W. M. Keck Observatory Headquarters Welcomes All
With the successful launch of the W. M. Keck Observatory Guidestar Program, residents and visitors of the Island of Hawai’i are encouraged to visit the Observatory’s headquarters in Waimea. Our volunteers are available Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to greet guests and educate them about Keck Observatory and the other Maunakea observatories. Visitors can view models and images of the twin 10-meter Keck Observatory telescopes as well as hear about our latest discoveries and outreach programs. We also sell merchandise, including shirts, hats and books about Keck Observatory.
Our headquarters is located at 65-1120 Mamalahoa Hwy in the town of Waimea. We welcome your visit.
Visiting the Summit of Maunakea
The summit of Maunakea provides dramatic scenery and an unforgettable visitor experience. Visitors with 4-wheel drive vehicles are permitted to drive to the 14,000-foot summit of Maunakea, weather permitting. At the summit, the visit Keck Observatory’s visitor’s gallery with exhibits describing our research and operations. The gallery also contains two public restrooms and a viewing area with partial views of the Keck I telescope and dome (look for the blue door). Gallery hours are 10 a.m.- 4 p.m., Monday-Friday.
If you have questions about the weather and road conditions, please call (808) 935-6268.
Safety reminder: The summit of Maunakea at nearly 14,000-feet altitude, presents unique challenges to visitors. Visits to the summit require a 30 minute acclimatization stop at the 9,200-foot Onizuka Visitor’s Center, warm clothing for the summit, sunscreen for protection from excessive UV radiation, and water. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is required beyond the 9,200 foot level as the air is too thin to adequately cool a vehicle’s brakes upon descent.
The Mauna Kea Visitor Information Center , located at the 9,200-foot basecamp, and provides information about cultural, environmental, and geological features of Maunakea as well as information about the world-class astronomy it provides. After dark, there are free stargazing programs.
Temperatures on the summit can fall to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, or -4 degrees Celsius, within a matter of hours: it is highly recommended that all visitors to the summit take warm clothing and sturdy footgear sufficient to withstand the elements should the vehicle break down. High winds on the summit can often result in blowing snow, sleet, fog and sometimes, flying rocks. Winds can reach 150 mph.
The summit of Maunakea is one of the most remote locations in the Islands. Medical and auto help is a minimum of two hours away. Most car rental companies void the rental contract if their cars are driven from the VIS to the summit. It is a safety requirement of the road-maintenance organization for the summit that all vehicles driving up and down the mountain beyond the Hale Pohaku basecamp be four-wheel-drive vehicles. Caution is advised.