The area gets its name from Mauna Kea, which is home to the largest sea mountain in the world. Mauna Kea offers visitors a once-in-a-lifetime chance to view the island and the night sky from an incredible vantage point. It is frequently snowcapped and adorned with international research institutions and observatories. The Big Island's Mauna Kea region is wide and rural and is dominated by the dormant volcano. The few people who do live there usually do so in one of the adjacent towns of Waimea, Hilo, or along the Hamakua coast. A trip to Mauna Kea is filled with discovery, adventure, and amazing experiences because it is home to numerous cutting-edge observatories and top-notch research facilities.
The fourth-oldest and fourth-most historically active of the Big Island's five volcanic hotspots, Mauna Kea is now classified by the United States Geological Service as "dormant." At 13,802 feet above sea level, Mauna Kea's summit is currently the tallest and most geographically significant point on the whole Hawaiian archipelago. When measured from the sea floor, the mountain rises higher than Mount Everest at more than 33,000 feet. Even though Hawaii's isolation has a substantial negative impact on all of the state's ecology, Mauna Kea is a special hotspot for a wide variety of indigenous plants and insects. Alpine-subalpine, montane, and base forest ecosystems are divided into three independent groupings by the topography, each of which has its own distinct distinctive ecosystems.
The summit of Mauna Kea offers a unique opportunity for atmospheric and astronomical observation because of the conducive observational circumstances. For submillimeter and infrared astronomy, the dry environment on the summit of the dormant volcano, which is also above the inversion layer, is suitable. There is almost little artificial or atmospheric light pollution, which makes for a great setting for stargazing. Due to the lack of established towns in the area immediately surrounding the volcano's summit, Mauna Kea recreation is frequently more strongly connected with the nearby Hamakua Coast and the surrounding areas. On the flank of the volcano, the Hamakua Coast is popular with tourists and locals, but areas like the Wailuku River State Park, Akaka Falls State Park, and Kalopa State Recreation Area are great for weekend outings.
Due to the varied terrain along the volcano's slopes, hunting is a significant aspect of Mauna Kea. Pigs, pheasants, turkey, quail, sheep, and goats are among the game animals that hunters use as their base camp at the Mauna Kea State Recreation Area. There are many hiking trails in the region, and they offer access to higher altitudes along the volcano's crest. Altitude sickness is a severe problem for hikers in Mauna Kea, and the elevation forces most visitors to spend at least a half-hour at the visitor's center along the Mauna Kea Trail to acclimate to the higher altitudes. Hiking and stargazing are popular activities, drawing more than 100,000 tourists a year to Hawaii's highest vantage sites.
Few people reside on Mauna Kea itself due to its remote location and rough terrain; instead, most adjacent towns and communities are only a short drive from the volcano and its numerous research institutions. Visitors to the 13 observation stations that monitor activities in the visible and infrared spectrums, as well as the submillimeter and radio spectrums, make their way to Waimea, Hilo, and even Kailua-Kona as landing points. The community that works on the summit is varied, close-knit, and heavily grounded in science. It is funded by more than 11 nations.
While the majority of the earliest Hawaiians lived along the coasts, some migrated to the area around Mauna Kea in the 12th and 13th centuries. The mountain, which was mostly used for hunting and gathering, also had spiritual or navigational importance for the local Hawaiians. As plants and animals were more prevalent on the lower slopes of the Big Island than elsewhere, bountiful natural resources are also likely to have drawn people inland. The largest mountain on the island, Mauna Kea, was thought to have holy significance. For this reason, all chiefs on the island with the exception of the highest-ranking chiefs were subject to the kapu, an antiquated limitation on visitor access.
The enormous Parker Ranch, which is still in use today, was the first significant European enterprise built along the mountain's northern side. In order to make space for sugarcane fields, the majority of the natural woods along those slopes were burned or removed, although Mauna Kea's historical and archeological significance was never given up to corporate interests. Along the volcano's top slopes, more than 220 shrines, workshops, markings, burial sites, and platforms for sacrifice have been found, but there may be many more, which keeps scientists interested in the region even now.
The location of Mauna Kea, heavily impacted by the scientific community, is most known for its exceptional atmospheric and astronomical viewing conditions, but a U.S. There are also an army training center and a military rest area close to the Mauna Kea base. The main access point for tourists, employees, and military personnel on the Mauna Kea slopes is Saddle Road. There are virtually few facilities or sights along the island-cut route that runs from Hilo to the exit toward Waimea or Kona. Before crossing the saddle in either direction, visitors are recommended to fuel up, pack sensibly, and bring first aid, hiking boots, and lots of water.