One usually doesn't associate snowfields and freezing wind with Hawaii. On top of observatory-studded Mauna Kea though, they're just two additional elements of paradise.

We booked a stargazing package through Mauna Kea Adventures, and they worked hard not to disappoint us. We were picked up at 11 am in Kona, and arrived by air-conditioned van at the top of Mauna Kea volcano, nearly 13,000 feet above sea level, just before dusk.

After an awesome sunset - ever see nightfall from the top of the world? - we fell back to 9000 feet to stargaze through large portable telescopes attained through our tour.

Parkas and dinner were provided, along with an immeasurable newfound appreciation for this island paradise. It's not all about over-priced mai tais, palm trees and sandy beaches, you know.