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“COLD and WINDY, dress well”

Maunakea Visitor Information Station
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Mauna Kea Voyage
Ranked #2 of 81 things to do in Hilo
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
Frankfurt, Germany
Level Contributor
151 reviews
71 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 199 helpful votes
“COLD and WINDY, dress well”
Reviewed August 30, 2013

We visited in Feb, and it was unbelievably cold and windy, with ice in the parking lot of the visitor center. The rest of the road to the summit was closed due to icy conditions. Signs warn hikers about intense (sun) radiation, and thin oxygen. Did I feel shortness of breath? Or was it my imagination? It was my imagination. We enjoyed the visitors center, had some hot chocolate, and enjoyed hiking in the lunar-surface-like area with sinister looking, windblown straggly trees.
We layered up and tucked our hair under hats pulled down over our ears. It's a unique experience and we got some great pictures. Depending on how long you want to hike you can spend quite a bit of time here. For just the visitor center, I'd say an hour is plenty. There is a public escorted summit tour on weekends, and other special events - check website. You will find informational panels, video, interactive displays and good handouts. The First Light Bookstore has books about astronomy and Hawaiian culture, food (snacks, soup, hot & cold drinks) for sale, and there are hot water dispensers and a microwave for visitors.

Visited February 2013
Thank Cookie064
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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1,347 reviews from our community

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Binfield, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
315 reviews
118 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 281 helpful votes
“Terrific Experience but could be better”
Reviewed August 28, 2013

Simply fabulous experience.
Travelled with 2 kids so did not go to Observatory due lack f oxygen.

Watched sunset and then proceeded to the visitors centre where here was TV show and a presentation. There were numerous telescopes and we saw the rings of Saturn clearly.

Also saw 5 shooting stars, the international space station and countless stars. It was beautiful, awesome and fantastic.

Would have been perfect if they had wifi. I could then have used my iPad apps to view and name the constellations and stars.

Disappointed that car park and viewing area are adjacent so there is lot f disturbance from those leaving and a great deal of light pollution.

It is free to visit but I can't help thinking that a fee would allow them to improve facilities and provide a more comfortable experience.

The staff were friendly helpful and incredibly enthusiastic and knowledgable.

It is very cold so warm clothing, sturdy shoes and water are essential. There is coffee and hot chocolate available and whilst welcome, this is another which could be improved.

That said icon Big Island this is a must do experience.

Visited August 2013
Thank Binman62
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
50 reviews
26 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 28 helpful votes
“"Heaven" for astronomy buffs. Bring warm clothes”
Reviewed August 25, 2013

One of our adult sons has a minor in astronomy so Mauna Kea was a must see. We were staying in Kona, so visited Volcanos Park then went on to Mauna Kea Visitor Center for sunset and stargazing. The access road to Mauna Kea from Hilo is very good. It is amazing to drive above the clouds. The altitude is over 10,000 feet, so bring warm clothes ... yes, even in August. The volunteers here are awesome, showing videos and sharing their telescopes and knowledge. The night sky from here is breathtaking and humbling. There were a lot of tour buses and inconsiderate tourists shining flashlights and headlights, so, when leaving, we drove a couple miles down from the Visitors Center and pulled off the road in a wide spot and enjoyed the heavens in quiet darkness.

Visited August 2013
Thank powell_diana
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
117 reviews
23 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 41 helpful votes
“Good stop to learn about astronomy”
Reviewed August 23, 2013

We were impressed with the videos and learned lots from the folks working there. I would not recommend leaving the beach and trek down the Saddle just to come here unless you have a keen interest in the topic or a keen interest to learn about it. While driving down the hill Moana Loa appeared majestic to us across the valley, more so than when driving around the island perimeter for some reason. Very interesting geography.

Visited December 2012
1 Thank longroadtogo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
S. Walpole
Level Contributor
289 reviews
125 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 95 helpful votes
“Clever but Small”
Reviewed August 22, 2013

This place has great videos. Good keepsakes and a very informative video set up to teach you about astronomy and the work being done here.

Visited August 2013
Thank mike t
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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