The second best thing to do on the Big Island

Going to see lava is the best thing to do when you visit the Big Island of Hawai'i, but not many people know that the best place on the planet to look at the night sky with unaided human eyes is located here too. If you go up to the Visitors Center on the flank of Mauna Kea at sunset, you'll be treated to a night sky like you've never seen before (if the moon isn't up, that is). Our island is 2500+ miles (3548 kilometers) from any dust source, so our air is really clean here. Combine that with the center's altitude of 9000 feet (3000 meters) so you're above roughly 80% of the Earth's atmosphere, the limited light pollution, and the fact that we're so far south that we can not only view all of the Northern Hemisphere's sky, but 85% of the Southern Hemisphere's as well, and you have an amazing night sky. The Visitors Center sets up telescopes every night at sunset, and better, volunteers and staff there give sky talks as well.

On a clear night, you will marvel at the amount of stars you can see. Also, they take on a cold, bluish-white color that we've never seen anywhere else. Sometimes the Milky Way looks like a dust storm blowing in. Just amazing.

You can find the road up to the Visitors Center about midway along Highway 200, also known as the Saddle Road. Just look for the sign pointing to the Mauna Kea Observatories. If you're driving up at night, beware of "invisible cows!"


Monday11:00AM - 8:00PM
Tuesday11:00AM - 7:30PM
Thursday11:00AM - 8:00PM
Friday11:00AM - 8:00PM
Saturday11:00AM - 8:00PM
Sunday11:00AM - 7:30PM