In the past, rental car companies did not allow their vehicles on Hawai’i’s Saddle Road. In addition to the regular perils of driving up large hills, it was a rough and not well-maintained, with many one-lane bridges. The current road is wide and smooth, and since it is newer than most highways on the mainland, in great condition. (Side note: As I write this, a winter storm warning is in effect(!) for the island of Hawai’i, so we will not be returning to Kona via that route.)
I had originally been interested in a tour to the top of Mauna Kea for stargazing, but since prices are over $200 per person and Maureen was not eligible to go (health restrictions), I crossed that off the itinerary. Instead, we decided to drive up to the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station at 9200 feet. This is also the location of offices and housing for many of the scientists working on projects using the instruments at the Mauna Kea summit.
There, we viewed a nicely-done movie that included segments on astronomy, wildlife, geology, and local history. I conjectured that the movie was long in order to encourage those traveling to the summit to acclimate before going higher.
After checking out the gift shop’s offerings (we bought gum and a bird guide), we ventured across the street for little hike above the clouds.