The Top Mauna Kea Tours
The Big Island’s Maunakea has been a hot topic in recent times, undergoing everything from fierce protests to torrential rains to blankets of snow. But take away the commotion and what remains is the mountain Native Hawaiians deem the most sacred site in their North Pacific archipelago.
Understandably so. Soaring 13,769 feet above sea level, it’s not only the highest peak in the Hawaiian Islands but when measured from its underwater base, is also the tallest mountain on Earth. Physical attributes aside, it was and continues to be a sacrosanct place, and home to a number of Hawaiian deities. Maunakea’s more common, contemporary spelling, Mauna Kea, translates to “White Mountain”—for the seasonal snow it sees—while “Maunakea,” as suggested by the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s School of Hawaiian Language, indicates the mountain of the Hawaiian deity, Wakea. Its majesty, height, its remoteness, its dry air, and the clear, luminous sky that cradles it has rendered the dormant volcano one of the leading astronomical observation sites in the world. In addition to serving as the designated place of the proposed Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT)—the cause of those aforementioned protests—it houses thirteen telescopes operated by astronomers from eleven different countries. In other words? The summit is the place to see the sky.
As such, tours to Maunakea’s peak abound across the Big Island, offering budding astronomers, avid stargazers, and early risers a chance to get this close to heaven. Here are the top Maunakea Tours we’d recommend—and why you should toss a sweater into your suitcase now: