For those unfamiliar with the term, stargazing means to gaze upon the stars of the sky and ponder the sheer magnitude of cosmic vastness. Though it may sound a fairly straightforward endeavor, it is particularly tricky in urban places because of skyglow as a result of light pollution. Hawaii, the place known for its serene islands and beautiful landscapes, however, has tons of places where one can get a proper stargazing experience.
Diamond Head State Monument, Mount Tantalus, Hanauma Bay, among others, are some of the well known places for stargazing but Mauna Kea– a dormant volcano and the highest point in Hawaii took the first spot on a study by Lenstore. The metrics they used were Light Pollution Level – Radiance Levels and Total Monthly Search Volume in which the places scored -0.03 and 40 respectively. Mauna Kea was followed by Mont-Mégantic in Canada and Sedona in Arizona US.
The road to Mauna Kea is treacherous and visitors are discouraged to take this road. The journey e requires a 4×4 vehicle and drivers experience. There is a visitor center at the height of 9200 feet (2804 meters). It’s the place where people are encouraged to go. After that, at your own risk. It snows frequently at the top of the mountain so it makes it very slippery and muddy.
Besides looking up at the sky, tourists can ski down the mountain during winter. There is no public transportation to get you there so the only way to get to the ski station is using the road, which sometimes is not paved and can get really rough for non experienced drivers.
Businesses have recognized the potential of stargazing tourism in Hawaii with many travel agencies offering packaged stargazing tours. There are also tours with professional astronomers breaking down the subtleties of stargazing for people with untrained eyes.
“It was a surreal experience to be able to learn about the stars and constellations we so often just take in at a quick distracted glance. To listen to Mahoney (Hyatt’s own NASA ambassador) excitedly and dedicatedly detail the planetary views, historical impacts, and share his depth of knowledge was an unmatched experience”– writes Patrick O’Hagan from Chattanoogan News who recently took such an expedition organized by Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa.
Mauna Kea is the highest summit in Hawaii, at 13,803 feet (4.207 meters). There is some controversy regarding some definitions but in some cases, Mauna Kea may be considered 1st or 2nd highest mountain in the world, due to its underwater proeminence, which takes into account its elevation from the depths of the sea to the summit. The dry proeminence of mauna kea is over 30,000 feet (9300 meters) which is a higher elevation than mount everest at 29,029 feet (8848 meters). 2nd highest in Oceania, 2nd highest Island summit, 2nd in dry proeminence, 1st in Hawaii, 2nd most isolated peak in the US.
Regardless, it’s the second highest peak on any island in the world, only behind Punkac Jaia in Papua New Guinea which is just 125 feet (38 meters) higher than the active volcano of Mauna Loa.
The island state is dealing with a severe problem of post-pandemic over-tourism that is prompting authorities to impose measures to curb the flow of visitors. Just in the past few weeks, the government of Maui has been proposing limiting the number of visitors, and one of Hawaii’s most famous attractions, Diamond Head, now requires reservations to be made in advance.
In response to the headlines of over-tourism coming up over Hawaii, tourists are now getting more interested in alternative attractions and destinations in the archipelago. One such example is that of the city of Hawi, which was selected in a study as the most charming town in all of Hawaii, with a population of just over 1,000 and somewhat hidden on the North of the Big Island.
Although it’s not the easiest place to get to, visiting Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa provide a very unique and different experience, and the headlines about massive crowds and queues are making these places look even more interesting. If you are looking to go to Hawaii make sure to get your tickets and reservations in advance, a shortage of pilots is leading several airlines to cancel or reduce routes to Hawaii, and the first post-pandemic summer with new restrictions on short-stay rentals in Honolulu can bring a rise in the cost of accommodation.
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