Watching the sun rise above the clouds at Haleakala National Park is a unique and memorable experience you’ll find only in Maui. Haleakala is a Hawaiian name that means house of the sun. It is truly an awesome place to watch as the powerful sun lights up the dark sky with an amazing array of gorgeous colors. I’ve never seen a sunrise so beautiful.
How to Make the Most of Your Haleakala Sunrise
Give yourself plenty of time to reach the summit well before the expected sunrise. The best part of the sunrise isn’t the part where the sun comes up at the very end, it’s the 30 minutes or so before that where the sky is full of beautiful colors. We left Lahaina at 4AM for a 6 AM sunrise – we got there maybe 10 minutes before the beautiful colors started to hit the dark sky.
You can use your GPS to get you to the summit, simply input Haleakala Summit or Haleakala Crater and you should have no trouble getting there. However be aware – there are two Haleakala visitor centers on Maui — one on the summit, which is where you want to go, and one past Hana that you do not want to go to for Haleakala sunrise. It is worth double checking your GPS the day before to make sure it will in fact get you to where you want to go.
Be aware that the road that leads up to the crater is very curvy and steep and there are no street lights. Also note, there is an entrance fee to enter the park.
Check the sunrise times for Haleakala and the drive time and allow yourself at least an additional 30 minutes (more is better) – you want to be there early. If you don’t leave yourself the extra time you’re really miss out on the beautiful and serene show that really makes this a sight to behold.
Once you’ve parked your car, you’ll likely see a large crowd of people all hanging out waiting for the sunrise. This is not where you want to be. Facing the crowd, look to the right and you’ll see a small path leading up the side of a small hill. Follow this path and you’ll be rewarded with a much more private viewing. While the bottom area easily had a hundred people all crammed together vying for a good view. Up the pathway, you’ll be treated to a nice open section with only maybe 20 others – allowing everyone plenty of open space and a much quieter experience.
Additional Tips for Haleakala’s Sunrise
Its Cold – Bring WARM Clothing
You may be on a gorgeous and tropical warm island, but the summit of Haleakala is over 10,000 feet above sea level. It is cold and often windy. The temperature will easily be in the low 30’s F – even in the summer. I brought a thick down jacket, a beanie, gloves, and long pants in my suitcase just for this. I can’t stress enough how cold it is up there (until the sun comes up). Many people will even bring blankets.
Start Early. No, Seriously. Start Early
Do not make the mistake of rushing to see the sunrise at the last second. What makes this sunrise so gorgeous isn’t just the sun peaking out, but the gorgeous show of colors lighting up the sky before hand. This will start at least 30 minutes before the estimated sunrise. You do not want to miss this. We left from Lahaina at 4 AM, reaching the summit just after 5 for a 6 AM sunrise. It was perfect timing.
What to Bring
You might want to bring some snacks or drinks with you since there’s no where to get snacks once you’re there. If you have access to one, a thermos with a warm drink is going to go a long way. It’s also worth bringing a flashlight since you’ll be getting there before the sun comes up (hopefully!). And of course, don’t forget to bring a camera.
Taking a Tour
There are a number of different tour options that’ll take care of all the logistics of seeing the sun rise. My personal favorite would have been the bike ride, but we didn’t have time to do it since we needed to head to the airport fairly early. Tours are a great option, and there are plenty to choose from.