W.M. Keck Observatory
W.M. Keck Observatory
4.5
7:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Monday
7:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Tuesday
7:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Wednesday
7:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Thursday
7:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Friday
7:30 AM - 5:00 PM

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4.5
4.5 of 5 bubbles46 reviews
Excellent
37
Very good
6
Average
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George H
San Jose, CA98 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2020
We enjoyed the docent interaction at the Keck headquarters in Waimea, where it was possible to get insight into today's astronomy activities and the amazing work being performed with the optical systems on top of Mauna Kea. This trip we drove up to the mountain top (yes, you really do have to have 4WD), stopping the recommended 30 minutes at the 9,000 foot visitors center, and then proceeding to the 14,000 foot top where we were able to enter the Keck observatory visitor space and get a view of one of the two large telescopes.
There are commercially available tours if you prefer to let someone else drive and have a guide along.
Written 10 March 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Bill15Q
The Cincinnati Region525 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2024 • Couples
Can not emphasize the stop at 9,000 ft enough. It’s a long way up and 30-60 mins there is important. Also, the Rangers know more about your 4WD Jeep than you do. Listen carefully. If you listen to them, you’ll get up safely, and back down without melting your brakes. If your brakes are over 300 deg (they measure it), you get to spend 30 mins or more in time-out. Their mountain, their rules. Think for a moment about the insurance hassle after your Jeep Wrangler is a black spot on a remote mountain…. All sorts of NOT GOOD. That said, the drive to the top is rewarding. Views are spectacular. It looks like Mars. Take your time on the drive down, in manual mode, 2nd gear, no brakes, just like the Ranger told you, and you’ll be equally rewarded with a Jeep in one piece for the rest of your trip.
Written 22 April 2024
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

F4981JCmichaels
Vancouver, WA2,650 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2019 • Couples
It might be confusing to some to see the Keck Observatory Visitors Center along the main highway in Waimea, since the actual telescopes are on top of Mauna Kea at 13,000+ feet.
First, the general public cannot visit the actual telescopes. You can see the building on top of the mountain, along with all the other telescope buildings up there, but almost all the telescopes are off limits to the general pubic. A few have viewing areas behind glass partitions, most of which require reservations in advance of your visit. Check with what ever telescope administration in advance of your visit to see if theirs is viewable if that is something you wish to do.
Next, if you plan on going up to the top of the mountain to see them, it's a gravel road restricted to 4 wheel drive vehicles only. Probably because they don't want you die on the way down if your brakes fail in a regular car, which would be very possible. Rental car companies do not allow their vehicles up this road. Some don't even allow their vehicles to go up to the visitors center at 9,000+ feet. Ask before you rent. (Avis does not allow it, for example.) You can rent 4 wheel drive vehicles from some companies and my guess is they are not cheap, from what I saw when I checked online; or you can also go with a tour group, which is also not cheap. (Around $200 per person, generally. Varies by tour company.)
So, with all that said, what is the Keck Observatory Visitors Center? It's a small public education area in the administration building in Waimea for the telescope located on the mountaintop. There is a knowledgeable individual on duty there to answer any questions. Since I am a subscriber to Astronomy magazine, I really had an exciting discussion about what they are finding with the telescopes, such as one lady who has been watching stars careening around the black hole (Sagittarius A*) in the middle of the Milky Way. One star recently skimmed the event horizon. Fascinating stuff if astronomy is your "thing." Otherwise, if it is not, you might get bored quickly. There are a few minor displays, and printouts with info about what's currently going on, all located in a small area. Rest rooms used by the staff are available to respectful visitors too. (Don't wander around the offices in other words.) There are no souvenirs. There are plenty of those at the visitors center at 9,000+ feet on Mauna Kea. Be warned, if you go to that visitors center, and don't have a low gear setting on your rental car (we did not), maybe pull over for a few minutes to let the brakes cool down, on the drive back down the mountain on 17% grades. (We did.) But all of this does not apply to the Waimea visitors center.
Parking is somewhat confusing. General parking is in a large parking lot also used by the staff, and there is a tarred walkway to the visitors center, half the length of the building away. Handicapped parking is closer to the visitors center, but is hard at first to discern where it is. There is a small sign pointing the way, and once there, the handicapped spots are clearly marked.
One last observation: There is also a building in Waimea for the Canadian-French-Hawaiian telescope, but there is no visitors center there. It's only an administration building.
Written 13 March 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Johnny007
Leland, NC28 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2013 • Couples
There are numerous signs warning that the road up from the visitors center is dangerous and they recommend that you take a commercial tour mini-bus from that point up. I was skeptical that the warning was just to help the tourism business, but my wife was spooked and opted to wait at the center. I drove up in my rental car. That portion of the drive is about five miles on winding gravel (pulverized lava) and it was drizzling most of the way. My speed was limited to about 15 mph due to the mini-bus ahead of me, but I don't think I would have tried to go much faster anyway. After five miles the road is once again paved. Coincidentally, I broke out of the mist at that moment. It was about an hour or less before sunset and a few miles later I arrived at the top, where there are several small parking lots and quite a few huge telescopes (not accessible to the public). The sky above was crystal clear. Everything below was shrouded in clouds. Being above the clouds was pretty weird. The light of the setting sun behind the clouds below was beautiful. Oddly, there was a similar light off to the east, the opposite direction of the sunset. I set off back down before sunset to avoid being behind the tour buses. I noticed that my car thermometer indicated 32 degrees. It had been in the mid-80's at sea level that afternoon. Heading down there was no limit to my speed - as fast as I dared to go in a Ford Fusion on wet lava gravel on a curvy mountain road. I did let it out a little and on some straights I'd hit about 50 then brake hard. I came to appreciate the warning signs and would recommend a self-drive only to those who have had plenty of experience with mountain driving. It would be very easy to ride the brakes, thus boiling your brake fluid and losing brakes completely. That could mean death here, as there are very few guard rails. A four wheel drive jeep would have been better in this situation, but you would be paying more for such a vehicle and this is the only place we encountered on the island where it might be needed. To add to the rush of the drive down, I was a little light-headed due to the high altitude. I certainly would have been driving much more conservatively if not for the fact that I was alone. Was one of several highlights of our visit to the Big Island (Helicopter Ride and Wild Ocean Hawaiian Adventures were also five star attractions)
Written 28 August 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Karl S
Kamloops, Canada15 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2018
You drive from sea level to almost 14k ft ...and the day we went, it was raining down low, but on top we were above the clouds. Incredible views....The Keck telescopes have a small public viewing area...and very much worth a few minutes, as the discoveries made there are highlighted. Some serious science has taken place there!! The combination of the impressive volcanics, the altitude and the telescopes made for an unforgettable visit.
Written 29 April 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

oldpo
Portland, OR223 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2015 • Couples
If you go to Mauna Kea, AND have a 4 wheel drive unit and lots of warm clothing you can drive to the top of the mountain--but you still can't see the telescopes. If you want to see how those pieces of technology work you need to drive to Waimea, and just off the city center there is an official headquarters with models of the lenses, some astonishing photos, and at least during our visit a wonderful volunteer guide who Knew All and Told All. This is the official headquarters for all of the digital imagery generated by the 'scopes, and the technology will either bore you silly or make you gasp in wonder. Some funny stories about the staff, including the guy "Who Killed Pluto" and why. It does make sense, but I always liked that rock as a planet.
Written 22 November 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

LatinOnTheGo
Hubert, NC32 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2015 • Family
We were lucky enough to get a private tour of Keck #1's telescope. This is an incredible facility with extremely devoted scientists and support personnel.
The trip to the almost 14,000 feet (4,300 meters) was very fast and with incredible scenery along the way. The 8+ meter telescope was nothing short of amazing!
Although it is not easy to get "invited" for a tour inside the telescopes, just driving to the parking lot at the top of Mauna Kea (the white mountain) for the views is an experience worth having. Be careful with the altitude, as breathing is not that easy up there.
Written 1 April 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

charlesodonnell
Seattle, WA364 contributions
2.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2015 • Couples
The visitor center in Waimea is separate from the mountain top observatory tour. The Visitor Center is an embarrassment to such a prestigious enterprise. I was in and out in five minutes after reading every photo cation and staring at the static displays. Souvenirs were limited to coffee mugs, postcards, and a couple of t-shirts. Clearly some new direction and attention needs to be paid to this sad excuse for a visitor center. This place should be the nerve center for tours to the observatory, and a movie theatre at least. I have seen better photos in Time magazine. Shame!
Written 13 February 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Warren Chu
24 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2018
My son and daughter-in-law are both astronomers on Mauna Kea, so they wanted to show us what it's like up there. It was a magnificent view, especially at sunset, when you can see the mountain top's own shadow on the top of the clouds below. Even better was when we got a personal tour of the inside of the Keck 1 Telescope because my son was the principal observer the night before - something no ordinary visitor can get. But no matter what be sure to wear a heavy winter coat because the temperature will be around 35 to 40 degrees. Acclimate yourself to the extreme high altitude by spending an hour at the 9000 feet visitor center before going up.
Written 15 January 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Irwi
Cork, Ireland437 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2015 • Couples
was excellent. We did not have a four wheel drive vehicle nor the time to visit the observatory on top of the volcano. But the Visitor Centre in Waimea, where the astronomers work on the data from the mountain top observatory was fascinating. A knowledgeable and helpful guide called Ed told us so much about the work done there. There are scale models of the observatories and helpful posters etc. that help interpret the work of the astronomers.
Definitely worth a visit.
Written 30 October 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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W.M. KECK OBSERVATORY (2024) All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (with Photos)

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