Right Place, Perfect Time: Geminid Meteor Shower

See shooting stars from a five-star backcountry observatory.

With negligible light pollution, high-altitude (clear) atmosphere, and horizon-to-horizon views, astronomers rank Hawaii’s volcano summits to be among the top 10 spots in the world to witness a meteor shower. The Geminids, in December, offer an especially vivid and prolific show, with streaks of white, green, and blue flashing at a rate of more than one per minute.

From the Haleakala National Park visitor center at 9,740 feet, pick up a free permit the day of your trip, then take the Sliding Sands and Haleamau’u Trails 7.5 miles to camping at the 25-capacity Holua campsite (6,940 feet; water and pit toilets nearby). Pitch a tent, get in a catnap, and wait for the evening’s entertainment, which peaks around midnight. The shower reaches its most intense flurry on December 13 and 14 this year, but the sky lights up a week before and after, so schedule a trip close to a new moon (December 24, 2011) for the darkest sky. The park is just under 40 miles southeast of Kahului.

Map Trails Illustrated Haleakala National Park ($12,

Info (808) 572-4400;