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Mauna Kea

Ask the Big Kahuna

“Answering the most common visitor questions”


I’m going to be on the Big Island soon. Everyone tells me I have to visit Mauna Kea. What’s the big deal?

St. Louis, Missouri


Aloha Vicky,

Actually, Mauna Kea IS the big (and tall) deal. Mauna Kea is the tallest volcano on the island of Hawaii (the BIG Island) and the highest island mountain in the world. From sea floor to summit, Mauna Kea towers 32,000 feet. The summit is 13,796 feet above sea level, placing it above 40 percent of the earth’s atmosphere. Mauna Kea is the second largest volcano on the Big Island (Mauna Loa is the most massive). Mauna Kea began erupting on the sea floor about 800,000 years ago. The light-colored material that blankets the summit of the volcano and creates its eerie moonscape-look is glacial drift (rock deposited by a glacier). Mauna Kea’s most recent eruption was about 3,500 years ago and it is now considered a dormant volcano.

Mauna Kea offers some of the most unusual and beautiful landscapes on earth. There are tours that will teach you about the volcano, the island’s history, and its geography. You will see strange cloudscapes and surreal landforms with unparalleled photo opportunities. This is a real, “Look, Ma, I’m on top of the world!”-type experience. Sunset from the summit of Mauna Kea will make you believe you’ve never seen a sunset before. Forget New Zealand. THIS is the definition of amazing scenery.

Everyone is right, Vicky. Go see Mauna Kea.

Mahalo for writing!

Big Kahuna