Day 3 – Maui Trip Report – Sunrise on Haleakala

Jet lag can really suck there isn’t a lot to do when your body clock wakes you up at 3:00 am bolt awake. Get up and watch tv, go for a walk in the dark. It’s all a bit un rubbish. However, If you need to be up ridiculously early for something suddenly Jet Lag is a godsend. Getting Kate up at 6:00 am for something is normally a big ask. To get up at 3:00 am…not a chance. However, in this incredibly Jet lagged state it’s suddenly the same as getting up at 10:00 AM. So the first few Mornings on Maui are the PERFECT time to head up to watch a sunrise on Haleakala.

Sunrise on Haleakala – a 10,000 ft Volcano

Sunrise on Haleakala

Watching a Sunrise up here is often billed as a magical once-in-a-lifetime experience that will change you as a person or something like that. We think that is stretching it a bit, but there is no doubting the beauty of seeing the Day Break perched high upon a Volcano. Despite having seen it a few times we still can’t visit Maui without making the trip up. Especially as we are probably awake anyway.

With the alarm set for 2:30, I lay awake waiting for it to go off. We quickly loaded in piles of camera equipment and WARM clothes and headed out into the quiet of the night. As we approached Lahaina about 8 miles into the trip we realized I had left the paperwork needed to enter the park before sunrise!

Due to the popularity of Sunrise, the National Park Service has introduced a booking scheme to limit numbers and overcrowding at the summit. It’s free ($1.50 booking fee) But you will not be allowed in without a reservation. So we did a U-turn and headed back to the condo for the paperwork. To book your reservation for Sunrise at Haleakala click here.

Let’s try that again, Now at 3:00 am we stormed off back towards the Volcano. Now Sunrise was not due until 06:30 and Google had suggested around 2 hours to the summit so it might seem odd we were in such a rush. Well while sunrise on the summit is incredible. Stargazing from up there possibly does fall into the Magical Life-affirming category. The Dark sky reveals more stars than you can possibly imagine and make viewing the Milkey way easy. But for this, you need to be up there at least two hours before Sunrise as the sun begins creeping around and lightening the skies quite early.

Haleakala Milky way bright

Due to the early hour and quiet roads, we made great progress and before long we were heading up the 37, the long road that leads to the summit. The road is narrow and steep in places and a lot of people are quite intimidated by it there is no overtaking and progress can be quite slow if you are stuck behind someone who isn’t confident. Being from the UK this sort of road is no issue at all to us and can make pretty good progress on our own. It can get a little frustrating when you are held up by a very slow driver, but this time most people obeyed the signs instructing you to pull over for quicker vehicles.

At the entrance to the Park, we confirmed our reservation and paid the entry fee. Entry is $25.00 and is only accepted by debit or credit card (to avoid the ranger being alone in the middle of nowhere with a bucket load of cash!). It is worth noting that if you intend to Re-enter the park at all in the next few days the Entry fee is valid for only 3 days. If you are planning on re-entering after that you will need to pay the FULL $25.00 again!

We were planning on visiting the Park at the Kīpahulu Entrance (to Visit the Sacred pools and hike Pipiwai falls) while in Hana in a week’s time so would be subject to this. However, you can purchase a Tri-Park Annual Pass. This pass is good for one year and grants access to the Haleakala National park along with the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park and Puʻuhonua ʻO Hōnaunau National Historical Park on the Big Island. We have not got plans to return to Maui within the next year or to the big island but the Pass is only $30 so would avoid the re-entry fee at Kīpahulu. It’s well worth it if you plan on visiting the other entrance outside the 3-day validity period.


We arrived at the Summit lot around 4:30 am. There were very few cars already parked up so had made an excellent time. After a few minutes of just sitting in the dark letting our eyes acclimatize to the dark, we headed out to the summit. We had chosen to watch from the Summit, instead of the Crater rim Visitor center where we normally watch from. We did this simply to try a different location and compare the view. In hindsight, the Crater rim is a better view but you have to try different things.

The Stars were out in all their glory and the Milky Way was clearly visible in all its glory. You are told to look out for a milky smudge across the sky when looking for our home galaxy in the sky but tonight there was no mistaking it as it filled the whole sky from north to southwest. It was truly glorious. The Below picture somewhat enhances it, especially the color but it really was as easily visible as that, just not quite as colorful or striking to the naked eye.

Milky Way from Haleakala

After a while of Taking Astro Shots we headed to the car for a Warm-up. The Summit of Haleakala is 10,000 feet high and the difference in temperature is drastic. It was actually quite a warm morning on the Summit at around 5/40 Degrees but it can be much colder. Still 40 Degrees it pretty chilly is all you have packed is Shorts and Tees for a Tropical getaway! We had a layover in Seattle on our way home planned so had enough warm clothes to keep us toasty. It is something to bear in mind if you are heading up. In the past, we have borrowed Blankets from the Condo to keep us warm.

At around 5:45 we headed back to stake out a spot for the Sunrise. We found a great spot in front of the summit lookout that was perfectly placed and uncrowded. The crowds unfortunately quickly filled in around us. The Sunrise is meant to be a peaceful reflective time, however, a family had brought along their bored and uninterested son who did his best to ruin any peace and quiet we had hoped for!

Sun creeping up on Haleakala

The Cloud cover was quite thick below us and this always leads to an incredible spectacle as the sun rises above the cloud cover and the moisture in the atmosphere refracts the light into the most vibrant reds and oranges. Our Photos here actually fail to do the colors justice as something like this really has to be appreciated.

Sunrise Colours Haleakala
House of the Rising Sun
Sun Bursts into life

Once the sun was up we explored the Area. We love watching the Volcano cast its long shadow across the Island and see the banks of clouds roll over the West Maui mountains. It really is a unique place. We then headed down to the Crater overlook to get some shots of the Martian Landscape. It really is otherworldly and could easily be mistaken for the red planet.

Maui in Haleakala's shadow

After finally getting our fill of the incredible views and landscape we decided to head down. The descent is always a lot longer than the climb as the road is very busy by now and filled with more nervous drivers, Tour buses, and Bikes. While some people will pull over to let you past the sheer volume of traffic means this barely helps. Fortunately, the views as you head down are breathtaking so we just take our time and drink the views in.

Haleakala crater

More Relaxing

Once we got back to the Condo we spent the rest of the Day just relaxing, enjoying the Whales, The Ocean, and the sun. We were back in plenty of time for Breakfast from the Gazebo and had a full day to really kick back. We retired to the Condo during the fierce Midday sun and took some time to look at the photos from the Summit.

Haleakala Observatory's

For Dinner we had a large slab of St Luis Ribs from Safeway cooked slow and low for hours then finished off on the grill. This is the sort of thing we just can’t get in the UK and we love just cooking with American ingredients, everything is just BIG. Tomorrow we have a big day planned as we head further up Highway 30. Snorkeling at Honolua and seeing if the blowhole is in a good mood?

Day 4 – Nakalele Blowhole Honolua Bay and Lahaina >>>

<<< Day 2 – Relaxing

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