One of the best things I did while in Hawaii was go up Mauna Kea on the Big Island to see the sunset and stargaze. My family and I went with Mauna Kea Summit Adventures which is the oldest company to offer tours up to the summit to see the sunset. I’m not talking about any old sunset. This is a view of the sunset from above the clouds! We were a little under 14,000 ft. up and it was nothing short of amazing.
Hoodie: Victoria’s Secret
Our guide picked us up in a company van from our hotel. There were 14 people in our van not including our guide. As he drove he told us a little history and information about Mauna Kea such as when it last erupted etc. It was about an hour drive to get to our first stopping point – the Visitor Center – which was at 9,000 feet. This is the area that the scientists live. We were given about an hour here to go to the bathroom, eat dinner (provided by the tour company) and basically get our bodies acclimated to the elevation. Then, it was about another hour drive accompanied by windy roads and breathtaking views until we reached the summit. We made two quick stops before the summit. One for some pictures and another to see the observatories/telescopes that various universities and institutes have to study outer space.
We finally made it to the summit and it was gorgeous. From the direction the sun was setting you could see Maui in the distance. I always think it’s so cool that you can see other islands. When the sun starts setting, do not take your eyes off of it! Let me tell you, it sets quick! It probably sets in less than a minute, no lie! The round sun starts sinking and before you know it it starts moving faster and faster and then it’s gone and you’re left with a beautiful dusty orange hued sky. At approximately 14,000 feet, you can expect it to be cold. The company provides you with a parka and gloves to keep warm. We were lucky and there was actually no wind up there that evening which made it much less cold than it could’ve been. For anyone that lives in the NJ/NY area, with the parka on it felt like December weather. Cool and crisp (with the coat on), but not like “OMG my fingers are going to fall off and I’m going to die out here” cold. A few of the other people in my group felt really cold though, but they’re from Florida so they’re not used to the cold. Another thing to deal with is feeling lightheaded or sick from the elevation. I was really lucky because I felt fine so I could really enjoy the sights and take it all in. Our guide said that if you felt sick to just take it easy, sit down, and eating something like chocolate would help (this totally made me think of Harry Potter! Anyone get the reference?)
Going, going, gone! These pictures of the sun setting were seriously taken in less than a minute. Had to throw in a selfie!
After the sun set, we were given a little more time to take pictures and look around. The observatories start to open up to the night sky which is cool to see (You can see them open in the above picture). Then, we drove back down to 9,000 feet and set up in a little field to stargaze with telescopes. The stars were so bright and the sky so clear for stargazing thanks to Hawaii’s strict light pollution laws and the fact that we were 2,000 miles off the coast of the mainland. All in all it was a wonderful experience and one that I highly recommend and would even go on again myself. How often do you get to see the sun set from above the clouds?!