Mauna Kea Sunset/Starshow Tours
Our tour leaves Hilo at seasonally adjusted times (1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.). We start our tour from Arnott’s Lodge and make a quick stop at Rainbow Falls, then go 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 13,600ft 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.
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.
What to prepare for:
Bring: Extra layer of clothes, long pants, sturdy “closed toe” walking shoes, a light meal, water, sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses, camera and an adventurous attitude.
Please do not bring: Alcoholic beverages or excessive gear.
Guests meeting us at the Visitor’s Center will be driving up a steep but well paved road to 9,200 feet. The section just below the Visitor’s Center is the steepest part, you may find that your vehicle climbs better if you manually select low gear. Also on arrival at the parking area do not turn off your engine immediately or it may boil over. Allow it to run for 3 or 4 minutes of warm down.