Maui’s Haleakala Observatory

Surfers and beachgoers might not be thinking of visiting a place called “Science City” when planning a visit to Maui. But Maui’s own Haleakalā High Altitude Observatory Site with its 10,000-foot elevation is an ideal place for an astronomical research laboratory.

Maui's Haleakala Observatory

Because it’s far above the lights of the cities, is relatively dry, and is one-third of the way above the earth’s atmosphere, its air is much cleaner and does not contain the light-scattering dust that other areas have. That’s why it’s one of the earth’s preeminent observatories.

Owned by the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy (IfA), the name Haleakala means “House Of The Sun” in the native Hawaiian language. The name is fitting since it is where the demigod Maui was said to have lassoed the sun to slow down its journey and make the day longer.

The Observatory And Science City

Haleakala is known primarily as a solar site, and is made up of several different facilities, including:

  • Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST), the world’s largest
  • Pan-STARRS, a US Air Force-funded telescope
  • Faulkes Telescope North
  • TLRS-4 Laser Ranging System
  • Maui Space Surveillance Complex
  • Mees Solar Observatory

It’s a restricted area that’s used by both the scientific community and the US military, with projects from both. The projects are supported by a range of governmental, military and civilian agencies. 

Tracking Venus and the detection of 19 near-earth asteroids in a single night are just two of the many accomplishments of this part of Maui. With some of the world’s most sophisticated equipment including the most powerful telescopes ever made, Science City observes everything from the night sky to potential incoming missiles.

Haleakala’s Science City is situated in the larger expanse of the Haleakalā National Park, but is not open to the public itself. Private tours are available that will take you to the grounds, but not into the facilities.

Watching The Sunrise

One way to experience the majestic views of Haleakala is to wait for the sunrise near the grounds of the Observatory in the National Park. Because these sunrise watches have becomes so popular, you’ll need to book your visit at least two months in advance.

If extreme early-morning rising isn’t something you’re ready for, you can also watch an equally stunning sunset in the same place. Once the sun finally sets, you’ll have a front-row view of the stars that most people never see.

Our warm, tropical temperatures are always available at sea level. Higher elevations can also mean lower temperatures, especially in the evenings. Since you’ll need to get up very early to drive to the Observatory, you’ll need to bring some warm winter gear with you, as well as snacks and flashlights.

Stay In A Comfortable Han Kai Maui Condo On Your Way

Hana Kai Maui’s comfortably designed beachfront condos on Waikaloa Beach are a great place to visit all year long. Whether for a week, a weekend, or a stopover on the way to Haleakalā, you’ll enjoy our relaxed atmosphere. We’re less than three hours from the Haleakalā National Park, including the approach roads.

Call to book your next reservations at 1-800-346-2772, or book directly online. We’re open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Hawaiian time to answer all of your questions.