Mauna Kea is the biggest mountain in the world. Nearly 30,000 feet from base to summit, with a little more than half of that base in the ocean. Above ground, the mountain stands just short of 14,000 feet high. This makes it one of only three spots in Hawaii that regularly get snow.
Its towering elevation also puts Mauna Kea above an inverse weather layer that creates optimal conditions for stargazing. So much so in fact, that some of the world’s most advanced research groups chose this as the place to build their observatories.
Lucky for us, there is free access and a visitor center at 9,300 feet to see more stars than most of us have ever seen at once.
“The Visitor Information Station (VIS), at the 9,300 foot (2,900 m) level of Mauna Kea, has a nightly stargazing program held every night of the year from 6:00 pm until 10:00 pm. Sponsored entirely by public donations, this program is conducted free of charge and is open to everybody! Often above the clouds, the night skies at the VIS are often clear and bright, rivaling any other stargazing location in the world!” See more about the visitor center here.
It is also possible to go beyond the visitor center and hike to the summit of Mauna Kea to be even closer to the stars.
Although you can go on your own, there are several tour groups who offer rides to the top and education along the way. Some rental car companies specifically disallow driving on the Mauna Kea summit road, so be sure to check.