Points of Interest
Be sure to read the Special Notes further down this page for important requirements and restriction.
The heavenly realm of Maunakea reaches 13,796 feet (4,200 meters) and is deemed the tallest mountain on Earth when measured from the sea floor. Revered by astronomers from around the globe, its summit is host to the most expansive astronomical complex in the world. Once a sacred home to the Hawaiian gods, here ancient worlds collide with modern science, and people journey to the summit to study navigation and deepen their understanding of the universe.
Your full-day adventure begins when you depart Hilo pier in a comfortable 4-wheel-drive transit vehicle and embark on a visually arresting journey. You will go from the waters' edge to the high alpine and take in the panorama of Hawaii's legendary volcanic scenery.
Proceed up the mountain, taking a moment to stop at magnificent Pu'u Huluhulu (shaggy hill) for a short, guided walk through a native koa forest, an oasis of lush vegetation in a landscape marked by a lava flow. Exclusive to this tour, your trail walk introduces you to the historic koa tree, prized by Hawaiians for canoe building and known as the monarch of the native Hawaiian forest. The forest is a haven for birds, so be on the lookout for the red 'i'iwi, the bright greenish-yellow 'amakihi, and maybe even a rare 'io, the Hawaiian hawk.
Return to your vehicle and continue on to Visitor Information Station. Perched at 9,000 feet in elevation and surrounded by spectacular views, you'll pause here to refresh with a deli-style picnic lunch.
Continue to Maunakea's summit at 13,796 feet for a peek inside Keck Observatory, one of the world's cutting-edge astronomical installations and home to the largest and most scientifically advanced telescopes on Earth. The visitor's center is open to the public, and your guide will share the work being accomplished at this innovative facility.
The summit is home to telescopes monitored by 11 countries. Maunakea is a unique astronomical observational site because the atmosphere above the mountain is exceedingly dry and cloud-free, with the highest number of clear nights in the world. The stability of the atmosphere allows for detailed studies of the galaxy – even those that lie at the very edge of the observable universe. Experience modern astronomy up close and personal!
Your final stop is the Imiloa Astronomy Center for an exclusive, planetarium show that delves deep into the history of star-gazing in the Hawaiian culture. The Imiloa Astronomy Center is noted for its distinctive architecture. It is constructed of 75 percent recycled material centered around three titanium-covered cones, which represent three of the five Big Island volcanoes: Maunakea, Mauna Loa and Hualalai. Surrounding the complex are more than 50 varieties of indigenous foliage in a gardenscape that has one of the largest collections of Hawaiian plants in the world.
On your return drive, chat with your fellow travelers about your fascinating day and reflect on the powers of the universe as you enjoy the picturesque drive back to the ship.
Special Notes:Minimum age is 16 years. Elevation at the mountain summit of 13,796 feet. Persons with the respiratory or heart conditions, pregnant women, or those in poor health should not access the summit. Scuba divers please note that the summit altitude is over 13,000 feet (4,000 meters). Guests on this tour should not be physically challenged or unable to walk short distances of ½ mile on uneven terrain. Hooded parkas are provided but guests should bring a sweater or jacket, wear long pants and covered walking shoes with socks. Tour order may vary.
In the event of safety concerns or road closures, an alternative itinerary may be substituted that will ascend Maunakea's sister volcano, Mauna Loa. Learn about this comparable natural wonder, making up approximately 50% of Hawaii Island and 10,000 feet in elevation, as well as its resident weather observatory stations.
Tour timeline may vary to avoid overcrowding, etc.