If you can swing an early morning departure from your hotel, enjoy an unforgettable sunrise from the top of Mauna Kea. The beautiful moment is made more enchanting in the winter if there is snow on the mountaintop—snow falls on Mauna Kea about one or two times each year and all sorts of adventure sports enthusiasts rush up to take advantage of the rare Hawaiian snow day. Never worry, however, you can descend after the sun comes up and find the tropical paradise you expect it in Hawaii and a warm sunny spot on the sand.
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14,000 Feet, 20 Degrees, Zero Oxygen in Paradise
We stayed in Hilo—hot, wet, and tropical Hilo—in a rented, Japanese-style house. Since I'm an astronomy nerd, I had to take the tour up to the observatories on Mauna Kea—way up on the top of the Big Island.
The van trip was fun and educational, and they offered oversized pullovers as the weather got cold, but they were next to worthless when we got to the top.
The wind was whipping by at 50 miles an hour, the temperature was below freezing. We were above the clouds, amongst the Hawaiian gods, watching the sunset of sunsets.
Most retreated to the heated van, but I stayed out to watch. I pulled my arms in from the pullover to stay warm, so the sleeves blew limply in the high wind.
Years ago I got sunburned while in Ireland, so it only made sense I'd get frostbite in Hawaii. But, as with all real travel, it was worth it.