Travel Blog #155 – The Summit of Mauna Kea with Hawaii Forest & Trail

Jun 17, 2021 | Activity Information

Today we thought it would be fun to go see the sunset from the top of Mauna Kea. Our rental car company did not want us to drive our little car up there so we decided that it would be a good idea to arrange to go with a guided tour. We decided to go with Hawaii Forest and Trail. We checked in at their office, which is located just north of Kona town.

When we arrived we were greeted by a very friendly woman that was sitting behind the counter. She introduced us to our guide who began to brief us on what we were going to be seeing and doing for the rest of the day. He explained that we were going to leave Kona and travel north where we would be picking some more people up in Waikoloa. At that point we were going to begin heading up the hill towards Mauna Kea on the Saddle Road. At the base of the Mauna Kea access road we would be stopping for dinner, then making our way to the summit. Here we were going to watch the sun go down before traveling to a more comfortable location at a lower altitude to break out the telescope and look at some stars.

From there we loaded up into the van and made our way north over the barren lava fields of North Kona until we got to Waikoloa. Once in Waikoloa the scenery changed dramatically. We went from fields of rock as far as the eye could see to very green manicured resorts almost in the blink of an eye. We made our way to one of the larger resorts in the area before where we picked up the rest of the members of our group.

From Waikoloa we began heading up the hill towards Mauna Kea. I had never been on the saddle road until this point and it was very interesting to see the land change from lava fields to a high planes environment. As I looked around the large expanse of land I couldn’t help but feel grateful that there is still areas in Hawaii with this much undeveloped wide open space.
On the corner of the access road that led up to the top of the mountian our guide pulled our bus over at an area where Hawaii Forest and Trail had set up a pavillion that was sheltered on three sides where we could eat. We had hot soup and bread that realy hit the spot in the colder temperature. After we were all done eating we loaded up back into the van and began our ascent of Mauna Kea.

Mauna Kea is a mountain that is very rich in history. At the top of the mountain is an ancient rock quarry where ancient Hawaiian Warriors would travel to gather rocks to make weapons and tools. The rock that you find in that area is a very hard compound that is known as “Blue Rock”. This rock is the hardest element that can be gathered in Hawaii so it was of great value.
As we drove up the long dirt road that wound it’s way towards the summit our guide told us all kinds of interesting things about the areas that we were passing, one of the most interesting was a spot that he pointed out on the side of the road that looked frozen. He explained that it was a patch of permafrost (I had no idea we had permafrost in Hawaii!). Eventually we made our way to the top of the mountain where were welcomed with one of the most amazing views I’ve ever seen in my life.

A series of observatories made a perfect foreground to one of the a backdrop that was so beautiful I had a hard time looking away. Across the channel the mountain of Haleakala on on my home island of Maui pierced the clouds in the distance. In between there and where we stood a whole sea of clouds flowed beneath us like a stream. It was incredible. We watched the sun go down at which point the temperature began to rapidly drop. We got back in the van to seek a warmer place to go look at the stars.

As we began to drive down the access road thick clouds began to roll in. For most of the way down a thick fog covered the road (which made me really glad I was not driving). Unfortunately, the thick cloud cover kept us from being able to stargaze at the primary location and instead we had to go to a secondary location farther down the hill.

When we pulled over to look at the stars I had no idea how much our booking guide was going to teach us. I’m no expert in astronomy, but our guide really seemed to know his stuff….. We had a great time with Hawaiian Forest and Trail.