Sunrise and sunset at Haleakala Crater are among the top sights to explore in Maui. Our experience there was beyond spectacular. In this post, you can read about our visit and learn informative and valuable facts about the Haleakala Crater.
History of Haleakala Volcano
Haleakala is the largest volcano in Maui. It covers approximately 75% of the island and rises 10,023 feet above the Pacific Ocean. It is the highest peak on Maui island. The Haleakala Crater formed over a million years ago due to volcanic activity. The gradual accumulation of lava irruptions transformed the volcano into a shield shape, now referred to as the “Crater”. The volcano is currently dormant. However, Geologists are constantly monitoring it for potential activity. Currently, Haleakala draws more than a million visitors annually. And for a good reason: it is a beautiful place to visit. Mainly sunrise and sunset at Haleakala Crater make the most visits.
The Legend of Sunrise and Sunset at the Haleakala Crater
History and science aside, the Haleakala Crater is frequently called “The House of the Sun”.
According to the Hawaiian legend, Hina, the Demi-god Maui’s mother, once complained that she was unable to sun-dry her Kapa (clothes that she made from Bark) because days were too short. Hearing the complaint, Maui traveled up to Haleakala, captured the sun, and restrained it until it promised him to make days longer.
Rich with history and culture, Haleakala is also an important spiritual place for Hawaiians. Visitors must remember to stay respectful of their surroundings.
Choosing Between Sunrise and Sunset
While the Haleakala National Park offers spectacular nature and beautiful views, it is most visited for its breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. Regardless of your preference, make sure you check the sunrise and sunset schedules and give yourself enough time to make the drive.
There are different ways you can see sunrise and sunset at Haleakala Crater. One option is to sign up for a guided tour bus. Alternatively, you can also rent a car and drive up yourself. If you are making your own drive, make sure to purchase tickets ahead of time. They can be purchased online to avoid unnecessary issues at the last minute.
In addition, to the extent possible, try to pick a day with a clear sky and a low chance of rain for your visit. Due to constantly changing weather conditions, not everyone is lucky enough to get unobstructed views from the top. However, do not let a cloudy day discourage you from making this trip. Weather conditions can quickly change in your favor, and a rainy day can easily turn into a sunny one by the time you get to the top of Haleakala.
Our Experience and Recommendation for Seeing Sunrise and Sunset at the Haleakala Crater
As far as our visit goes, we decided to see the sunset. Usually, there are fewer people during sunsets than sunrises. But more importantly, it does not require you to wake up in the middle of the night. Seriously, you are advised to be at the top of the Haleakala at least 30 minutes before sunrise, which could be as early as 5:30 AM. Once you factor in the time required to drive up there with moderate traffic, you may have to wake up as early as 3 AM. Besides, we did not doubt that seeing the sunset would be just as rewarding (and a lot more relaxing). The bottom line is if you are not a morning person and prefer private experiences, choosing the sunset is a good idea.
Our experience far exceeded our expectations. We drove from Kihei, Maui. It was one of the most spectacular drives we have ever been a part of. As we got closer to Haleakala National Park, a sunny day turned rainy. However, the rain quickly stopped, and rainbows emerged. Then we got even closer to our destination and began to climb higher. Our excitement grew with each passing turn as we made our way to the top. We made a few stops to take in the beauty surrounding us–not fully knowing what was yet to come.
Before we knew what was happening, we had clouds all around us, which meant we had reached the top. It took us about an hour to reach the summit with stops and slow driving. But, once we reached the top, the time stopped. We were sitting, quite literally, on top of the clouds. There were rainbows around us. We walked around a little, absolutely astonished by what we were seeing.
Then the sun began to set. People began to line up around the summit. As cozy as it could be. We all sat on top of the clouds, watching the sun slowly submerge into them, but not without giving us the most beautiful goodbye first. The most vibrant colors spread across the sky as we all sat in silence and admired. For a few minutes, the world had slowed, and nothing else mattered.
Then it became chilly, and we realized how cold it had been all along. Seriously, do not be fooled by the gorgeous weather Hawaii offers. It gets freezing at the top, and you do not want to be hiding in your car while everybody else is enjoying the sunset or sunrise.
Besides viewing the sunrise and sunset at Haleakala Crater, you can do a wide range of other activities besides viewing famous sunset and sunrise. You can go hiking, camping, horseback riding, sky-watching, zip-lining, or even touring by helicopter.
Reservations and Admissions
There is a $30 admission fee per vehicle entering the Haleakala National Park. Tickets are valid for three days per customer. To visit the park during sunrise, 3:00-7:00 am, you need to make an additional online reservation. The reservation fee is $1 per vehicle. You may book your reservation two months prior to visiting the park. Unlike the general admission tickets, sunrise reservations are valid for a single trip only.
Tips When Visiting the Haleakala National Park
- Layers and proper Gear – Dressing warm and having extra layers are a must when going up the Haleakala National Park. Given the high elevation, the temperature may drop below freezing. It can get very uncomfortable if rain and wind also pick up. Being prepared with warm clothes will make the experience more comfortable. I would suggest grabbing some blankets as well. And if you decide to hike, make sure you are wearing proper hiking shoes.
- Hydrate – Being on a high altitude may cause altitude sickness for some people. Keep yourself well hydrated and rest frequently.
- Sun protection – Being on a high elevation increases the risk of sunburn.
- Sunrise restrictions – Sunrise visitors are required to make online reservations in advance. This doesn’t concern sunset visitors.
- Load vehicle with gas – While the drive is not too long, please note that there are no gas stations in the Park. It is advisable to have a full tank before you begin your trip.
- I hope you will find this post informative and valuable for your next adventure! Read more about 5 beaches in Maui to put in your bucket list.