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Mauna Kea Sunset/Stargazing: Best Option?

Discussion in 'US - Hawaii Timesharing' started by mapsd, Jun 1, 2018.

  1. mapsd

    mapsd Guest

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    Will be arriving a in a week and staying at King's Land.
    We'll have a rental car (Can upgrade to a 4WD)

    We'd like to see the sunset/stars from Mauna Kea. What are the options?
    (I have always owned 4WD's and have driven off road before)
    Can we just drive ourselves there?
    Are the tours that start/end in Waik. Village good?
     
    mpumilia likes this.
  2. JIMinNC

    JIMinNC TUG Member

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    You can easily drive up to the visitor center at the 9,200 foot level without 4WD. After sunset, they set up telescopes for astronomical viewing. Going all the way to the top at over 13,000 feet supposedly requires 4WD so we didn't do that, especially since it would have meant coming back down in the dark. The view at the visitor center is still spectacular.

    http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/info/vis/
     
  3. CanuckTravlr

    CanuckTravlr TUG Member

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    We stayed at Kings' Land last year and drove to the Visitor Center at Mauna Kea. You do not need 4WD to get to the Visitor Center. It is a paved road and easy to drive. Beyond the Visitor Center it is a steep, winding, gravel road and 4WD is required. We explored going to the top, but please understand that the large observatories at the top are not open to the public. There are also limited facilities there and it can be very cold, and at certain times of the year the weather can change quickly. You may also have to travel through the cloud cover near the top.

    In any case, all car rental contracts on the Big Island (with one exception) forbid travelling off-road and on certain dangerous roads, including the Summit Road above the Visitor Center. This even applies if you have rented a 4WD Jeep. If you do so, it will void any insurance coverage you have, so not recommended. The only exception is a rental company called Harpers, whose vehicles are specially equipped and authorized for the Summit Road. The rental cost is apparently not cheap. And the drive down is on narrow steep roads in pitch darkness.

    If you go up on your own you will need to arrange for warm clothing. You will also need your own telescopes, if you want to do any viewing. One final issue is that you will be at about 13,600 ft ASL at the summit. If you fall prey to altitude sickness, it makes the likelihood of an accident even more likely on the return trip. Most local experts recommend arranging a tour. This cannot be done through the Visitor Center. The hired tours do the driving, provide parkas and other warm clothing and also provide telescopes for star gazing. Or you can just use the telescopes at the Visitor Center.
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2018
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  4. mapsd

    mapsd Guest

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    Thanks! Answers all my questions.
    I'm leaning towards just driving to the Visitor Center, since it won't eat up as many hours of our vacations.
    We'll see if my family's desire to reach the summit trumps me.
     
  5. geist1223

    geist1223 Guest

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    When we were on the BI in January 2017. We went to the top. Part of the Road past the VC is gravel then it changes to paved as you go higher. We greatly enjoyed playing in the snow and a few hours later swimming in the ocean.
     
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  6. CanuckTravlr

    CanuckTravlr TUG Member

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    Yes, it does change to paved again nearer to the very top. Most experts, though, still recommend doing it only as part of a tour, especially in winter when conditions at the top can change dramatically and very quickly.

    You are welcome to enjoy playing in the snow in Hawaii.;) Our concept of Hawaii remains sunshine, warmth, beaches and palm trees. When we are in Hawaii in January or February, we have just spent over 10 hours in aircraft and flown over 5000 miles to get away from the snow and cold at home! If we wanted to roll in snow at the top of a mountain on our winter vacation, we could have stopped half-way in Vancouver and done it at Whistler!! Just sayin'. :D
     
  7. CanuckTravlr

    CanuckTravlr TUG Member

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    You're welcome. How old are your children? It is not recommended for children under the age of 13 to go past the Visitor Center. Apparently their young, developing bodies are more susceptible to and more strongly affected by altitude sickness. Also, if you decide to do an organized summit tour, you cannot just show up at the Visitor Center. You will usually stop there, but the tour must be arranged in advance with one of the tour companies. One of the concierges at Kings' Land can help you to arrange a tour, if you decide to try it.
     
  8. Kapolei

    Kapolei Guest

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    This topic comes up from time to time. You got to make your own call. For some, it is no big deal in the rental jeep. For others, no way should you do it because of the rental contract. I have read a lot of different opinions. People got to do their own research and make their own decisions on this.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2018
  9. mapsd

    mapsd Guest

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    Family really likes the idea of having telescopes available and I like letting someone else arrange the details and driving so I can enjoy the view.
    We made reservations with a group that will pick us up at the Queens Market Starbucks.
    Looking forward to it!
     
  10. mpumilia

    mpumilia TUG Review Crew: Veteran TUG Member

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  11. CanuckTravlr

    CanuckTravlr TUG Member

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    That will be very convenient. You can take the HGVC shuttle over to the Queen's Market Place, so no driving at all! I think you have made a good choice and it will be a memorable day that you can enjoy to the max as well as your family.
     
  12. Xan

    Xan TUG Member

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    I highly recommend Hawaii Forrest and Trail. They supply everything you need, but this does take up one whole day. Well worth it!!!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
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  13. mapsd

    mapsd Guest

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    We just this last night & had great luck.
    Clear skies & could actually see the lava crack & the flow to the ocean!

    Unite overcast today though
     
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  14. taffy19

    taffy19 TUG Member

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    Taking this tour on a dark and uncloudy night is so worth it but seeing the lava crack and the flow to the ocean is something you will never forget.
     
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