Visiting the Subaru Telescope

Notice: Due to special work at and around the telescope, there will be a total intermission of about 4 weeks in the Subaru Telescope's tour program betweenNovember 2014 and January 2015. Please check the avilable dates for facility tours listed in the calendar from the "sign-up" page (linked at the bottom of this page).


How are the tours organized?

  • The tour program is open to everybody except for those with the following conditions: younger than 16 years old, pregnant, with respiratory, cardiac or circulatory conditions, or have been diving within 24 hours.
  • The tour of the Subaru Telescope allows visitors to see up-close one of the world's most powerful astronomical telescopes.
  • Our summit guide will meet the scheduled visitors outside of the telescope enclosure (i.e., the dome) at a pre-appointed time and will escort them inside of the enclosure.
  • The tour will last approximately 40 minutes. Visitors will see the telescope and the primary mirror recoating facilities.
  • Tours are offered up to 15 days a month and begin at 10:30 AM, 11:30 AM, and 1:30 PM, usually on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
  • In order to make sure that we have sufficient staff at the summit to handle unexpected situations, tours are limited to weekdays only.
  • Tours will be either in Japanese or English, but only one language per tour.
  • One-week advance reservations are necessary and must be made through this webpage.
  • The number of people per tour is up to 8 visitors. This number limit is set by how many people our summit guide can safely usher through the enclosure.
  • If a tour participant wishes to publish an article or images based on the tour, beyond the scope of personal use, please submit a media coverage request prior to the tour.


The Tour

1. Transportation to Mauna Kea.

Transportation to the summit of Mauna Kea is the responsibility of the visitor. Please be aware that the choices of transportation to the summit of Mauna Kea are extremely limited and four wheel drive is required. It is either with your own 4WD vehicle, a 4WD car rented from Harper's, or by chartering one of the eight licensed tour operators authorized to go to the summit of Mauna Kea. We are not able to accept visitors coming with other commercial transportation like taxis. The drive from Hilo or Kona to the Mauna Kea summit area takes approximately 3 hours, depending on the weather and traffic. This includes a one hour rest at the Onizuka Visitor Information Station at the 9000 ft (2800 m) level of Mauna Kea to acclimatize to the high altitude.


2. Meeting at the Subaru Telescope.

There is a designated visitor parking area at the foot of the telescope enclosure. Subaru's summit guide will greet visitors at the door on the side of the enclosure a few minutes before the time of the tour. There are no restrooms along the tour route so make sure you use the restroom before you arrive at the Subaru Telescope.




3. Our guide leading visitors for a 40 minutes tour.

Before the tour, all visitors must sign a liability waiver form. Minors need a parent's or legal guardian's signature as well. The telescope enclosure is not a building designed for human comfort but as a giant scientific instrument! The tour route includes two elevators and narrow corridors. All participants will wear hard hats for the entire duration of the tour.



4. Viewing the Subaru Telescope from a balcony.

The balcony is 40 feet (12 meters) high. Try not to drop anything! Visitors will return along the same route and will be able to see the primary mirror recoating facilities at the end of the tour.




Special Conditions

The scope of our tour is tailored to optimize the visitors' comfort and safety, to ensure the smooth operation of the telescope, and to protect Mauna Kea and its people.

  • The high altitude of the summit area of Mauna Kea presents a substantial health hazard to visitors. Tours are NOT open to people younger than sixteen, people with health concerns that may make them susceptible to high altitude sickness, and people who are pregnant. Please read the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy's information bulletins on Mauna Kea health hazards for more information about the risks associated with traveling to high altitude. We ask you to obtain sufficient health insurance to cover any medical costs you may incur due to illness or injury during your visit to Mauna Kea. Please read this message from Ranger Kimo Pihara about Mauna Kea protocol.
  • Due to the sacredness of Mauna Kea, Subaru Telescope asks that all visitors treat the mountain with dignity and respect and act accordingly. The summit environment is fragile and appropriate behavior is expected.
  • Visitors will not be able to look through the telescope, because our telescope is equipped with digital instruments and does not have an eyepiece. The surface of the primary mirror is not visible because it is covered to prevent dust accumulation.
  • To read about the latest discoveries from the Subaru Telescope, please go to our website.
  • Photographs are welcome, but sometimes flash photos may not be allowed due to telescope operations.
  • Before joining the Subaru Telescope tour, please read the Procedures and Guidelines for Subaru Telescope Summit Facility Tours.

Medical Alert


The summit of Mauna Kea has an elevation of 13796 ft (4205 m). The air pressure in the summit region is less than 60% of that at sea level, and the body must work harder to obtain oxygen. Altitude sickness is a risk for all visitors. All visitors should expect a reduction in both their physical and mental capabilities. The stress caused by the high altitude environment can also worsen any existing health problems.


Dryness, cold, and increased UV radiation also contribute to physical discomfort at high altitude.

Before deciding to visit Mauna Kea, please review University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy's information bulletins on Mauna Kea health hazards to familiarize yourself with the dangers of high altitude and how to maximize your safety and comfort while on the mountain.


How can I sign up?

  • You may sign up for a tour on our website as soon as the tour schedule becomes available.
  • The tour schedule for a particular month will be posted on the website three months in advance. For example, the schedule for December becomes available on September 1st at 12 Midnight, HST. (HST, Hawaii Standard Time, is 10 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time)
  • Sign up at least one week in advance. Sign up is on a first-come first-served basis.
  • To sign up, please visit our tour calendar webpage. Details of the sign up process are described on the bottom of the tour calendar page. The basic steps are:
    1. Check the tour calendar for dates and times of tours.
    2. Click on the tour of your choice.
    3. Agree to the basic conditions of the tour.
    4. Enter information about you and your group.
    5. Confirm the details of your reservation.



Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)

More Questions?

If you have further questions about the tours, please contact us from our inquiry form.

To make a reservation please go to our sign up page.



Visiting the summit area of Mauna Kea


The summit area of Mauna Kea is open to the public during day light hours. For more information on Mauna Kea and the facilities on Mauna Kea, please visit the web site of the Onizuka Visitor Information Station.



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