Mauna Loa- 10 Things to Know Before Visiting

Mountain Peaks


About Mauna Loa

Mauna Loa is the largest active volcano on Earth in terms of volume and area covered. It is an active shield volcano located on the island of Hawaii in the U.S. state of Hawaii. It stands over 13,000 feet tall(4,169 m) and has a base that covers an area of over 2,000 square miles.

Things to Do at Mauna Loa

Mauna Loa is a large and complex volcano and presents a challenging hike offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. The summit of the volcano is at a high altitude and the trail is over rough, jagged, and often loose lava. The trail is marked with stacked rocks and can be very easy to lose in times of low visibility. There are two trailheads to the summit:

  1. From Mauna Loa Road: 12.1 km from Mauna Loa Lookout to Puʻuʻulaʻula, 18.7 km from Puʻuʻulaʻula Cabin to Summit Cabin with significant elevation gains.
  2. From Mauna Loa Observatory Road: 9.5 km from Mauna Loa Observatory to Summit Cabin, 10.3 km from Mauna Loa Observatory to the summit.

Only 3 consecutive nights can be spent at every cabin. Only a limited number of hikers are allowed per night at the cabins. 24 hikers are allowed per night at the Pu'u 'ula'ula (Red Hill). A total of 28 hikers are allowed at the Mauna Loa summit cabin area. There is no drinking water at any of the cabins or the trailheads. Neither has public telephones or public transportation.

While you are on the trail, be prepared for severe winter conditions, including blizzards, high winds, and whiteouts. Snow or driving rain is possible at any time of year. High-altitude storms can occur without warning. Temperatures are below freezing at night all year round.

As you will be hiking at high altitudes under rigorous conditions, altitude sickness is common. The only cure is to descend and pace yourself and drink plenty of water. Packing extra clothing and waterproofing your sleeping bag will be of help in dire situations. Always try to keep warm as hypothermia is a killer here. A first aid kit will also come in handy to be prepared to treat injuries caused by falls on sharp, glassy lava.

If you do not want to hike up, there are also options to reach the summit using a 4x4 vehicle through the narrow, unpaved road.

Mauna Kea is also known for its ts world-class stargazing. High altitude, no light pollution, and a thin atmosphere contribute to excellent conditions for viewing Hawaii’s night sky with the naked eye. Stargazing conditions are best at the Visitor Information Station, rather than the summit. In addition, the volcano offers spectacular sunrise and sunset from its slopes.

Activities Around

History of Mauna Loa

Mauna Loa is one of five subaerial volcanoes that make up the island of Hawaiʻi. Like all Hawaiian volcanoes, it was created as the Pacific tectonic plate moved over the Hawaii hotspot in the Earth's underlying mantle. It is believed that Mauna Loa started as a submarine volcano, gradually building itself up through underwater eruptions before emerging from the sea through a series of eruptions about 400,000 years ago. Since then, the volcano has remained active, with a history of effusive and explosive eruptions.

With a submarine height of 5,000 m and subaerial height of 4,170 m, Mauna Loa rises 9,170 m from base to summit, greater than the 8,848 m elevation of Mount Everest from sea level to its summit. Much of the mountain is invisible even underwater: its mass depresses the crust beneath it by another 8 km, in the shape of an inverse mountain, making the total height of Mauna Loa about 17,170 m.

Mauna Loa's summit has two prominent rift zones, marked on the surface by well-preserved, relatively recent lava flows and linearly arranged fracture lines intersected by cinder and splatter cones. These rift zones are believed to reach down to the volcano's base, 12 to 14 km deep.

More information on the history and expeditions of the eruption can be read here.

Best Time to Visit Mauna Loa

Mauna Loa is located in the tropical rainforest region of Hawaii, and the weather can vary significantly depending on the time of year. The dry season, which runs from April to October, tends to have more pleasant weather with less rain and fewer clouds. The wet season, which runs from November to March, is generally more humid and rainy.

Mauna Loa and the surrounding area can get quite crowded during peak tourist season, which runs from December to April. If you prefer a more peaceful and uncrowded visit, you may want to consider visiting during the off-peak season.

Tips for Visiting Mauna Loa

  1. The volcano can be closed to visitors due to eruptions or other natural forces. Before planning your visit, check the status of the opening from the national park website.
  2. Mauna Loa is a challenging hike and requires a high level of physical fitness. Make sure you are adequately prepared for the trek, including having the proper clothing, footwear, and gear.
  3. A permit is required to hike Mauna Loa and can be obtained from the National Park Service (NPS) or the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. To know information on how to apply for the permit, please visit the NPS website.
  4. Mauna Loa is a potentially hazardous volcano, and it is important to follow safety guidelines while on the mountain. This includes staying on designated trails, being aware of your surroundings, and following any instructions from park rangers.
  5. Hikers are required to pack out everything they pack in. Do not bury or discard trash in pit toilets.
  6. Please bring essential equipment in addition to the regular cold weather gear- First aid kit, Trail map, Emergency food supply, cookstove, fuel, and utensils, Flashlight & extra batteries, Biodegradable soap, toilet paper, Signaling device, Minimum 3 to 4 litres water per person/day, Tent/bivy sack, Broken-in sturdy boots, moleskin, Sunglasses, sunscreen, hat, Sleeping bag (0 degrees or better), Rain pants and jacket.

Interesting Facts and Trivias About Mauna Loa

  1. Mauna Loa is the largest volcano on Earth in terms of volume and area covered. It covers an area of over 2,000 square miles and has a volume of about 19,000 cubic miles.
  2. Mauna Loa makes up roughly 51% of Hawaiʻi Island.
  3. It stands 13,681 feet (4,170 m) above sea level. However, it rises 30,000 feet (9,144 m) from the bottom of the sea, a greater height than Mount Everest.
  4. Mauna Loa is a shield volcano, which means it is made up of mostly fluid lava flows that have erupted over a long period. This gives it its gentle, sloping shape.
  5. Mauna Loa has erupted 34 times since 1843- averaging once every five years. In the past 3,000 years, it's estimated to have erupted once every six years.
  6. Mauna Loa is an important cultural and spiritual site for the native Hawaiian people and is also a significant research site for scientists studying volcanoes and geology.
  7. Mauna Loa is Hawaiian for "long mountain," which refers to its massive size and long, gently sloping shape.

How Much Time Did Visitors Spend at Mauna Loa

Mauna Loa is a large and complex volcano, and there are many things to see and do in the area. Some visitors may choose to hike to the summit of the volcano, which can take several days depending on the route and the individual's fitness level. Others may prefer to take a guided tour or visit the nearby Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which offers a variety of educational and recreational activities.

How to Reach Mauna Loa

Mauna Loa is located on the island of Hawaii in the U.S. state of Hawaii. The island of Hawaii can be reached by flying into one of its two airports: Hilo International Airport (ITO) or Kona International Airport (KOA). From either airport, you can rent a car or take a taxi or shuttle to the volcano.

Several tour companies offer guided tours of Mauna Loa and the surrounding area. These tours may include transportation to and from the volcano, as well as guided hikes and other activities.

If you are planning to rent a car while on the island of Hawaii, you can drive to Mauna Loa. The drive from Hilo takes about an hour, while the drive from Kona takes about three hours.

Entrance Fee of Mauna Loa

There is no entrance fee to visit Mauna Loa. However, a permit is required to hike Mauna Loa and can be obtained from the National Park Service (NPS) or the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. There is a fee for the permit, which varies depending on the type of permit and the length of your trip. For more information, visit the NPS website.

If you are interested in taking a guided tour of Mauna Loa or the surrounding area, you may need to pay a fee for the tour.

Opening Hours of Mauna Loa

Mauna Loa is a natural attraction and is open to visitors 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, the accessibility of certain areas of the volcano may vary depending on the weather and other factors.

If you are planning to hike to the summit of Mauna Loa, it can take several days, depending on the route and the individual's fitness level, and it is important to be prepared for the physical and mental challenges of the hike. For a live status of Mauna Lua eruptions and hiking possibilities, check the national park website.

Attractions Near Mauna Loa

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park

32.38km from Mauna Loa

This is an American national park which was located on the island of Hawaii. It comprises two active volcanoes Kīlauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa, the world's most massive shield volcano. For visitors, the park offers dramatic volcanic landscapes, as well as glimpses of rare flora and fauna and so more.

Kealakekua Bay

Kealakekua Bay

34.99km from Mauna Loa

Kealakekua Bay is an important historic location because it marks the site where the first westerner, Captain James Cook, landed on Hawaii island. Now this place is a famous tourist attraction and it is a perfect destination for scuba diving and kayaking and snorkeling.

Punaluʻu Beach

Punaluʻu Beach

38.51km from Mauna Loa

This is a beach on the big island of Hawaii. The beach has black sand made of basalt and created by lava flowing into the ocean which explodes as it reaches the ocean and cools. Punaluʻu is frequented by endangered hawksbill and green turtles, which can often be seen basking on the black sand. It is one of the major tourist attractions in Hawaii.

Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea

40.87km from Mauna Loa

This is a dormant volcano and the highest point in the island of Hawaii. Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world. Trekkerrs and adventure lovers can explore this area.

Mauna Ulu

Mauna Ulu

42.67km from Mauna Loa

This is a volcanic cone that was situated at the eastern rift zone of the Kīlauea volcano. It falls within the bounds of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. Mauna Ulu was in a state of the eruption from May 1969 to July 1974.

Mokuaikaua Church

Mokuaikaua Church

46.01km from Mauna Loa

Located on the big island of Hawaii. This was Hawaii's first Christian church. Founded by missionaries who came from Boston.

Discover More Attractions in Hawaii, Home of Mauna Loa



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Hawaiʻi County is a county in the U.S. state of Hawaii in the Hawaiian Islands. County which was floursihed with natural beauty and so many other places.

Location of Mauna Loa


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