Measuring over twice as tall as Mount Everest from its base to peak, Mauna Kea is the tallest point in the United States, and a sacred land marker on the Big Island. Mauna Kea is an estimated one million years old and hasn't erupted in nearly 5,000 years, and today it's home to the Onizuka Visitors Center with the summit also open to visitors.
Snow in paradise — Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt
The visitor's center offers a varied array of entertainment: astronomy lectures, stargazing groups and volunteer work can all be engaged with on the mountain. The center also houses a small gift shop with star-related wares, as well as coffee, hot water and snacks.
If you're headed up to the summit, you can only take people over the age of 16. At the high elevation, it's not uncommon for people to become lightheaded or short of breath. Because of this, it's recommended that those headed to the summit spend about half an hour to acclimate at the visitor's center.
Mauna Kea through the clouds — Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt
Views from Mauna Kea are always amazing. Sunset is the best time, but stargazing at night is almost always a good bet since the summit is generally above the cloud line. In winter, it's not uncommon for it to snow; in February 2013, the Big Island received the most snow it's had in over five years after a serious rainy season.
Hawaiian snowman — Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt