W. M. Keck Observatory Headquarters Welcomes Your Visit
With the successful launch of the W. M. Keck Observatory Volunteer Program, residents and visitors of the Island of Hawai’i are encouraged to visit the Observatory’s headquarters in Waimea. Our volunteers are available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to greet guests and educate them about Keck and the other Mauna Kea observatories. Visitors can view models and images of the twin 10-meter Keck telescopes as well as hear about our latest discoveries and outreach programs. We also sell KeckWear merchandise, including DVDs and books about the Observatory.
Our headquarters is located at 65-1120 Mamalahoa Hwy in the town of Waimea. We welcome your visit.
Visiting the Summit of Mauna Kea
The summit of Mauna Kea provides dramatic scenery and an unforgettable visitor experience. The W. M. Keck Observatory does not provide tours of Mauna Kea at this time. Guests with 4-wheel drive vehicles are permitted to drive to the 14,000-foot summit of Mauna Kea, weather permitting. At the summit, the W. M. Keck Observatory provides a 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 Mauna Kea 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.
Temperatures on the summit can fall to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus four 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; beyond 75 mph vehicles are at risk for being blown off the road.
The summit of Mauna Kea 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 on Saddle Road and 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.
The Mauna Kea Visitor Information Center , located at the 9,200-foot basecamp, also provides information about astronomy and the environmental, cultural and geological features of the mountain. After dark, there are free stargazing programs.