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Arnott's Famous Mauna Kea Adventures
Sunrise/Starshow, Daytime/Observatory and Sunset/Starshow

Mauna Kea Sunrise


To Hawaiians, it is a revered religious site, home to the Mightiest Gods and burial place of their ancestors. The famous Adze Quarries and dozens of archeological sites define Mauna Kea's importance to Hawaii's first settlers.

To Astronomers, Mauna Kea is home to the world's largest telescopes and has atmospheric clarity better than anywhere else on earth. Cutting edge science and new understandings of our universe are constantly flowing from the summit.

To students of Geology and Earth sciences, environmentalists and anthropologists, Mauna Kea has something for everyone: wonderful Ice Age/Glacial scouring, road cuts revealing strata and a well defined Volcanic history.

To Doug Arnott and his adventure guides, it is an opportunity to share our accumulated knowledge with our many and varied guests and to recreate for each guest the absolute thrill and awe that we experienced on our first visit to Mauna Kea.

Mauna Kea to Hualalai Sunset

Provided:  Warm hooded jackets, hot chocolate and an adventure of a lifetime.
Bring:  Extra layer of clothes, long pants, sturdy “closed toe” walking shoes, dinner, water, snack, sunscreen, lip protection, sunglasses, and camera.
Please do not bring: Alcoholic beverages or excessive gear.


    1. Our regular 4x4 van tours from our Lodge on the Hilo side for the Sunset and Starshow.
    2. Meeting Kona and West Side guests who drive their rental car to the Mauna Kea turnoff on Saddle Rd. to join up with option 1 above. (Why you should not drive a rental car beyond this point)
    3. Custom Mauna Kea tours. Usually small numbers in a luxury vehicle where we pick you up on the Hilo or Kona side. Custom tours also encompass Sunrise, daytime telescope visits and larger groups, such as schools and colleges.


  1. Our regularly scheduled Mauna Kea tour days are Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
  2. Guests driving their own cars can meet us on the above days.
  3. Custom Mauna Kea Tours can be arranged for any day we have available capacity. Call us at 808.339.0921 for more information.
Keck Observatory Hawaii

Arnott's has been professionally operating on Mauna Kea for 22 years and has provided transport for both Keck and Subaru VIP's during construction of these world class observatories.

We are also the only daytime operator taking high end cruise-ship guests to the summit.

Mauna Kea sunset

Regular Mauna Kea Sunset/Starshow Tours

Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday
(Hilo departure or meet at Highway 200/ Kipuka Puuhuluhulu Cinder Cone at Mile Marker 28 at Mauna Kea turnoff on Saddle road.)

  • $180/person - Regular Price
  • $160/person - Drive yourself from Kona or Waikoloa. Meet at Highway 200/ Kipuka Puuhuluhulu Cinder Cone at Mile Marker 28 at Mauna Kea turnoff on Saddle road.).
  • $130/person - Arnott's Lodge guest price (Subject to two nights minimum stay)
  • Plus 4.16% Gross Excise Tax
  • These tours are conducted in a specially converted 4x4 Ford Van rated for 14 passengers and Carhartt jackets are provided.
  • Starshow is conducted by our tour guide with a laser pointer. We do not use telescopes!! Starshow subject to moon and atmospheric conditions will be given after leaving the summit.
  • Minimum 48 hour cancellation required for refund.

Private Tours Available (Hilo or East Side of Big Island)

Highway 200/Saddle Road meeting point
Meeting place on Highway 200/Saddle Road at Mile Marker 28.

Pick up from Hilo Hotels or Saddle Road/Highway 200 at Mile Marker 28.

Prices for Adventure in Toyota Sequoia SUV (price does not include tax nor gratuity):

    Mauna Kea SUNSET/Starshow
  • $800 for one or two people
  • $1,100 for 3
  • $1,300 for 4
  • $1,500 for 5
  • $1,700 for 6 (maximum)
    Mauna Kea SUNRISE/Starshow
  • $900 for one or two people
  • $1,150 for 3
  • $1,400 for 4
  • $1,600 for 5
  • $1,800 for 6 (maximum)
    Mauna Kea DAYTIME/Observatory (Observatory opens from Mon.-Fri.)
  • $675 for one or two people
  • $925 for 3
  • $1,175 for 4
  • $1,375 for 5
  • $1,575 for 6 (maximum)

Private Tours are upon availability of Tour Guides. Call or email us for the day you want to schedule your tour!!

Make your reservation today

The Sunset Adventure...

Our tour leaves Hilo at seasonally adjusted times (1pm to 3pm). We start our tour from Arnott's Lodge and make a quick stop to Rainbow Falls, then directly to the Onizuka Visitor Center (VIS) at 9200ft (3000m) where you may do some vigorous short climbs or watch videos on Astronomy and the Telescopes. The VIS also has hot drinks, snacks and a large range of mountain and astronomy related souvenirs and educational materials available.

Following a 30 to 45 minute acclimatization stop at the VIS, we ascend to 13600ft where our guide will explain the various telescopes in view. Next we continue up the last few hundred feet to the road highpoint where those in good physical condition may walk around the nearby telescopes. This opportunity and sunset are often at the same time revealing spectacular views of sunset and the famous "Shadow" of Mauna Kea to the East. Please visit our Mauna Kea Picture Gallery.Mauna Kea to Halekala Sunset

Upon twilight, we descend to our own Starshow location where our guide, using a high powered visible laser, leads you on a detailed journey across the magnificent night sky describing major celestial objects and Polynesian navigational stars. We have found by experience that this is preferable to deploying an amateur telescope which takes a long time to aim and to process all guests through one object while everyone is getting very cold. Finally, we stop at the Visitor Center for hot drinks and bathrooms before continuing back. We return to Hilo usually by 9:00 to 11:00pm.

IMPORTANT WEATHER INFORMATION...Arnott's Lodge and Hiking Adventures does not guarantee fine weather. Getting you to the Summit area is the main thrust of this tour and full price will be charged if we make it to the top...As with all mountains, local heating and cooling can cause cloud or haze and impact Sunset and the Starshow, as can full moon, high wind or extreme cold...Our Starshow, if conditions permit, is an overview of what is seen that night including Major Constellations, Polynesian Navigation stars and Signs of the Zodiac...we do NOT use Telescopes. In case we cannot get above the Visitor Station you will recieve a 50% refund...this is the ONLY case for a refund....There are cases where overnight snow and ice have the road closed even up to the time we leave Hilo for the mountain..however we monitor the 28 webcams on the mountain for any sign of thaw and possibility to get up to the top as we realize that road crews are also striving to get astronomers up to telescopes and many of our Adventurer guests have this one shot to go. Sometimes the road only opens briefly and you have to be at the Visitor Information Station to take advantage....this is where 23 years of experience comes in.

Sunrise and Daytime tours

The growing popularity of Sunrise tours of Mauna Kea acknowledge the amazing adventure that awaits you..isolated in the vast Pacific Ocean, at the moment of sunrise and for a few minutes after Mauna Kea/Mauna Loa casts a giant shadow of its pyramidical shape into space...many mistake it for another island near Maui. As you now have daylight ahead of you your guide can describe the cultural importance of Mauna Kea and point out its many features and incredible views. This time slot is uncrowded unlike Sunset which has up to 16 vans and 224 people on the mountain.

Daytime tours can include telescope visits and a variety of short hikes and are ideal for those who would like to learn more about the mountain and its astronomy credentials, its geology and its cultural history during an unrushed and uncrowded part of the day. Daytime tours must be below the Visitor Station by 4:30pm.

For either Sunrise or daytime tours call 808-339-0921 or email us at

Mauna Kea TelescopesFollowing this 45 minute acclimatization stop and Stargazing at the VIS we drive to 13600ft (4150m) in the predawn light where our guide will explain the various telescopes in view. We then ascend the last few hundred feet to the road high point where those in good physical condition may walk around and enjoy views from different sides. Walking around and Sunrise are often at the same time affording spectacular views of Sunrise and the famous "Shadow" to the West.(Mauna Kea Picture Gallery.)

Please note that tours and general public are not permitted on summit astronomy area until half an hour before listed sunrise time for that day, so as not to impact astronomy operations.

Please read concerning all Arnott’s Mauna Kea Tours:

  1. People with respiratory, heart, and severe overweight conditions, pregnant women and children under 16 are advised not to go above the 9,200 ft. level where the visitor center is located.  Do not go to the summit within 24 hours of scuba diving.
  2. We provide supplemental oxygen, however this is to restore oxygen balance only.  This is a remote area with at least 90 minutes for emergency response and we take NO responsibility for the rare person who reacts negatively to altitude.  Any use of oxygen is considered an emergency medical situation and immediate evacuation of the entire group from the summit is required.
  3. While Mauna Kea is renowned for over 340 accessible days a year, there are sudden storms that can force closure of the summit road.  Our professional staff monitor weather and road conditions as the information becomes available on the internet.  On those occasions where the road is found to be closed, we will visit the Onizuka Visitor Center at 9200 ft (3000 m) and do our  Starshow given the availability of clear skies.  A fixed 50% discount/refund will be given if we do not get at least to the lower summit telescopes.
  4. In some cases of extreme weather, we may offer you the option to opt out with a full refund before we leave for the tour.

Reasons NOT to take a rental car above Saddle Road turnoff to Mauna Kea:

  1. Many rental car companies still prohibit this activity and levy severe fines for non compliance.
  2. Grades even below the Visitor station are up to 20% requiring extended climbing in low gear which can cause your engine to overheat.
  3. Returning down these same grades even your low gear is insufficient braking causing many inexperienced drivers to burn their brakes leaving a telltale smell that will cost you big money if detected by the rental agency.
  4. Read at the Visitor Station about Invisible Black Cows that wander these roads at night and score an occasional car.
  5. Above the Visitor Station, an unpaved four (4) mile section of washboard gravel and lava rock surface is a challenge for even the heavy diesel vans and busses operators use.
  6. Many times large rocks are worked out of the surface by traffic and lie in wait for your low slung car, to damage or tear out your oil or tranmission pan, tear out a tire sidewall or place large dents in your muffler system, rental agencies have mirrors and check for these damages.
  7. At the time most go up for Sunset, brilliant sun low ahead catches your eyes blinding you...operators know every inch of the road and slow to a crawl.
  8. As you will notice going up...there are few guard rails and 45 degree slopes going if you make it up in daylight, getting down is a whole different experience.
  9. At the summit many guests suffer mild to moderate, and in a few cases severe, oxygen deficiency, for which we have oxygen on hand...what will you do?

Play it safe GO WITH AN EXPERIENCED OPERATOR whether it is us or another company. You are playing with you and your families life for a few dollars..!!

* The above tour description is a generalization of average sunset/starshow activities, the actual tour may change in response to weather, seasons, daylight and guide preferences. Some telescopes are open or closed seasonally, roads may close in response to floods or snowfall. Arnott’s Adventure Tours is not responsible for these events and no refunds will be given except a fixed 50% discount/refund if we do not get at least to the lower summit telescopes.

** Reservations, to be confirmed, must be guaranteed by credit card or advance payment. 48 hour minimum notice of cancellation is required and you will be charged.

For more information about our standard/custom tours and availability please contact: Arnott’s Adventure Tours: 808-339-0921 or email

M a k e A R e s e r v a t i o n

Mauna Kea Picture Gallery

Download a free Mauna Kea Adventure brochure

Mauna Kea Web Cameras
Mauna Kea Visitor Information Center
Institute for Astronomy - University of Hawaii
W.M. Keck Observatory
Subaru Telescope

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