The Haleakala sunrise is known around the world to be one of the most stunning of them all. To make sure you catch it (unlike our unfortunate visit in July lol), here are five tips to help you out!
Tip 1: Book in Advance
This is a relatively new requirement, so if you’ve visited and watched the Haleakala sunrise before, this might come as a shock to you (as it did to me). You now have to make a reservation to see the Haleakala sunrise (don’t worry, it only costs you $1.50 to book this reservation – but you still do have to pay the $25/car for access to the park for three days). There are limited spots available, and it’s best if you book in advance.
If you’re like me and you don’t read anything until a few days before you leave, you’re in luck! Two days before the desired day (so if I want to see the sunrise on Sunday, we’re talking about Friday), at 4 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time, approximately 80 sunrise spots will become available. But book fast! The day I booked, I checked back again at 4:08 p.m., just out of curiosity, and all 80 spots were snatched up!
Tip 2: Download Google Maps
You’ll have spotty service for the majority of the way to Haleakala, so it’ll probably be a good idea to download Google Maps in advance. To do this, type “Maui” into the search bar, click on the white section at the bottom of the screen, and tap the download option that comes up! Make sure you’re connected to Wi-Fi as it downloads, and keep the app open to have it download faster. By doing so, you’ll be able to use Google Maps whether or not you have service.
Tip 3: Wake Up at 2 a.m.
It would be absolutely terrible if you woke up early and missed the sunrise, just like we did. We were staying in Lahaina and woke up at 3:30 a.m. Google Maps told us it would be a one-and-a-half-hour drive, so if we left by 4 a.m, we would make it there by 5:30 a.m. – half an hour before the sunrise at 6 a.m. In theory, that is correct. But that’s only in theory.
First of all, the light from the sunrise appears before the sun actually rises above the horizon. So if you want to see the actual change from pitch black to the colorful light, you’ll want to get there early.
Second, because you will be watching the sunrise from a higher altitude, you’ll actually see the sunrise a few minutes before you would see it from sea level. Crazy, right? I definitely did not take that into consideration.
Third, Google Maps will fail you. Honestly, it was bound to happen someday. Yes, Google Maps will get you to Haleakala. Yes, it will technically take you an hour and a half – but that only gets you to the entrance booth, not the summit. It takes another half an hour to get to the summit. So in total, the drive is actually two hours.
Bottom line: wake up at 2 a.m. if you actually want to see the sunrise at Haleakala.
Tip 4: Bring Warm Clothes
Yes, you are in Hawaii. Yes, Hawaii is usually warm. But you will also be 10,000 feet high, so it will get quite cold. It can actually get 20 to 30 degrees (Fahrenheit) colder than it is at sea level. At the bare minimum, bring jeans and a sweatshirt, but even in that I was freezing. I was really wishing I’d brought a puffy jacket or a beanie like some other visitors had done. But at least I wasn’t in shorts and a t-shirt.
Tip 5: Be Positive!
If you follow these tips, odds are, you’ll catch the Haleakala sunrise. But if for some reason you don’t, be positive about the situation! You still get to explore the tallest mountain on Maui – one that used to be a volcano! Check out the rare silversword plants, get a glimpse of the craters, and buy a patch from the visitor center (yes, they’re open that early).
Have you ever watched the Haleakala sunrise? What was your experience like? Write about it below in the comments!
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