Sitting at over 13,796 feet above sea level, Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the Pacific Rim and one of the most sacred sites for ancient and modern Hawaiians. Its full name is Mauna a Wākea which translates to “white mountain”.
Mauna Kea is a volcano that was created around 1 million years ago while the last eruption took place around 4,600 years ago. In ancient times, there was a kapu (law) that only high ranking tribal chiefs were allowed to visit the peak.
Today, there is a road which can take visitors to the peak via 4WD cars and trucks. There is also a popular hike called the Humu`ula Trail which starts at the visitor center and takes hikers 11.5 miles roundtrip to the summit. Hikers are urged to wear mountain boots, winter gear, and pack supplies for at least one night in the wilderness.
During the hike many native plants and animals can be found as well as cultural sites like many heiau (temples). Due to the high altitude, dry conditions, and stable air Mauna Kea is also a prime location of astronomical observation causing many countries the desire to place telescopes at the summit. The construction of major telescopes of the very sacred land is a topic of debate and protest among the Hawaiian community.
There are guided tours for anyone wanting to go to the summit. You just needs to arrive at the Visitor Information Station, by 1:00 p.m. for the Escorted Summit Tour, or between 6 pm and 10 pm for Stargazing.