
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1. Re: Mauna Kea in rental car?

The road to the visitors center is fine for standard rental cars. The road is paved all the way and is not very steep. We did not go beyond the visitors center.

Island of Hawaii...
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2. Re: Mauna Kea in rental car?

"I understand that rental cars can now use Saddle Road."

That is incorrect. Check with your rent-a-car company to make sure you are allowed to drive on Saddle Road. Several rent-a-car companies still forbid their cars on Saddle Road.

Thousand Oaks...
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3. Re: Mauna Kea in rental car?

Thanks for the feedback. we'll check when we pick it up tomorrow. If not we'll see if we can book a tour as we definitely want to experience Mauna Ke.

Thousand Oaks...
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4. Re: Mauna Kea in rental car?

Actually just spoken with Enterprise. they say we can drive the paved part only. Is it paved all the way to the visitor's center?

Big Island, Hawaii
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5. Re: Mauna Kea in rental car?

You might want to consider a tour anyway. The Visitor's Center is fine but you don't get to really see anything there except from the telescopes inside, there aren't any spectacular views. Plus it will be really cold this week even at the Visitor's Center. Who wants to take parkas to Hawaii? If you take a summit tour you get to experience the awesome views and they provide all the warm comfy coats and gloves and hot chocolate.

Thousand Oaks...
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6. Re: Mauna Kea in rental car?

Thanks for the advice. Will definitely look into a tour if you don't get the views from the Visitors center and you're right - no-one wants to take parkas to Hawaii. We don't even own thick coats living near LA ;-)

Big Island, Hawaii
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7. Re: Mauna Kea in rental car?

Yes, it's paved all the way to the visitor's Center. So Enterprise has no issue with Saddle Road (that's not the road the Visitor's Center, but it's the only way to get to that road)? That's good to know since we've had varying reports. Saddle Road has been all repaved and there's no reason rental car companies should restrict it but we've heard some still are.

Washington USA
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8. Re: Mauna Kea in rental car?

We are renting from Alamo in May and when I just called them they said the saddle road was fine with them too. Just fyi.

Island of Hawaii...
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9. Re: Mauna Kea in rental car?

I drove the Saddle last night and passed the access road just as it was almost but not quite dark (ugh, love the headlights on bright following too close). It was raining up there and the mountain looked socked in too.

There was a tour van at the junction that was leaving already and I wondered why. Clearly it was too early to have done any star gazing, probably just enough time to do sunset at the summit and come straight down.

I don't know if some companies do day tours only?

I thought it might be that due to weather there was no visibility for the telescopes. Try to confirm the weather before paying or driving.

Stopped at MK State Park for restrooms and it was SO cold and windy at 6000 feet. I never knew that place is completely unlighted including the restrooms which were pitch black and totally creepy. Had I been alone I would have been scared! Note to self: carry flashlight.

The weather was clear from there to Waikoloa, but there has been summit road closure at least once this last week for snow. Saw locals in my neighborhood building a snowman using a truck bed of snow they had harvested.

In any case, don't go up there without some seriously warm clothing. It is not springlike!

Edited: 11 March 2012, 20:40
Island of Hawaii...
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10. Re: Mauna Kea in rental car?

When you call the rent-a-car companies make sure you call their local offices. That guy with an accent in India answering the toll-free number probably never heard of the Saddle Road! :):):)