Driving to Mauna Kea summit in Rental Car

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Aug 20th, 2007, 12:01 PM
  #1
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Driving to Mauna Kea summit in Rental Car

Two years ago my husband and I drove obliviously up one morning in our Budget rentacar, had a nice sightsee, turned around and went back down in low gear, no problems. Next month, we are going back to the BI with our daughter, and I'm suddenly reading about various dangers and brake failure accidents, and I'm getting paranoid!

Has anyone gone up recently in their rentacar? The visitor center told me over the phone that they discourage tourists using the road, but that it isn't prohibited. Do they restrict headlight use at night?
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Aug 20th, 2007, 02:44 PM
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My family drove to the visitor's center on Mauna Kea with no problems. We stayed for some stargazing then headed back to Kona.

The dangerous part is going from the visitor's center to the summit. DH and I did a tour for that a number of years ago. The vehicle must be 4-wheel drive and it was a scary ride.
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Aug 20th, 2007, 04:21 PM
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I have been wondering about that same issue.
Suzie True you say it was a scary ride. How so? Drop offs?
The tours are almost $200 per person and with 4 of us that is a bit much. I have rented a 4 wheel drive from Hertz for the week but have heard the usual rental companies do not let you drive up there. Does that mean not even to the visitors center?
Has anyone done the visitor center group excursions on weekends?
Thanks in advance for any advice on this.
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Aug 20th, 2007, 06:27 PM
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The road past the visitor's center is not paved except at the very top. There are some very steep sections, so the need for 4 wheel drive. I don't remember any steep drop-offs, I was paying attention to the slow, steep uphill climb. The drive down was after sunset, so again not looking at drop-offs.

I think the reason for no rental cars on Saddle Road has to do with distances from Hilo and Kona. We easily took our rental car to the visitor's center.

The other thing to consider about going all the way to the top is elevation. You go from sea level to almost 14,000 feet in just a few hours. It remember feeling light-headed and having a headache while at the top. The visitor's center is at 9,000 feet and I didn't have those problems.
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Aug 20th, 2007, 09:11 PM
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I was told some years ago that young children were not allowed up on Mauna Kea. Is this still the case?
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Aug 21st, 2007, 04:31 AM
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We took our kids [15 & 12] to the visitor's center. At the time no one under the age of 16 was allowed to the top.
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Aug 21st, 2007, 06:51 AM
  #7
tmt
 
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If you plan on going to the top, then you should stop at the visitor center for 1/2 hour or so to get climitized (sp?). Bring dinner and have it at the visitor center.

The road from the visitor center to the top may be steep, but its not scary at all and I don't remember any cliffs whatsoever.

We went last year with a tour company and thought, heck, we could have driven this ourselves - and we hate to drive on steep roads.

Just remember to find out if your rental agreement covers going on the unpaved road - and make sure if they say yes, that you write it on the agreement somewhere so they don't reneg later.

...and have a great time
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Aug 21st, 2007, 11:24 AM
  #8
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Thanks for the replies. We probably won't ask Budget what's allowed, because they will likely say No.

The dirt part of the road was washboardy and dusty but well graded, not nearly as bad as some California mountain fire roads we've been on in our normal cars. I didn't notice any drop offs. It just didn't seem that bad, I suppose all the dire warnings are to discourage casual drivers who may not be experienced with dirt mountain roads.

I guess we'll head up there and see what happens. We know what to do about altitude, that isn't a problem, and daughter is grown. I still wonder about nighttime, would they turn us away if we started up at 5 pm?

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Aug 21st, 2007, 07:04 PM
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Thanks for all the input.

gigib let us know how it goes. We will be going in early Oct so will be interested.

Looking at the web site of the visitor's center www.ifa.hawaii.edu/info/vis it looks like they have interesting programs.

Any hints for the altitude?
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