Seating is very limited for the Kama‘āina Observatory Experience (KOE). Registering for a spot on the KOE tour via our Registration Form on our website does not ensure that you will be getting a spot on the tour. Your spot for the KOE tour is not solidified until you receive a confirmation email with further instructions from our staff. You will need to submit the proper paperwork via email, instructions will be sent to your email if you are confirmed. The tour schedule and itinerary will be sent to you via email once you are confirmed. Tour times run from approximately 10am-4pm. If you fill out and complete either the initial registration form OR the waiting list form, this does not solidify a spot for you on the tour. Further instruction will be sent via email. You will need to fill out the proper paperwork that will be sent to you via email if you are confirmed to go on the tour.
You must be a Hawai’i State Resident to go on the tour and present your Hawaii State ID or drivers license the day of the tour.
Each registration form is good for either one (1) or two (2) people. The primary registrant must be over the age of 18. The secondary registrant may be 16 years of age or older. If the secondary applicant is 16 or 17 years old, they must be accompanied by the primary registrant who is 18 years of age or older.
All applicants must be a Hawai’i state resident, and have a valid Hawai’i drivers license or Hawai’i state ID card. If the secondary registrant is aged 16 or 17, they must be able to provide a Hawaii school ID card number.
You must provide your Hawaii drivers license number, or your Hawaii state ID number on the online application form. Please have these numbers ready when filling out your registration form (failure to provide this information will result in termination of your application).
Participants may only be allowed to go on a KOE tour once. If you have already been on a KOE tour, and you register again, your registration will be revoked (even if you get a confirmation email).
Please note the various potential hazards on Maunakea:
Exposure to Altitude
The summit elevation is 13,796 feet (4,205 m). The oxygen level is greatly reduced and a person can experience shortness of breath and/or impaired judgment. Reduced atmospheric pressure at high altitudes may cause altitude sickness or result in the development of other life threatening conditions such as pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) and cerebral edema (fluid on the brain). Also because the summit is above much of the atmosphere that blocks the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays, individuals risk exposure to serious sunburn and eye adamance, especially if there is snow on the ground.
Precautions Before Ascending to the Summit
- Prior to ascending the summit, acclimatize by spending at least 1/2 hour at the Visitor Information Station located at the 9,200 feet (2,804 m) elevation. This may lessen the intensity or onset of altitude sickness. If symptoms occur at this elevation, do not travel beyond the Visitor Information Station.
- Apply sunscreen and wear sunglasses and protective clothing.
- Hikers should register at the Visitor Information Station and use the buddy system.
- DO NOT DRINK ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES BEFORE OR DURING YOUR VISIT.
Persons at Risk
It is strongly advised the following individuals not travel above the Visitor Information Station:
- Pregnant women
- Individuals with heart or respiratory problems
- Individuals in poor physical condition
- Children under the age of 16 (extended exposure to high altitudes can cause permanent damage to children whose bodies are still developing.)
Symptoms of Altitude Sickness include:
- Altered mental state
- Loss of balance
- Impaired reason
Symptoms of PULMONARY EDEMA and CEREBRAL EDEMA include:
- Severe headaches
- Blue lips or fingernails
- Breathing difficulties
- Extreme drowsiness (could result in a coma)
If symptoms persist or become severe, immediately descend to a lower elevation. It could mean a matter of life or death!
Because some of the slopes are very steep with rock outcroppings at the bottom, you are strongly advised NOT TO USE the following: inner tubes, boogie boards, or other devices that are NOT equipped with braking mechanisms or which do NOT provide directional control on snow or ice.
Due to the fragile environment and cultural significance of Maunakea AND safety to you and others using the mountain, SNOW MOBILES OR ANY TYPE OF OFF-ROAD VEHICLES ARE PROHIBITED.
- There is no equipment or infrastructure available for organized snow play on Maunakea
- All snow recreation is at the risk of the individual.
During the winter, ice regularly forms on the observatory buildings and other structures. As these ice formations melt, large fragments fall to the ground without warning. You could be injured or your vehicle could be damaged.
Weather can change very rapidly resulting in severe conditions including freezing temperatures, snow storms and high winds which can reach over 100 mph. “white-outs” caused by blowing snow and fog block all visibility. Road conditions can become hazardous due to deep snow drifts, freezing fog and ice preventing vehicular passage. Visitors that are on the summit when severe weather occurs face a life-threatening situation. Severe weather conditions can last up to a week preventing immediate rescue. Should you get stuck in a severe winter storm, always stay with your vehicle.
- Equip yourself with cold weather clothing
- Evacuate as soon as hazardous weather conditions begin to occur.
The summit access road is approximately eight miles long and includes steep inclines. The first five miles of the road is unpaved with poor traction, narrow sections, blind curves and rocks on the road. In some places there may not be enough room for two-way traffic, especially when large trucks are on the road. Road clearing and mainteneance equipment should be given the right of way. Stopping distances are greatly increased when there is snow or ice on the road. Drivers should expect to see a lot of vehicles and pedestrians on the road. Drivers should also be careful of the sun in their eyes during early morning and late afternoon.
Drivers are Cautioned to:
- Use 4-wheel drive vehicles
- Drive slowly (Note the speed limit is 25 mph)
- Always use 4-wheel drive LOW RANGE (to reduce brake failure and overheating)
Maunakea is a very remote location. There are no public accommodations, food or gasoline services. Observatory buildings are normally not open to the public. There are limited restroom facilities above the Visitor Information Station. The only public telephone above the Visitor Information Station is an emergency phone in the entrance o the University of Hawai’i 88-inch Telescope. Cellular phone coverage is unreliable on the Saddle Road, Maunakea Access Road and on the summit. Vehicles should be in good working condition, especially the brakes, and should contain sufficient fuel to return to Hilo or Waimean. Emergency services, including medical assistance, may be two hours away.
ALL VISITORS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR OWN SAFETY. MINORS MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY AN ADULT AT ALL TIMES, TRAVEL IS AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Visitor Information Station: 808-961-2180
Winter Conditions: 808-935-6268 (recording)