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Visiting Mauna Kea

Ohio
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Visiting Mauna Kea

We are staying in Kona and want to visit Mauna Kea. What time do you recommend leaving Kona to get there and can we do this ourselves with a 4x4 we are renting? We are a family of 4 and tour costs are 800.00. My sons are 21 and 24. Also, any recommended stops along the way before we get to Mauna Kea?

Big Island, Hawaii
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1. Re: Visiting Mauna Kea

When are you coming and where are you staying? "Kona" refers to two districts (North and south) that cover a huge area.

The only rental 4x4 allowed to go the summit is from Harpers which is pricey and difficult to deal with. In addition, especially if you're coming in winter, but really most of the year, the Summit can be extremely cold and windy. Tours provide parkas and gloves. Some people experience altitude sickness, which can impair their driving. Tours also provide oxygen. Freezing rain or even snow and high winds make for treacherous driving conditions. Bottom line, I would not recommend going without a tour.

There is also a Top Question that addresses many issues re visiting Mauna Kea.

Canada
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2. Re: Visiting Mauna Kea

Taking an organized tour with an experienced driver is best practice

http://www.maunakea.com/

The only approved 4x4 rentals that are approved for a trip to Mauna Kea are those from "Harper's".....not the standard car rental outlets

If by staying in " Kona" you mean Kailua-Kona.?.....a drive to Mauna Kea visitor center would be a direct one....not a lot to "stop" and see along the way other than the splendor of the area itself. One needs to acclimatize at the VIS for about 30 mins.

Going beyond the VIS is best with a guide who provides pick-up, proper clothing , drop -off, and most importantly a skilled driver who does the route daily in all types of conditions without the potential effects of altitude sickness.

What time of year is your visit? You are interested in stargazing? Perhaps you could provide clarification.....is the VIS all you are after.....or the Summit?

Ohio
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3. Re: Visiting Mauna Kea

Thanks so much for responding. We are staying in Kailua Kona. We are visiting for the 2nd time in 2 years. Last time we all were hospitalized with a GI virus that hit all 4 of us on different days. Viral,not food-related. We are wanting to make this a better trip. We are coming in the winter. Any tour company you recommend? 800.00 is a lot of money for 4 people. Would we be OK just going to the visitor's center or is the summit really worth the money? And yes, we are interested in stargazing!!!!!!

Edited: 20 October 2013, 21:02
Big Island, Hawaii
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4. Re: Visiting Mauna Kea

I would not prioritize going to the summit in winter. The summit is for sunset viewing, not stargazing, it closes after dusk to the public and the observatories at the summit are not open to the public. The tours set up portable telescopes on the way down after sunset for stargazing. You could also go on your own and just go to VIS, no 4wd required, which has telescopes for the public, but it will also likely be cold in winter and there can be weather that closes the road even to the VIS.

Frankly, there is excellent stargazing from sea level all along the Kohala Coast from sea level. Unless you have a particular interest in astronomy, Mauna Kea wouldn't be something I would do in winter and/or with a short visit (less than ten days) on island.

Ohio
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5. Re: Visiting Mauna Kea

The boys were really hoping to go, so maybe the visitors center and telescopes would be enough. How much time would we need to allot to get to the visitors center from Kona? We went to VNP last time, and Hilo to Akaka Falls. Any other recommendations? We will be on Oahu for 7 days and The Big Island for 6 days.

Big Island, Hawaii
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6. Re: Visiting Mauna Kea

As we've indicated, "Kona" is not a helpful description and shouldn't be substituted for the town of Kailua Kona. If you're staying right in Kailua Kona, the drive to the VIS will take you about 1 1/2 to 2 hours depending on weather conditions and traffic leaving Kailua Kona and where exactly you're staying, etc.

Do read through the Top Questions on things to do for other suggestions, we could throw out ideas all day, but we don't know enough about your interests.

Edited: 20 October 2013, 21:42
Ohio
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7. Re: Visiting Mauna Kea

Thanks Shea. I appreciate your help. Sorry for my "un-helpful nature of explaining areas.etc" I think you have conviced me that we can just go to VIS from the info you have given me and our expectations. We are an active biker, hiker, swimmer, snorkeling, kind of bunch. We were thinking about traveling to Waimea/Parker Ranch. We did not explore that area last time. I am reading several books so that should help. Let's hope this trip is more healthy and we are able to see and do more.The boys want to zipline so I am also looking into that. I appreciate your help. I really do!

Big Island, Hawaii
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8. Re: Visiting Mauna Kea

It's ok, it's not just easy to tell people how long things take to get from point to point when they're describing such a big area. :-)

I like ziplining but there's none that I consider first class on the Big Island. You have so little time I'd focus on more of what makes the island special, like snorkeling and diving (manta ray night snorkel would be a must do), the Kohala Coast beaches, hiking into Pololu and Waipio and to the Mo'okini heiau and Kapakai Kokoiki (King Kamehameha's birthplace), visiting Pu'ukohola heiau and Lapakahi historical park, Pu'uhonua O Honaunau if you didn't do that last time, etc.

Hopefully you will enjoy a healthy holiday this time around!

Edited: 20 October 2013, 22:09
Island of Hawaii...
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9. Re: Visiting Mauna Kea

I think the problem with letting the boys' requests drive the vacation is that they don't understand the nature of the experience. Many expect to see world class stargazing because of the observatories, but you don't get that. You are 4000 feet and more lower down using portable though high quality scopes. The VIS can be socked in with clouds as well. With the Saddle extension open, that is a good road now, but the upper highway back to Kailua Kona is less safe at night. Locals speeding for one thing.

My feeling is that going up a freezing mountain in winter from a tropical environment is a shock to the system, and not the best way to keep from getting sick. Any time you out your body through extreme changes you make it more susceptible to viruses and so forth.

In any case, have the guys read the Visiting Mauna Kea page out up by U of Hawaii that is linked from the Top Question. Very helpful site.

A good way to save money would be to ditch the 4x4. If in fact you are somewhere you engage your 4WD , you are breaking your rental contract and voiding your insurance. No unpaved roads are permitted, as well as no Waipi'o Valley, no Mauna Kea summit, and no South Point Road. Exactly the same restrictions they put on a sedan. The whole 4x4 rental thing is such a money scam that I hate to see you fall for it. What you do need for a good trip is a trunk for storing things unseen, which a 4x4 does not offer.

Ohio
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10. Re: Visiting Mauna Kea

Thanks for the advice. Wow, you all have me rethinking this. When we saw past Mauna Kea in the distance during our last visit , they decided that a visit to the summit was the #1 thing they wanted to do when we returned. I will make them read these posts. Shea, as much as I like to swim and snorkel, I think I am a little too afraid of night snorkeling . The manta rays look awesome to see, but yikes, the nightime thing scares me !Thank you all so much for the input.