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“Worth it” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Mauna Loa Observatory

Mauna Loa Observatory
154 Waianuenue Avenue, Hilo, Island of Hawaii, HI 96720
808 933 6965
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Ranked #20 of 66 things to do in Hilo
Attraction details
Lakewood, California
Senior Reviewer
7 reviews 7 reviews
4 attraction reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
“Worth it”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 28, 2012

The ride up the gravel road can be a little bumpy. Rental cars are not allowed. Once up top it's amazing. Make sure you bring a jacket because it's very cold.

Visited July 2012
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52 reviews from our community

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English first
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3 reviews 3 reviews
3 attraction reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
“Beautiful and intense!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 13, 2012 via mobile

The most beautiful view in te island, it does not matter if it is cloudy or not, it is just incredible. The road is quite intense but as long as you go in a 4x4 you will be fine!

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Waikoloa, Hawaii
Senior Contributor
37 reviews 37 reviews
24 attraction reviews
Reviews in 15 cities Reviews in 15 cities
27 helpful votes 27 helpful votes
“No meaningful public facilities and a horrific road.”
2 of 5 stars Reviewed July 12, 2012

The road is single lane and there are potholes that can only be described as biblical in dimension. It really isn't intended as a tourist destination. You can hike to the Mauna Loa caldera from the end of the road at the Mauna Loa Weather Observatory and that is a cool hike if you can handle the altitude, cold, UV light, thin air and desolation. And don't take your vehicle off of the road! Last time I was up there I encountered a couple of tourists with two shredded, flat tires on their rental jeep. They drifted off the road a bit while trying to navigate the massive potholes and shredded their tires on the sharp, jagged lava. It is actually sort of a cool place that I would describe as "magnificent desolation" but if you aren't properly prepared it could certainly end up being the low spot of your entire visit!

Visited June 2012
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
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Greenville, South Carolina
Senior Reviewer
8 reviews 8 reviews
3 attraction reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
“An experience 2 remember”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 5, 2012

I'm glad we did this excursion.
The drive to the Observatory was a fun adventure.
My husband wanted to do the Observatory and I had mixed desire.
I was glad we went and would even go again.

Visited January 2012
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Hilo, Hawaii
Top Contributor
115 reviews 115 reviews
46 attraction reviews
Reviews in 52 cities Reviews in 52 cities
144 helpful votes 144 helpful votes
“Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea NOT the same...”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 4, 2012

Warning....some of these reviews refer to Mauna KEA which has a road to the top and can be easily visited with a rented 4x4...although some do experience the effects of altitude....
Mauna LOA observatory is at the end of an 18 mile one lane, although recently reconditioned road, that goes off to the left of Saddle Road just before the Mauna Kea access road if you are coming from Hilo, just after if you are coming from Kona.
The Observatory is at 11,500ft and a 4 mile to the Caldera, 6 mile to the summit hiking trail starts just past the Observatory. This is a scientific outpost in a VERY remote area and is not open for casual visitors....however if you do some research and Googling around it is a NOAA facility and visits can be arranged specially for educational groups.
The NOAA website for this facility also contains a "Tour guide" with points of interest noted in miles and tenths from the Saddle road.
A four wheel drive vehicle is NOT required to get to the Observatory however be warned that the "Road" marked on some maps from this point to the summit is a crude emergency route that would tax the most rugged vehicles and WILL destroy any car or 4x4 rental jeep in a short distance....and you will find locked gates long before reaching the caldera, if you make it that far.
For hikers...you are on your own...and should report any hike to the National Park Service at Kilauea before doing this and let your hotel or friends know what you are doing and your projected return time. Leave early in the morning, four or six miles sounds easy....its not, and you may experience altitude sickness....as happened to a VERY fit group of Euro kids I recently advised who left way too late intending to hike to the cabin but one girl was hit by sickness and they had to descend at night...a scary prospect. However that said the trail is well marked with stone cairns within sight of each other...but stick to the trail as ML has patches of impassable A'a lava that you do not want to get into.
As with any other part of the Island and indeed the world...do not leave ANYTHING of value in your car while you hike.
Please go to both the NOAA site and the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park sites before attempting the hike....the reward for a simple drive up to the Observatory is spectacular views of the massive ML lava flows of past times and amazing views of the other Volcanoes forming the Big Island, the NOAA visitor guide will give you plenty of other interesting lava tubes and formations to visit on the way, be warned that there are NO services, water or toilets of any kind..be prepared..ENJOY !!

Visited June 2012
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