Visitor information

This page contains all the necessary information a visiting astronomer should require for visiting the EAO offices in Hilo, Hawaii, USA, to either work with the staff and/or to observe using the JCMT.

Here you find a typical time schedule of an observing run.

Before your visit

Forms to complete

When planning your visit to the EAO offices and/or the JCMT you will need  to complete the following:

  • Accommodation request form. Your staff contact will send this form to you directly.  Please note that this form is only for previously-approved scientific and technical visits. The EAO does not provide or support any tourist booking services.

If you intend to work up at the JCMT or visit the JCMT during your stay you will also need to complete the following:

Observer Experience Level

The EAO normally requires that visiting observers with little/no prior observing experience be accompanied by a more experienced colleague. For graduate students, this might typically be their Ph.D. Supervisor, or a proposal co-I with greater prior observing experience.

Any prospective summit observers that have not yet reached the graduate student level are required to clearly notify the Observatory of their academic status prior to making any firm travel arrangements. The EAO will assess summit observer status for all such prospective observers on a case-by-case basis.

Plan your dates

If you are a visiting astronomer intending to use and work up at the JCMT we request that you spend at least one office day in Hilo prior to your run. Our office hours are Monday – Friday 7:30am – 4:30pm. Please avoid weekend arrivals. It is also required that you spend at least one (two – if you are a first time observer) nights acclimatizing at Hale Pohaku before working at the JCMT. Non-driving visiting observers flying to Hawaii are advised to make use of flights into and out of Hilo airport (rather than Kona) for logistical reasons.

After your final night observing we recommend you spend a minimum of five additional office days in Hilo at the Hilo EAO Office before you depart. This is encouraged to maximize the impact of your trip. These office days may be spent interacting with staff, improving data reduction techniques, assessing data quality and giving seminars. Accommodation may be provided upon request to astronomers visiting from the EAO region and partner communities. Note that the earliest you should book your departing flight is after 18:00 on the day you return from Hale Pohaku. Drivers require enough sleep to operate a vehicle, so if you are driving back down from Hale Pohaku, your vehicle will be scheduled to depart at 14:00, arriving in Hilo ~15:00.

The EAO Office will also be closed in observance of following state and national holidays for 2019:

January 1 New Year’s Day
January 21 Martin Luther King Day
February 18 Presidents’ Day
March 26 Prince Kuhio Day
April 19 Good Friday
May 27 Memorial Day
June 11 Kamehameha Day
July 4 Independence Day
August 16 Statehood Day
September 2 Labor Day
November 11 Veterans’ Day
November 28 Thanksgiving Day
December 25 Christmas Day

Due to the above holidays and other events that are held in Hilo throughout the year, we may not be able to secure hotel and hire-car reservations, or best rates for these, if we do not receive the three-week advance notice.  Also, we cannot guarantee bookings at specific hotels.

NOTE: The Merrie Monarch Festival takes place in Hilo the week after Easter (April 21 – April 27, 2019). Local hotel or hire car reservations are very difficult to secure during this period. Please give us SIX weeks notice if you will need reservations during this event and try to arrange your travel accordingly.


It is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct visa to visit the USA in your passport.

You can check here whether you need a visa:

US Visa Waiver Program for International Visitors:

Foreign travelers to the U.S. intending to use the Visa Waiver Program (“VWP”) are not allowed to enter the U.S. unless they have been “pre-authorized” by the new online “Electronic System for Travel Authorization” (“ESTA”).  Please visit:

for information about the system. Note that a $14 fee will apply to all applications submitted for first-time approval or renewal.  This fee must be paid via the website using a Mastercard, Visa, American Express, or Discover credit or debit card.

Canadian citizens should follow these U.S. entry procedures:

Travel/Health insurance

You will have to purchase travel/health insurance when visiting the United States. EAO will ask for the name of your provider when you complete the accommodation request form.


EAO staff will be happy to make hotel reservation for you in Hilo (please note we cannot assist with bookings in Kona or on the other Hawaiian islands). Hotel rates quoted below are on a “per night” basis and are subject to a combined state and room tax (13.417% on the Big Island). Requests will be taken via the Accommodation request form that your staff contact will send to you directly. Room rates, taxes, and fees are subject to change without notice.  Most hotels charge higher rates during peak seasons, such as Christmas/New Years holidays and large events (e.g. Merrie Monarch Festival).

Hilo Hawaiian Hotel
(71 Banyan Drive)

seasonal rates
  * Internet access is available in all guest rooms for an additional $9.95/day.

Hilo Seaside Hotel

  $89 . . . . standard room

Hire Car

EAO staff will be happy to make hire car reservation for you in Hilo (please note we cannot assist with bookings in Kona or on the other Hawaiian islands). Requests will be taken through the Accommodation request on-line form that your staff contact will send to you directly. Rates are based on a 24-hour rental period; include unlimited mileage; and are subject to vehicle licensing and airport concession fees, and state and local taxes. There is no additional charge to collect a vehicle in Kona and return it in Hilo, or vice versa, however you are strongly advised to arrive into Hilo airport (airport code: ITO).

National Car Rental

All drivers must present a major credit card (not a debit card) and a valid driver’s license upon collecting a vehicle. All vehicles are equipped with automatic transmissions and air conditioning.

MK Credentialing System

In the near future, all visiting summit observers will need to be identified before passing through a checkpoint for mountain work.

To accommodate this, starting July 1 2019, the EAO will require visiting observer to provide an ID photo for the MK Credentialing System. Photos of observers will be taken while at the EAO offices in Hilo before going up to HP if arriving during EAO business hours.

Observers arriving either during the weekend or on a holiday will need to e-mail a photo before arriving to their Support Astronomer. The Support Astronomer for the run will then forward the photo to

As soon as the observing run is complete and the visiting observer leaves, their photo and name will be deleted from the MK Credentialing System.

Don’t forget to pack…

  • your current driver’s license
  • copy of travel/health insurance
  • warm clothing (hat, gloves, windbreaker) — parkas and coveralls may be rented at Hale Pohaku for a nominal fee
  • sturdy, warm shoes
  • sunscreen, lip balm & moisturizer
  • polarized sunglasses
  • aspirin or acetaminophen (a.k.a. paracetamol) for headaches
  • a USA adapter for your laptop and a way to connect to an Ethernet cable – reminder the summit is a wifi free area!


Visiting astronomers are encourage to give a seminar during their visit. The date and time of the talk can be arranged prior to your trip so it can be advertised well ahead of time.


Arriving at the EAO offices in Hilo

The EAO offices are located at 660 N A’ohoku Place, Hilo (across the street from the Imiloa Astronomy Centre and just past the Gemini Observatory Headquarters):

EAO Office – Google Maps

The EAO has regular office hours (07:30-16:30, Monday-Friday). All visitors should check in at the Reception Office. If necessary, you will be asked to complete registration documents and supply information that was not collected prior to your arrival.

For a short visit of up to a few days, visitors are asked to enter and leave by the main entrance using the doorbell to request entry, and signing in and out on each occasion.

For visits of four or more days, a temporary building key card may be requested. This will allow entry and exit during working hours Monday to Friday only.

All visitors will be assigned to an EAO/JCMT staff member who is responsible for them during the visit. You should therefore coordinate your work times in the building with each other.



Your safety is our primary concern during your visit and we will go through the relevant safety briefing pages so that you are familiar with EAO safety policy during your stay. If you have any questions or concerns during your visit please contact your designated EAO staff member.


Hawaii’s smoking law prohibits smoking in public workplaces, and within 20 feet of any entrance. This includes all EAO facilities and vehicles, and the telescopes. All rooms and buildings at Hale Pohaku are also non-smoking. For more information and links to the law itself, see:

Hale Pohaku

Hale Pohaku is the base facility for staff and astronomers working on Maunakea. It is required that astronomers spend at least one night acclimatizing at Hale Pohaku before working at the JCMT – two nights, if you are a first time observer.

EAO Vehicle & Transportation Policy

NOTE: EAO has manual and automatic gear vehicles in its fleet. Smoking is not permitted in our vehicles.


It is expected that observers will drive themselves from the EAO offices in Hilo to the base facility at Hale Pohaku; the journey takes about 1 hour. The EAO will make every effort to provide a vehicle for that purpose; standard travel times are listed below.

  • All drivers will be asked to present a valid driver’s license upon arrival at EAO.
  • Non-drivers (those who do not have a license) may be offered transportation with EAO staff at the standard times or at other times that may fit with your itinerary and ours.
  • If none of the above arrangements can be made, you may need to take a taxi, at your cost (~$150 each way). We can organize the taxi for you.
  • Please inform us as soon as possible if you are not a licensed driver so that we can help you avoid this cost.
  • After a night of observing at the JCMT drivers are expected to sleep for six hours before driving down to Hilo at the scheduled down time of 2pm. As a result please do not book flights to leave the island before the 6pm the day your telescope run ends. If you do you may be charged for the cost of a taxi (~$150).
  • Note: Foreign visitors to Hawaii can drive a car with an international driver’s license (without an additional International Driver’s Permit) as long as it’s valid in the home country and is written in English. If the international driver’s license is in a language other than English, and the letters are not English (i.e. Japanese, Arabic, etc), an additional International Driver’s Permit is required.  An International Driver’s Permit is a translation of an individual’s foreign license and is normally easy and inexpensive to obtain in the driver’s home country. If you have a driver’s license that does not have English letters and your home country does not issue International Driver’s Permits, then you are effectively a non-driver for EAO transportation purposes.

EAO vehicles may only be used for EAO-related business.

  • Observers may use EAO vehicles only for transportation between the EAO Office and Hale Pohaku.
  • EAO vehicles are not to be used for transport to/from the airport or hotels, or to go out for a meal. The only exception is if you require supplies immediately before driving to HP, and you obtain prior approval from the Vehicle Scheduler.
  • No vehicle other than the one scheduled for you may be used for transport off Maunakea without permission of the Vehicle Scheduler.
  • Your assigned vehicle is not for your sole use during your observing run; it will be used by other observers and staff during your run.
HP – Maunakea Summit – HP

Observers will usually travel on Maunakea as passengers in a 4WD-vehicle, driven by a JCMT staff member (TSS or support scientist). If circumstances require an observer to drive on the summit road, they will need to demonstrate appropriate ability in the presence of a JCMT staff member.

Please consult your Support Astronomer if you have any questions about the EAO Vehicle & Transportation Policy.

Runs that finish early:  On the rare occasion that an observing run finishes early (e.g., due to poor weather), you may be able to drive down to the EAO at an earlier-than-scheduled time, but this can only occur if: 1) you are well rested and 2) permission has been granted by your Support Astronomer, who in turn must get permission from the Vehicle Scheduler.  If permission is not granted to use a EAO vehicle, you could return early by taxi at your expense; however, you still must obtain permission for an early return from your Support Astronomer.

Please email if there are changes due to early departure or extended stay at HP for billing purpose.

Returning a vehicle during office hours:  Please park the vehicle in the EAO rear parking area, lock its doors, and turn in the keys at the Administration Office (Room 3, first room left of the main door).

Returning a vehicle after hours or during a weekend/holiday: Please park the vehicle in the EAO rear parking area and lock its doors. Deposit the vehicle keys in the lock box that is located on the left side of the mechanical workshop exterior door at the rear of the EAO building. You will need to obtain the lock box code from the Vehicle Scheduler or your Support Astronomer.

Vehicle schedule

For visiting observers driving themselves in an EAO vehicle from the EAO office in Hilo to Hale Pohaku (UP) and from HP to Hilo (DOWN), the classical departure times are 3pm (UP) and 2pm (DOWN). These times are fixed to ensure that you fulfill your telescope supporting duties.

EAO -> Hale Pohaku: Depart EAO at 7.30am – with daycrew (Mon-Thu – with prior agreement)
EAO -> Hale Pohaku: Depart EAO at 3pm  – in time for dinner (visitor expected to drive)
Hale Pohaku -> EAO: Depart HP at 2pm – after lunch (visitor expected to drive)
Hale Pohaku -> EAO: Depart HP at 4pm – with daycrew (Mon-Thu – with prior agreement)


In extreme cases (and with the prior approval from the vehicle scheduler) you may have a departure time different from the above schedule. If no EAO vehicle is available for your use, it is your responsibility to arrange and pay for transport (usually via taxi). Please note you are still expected to fulfill your telescope supporting duties – therefore these arrangements are best avoided and/or discussed as far in advance as possible with the observatory.

  • Currently, only one taxi company offers transportation between Hilo and Hale Pohaku:
    • Roy at Da Best Taxi,  +1 (808) 557-7059
  • Reservations must be made 48 hours in advance.
  • The cost is approximately $150 (with gratuity).

Paying your bill

An invoice for your Hale Pohaku accommodation/meals will be mailed to your institution. If you prefer to pay for your charges in person, please let us know in advance using the Accommodation Request form. When you come back from HP please see the Accounts Clerk at the EAO Finance Office (Room 6A). Payment may be made in the form of cash, travellers’ check, or personal check (in US dollars).  We do not accept credit or debit cards.

If you have any questions regarding an HP billing, please contact the Finance Department. The nightly rate for Hale Pohaku is $146.15. The HP nightly rate includes all meals, beginning with dinner on the day you check in and ending with lunch on the day you check out. Should you request early check-in or late check-out, extra charges for additional meals will apply, as follows:

$10.00 Breakfast (6:00 – 8:30 a.m)
$12.00 HP Lunch (12 noon – 1:00 p.m)
$13.00 Summit Lunch (11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m)
$20.00 HP Dinner (4:00 p.m – 6:00 p.m)
$12.00 Night Lunch (must be ordered by 3pm)

New HP rates effective July 1, 2017.

Please note that only those with reservations are allowed access to HP and guests are not allowed.


The following maps are provided for your information.

Photography & Video Recording at EAO Facilities

The ever-increasing means of capturing images (e.g. cell phones, iPods, digital cameras) coupled with the relative ease of making these publicly available (e.g. via social networking sites) has led to the development of the following guidelines for the taking, and use, of still and video photography by staff and visitors at EAO facilities.

Still Photography

EAO staff and visitors may take still photographs both inside and outside the EAO facilities provided the photography is for personal or official (EAO) use.  Personal-use photography must not be used for financial gain (e.g. production of for-sale calendars) unless permission has been sought and given by the EAO. Personal-use photography taken inside EAO facilities and featuring images of staff members should not be posted on social networking sites without the agreement of the staff member(s). Personal-use photography posted on public sites should not contain content/commentary which is damaging to the reputation of the EAO.

Video Photography

Video photography of the exterior of the EAO facilities can be taken provided it is for personal use only (i.e. no financial gain) or official (EAO) use. EAO staff and visitors may take video photography inside EAO facilities subject to the following:

  • Staff should get permission from the JCMT Director or Head of Operations.
  • Visitors should get permission from either their EAO contact person or the accompanying Telescope System Specialist (TSS).

In approving requests for video photography, the approver should highlight the following:

  • The footage must not be used for financial gain unless specific approval is sought from and given by the EAO.
  • If the footage is to be made publicly-available (e.g. on social network sites), then it should not contain images/content/commentary which are damaging to the reputation of the EAO.
  • If the footage contains images of EAO staff, then their approval should be obtained before it is posted on any publicly available network.

In all cases, staff and visitors should be aware that there are formal Office of Maunakea Management permitting processes to be followed if photography/video is being taken for commercial purposes. Individuals can expect, therefore, that Maunakea Rangers may, on occasion, inquire about the purpose of any photography/filming that is taking place.

Comments are closed.