Your health in high altitude
Are children allowed on your tours?
Children 12 or younger are not allowed on our tours due to the high altitude. Prolonged high-altitude exposure to minors may cause severe bodily damage. We follow the guidelines of the Center for Maunakea Stewardship.
Are seniors allowed on your tours?
Healthy seniors are welcome to join our tours. Although there is no age limit for seniors, if you are 81 or older, you may only participate in our Private Charter Tours for our guides to be more attentive to your health during the tour. (If you are over 90 years old, you are required to submit a medical certificate from a doctor confirming your fitness condition for staying at an elevation of 14,000 feet for several hours.)
What are the health risks of high altitudes?
At Mauna Kea summit, where the altitude is nearly 14,000 ft., the oxygen level is 40% less than the sea level and the air pressure is much lower as well. The following persons cannot participate in our tours as a lack of vital oxygen can cause serious health problems.
- Persons who have heart or lung disease.
- Persons that have been scuba diving within 24 hours.
- Pregnant women
Also, please refrain from drinking alcohol within 12 hours of participation.
What are the symptoms of high-altitude sickness?
Even healthy people sometimes get altitude sickness, also called mountain sickness, due to the lack of oxygen. Signs and symptoms of altitude sickness include:
- Shortness of breath
- Impaired judgment
- Loss of balance and muscle coordination
What should I do if I get sick?
Mild symptoms of high-altitude sickness are quite normal even for experienced mountaineers so no need to worry. However, if you think you are sick, please inform your guide immediately.
What can I do to prevent altitude sickness?
Take slow, deep breaths occasionally to increase your oxygen intake. Dehydration also can exacerbate altitude sickness symptoms, so drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.
Weather near the Mauna Kea summit
How cold is it at the Mauna Kea summit area?
The average temperature near the summit is 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 Celsius. The wind-chill factor may dip the temperature far below freezing.
Freezing in Hawaii! How cool is that?
Can I rent winter clothes and gear?
We provide a heavy-duty hooded arctic-weight parka. We do not lend any other clothes or gear. Please bring your own.
What kind of clothing is recommended?
The average temperature near the summit is 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, the following items are strongly recommended besides the warm hooded parka that we provide.
- Long-sleeved sweater or hoodie
- Long pants (thicker the better)
- Ankle-high warm socks to cover your ankles
- Closed-toe shoes
The following items are optional but highly recommended.
- Beanie cap or ski hat (Something that covers your head and ears)
- Thermal underwear
- Sunglasses (to protect your eyes from direct sunlight, wind, and dust)
Although we provide a parka, more warm clothing will keep you comfortable and help you to enjoy the tour to the fullest. So, make sure to wear proper clothing and be prepared for the freezing temperature at the summit.
When and where can I change clothes during the tour?
You can change clothes during the long acclimatization break at Onizuka Visitor & Information Center. But please dress as much as possible before joining the tour, as this will help you to avoid having to carry too much luggage.
What if the weather is bad on Mauna Kea?
The tours can be canceled due to bad weather or road closures. If we are certain that we are not capable of conducting the tour by a few hours before the tour starts, we cancel the tour and you will receive a 100% refund or credit.
What if the weather becomes unfavorable on Mauna Kea after the tour has started?
We cannot guarantee access to the summit or favorable conditions. If the weather turns unfavorable during the tour, we do our best to give you the most enjoyable experience possible under the circumstance. Guests will receive a full refund or credit if we are not able to go to the summit due to road closures or other unforeseen circumstances. Guests will receive a $50 refund if we are not able to perform stargazing due to unfavorable weather conditions.
How do I get informed if my tour is canceled due to bad weather?
We will try to inform you at least a few hours prior to the pickup time by email or phone/text.
About Our Tours
Is a meal included in your tours?
No, our tours do not include meals. Please have a large meal before joining the tour.
We do not recommend having a big meal during the long break at the Visitor Center because eating heavily just before ascending to a high altitude on a rough road may make you feel sick. Instead, we provide light snacks and you are welcome to bring your own.
Are beverages included in your tours?
Our tours include a cup of hot chocolate per guest. You are welcome to bring your own bottled beverages.
*Alcohol beverages are not allowed during the tour.
Where can I be picked up to join your tours?
We provide 3 convenient pickup points in Kailua-Kona, Waikoloa Beach Resort, and Onizuka Visitor Center. Select an ideal location according to where you are staying or your activity for the day. Please refer to the Pickup Locations page.
We also offer pick-up/drop-off at your accommodation for a fee of $50*.
*Hotels and Vacation Rentals in Kona and Kohala resort areas only. Picking up at private residences such as AirBnB accommodations may not be arranged due to the accessibility of our tour vans.
Do you pick up in Hilo or the Volcano National Park?
Sorry, there are no pick-up locations in Hilo and the Volcano National Park areas. Pick-up at Onizuka Visitor Center can be arranged if you stay in those areas.
Please refer to the Pickup Locations page.
What kind of vehicle do you drive?
We drive 4×4 passenger vans specially built for the Mauna Kea tours. Only 4×4 vehicles are allowed beyond 9,200 ft on the road to the summit.
Where will we do stargazing?
Since we cannot do stargazing near the summit area because it may disturb the activities of the observatories, the guide will find the best spot between 9,200ft and 12,500ft according to the weather conditions of the day.
Can I enter the observatories on Mauna Kea?
Currently, there is no observatory open to the public. Even if some may open in the future, our tours do not include time to visit them.
Is there a minimum number of guests to hold a tour?
A minimum of 3 guests is needed to hold a tour. Tour will be canceled if the number of bookings does not reach 3 by 24 hours prior to departure. However, customers who have already applied have the option to pay the difference from the price for 3 so that cancelation can be avoided.
In case of illness or Injury?
If a guest falls ill or sustains an injury during the tour, and the guide assesses that continuing the tour would be challenging, all tour participants must agree to modify the itinerary to accommodate the unwell or injured guest. We are committed to never leaving a sick or injured guest behind to proceed with the tour.
Are service animals allowed on your tours?
We do not permit any pets, including service animals, on our standard tours as a courtesy to other guests who may be allergic or have a phobia of certain animals. However, certified service animals can be accommodated on our private charter tours exclusively. It’s important to note that our guides are not well-versed in the effects of low oxygen on animal health or how to treat them if they fall ill. All such concerns should be managed by the pet owners, as they bear the responsibility for their pet’s well-being.
What is your cancelation policy?
- For parties of 4 or fewer, a full refund or credit will be given if the cancellation notice is received by 12:00 noon (Hawaii time) 1 day prior to the tour date.
- For parties of 5 or more, a full refund or credit will be given if the cancellation notice is received by 12:00 noon (Hawaii time) 2 days prior to the tour date.
- For private tours, a full refund or credit will be given if the cancellation notice is received by 12:00 noon (Hawaii time) 3 days prior to the tour date.
- A full refund or credit will be given in case of operator cancellation due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances.
- No-shows will be charged the full price.