Catch a Sunset and Stargaze at Mauna Kea's Summit

Added by Shane Black

Take in otherworldly views at the top of the 14,000' dormant volcano. Mauna Kea is also one of the best places for stargazing and astrophotography. You can drive right to the top, but highly suggested you have an SUV; all wheel drive is your safest bet since the last 7 miles to the top are on a very bumpy dirt road.

While you can drive right to the summit of Mauna Kea on the 14 mile access road, the last 7 miles are on a very bumpy dirt road, so make sure your vehicle has plenty of clearance and good tires. All wheel drive will help a lot.

The drive up is amazing itself. Usually there is some fog lingering around a very desolate looking forest area until about half way up, when you reach the visitor information center. After that, the road turns to dirt and the landscape makes a vast change. It looks like another world and the color of the dirt changes to beautiful grays and reds as you ascend.

Once at the top, above all of the fog and clouds, you get to see all of the observatories and an incredible view. There are a few areas you can walk around and hike, but the air is incredibly thin that high up.

Park rangers will ask you to leave as the sun sets and it starts to get dark. They don't want vehicle headlights interfering with the telescopes or the operators. With that said, there are several pullouts along the access road that you can stop at for stargazing.

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The closest to heaven you may ever get

If you're on the Big Island, you can't skip over Mauna Kea. All roads lead to this volcano, so you might as well enjoy it in all of its glory at a sunrise or sunset. The road leading up to the summit is steep and only 4 wheel drives are allowed to ascend the volcano after you reach the science center (~half way up the mountain). As like most places in Hawaii, Mauna Kea is regarded as sacred. Be mindful of your presence on this ancient earth and enjoy the views! You will actually feel like you are on Mars.


The stars from Mauna Kea are absolutely stunning. My only regret is that we didnt go up the mountain before dark because they close off the summit when the sun goes down but there is still a visitor center and a great viewing spot for stars. This easy drive is a must if you’re in the area.

My Favorite Place On Earth (so far)

I know that's a strong statement (and I'm decently traveled), but it's another feeling driving through various vegetation to reach the park, making the drive up, then watching the sunset above the clouds; it feels as though you're on another planet. It's so peaceful and beautiful, and it was one of the only times I felt a strong presence of a higher power as well. The air is thin, so I do recommend acclimating half way up at the visitor's center and changing into warmer clothes if coming off the beach like I did. Other tip that helped me was having some seltzer and crackers to keep my stomach calm during the sunset. I may be a Hawaii native, but this place is a must experience once in your life!

Mauna Kea captures

Really wonderful captures on your visit, good job


The stars are absolutely beautiful at this view. I even saw a shooting star! Thought I would be at the very top of the mountain rather than the visitors stop to see the stars so that was a bummer but still amazing to see.

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