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- So first thing first - driving through Hawai'i island from east to west is easy but you do feel the altitude/pressure - in your eyes, head, ears - it's a quite intimidating road - perfectly easy to drive without obstacles and visibility but there is no service for about 50 miles and you don't want your car to die - we did see some + we drove a 2022 Ford Escape and going one way we "lost" 1/4 of our gas tank! Round trip from KOA to ITO airports = half!!!! of the gas tank gone! And there are no gas stations, food stops anything - there is just some military base and some governmental/science buildings here and there.
Now, getting that out of the way - you will thus arrive late at night here if you arrive for the stargazing (otherwise I don't see any point unless you want to go all the way to the top, which is the summit and not the Visitor Center) - the drive from the main road once you make the turn towards the Visitor Center perfectly fine and easy - there are no light posts but there are these reflective little things in both the middle and the edges of the road - your headlights will perfectly thus mark the road for you - otherwise the only thing you will be able to see is just the stars in the skies :)
Once at the visitor center - there is some little info here and there to read, we did entertain this idea for a moment but to be honest we didn't come here for that - we come here as most people that time; to see the stars! For the most part it was a very nice experience but;
a. the visitor center closes at around 9PM or even 10PM - so it takes a while for them to turn off the white lights inside that spoil the experience - also they leave the red lights on, which aren't as bad, but still affect the experience - so you can go around the area maybe to try to avoid that or just stay at the parking lot (people coming in and out also do affect it sadly but we all need to park...)
b. the experience was nice but I was hoping for the absolute best of my life considering the altitude... to be perfectly honest it wasnt! The best so far I had seen ever was while on island of Eleuthera, Bahamas in the middle of summer one year - also, I must say the following night after we did stargazing we went at night tot he Volcanos National Park where the stars visibility was also better - for the record all 3 instances had perfectly clear skies with no clouds or moon affecting it - it must have been some gases or something in the air while here at Mauna Kea that felt like there was a "some kind of super light fog" as things weren't as crisps as they were in 2 other instances :( still an absolute must experience to have
Of course the pictures I took don't give it justice with the silly iphone but if you don't do the volcanos at night then this is your best shot at it while on Big Island - very memorable experience, very laid back!
TIP: it's cooooooold and windy! It wasn't as cold and windy as we experienced a week later in Maui on Haleakala (despite just a few feet difference) but you want to dress up to enjoy this! Also, in Maui = no restrooms at the top (where you want to experience it from) vs here on Mauna Kea there is a rest room at the Visitor Center that you will end up chilling atWritten 22 November 2022This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
- Great place to start your visit, just inside main gate. Volunteer behind desk helped us plan a couple hour visit. It all went very well. Tell her your interests and limitations. Nice restrooms.Written 22 January 2023This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
- Good stop. Friendly and informative. Nice maps and advice. But Speed trap coming to Hawi from south. Be careful.Written 10 February 2022This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
- Selection was fantastic, but would have been nice to have samples available. Disappointed at the prices - cheaper at gift shops, ABC Store and even Target. Probably the freshest selection though. There's a fun little photo booth, but my friend and I chose the wrong colors to wear since we blended into the background. LoLWritten 30 July 2022
- It was cool to see Naha rock and the history behind it. The hours of the library made it difficult to access.Written 28 February 2020
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