Gemini North Observatory - Mauna Kea, HI
Milky Way over the Gemini North observatory.
One must drive up the infamous Saddle Road. Many locals will tell you that Saddle Road is a very dangerous road to drive on. In fact, a portion of the 16 mile road, just past the visitor center, is unpaved and very rugged. To aid in our excursion through Saddle Road and to maintain budget, deciding on going with a tour group led by Hawaii Forest & Trail would be a wise decision.
See link : http://www.hawaii-forest.com/
Hawaii Forest & Trail limits each tour to 14 guests and uses a Mercedes Benz Sprinter MiniBus to “comfortably” get guests to the rough and cold summit of Mauna Kea and back to their 5 star resort hotels in Kona. I put “comfortably” in quotation marks if only because of the aforementioned portion of Saddle Road that could not be travelled comfortably no matter what vehicle you are in.
Following the unpaved road you will end up at the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station. Just past the right of the visitor center you will notice the only snow removal equipment in Hawaii. Hence, it does snow in Mauna Kea.
It takes roughly around 50 minutes or so from the visitor center to the summit of Mauna Kea. At the top, you are greeted by a collection of some of the world’s most technologically advanced telescopes. It really does feel as if you are visiting some other worldly place. The view from the summit of Mauna Kea is breathtaking, both literally and figuratively.
The price of the tour would be around $200 per person. However, you may be able to find discount and end up paying $340 because of a kamaaina discount.
Mauna Kea Tips:
Hawaii Forest & Trail provides guests with hooded parkas, however, you might want to bring an extra jacket as a second layer.
Long pants and thick socks would also be very helpful.
If you plan on practicing your photography, then be sure to bring along a tripod.
Stargazer? Load some of the Stargazing apps on you iPhone or iPad, like Star Walk HD, so that you can figure out what it is your’re looking at.
Total Distance: 58 miles (From the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa to the summit of Mauna Kea.)
Total Time: 8+ hours (Pick up for us was at 2:20pm at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. We returned at around 10:00pm.)
Directions to Mauna Kea: From Mamalahoa Highway and driving toward Kona, you will make a left on to Honomu Road. Signage will eventually lead you on to Old Mamalahoa Highway, where you will make a right on Stable Camp Road. Continue going straight until you hit Akaka Falls Road. Follow the road to the end and you will reach Akaka Falls State Park. It willÂ take you about 20 minutes or so to reach the falls from Mamalahoa Highway.
More Information from Hawaii Forest & Trail:
Schedule: Afternoon trips depart daily from Hawaii Forest and Trail Headquarters, Waikoloa Kings Shops, and the Junction of Highways 190 and 200. 7 – 8 hours round trip.
Rated: Easy to Moderate; ages 16 and over.
Included in the Tour: Picnic style dinner, assorted teas, hot chocolate, and dessert. Dinner selections are either Barbecue Chicken (served hot) with Homemade Cornbread and Coleslaw; or a Vegetarian Spinach Wrap (served cold) with Glazed Carrots and Tabouleh.
Gear Provided: Hooded parkas and warm gloves.
Prices: Adult: $192.00, plus tax.
Group Size: Tour limited to a maximum of 14 guests.
Restrictions: Guests should be able to hike on uneven or rocky terrain. We sometimes encounter cool, wet or muddy conditions. Because of high altitude this tour is not advised for those with respiratory, circulatory or heart conditions, pregnancy or poor health. Scuba divers should be aware of altitude dangers. No children under 16. Other tour restrictions may apply.
What to Bring & Wear: Closed toe shoes, long pants and a sweatshirt or sweater.