Watching the setting sun from the top of Mauna Kea is an inspiring experience, to say the least. And while you may be surprised to be standing in a place on Hawaii that is 36 degrees, trust me, the view will definitely warm you up.
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Above the Clouds
Make your way up the twisty roads of Mauna Kea by private car or tour bus. The temperatures can be cold (snow might be present in the winter) and the wind strong, but the views are worth everything. Being above the clouds is quite surreal.
On the Big Island, this is the most awe-inspiring adventure you can take, and all you'll need is a little time and the right vehicle. Mauna Kea is that huge mountain in the middle of the Big Island, and yes, you can summit it at any time, for free, and watch the sun come up or go down, depending on your preferred circadian rhythm. As you ascend, you will be greeted by various "levels" of weather, meaning you'll pass through mist, fog, sun, rain, clear skies, clouds, and eventually . . . nothingness, because you'll literally be above it all. As you head up the mountain, be sure to stop off at the visitors' center at 9,000 feet to check the weather conditions, get safety information, and adjust to the altitude change if needed. After that, if you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, you may continue on up to the summit which crests a bit shy of 14,000 feet. Once there, you will see all 11 observatories from 13 countries with telescopes pointing toward the heavens. Ironically, you will be looking not up but down, as you get to watch the sun rise or set on the clouds that tumble lazily below your feet.