You may be thinking all sunsets are pretty much the same…fair enough. This one is too, except for the fact that if you make the trek, you’re watching the sunset from above the clouds…from the top of the tallest mountain in the entire world that, if measured from its base, is almost a mile taller than Mt Everest! …& oh yeah, IT’S A DORMANT VOLCANO!!
( you probably don’t believe me… look )
Everything about this sunset is epic. If you’re on the Big Island of Hawaii you have to work it into your plans!
On one of our last days on the island we were planning on making our way to Maunakea for some crystal clear stargazing. My dad had spoken with a local who had gone to the top the night before and told us we really needed to make it out there for a sunset if we could.
We came back from the beach around 4, showered, and layered on the sweatpants, hoodies and jackets until we looked more like we were vacationing in Canada than in Hawaii.
It was about an hour from where we were staying at Mauna Lani, sort of near Hapuna.
I can’t remember when we actually made it to Maunakea, but we were cutting it close! It was right around the golden hour and we still had to stop at the visitor center to allow our bodies time to acclimate before heading the additional 3000+ ft to the summit.
That was all the easy part though.
We hopped in our jeeps and began the ascent. Honestly, looking back, the drive to the top is about 50% of the adventure itself. Maybe it was bad timing, because it made our trip about as life-threatening as base jumping…or maybe it was good timing, because it made it as exhilarating, BUT we were literally driving STRAIGHT UP INTO THE SUN. I feel like the word literally is often misused but guys, literally! We kept winding up and up and up the mountain directly into the light. We couldn’t see a thing! There were vehicles coming down the mountain and a string of vehicles going up. Dust and dirt were filling the air. Our view out of the windshield was almost opaque, which is not ideal when you’re driving up a road that has a cliff around every bend…bends that you can’t even anticipate! Again…super exhilirating..but at the same time..pretty unnerving. Described by my friend that drove the jeep as a “white-knuckle drive.”
But we made it to the top and it actually looked like we were driving around on the moon. Well above the clouds at this point, everything seemed sort of surreal. The sunset was in full swing so I pretty much sprinted out of the jeep to setup my GoPro in attempt to grab a time-lapse of this beauty. Everybody else was bundled up like they just hiked Everest. I was jealous. Our phones weren’t working to give us a temp read but I know that it had to be at least 30 degrees up there. My thumbs were freezing as I was photographing. I didn’t get the glove memo so allow me to pass that along to you…maybe bring gloves (;
We stayed for about 10 minutes until the sun dipped below the clouds. It was invigorating…like everything else in Hawaii.
If the drive sounds sketch, check out the sunset from the visitor center instead! They have hot chocolate and the view is really just as good. My first Maunakea sunset was from the summit, my second was from the visitor center area. The higher altitude and winds that accompany the summit can often make for treacherous road conditions and sometimes they close the road to the top for this reason. That was the case on my second trip, but don’t let this ruin your day. Like I said, the view from the visitor center is still worth seeing!