I will recommend this tour to everyone that visits Big Island. Even if you ever hope to visit Big Island, put this on your bucket list! James, your guide, is a true expert on the stars and Big Island. He was knowledgeable, friendly and funny AND he has the right camera equipment to ensure you will receive amazing high-res photos you won’t be able to get anywhere else. The icing on the top is that you do not go to the summit of Mauna Kea so for those worried about the high altitude at the top - this would be a great option for you! (See altitude warnings below). James also will cancel and fully refund your tickets if there is a full moon that will ruin the ability to see the stars, not like many companies that will continue with the tour if the skies are not optimal for stargazing. We actually could have gotten a different stargazing tour for FREE (through Chase points) and I don’t regret having to pay for this one (detailed below why we switched).
DATE OF VISIT: End of April 2022
PRICE FOR EXPERIENCE: 5/5 stars
TOUR GUIDE: 5/5 stars
COMMUNICATION PRIOR TO TOUR: 5/5 stars
There are tours that are longer for the same price as this one, so I was hesitant to book this. However, timing the tours to the summit that are 6-8 hours and start at 4pm and end at 10-11pm was very difficult with our itinerary. Not to mention the possibility of altitude sickness (see more below). So, I was very happy to find this tour for 2 hours that is 8000-9000 elevation, as compared to 12-13,000 at the summit. You will almost feel like your in outer space with how pitch black it is with no other cars around you. Such an experience, like none other
ALTITUDE: Warning that many can get altitude sickness and this is a warning for every tour. In fact, our tour guide said that he used to guide summit tours and they would always result in someone in the group passing out. Yikes. I get quite sick while traveling up any mountain (even just in the car), so I brought oxygen canisters that I bought on Amazon just in case, but didn’t have to use them and felt fine during our tour.
DRESS WARMLY: James has comfy and warm jackets for you, but the cool air and breeze still bites - similar to lake effect in Chicago. I brought thicker leggings, t-shirt and sweater and used one of the jackets and was freezing within the first several minutes. You can always escape to James’ van or your own car, but then you’ll miss such great parts of the tour.
ADJUSTMENTS TO MEETING SPOT AND TIME and POSSIBLE CANCELLATION: Just note that it is a possibility your tour will be cancelled based on the conditions of the sky that night. It is recommended to book the tour towards the beginning of your time on the Big Island in case you can reschedule for later that week. James texts whoever booked the tour with the exact location and time as the tour gets closer (so note there may be adjustments but the changes are not far from the original estimate).
PHOTO OPS: You will have PLENTY of time for photo ops and I 100% appreciate James’ patience and willingness to get everyone the shots that they want. There was a couple that wanted to copy a pose that a couple after them did, and James was willing to get another shot of them. Be ready with how you’d like to pose under the stars
PHOTO PACKAGE: We did not book the high-res photo package originally and James was super easy to work with to upgrade our photos
TOUR GUIDE/RIDING IN THE VAN: We opted to ride in James’ van where others followed in their own car. I would recommend riding in the van, as it’s not that far from the original spot and you do miss out on information on the way there/back. As mentioned above, James is extremely knowledgeable and even shares about his time training for Mars. He has amazing camera equipment and a telescope to capture the moving stars and not look blown out - not available on your own or on other tours. He also makes it exciting and entertaining - not like some tours that start and it’s the most awkward 2 hours of your life lol.
BATHROOMS: There will NOT be bathrooms where you meet James. However, there is the Mauna Kea State Recreation Area (put it in Google or Waze) that is open 24 hours and has bathroom stalls, soap, sinks and even paper towels! And it’s not far from where you will meet James