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‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, Hilo

Hilo is usually thought of as simply a sleepy little town that gets way too much rain.  And, as the wettest city in the US, its a reputation that is rather fitting, however, there is more to Hilo than just rain.  (Hey, they’ve got a Wal-Mart and Target!)  And, while few give Hilo more than a passing thought as a convenient place to base their visit to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park ( just a 30 mile drive away), there is more to see and do in Hilo than just drive thru.

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center

The ‘Imiloa facilities were completed in 2005 and opened on February 20, 2006, on the campus of the University of Hawaii’s Hilo Campus.  This 40,000 square foot exhibit and planetarium complex is identifiable by its distinctive triple cone feature and situated on the slope above Hilo Bay.

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center

The architectural design, directed by architect Mel Choy, M5 Architecture, features three titanium-covered cones, representing the volcanoes of Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa and Hualalai.  The cones provide a distinctive and highly visible landmark, easily seen by visitors arriving by air and driving into Hilo from almost any direction.

The vision behind the building of this facility was to blend ancient Hawaiian cultural traditions and the latest astronomical research being conducted at the 13 observatories that populate the summit of Mauna Kea.  In addition, the award-winning landscaping includes over 50 native species of plants that represent four different micro-zones.  ‘Imiloa’s overall focus is educational and aimed primarily at school kids, so you’ll find a number of interactive exhibits placed throughout the exhibit area.

The ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center’s planetarium dome is 52’ in diameter and features 120 uni-directional seats.   The planetarium houses the world’s first 3D stereoscopic digital full dome planetarium system.  Stereoscopic full dome images are created using four cinema-quality Sony SXRD™ digital projectors  and a cluster of 18 specialized computers running DigitalSky 2 visualization software.  The resolution of the system is 4096×4096 or roughly 4 times that of HDTV.  Audiences wear special, stereoscopic glasses which are specially etched, to provide the full 3D effect.

‘Imiloa has produced its first 3D program, Awesome Light: Discoveries from the Telescopes on Mauna Kea, and is producing two additional Awesome Light shows which share new astronomy findings with audiences.  This system is even used by astronomers from some of the observatories on Mauna Kea, allowing them to visualize the astronomical data collected at the summit.

A nice feature you might also enjoy is the on-site restaurant, the ‘Imiloa Sky Garden Restaurant.  The main feature of the restaurant is the panoramic view of Hilo Bay.  They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.   Some Hilo residents even bring visiting friends and relatives here for a leisurely breakfast and to enjoy the view.  The dinner menu includes a buffet, except for Sundays.

Breakfast & Lunch Hours
Tuesday – Sunday: 7 AM – 4 PM
Dinner Hours
Thursday – Sunday: 5 PM – 8:30 PM

Here’s a tip for you.  Plan on arriving early to avoid the tour groups that start to arrive just about lunch time.


‘Imiloa General Admission

Members Free
Adult $17.50
Children 4–12 $9.50
Children Under 4 Free
Kama‘aina Adult $12.00
Kama‘aina Children 4–12 $7.00
Extra Planetarium Show $5 adults
$3 Children
Senior and Military Discount $2 off admission
UH, UHH, HCC & RCUH (with ID) $2 off admission

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