Sunrise At Mount Haleakala, Maui: What You Need To Know

This post was last updated on July 18th, 2017


Sunrise At Mount Haleakala What To Know


When our alarm went off at 4:30am to make the drive up to Mount Haleakala, we nearly rolled over to pretend we couldn’t hear it. Dan had already seen the sunrise from the spectacular volcano on a family trip years and years ago (and admittedly didn’t remember much about it.) We had also been up late with wedding festivities the night before, and our glamping accommodation was enticingly comfortable. Luckily, we had promised a friend we would all go see the sunrise together, so we had just the push we needed to grab a cup of coffee and see what all the fuss was about. We’re so glad we did.

Mount Haleakala comes in at a dramatic 10,023 feet. From this staggering height, the sun rises above a layer of clouds before slowly illuminating the lunar-like landscape below. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience, though not necessarily an off-the-beaten-track one.


Photographing Mount Haleakala Sunrise

Just about everyone claims you can’t visit Maui without seeing the Mount Haleakala sunrise. Now that we’ve done it for ourselves, we have to say that we completely agree. The early wake-up call is nothing when compared to the completely mesmerizing sunrise.

Perhaps the easiest way to view the sunrise over Mt. Haleakala is with a Haleakala Sunrise Tour. Starting January 1st, 2018, Valley Isle Excursions will lead small group tours of only 12 people to the National Park, offering a fascinating sunrise experience that includes breakfast in Upcountry (one of our favorites spots on Maui.)

No matter how you choose to visit Haleakala, here are a few extra tips you’ll want to keep in mind:


Top ten things you need to know before seeing the Mount Haleakala sunrise:


1. Be Ready To Share The View


Mount Haleakala Sunrise Crowd

With nearly half a million tourists visiting Mount Haleakala each year, you can pretty much guarantee there will be other people in your sunrise selfie. Plan to arrive extra early if you want a front-row view. Otherwise, make the most of it by chitchatting with new people while you wait for the show to begin.


A Cruising Couple at Mount Haleakala

2. You Will Be Freezing


Most people don’t pack a parka when they vacation to Maui—but that’s literally what you need at 5:30 in the morning when you’re 10,000 feet above sea level. (The temperature is typically somewhere around 40 degrees F.) If you’re traveling with a tour operator, they’ll usually provide jackets. We wrapped ourselves in towels, which didn’t really keep us warm, but was certainly better than nothing.


3. You Might Get Nauseous or Dizzy


Maui at sunrise from Mount Haleakala

Between the winding road up to the top of the crater to the extreme change in altitude, it’s not unusual to feel a bit off once you finally arrive. Take it slow, and if you need to, go back down until you are accustomed to the height.


4. Sunrise Isn’t The Only Time To Go


The Haleakala sunrise gets all the press, but of course that’s not the only time to have a fantastic experience. Sunset is also supposed to be magical, especially as you can then stay for some leisurely star gazing.


5. The Entrance Fee Is Valid For 3 Days


To enter Haleakala National Park, each car must pay a $10 entrance fee that is valid for three days. Unfortunately we didn’t have the time, but on our next trip to Maui, we would certainly like to explore more of the entire park. Haleakala is home to more endangered species than any other national park in the U.S., and boasts a wide array of local fauna and ecological zones amongst the unique volcanic landscape. It’s even possible to hike and camp within the crater’s rugged terrain!

“It’s better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times”Click To Tweet


6. You Can Choose Your Level Of Adventure


Driving down Mount Haleakala at Sunrise

Haleakala is great because it’s accessible to all levels of adventurers. Hop in your car and drive to and from the summit. Join a bike tour and cycle back down the 37-mile road. Hike, horseback ride, or even paraglide…there are tons of options for the ultimate Maui escapade.


7. Mount Haleakala Is Sacred


Mount Haleakala Sunrise Crater at Sunrise

Ancient Hawaiians considered Mount Haleakala to be a sacred site and a place where the gods live. The only people allowed into the space were the kahuna, who lived in the spiritual spot as part of their apprenticeship. Even today, many believe the volcano to be a powerful energy center. With throngs of tourists now visiting every day, it’s important to maintain a sense of reverence and respect.


8. Sunrises Aren’t Guaranteed


Daybreak Mount Haleakala Sunrise

Okay so this shouldn’t be a shock, but you would be surprised how many people complain about Haleakala due to bad weather and other elements outside of their control. We get that it’s super annoying when the weather impedes your travel plans. In Indonesia, we took a two-day trip to go see the sunrise and crater at famed Mount Bromo. The weather was so bad we literally saw nothing. We say make the most of your trip no matter what :)


9. Don’t Rush Away


Mount Haleakala Sunrise

Once the sun has risen, most tourists hop back in their cars and quickly descend down the volcano. But one of the most beautiful parts of the entire experience is watching the colors and shadows dance across the landscape in the early morning light. On a clear day, there are also spectacular views all the way across the Alenuihaha Channel to Mauna Kea on the Big Island.


10. Stay In Upcountry The Night Before


Glamping in Maui

Make the early-morning trek as easy on yourself as possible. Staying in Upcountry means you’ll be a little bit closer to Mount Haleakala. Plus, Upcountry is awesome, offering an experience that is completely unique from the more touristy areas along the coast. Read our full review of glamping in Upcountry here.


Witnessing the Mount Haleakala sunrise was easily one of the most memorable moments of our Maui trip—even though we didn’t know any of these tips before we arrived. :)


Mount Haleakala Just Before Sunrise

Have you seen the Mount Haleakala sunrise? What other tips should travelers know before they go?


Looking for more inspiration to head to Maui? You’ll love our blog post: 17 Incredible Images That Will Make You Wish You Were On Maui


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  1. What an incredible experience. I love your tips – they make it so much BETTER!

  2. Just stumbled upon your blog! Thank you for sharing your travel experience!

  3. We were there 2 weeks ago today, what a great adventure! Seems like your in the galaxy with stars all around you, then the sun rises with great anticipation, wow!

    Dress warm and get there early as it fills up fast. If you get all the way to the observation center you can sit on the other side of the wall, you get a great view and a wind break to help stay a bit warmer.

  4. This is stunning! I have to get to Maui.

  5. Thanks for the great tips. We will be in Maui in April and are busy planning our must see list! We are looking forward to both the sunrise and sunsets and some awesome stargazing too! :-)

    • Hey, Dana!

      How exciting!! I certainly hope you enjoy every minute of your time in this beautiful place. Please do share about your experience, and let us know if you find any off-the-beaten-track spots we should check out next time. ;-)

      All the best!
      A Cruising Couple recently posted…Enjoy Your Holiday and Stay at Grand Aston YogyakartaMy Profile

  6. Aloha Casey, My husband and I have lived on Maui for 12 years. He has been a volunteer at the sunrise at Mt. Haleakala for that many years. Getting up at 4 AM is painful but he loves every sunrise! Finding him a down parka here was a challenge! You’re article was ” spot on”! Great advice to visitors! I found your post as I was looking through Pinterest for things to do in Ho Chi Min City! We are actual cruisers ? and have a stop there. I had no idea what to expect but now I’m really looking forward to that Port! Mahalo!

  7. I was blessed to experience the sunrise almost thirty years ago. At that time, it was not as popular as it is today. There were less than a dozen viewers on the day I was there, which made the beauty all the more special. As lovely as they are, the photos just do not do it justice. Thanks for sharing!

  8. We went to Maui last December. We found going to watch the sunrise at Mt Haleakala was a highlight of our trip. We rented bikes for two teen boys and they rode down the mountain as we drove our rental. We noticed that there were hiking trails and lots to see. This December we are going by ourselves. We plan on bringing a picnic and spending the day hiking the mountain trails. I did not know the park pass would let us in for 3 days, that is great information. The park has so much to offer! Note: The park takes credit cards ONLY for payment of the entrance fee!

  9. Heading to Maui in February 2017. Sunrise is planned for second morning before our body adjust to the time change. Can’t wait. We are wearing on the plane warmer clothes for the chilly temperatures. A thin infinity scarf will be in my suitcase ? We are bringing a packed picnic and change of clothes for the warmer temps as we descend down. Making a day of the park?

  10. Make sure you bring cash and sunglasses. The day we went up the card machine was down and they were only accepting cash. Good thing we had money on hand. Also, bring sunglasses. It is very bright. If you want to enjoy it to the fullest extent, sunglasses are a must. Lastly, beware the crowds. Use the restroom before you head up. There will be lines at the restrooms if you need to go.

  11. Thanks so much for sharing your information. My husband and I will be there the last two weeks in April. I’m so excited….. we reserved 4 different dates just in case.

  12. My husband and I went back at the end of January, Just a few days before the required reservation. He thought I was crazy for wanting to get up at 3;30 to go see a sunrise! we get there and we were of the first 20 people so we had our pick of the place. I had researched and planned well for the sunrise. We found a perfect spot, hunkered down for a couple hours and more and more people showed up. M husband then looks at me and says “You mean a lot of people do this?” (He knew absolutely nothing about Maui) It was pretty funny. And the sunrise was amazing!! So worth it.

  13. Thanks for your tips. My husband and I are going in late Nov 2017. Very excited, never been. And we definitely will be doing a sunrise. The pictures are so beautiful. I can’t wait.



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