If you are ever on Maui, a visit to sunset or sunrise on top of Haleakala should be included on your itinerary. What’s more breathtaking than watching the sunrise on an island in the middle of the Pacific? Doing it at 10,000 foot elevations on top of a volcano. A Haleakala Sunrise is a once in a lifetime experience that is well worth the early rise.
I was recently on Maui and made the trip up Haleakala for the sunrise. I left Kahului at 3:30 in the morning to ensure I would make it to the top in time. It is about an hour and a half drive from Kahului to the summit and I arrived around 5 a.m., nearly 30 minutes before sunrise. The earlier you can get to the top the better because parking can be an issue. You should also consider arriving early to catch a glimpse of the incredible stars before they fade from view. At least 30 minutes before sunrise will allow you to experience the full color spectrum the sky goes through.
Plan to dress warm because it is very cold at the summit. I was wearing boardshorts and definitely regretted it. The temperature was 38 degrees during the sunrise. Before heading into the park, make sure you have enough gas for the trip because there is no gas available once you’re inside. There’s also no food available on the summit so make sure you eat beforehand or pack a decent meal.
The road winds all the way to the summit and passes through some beautiful scenery. There are lots of blind corners and no streetlights so you will need to take it slow during the ascent. It also passes through cow pastures so be on the lookout for cows that have wandered onto the road.
There are two visitor centers inside the park. You are going to drive past the first visitor center and continue up until you get to the second visitor center at a 9,740 foot elevation. You can either park at the Haleakala visitor center or continue driving up a short distance to the summit parking lot. Both areas will offer a stunning view of the sunrise.
Once you have parked, find a good spot and wait for the sunrise to begin. I parked at the Haleakala summit parking lot and watched from the top of a hill next to the parking lot. Many people went up the concrete stairs to an observation point on the other side of the parking lot from me. I enjoyed being away from the crowds where I could focus on taking pictures.
Once the sun has risen, I highly recommend staying in the park and getting out on one of the many great hikes. It is an awesome way to beat most of the crowds and be the first people out on the trails. Check out some of the pics!
Take a trip to Haleakala and check it out for yourself!