Hard to believe that this dormant volcano is the world's tallest mountain at a height of 32,000 ft. measured from the bottom of the ocean floor to the summit. Although a good portion of it is below sea level, 13,796 ft. is visible and rises above the ocean. The last eruptions occured about 4,500 years ago.
At the summit is the world's largest astronomical observatory with telescopes operated by astronomers from eleven countries.
You can drive to the summit to view the domes, but visitors cannot "look through" the telescopes. Visitors are not permitted to this area after dark.
There is a Visitor Information Center at 9,000 ft. where one can learn about the mountain and telescopes. One can watch videos and there is a gift shop. Sometimes a Celestron telescope is set up for visitors to view the sun and its spots. The Visitor's Center has nightly stargazing programs from 6-10 p.m. On Saturdays and Sundays they conduct a summit tour from 1-5 p.m.
The road to the summit is unpaved with steep grades and can be dangerous. 4WD is required or else visitors can take a tour. There are adventure tours to the summit with Hawaii Forest & Trail.
During winter months snow is common.
Favorite thing: Lava rock can be seen everywhere in the Kailua-Kona area. The town is situated at the bottom of Hualalai Volcano which is the 3rd youngest volcano on the island. It was active in the 1700's and produced 2 large lava flows that reached the ocean. The airport is built on the larger of the 2.
KONA, the ancient playground of Hawaiian roylaty is predictably sunny and always full of playtime activities. The main community is Kailua-Kona, reached by leaving Keahole Airport and turning south for a 15-minute drive on Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway. For access to Kailua's waterfront, go seaward on Palani Road to Ali'i Drive, which features wooden buildings, a coral church and a stone tower reminiscent of the whaling days in the 1800s.
Kamakahonu is the restored compound where King Kamehameha spent his last years. This National Historic Landmark is at the north end of Ali'i Drive, adjacent to Kailua Pier. Two other monuments are just south on Ali'i Drive: Hulihe'e Palace, built in 1838 and Moku'aikaua Church, the oldest church in Hawaii, constructed in the 1830s. With its two-foot thich coral walls, the church is a great place to rest when walking along Ali'i Drive. On the south end of Kailua is the oldest Chatolic church in the outher Hawaiian Islands, St. Michael's, built in 1848. Among Kona's excellent swimming areas is Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area, which can be reached by driving towared the ocean at the north end of Kailua-Kona. Public tennis courts are located nearby.
There are numerous places to swim and snorkel all along Ali'i Drive beginning with Kealakekua Bay, snorkeling, SCUBA, SNUBA, kayaking, fishing, submarine rides, semi-submersible rides, and even an ocean-going Polynesian show. For wave-lovers, White Sands Beach Park (my favourite), just south, provides great waves for the island's annual bodysurfing contest. At the south end of Ali'i Drive, north of Keauhou Bay, lies Kahalu'u Beach Park, with its long white, sandy beach.
When you are out of water, you may want to check out the minuscule St. Peter's Chatolic Church and an old heiau, Hu'emanu, where Hawaiian royalty prayed for surf.
Prepare yourself for an Awesome experience... There is so much to see and do here, you could go on forever. In Kailua, there is an endless amount of 'Must do's'... The Luaus, Sunset Cruises, Resturants, Night Life, Shopping, Water Sport, Golf, Art Galleries, Tours, land sea and Air... A little way out, you can see Captain Cook's Monument, Coffee & Macadamia Plantations, Unbelievable Coastline, Place of Refuge... All this and more, before you even start on touring the 'Big Island'
Fondest memory: What I will remember most, are the wonderful people of Kona, and how they welcomed me into their midst. I became one of the 'Locals' very quickly. The people here are very friendly and warm hearted. --- And ofcoarse, the Mai Tais were pretty special also... ha,ha..
Fondest memory: .... and Mauna Kea. Both are shield volcanoes which means that they are not very explosive and that you won´t realize their sheer size since they cover such a large area each. Mind you - they are well over 8000 metres high, having built this island from the bottom of the sea. Kilauea, the active volcano, sits on the south side of the island. As a geographer, I can always only stand in awe.
Fondest memory: Landing on Kailua-Kona airport, you´ll at once notice the surrounding BLACK. This lava is not very old and covers much of the northwestern coastal plain. The Ironman athletes have to run and cycle along this road in late summer, when temperatures may still hit the thirties - and there´s black lava, reflecting the heat. A lovely sight along the Queen Kaahumanu Road are the many 'graffitis' made from white corals, and also every now and then there are oases with palm trees, bringing some lively green to the barren black landscape.
In Kailua you can walk to swimming beaches with clean sand, little coral, and few people.
Fondest memory: I will always remember kayaking to Flat Island bird sanctuary in about 10 minutes and walking completely around it while viewing nesting birds as the only person around.
Favorite thing: If you want to book a trip, you can do that by Activity Express. They are throughout Hawaii. It is really easy to do so: you mention which trip you would like to do and they arrange it for you.
Favorite thing: Take the time to go all the way around the island. It will take a couple days, but it's the only way to see everything there.
Fondest memory: Just behind the King´s Shops in Anaehoomalu Bay, there are ancient petroglyphs. On a guided walk you´ll learn all about the importance of this place in the old days...