Standing as the highest peak in the state of Hawaii, Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano reaching over 4,200 meters into the cloud-filled heavens draped loftily above the tropical archipelago. The peak is a popular destination for hikers, stargazers, and astronomers as it is also the location for the famed Mauna Kea Observatories, used for researching the electromagnetic spectrum, the largest facility of its kind. The importance of Mauna Kea dates back millennia, however, and was considered the most sacred volcano peak in all of the Hawaiian islands. What Mount Olympus was to the Greeks, Mauna Kea was to the ancient Hawaiians. Whether or not you believe in its mystical powers, a visit to the slopes and heights of Mauna Kea are certainly recommended for any trip to the island of Hawaii.
Several national and state parks flank the boundaries of Mauna Kea along the Hamakua Coast and are ready and easily accessible recreational parks for your group to enjoy. If you're not afraid of a steep incline, there are several hiking trails up Mauna Kea including its own self-named trail which is reportedly the easiest route to the summit. Start at the Visitor Information Station located at the 2,804-meter mark and hike roughly six miles up the mountain, choosing from two paths, one to Lake Waiau and the other to the summit. The atmosphere is noticeably thinner at the peak so beware of altitude sickness and always pack sunscreen as UV rays will be more harmful above the cloudline. Water is also highly recommended though officials say that the water of Lake Waiau is drinkable.