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“Beautiful, unique experience. Drive is not a big deal.”
Review of Mauna Kea Summit

Mauna Kea Summit
Experience for Yourself
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and up
Volcano National Park Small Group Twilight Tour
Ranked #2 of 130 things to do in Kailua-Kona
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Owner description: At 13,796 feet, this peak offers an incredible view of lava, desert, the valley and Mauna Loa.
Level Contributor
48 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 28 helpful votes
“Beautiful, unique experience. Drive is not a big deal.”
Reviewed 30 April 2014

Definitely a ‘must do’ on the Big Island. Being from Colorado, the drive up was no big deal. 4WD isn’t necessary. I think it all comes down to weather and conditions (the University of Hawaii has a website that shows up to date road conditions. Just search for “Mauna Kea road conditions”). Conditions were great on the day we went up. The road is well maintained. We were driving a 2WD Chevy Impala with a pretty big V-6 and had no problem. There are only a couple short steep portions. The sunset is beautiful and all the observatories are impressive and other-worldly. We left the top shortly after sunset, so it was pretty light still on the drive down. We stopped at the visitor’s center where several amateur astronomers have set up big telescopes and were happy to talk about the night sky. (Don’t be a goober: make sure to turn off your headlights if you’re near the visitor’s center at night!).

Visited January 2014
1 Thank jcalderh
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Kirkland, Washington
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
“Get a 4wd vehicle (with low range) and go up the mountain”
Reviewed 29 April 2014 via mobile

Before going to the Big Island, I was told that driving to the summit of Mauna Kea was to be avoided as the road was extremely hazardous and altitude sickness would render me stupid and helpless at 13,700 feet.

Well, I'm here today to say that with appropriate equipment and experience, the drive to Mauna Kea is easy and the views at the top are extremely rewarding.

I live in the western USA and have some experience with driving 4x4s on forest service roads in the Cascades and the Sierras. As long as you have a truck or SUV with a low range transfer case (you're on the Internet, look it up) and know how to use it, Mauna Kea is damn easy to go up and down during the day. Shift into 4wd Low right before you leave the pavement. Go up the hill at no more than 20 miles per hour. When you're going downhill, manually shift your vehicle into 2nd (1st isn't needed, this isn't Waipio Valley...) and go down the hill at no more than 20 mph. In low range and second gear you should barely need to touch the brakes during your trip down the mountain.

Note that unless you rent from a local rental car company (Island Discount, Harpers, etc) you probably aren't technically permitted to drive up to the summit of Mauna Kea. That having been said, I saw multiple new SUVs at the summit of Mauna Kea, and they weren't private vehicles or local rental cars. The bar codes and non smoking signs are always a dead giveaway.

As far as altitude sickness goes? I'm in my early 30s and consider myself to be in pretty good shape. I'm not a Crossfit addict or a marathon runner, but I did fine on top of Mauna Kea and even hiked to Lake Waiau (about 500 feet of elevation below the summit, takes about 45 minutes to an hour). I don't know why there are so many scare stories about altitude sickness on Mauna Kea. If you've skied or hiked in Colorado or the Sierras you'll be fine.

Don't let the negative nellies on TA scare you away. Rent a 4x4, drive up during the day, enjoy the awesome views and have fun.

6 Thank swp81
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Lethbridge, AB
Level Contributor
59 reviews
17 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 36 helpful votes
“Harrowing drive up but worth it”
Reviewed 28 April 2014

The scenery in this area is so diverse. You are, literally, right in the clouds and even above them. There are places where you feel like you're on a different planet, dark, foggy, spooky. Then you're back in the sunshine again. It's crazy. The interpretive centre which is located at the base of the summit is very informative. I encourage everyone to take the time to read up on Mauna Kea there. Mauna Kea is the perfect place to go and see just what a diverse place the Big Island is.

Visited April 2014
1 Thank Mona67
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Asheville, North Carolina
Level Contributor
73 reviews
28 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 68 helpful votes
“Bring warm clothing, binoculars and a headlamp with red lens.”
Reviewed 28 April 2014

It is astounding to see the night sky from the top of Mauna Kea. There is a reason why so many observatories are located here, in the middle of the dark Pacific at almost 14,000 feet. Believe me about the cold! Down gear would not be out of place!

Visited November 2013
Thank ras828
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Raleigh, North Carolina
2 reviews
“Height of Beauty”
Reviewed 27 April 2014

Parkas are handed out for 30 degree summit. I brought own vest,
scarf, hat, gloves as well. Part of road to summit very bumpy.
Worth the trip. Beautiful Island landscape & informative driver of
4 wheel vehicle. Sunset amazing.

Visited April 2014
Thank Lorena M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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