Saluting the Sunrise at Haleakala

A most unexpected sunrise journey to the top of an extinct volcano, the views from Haleakala in Maui are out of this world (but the wake-up call is brutal).

Hot Take: If you want/need the full Maui experience, then the Sunrise at Haleakala should be on your list but we didn’t experience any epiphanies (3.0 stars)

Pro Tip: Bring warm clothing since the temperature is freezing at the summit before daybreak and you will stand in the wind/dark/cold for over an hour.

View of Haleakala crater at sunrise

Up at 4:00a (again), we were ready to tackle another of Maui’s advertised top highlights – the sunrise at Haleakala. Into the pre-dawn darkness we piloted our SUV trying to keep our eyes open. (we’re not sure how many accidents are caused by the bleary-eyed tourists, but we would not want to be locals with an early morning commute along the road to Haleakala)

After passing through the ranger station (Kelly had made the required RSVP in advance), the ascent turned rapid (from our sea level condo, the summit at Haleakala is at over 10,000ft). The windiness of the road and the sheer drop offs into the inky darkness made for a very scary drive (especially as cars would pass each other in a test of courage/stupidity). However, at about 6:00a we pulled into the parking lot with other sunrise hopefuls and began our wait in the observation station (that was blessedly heated).

View of Haleakala crater at sunrise on Maui, Hawaii.
Sunrise over Haleakala crater on Maui, Hawaii.

20 minutes before sunrise, we ventured out to the guardrail that overlooks what remains of Haleakala’s caldera to await the sun. Ever so slowly, the sky began to lighten over the pillowy clouds. At the scheduled time of sunrise, the park rangers shouting an ancient chant to welcome the sun and the crowed joined along in a sunrise applause. Despite the hope of the visitors and the prayers of the park rangers, we were denied a spectacular sunrise as the sun eventually just broke through the clouds 20 minutes later.

Sun peaks through clouds at Haleakala crater for sunrise. 
Couple bundles up to make it to sunrise at Haleakala Crater in Maui, Hawaii

While the sunrise did not wow Matt, Kelly was caught up in the enjoyment of everyone celebrating the sunrise regardless of its lack of color. We snapped a few pictures but were pretty exhausted from our early start, so we headed back.

While both of us agree that the top of Haleakala was an impressive site worth seeing, Kelly loved seeing it at sunrise where Matt would have preferred to have come later in the morning. (you don’t want to come in the afternoon or at sunset due to the cloud cover that persistently blocks the views above 6,000 ft). Although if you get really lucky the rangers do say that on a clear day the sunsets are phenomenal.