big island destinations things to do

Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea – An Important Location for Astronomical Observations

snow on top of Mauna Kea
Yes it snows in Hawaii

Hawaiian Legends

According to Hawaiian legends, Poliahu was known to be the beautiful goddess of snow, who lived on the Big Island volcano Mauna Kea. Poliahu was at odds with her sister Pele, goddess of volcanoes, who often caused Mauna Kea to erupt in fountains of fire in spite of her. Pele’s wrath would melt Poliahu’s snow and drive her from the summit. There was a time when Poliahu counterattacked with a great blizzard, covering the mountain with deep snow, driving Pele back to her home on Mauna Loa. Pele’s fires on Mauna Kea were quenched for all time.

Standing at 13,796 feet, Mauna Kea is the highest volcano in Hawaii. It is one of five volcanic peaks that together form the Big Island but is currently dormant. Literally meaning “white mountain” in the Hawaiian language, Mauna Kea’s name refers to the fact that it is regular snow- or frost-capped. The top of the mountain peaks out at 13,796 feet on Pu’u We-Kiu, one of the numerous cinder cones on the summit, and also the highest point in the Hawaiian Islands. Mauna Kea is also considered the tallest mountain in the world when measured from the base under the ocean to the top.

Astronomical Observations

Star trails over Mauna Kea observatory
Follow the stars

Mauna Kea’s elevation and location made it an important location for atmospheric and astronomical observations. Astronomers made Mauna Kea home to the world’s largest telescopes because its atmospheric clarity is excellent. Geology and Earth science students, environmentalists and anthropologists enjoy studying the mountain because it has a lot to offer. The summit houses observatories built by many nations. The Hawaiians, on the other hand, revere Mauna Kea as a religious site, home to their mightiest gods and the burial place of their ancestors.

Mauna Kea Summit Adventures offers a 7-8 hour tour featuring spectacular scenery, watching the sunset at the summit, stargazing and more. The tour provides hooded parkas, a light dinner, hot drinks and convenient pick-up points for your convenience.

When you’re on the Big Island, visiting Mauna Kea is worth the stop if you want to experience some real Hawaiian snow.

Observing from Mauna Kea video by The Infinity Point