Big Island Places

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Mauna Kea

Onizuka Visitor Center

Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station. At 9,200 feet, this excellent amateur observation site has a handful of telescopes and a knowledgeable staff. You can enjoy the nightly stargazing sessions from 6 to 10, or just stop here to acclimate to the altitude if you're heading for the summit. Fortunately, it's a pleasure to do so. Sip hot chocolate and peruse exhibits on ancient Hawaiian celestial navigation, about the mountain's significance as a quarry for the best basalt in the Hawaiian Islands and as a revered spiritual destination, on modern astronomy, and about ongoing projects at the summit.

On weekends, the center offers free escorted caravan-style summit tours. Participants must arrive by 1 pm with their own low-range four-wheel-drive vehicle. Keep in mind that most summit telescope facilities are not open to the public, so your best bet for actual stargazing is at the visitor center. Nights are clear 90% of the year. Mauna Kea, HI. 808/961–2180. www.ifa.hawaii.edu/info/vis. Donations welcome. Daily 9 am–10 pm.

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