Culture, Astronomy and Natural History

Maunakea is home to varied and unique resources

The Office of Maunakea Management's mission is "to achieve harmony, balance and trust in the sustainable management and stewardship of Mauna Kea Science Reserve through community involvement and programs that protect, preserve and enhance the natural, cultural and recreational resources of Maunakea while providing a world-class center dedicated to education, research and astronomy. "



Maunakea is a celebrated and storied place in the cultural traditions of Hawai'i.

While it is the dwelling place of the goddess Poli'ahu it is also associated with the Hawaiian deities Lilinoe and Waiau. The summit was considered the realm of the gods and in ancient times was kapu (forbidden) to all but the highest chiefs and priests. Occasionally Hawaiian ali'i (royalty) would make the long trek to the top, the last royal visitor being Queen Emma in 1881 who led her companions on the arduous 6 hour journey to the top to see the summit and rejuvenate herself in sacred Lake Waiau.

While today Maunakea is home to 13 international observatories and recieves thousands of visitors every year it remains a sacred place for the people of Hawai'i. On the the fourth Saturday of every month MKVIS hosts community speakers who speak about Mauna O Wakea from a cultural perspective.

Additional information on the cultural resources of Maunakea is presented in the detailed video ("A SACRED SUMMIT").



Maunakea is the world's home of astronomy.  The clarity, stability, and darkness of our skies make us the premier location for astronomical research, and is why we are home to thirteen of the world's largest, most powerful, and most productive telescopes.  Additional information on the astronomical resources of Maunakea is presented in the detailed video ("MK Astronomy").

Additional information may be found in the links below:

  • Monthly Star Chart for Hawai`i, produced by the Institute for Astronomy
  • Institute For Astronomy 
    The Institute for Astronomy (IfA) was founded at the University of Hawaii (UH) in 1967 to manage Haleakala and Maunakea Observatories, and to carry out its own program of fundamental research into the stars, planets and galaxies that make up our Universe. One of eleven research institutes within the University of Hawaii it has a total staff of over  300, including about 55 faculty.
  • Maunakea Observatories 
    Hawaii is Earth's connecting point to the rest of the Universe.  The summit of Maunakea on the Island of Hawaii hosts the world's largest astronomical observatory, with 13 telescopes operated by astronomers from eleven countries. The combined light-gathering power of the telescopes on Maunakea is fifteen times greater than that of the Palomar telescope in California -- for many years the world's largest -- and sixty times greater than that of the Hubble Space Telescope.
  • Maunakea Astronomy Outreach Committee 
    The Maunakea Astronomy Outreach Committee (MKAOC) coordinates and organizes the collective outreach efforts of the Maunakea Observatories, and acts as a forum for the observatories, related organizations and the Maunakea Visitor Information Station (MKVIS) to discuss outreach activities.
  • West Hawaii Astronomy Club
    The West Hawaii Astronomy Club is currently a non-affiliated group of interested astronomy enthusiasts who meet regularly, socialize, discuss the wonders of the cosmos, hold observing sessions & clinics, and generally promote the advancement of the hobby of astronomy on the west side of the Big Island of Hawaii.
  • UHH Astrophysics Club 

    The University of Hawaii at Hilo Astrophysics Club (UAC) is a group of enthusiastic university students who meet periodically to discuss and explore astronomy.  They assist with community outreach and have often participated in stargazing activites at the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station to share their knowledge and passion with visitors.
  • Hosted by Dave Lawrence, HPR presents its weekly radio program discussing exciting astronomical events occurring locally as well as world-wide.  Additionally, Dave speaks with scientists, astronomers, and other astronomical illuminaries about current research and recent discoveries of note.


Natural History

Maunakea is home to many unique and rare plant and animal species. In the upper regions of these slopes, you will find a mixture of specimens native to the Hawaiian islands, invasive species, and some plants and creatures found only in the harsh climate of Maunakea.

Additional information on the natural resources of Maunakea is presented in the detailed video ("LIVING MOUNTAIN").


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