About Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea, or “White Mountain” in english is the tallest of the 5 volcanoes on Hawaii’s Big Island. It is no longer active unlike nearby Mount Kilauea which has been erupting continuously since 1983.
From sea level this shield volcano rises nearly 13,800 feet to the peak, but most of the mountain is underwater. When measured from the bottom of the sea floor Mauna Kea rises to an impressive 33,500 feet, surpassing Mt. Everest by 4,000 feet!
Nearby Mauna Loa also has astronomic observatories and sits only 120 feet shorter than Mauna Kea.
With stable and dry air, lack of atmospheric light scatter, and high altitude, Mauna Kea is one of the best spots on the planet for astronomical observation. 13 observatories from 11 countries call Mauna Kea home, and is one of the most important sites for astronomy today.
The United States Geological Survey estimates Mauna Kea being 2 million years old, and last erupting about 4,600 years ago.
Ancient Hawaiians understood and appreciated the majesty of the Big Island’s five volcanic peaks and considered them Kapu, or sacred.
With a rare alpine climate in the upper elevations, a division of plant life is ever apparent. Endemic plant species include the Mauna Kea Silversword shrub, also Mamane, and Naio trees.
Facts & Trivia
- Island: Big Island
- Amenities: None aside from the Visitor's Lodge at the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy.
- Insider Tip: Be sure to make the trip to the summit during the winter months and have a Hawaiian snowball fight!
- Fun Fact: Sports enthusiasts make trips to Mauna Kea and snowboard in Hawaii. There are no resorts or lifts, but the area has excellent off-roading.
- What to Expect: Snow in the winter, lack of oxygen due to elevation, and a lack of amenities.
- Pop Culture: Sports enthusiasts make trips to Mauna Kea and snowboard in Hawaii. There are no resorts or lifts, but the area has excellent off-roading.