The Haleakala Sunrise Experience
Haleakala is located within the Haleakala National Park and is considered a protected sacred treasure in Maui. It is a dormant volcano with an elevation just above 10,000 feet over sea level making it the highest point in all of Maui. The astounding visibility from the summit is what makes the Haleakala sunrise so spectacular — and an experience that many tourists hope to witness during their visit to Hawaii.
In addition to the beautiful views, Haleakala is home to a host of unique plants and animals and is a place the Hawaiian people have cherished for centuries. Most remarkable and famous is the silversword. From the time when the Polynesians first settled the Hawaiian Islands, the Haleakala Volcano has been a location for special ceremonies and celebrations. It is rich with cultural history and although Haleakala is visited by more than one million people each year, it is still used by residents for important events.
In an effort to protect and preserve this highly valued place, in 2017, the national park started requiring visitors to obtain a permit and reservations to witness a Haleakala sunrise.
How to Make Reservations for the Haleakala Sunrise
There are only a limited number of booking spots available for reservations, which are available 60 days in advance at www.recreation.gov. Pre-reservation is a must, as it guarantees a parking space and a permit in order to access the summit area. Be sure to print off your reservation email confirmation and have a photo I.D. ready when entering the park.
The advanced reservation fee is $1.50, it is non-refundable and only valid for the day selected. The park also charges a $20 entry fee per car upon arrival. Peak hours of sunrise are between the hours of 3 am-7 am, so set that alarm clock to ensure you don’t miss your opportunity.
Or, to take the work out of seeing a Haleakala Sunrise AND include a fun, smooth bike ride down the volcano. Book a group bike tour for the sunrise here.
About the Haleakala Sunrise Experience
The Haleakala summit puts you above the cloud cover that resembles an ocean as the sun ascends over the horizon and creates an array of colors in the sky. The weather at 10,000 feet can be cold, sometimes reaching freezing temperatures, yet the climate variations can also enhance the beauty of the sunrise. However, with this in mind, it’s strongly recommended that you wear multiple layers and pack a blanket, so the views can be enjoyed no matter what.
If possible, hang out after the sunrise painted skies begin to fade and the sunshine makes the clouds disappear. Then, you can take in the beauty all around, as well as admiring the island below.
Seeing the Haleakala sunrise is a memorable event, and even individuals who aren’t typically accustomed to waking up early will be motivated by the anticipation of witnessing such an awe-inspiring act of nature.
The park is a great place to do some hiking as well. Companies like Hike Maui offer guided tours into the crater,
History of Haleakala
Much of the ancient history and Hawaiian culture revolves around gods and goddesses and the Haleakala is no different. According to legend, the island of Maui was named after the heroic demigod Maui, who lassoed the sun, as a favor to his mother.
Due to the sun traveling through the skies so rapidly, Maui’s mother, Hina, who relied on the sun to dry the bark cloth (kappa) could not complete her work. Determined to help his mother, Maui traveled to the top of Haleakala, which means ‘house of the sun.’ There, he patiently waited for the sun to rise from its crater where he seized it and held it by his mighty lasso until the sun agreed to travel more slowly through the sky for half the year.
From that moment on, the winter and summer seasons came into being, differentiated by shorter and longer days. During the longer days of sunlight, Hina finished her fabrics while other islanders were able to grow, harvest, and dry fruits, thus creating a more sustainable, enjoyable life for Hawaiians.
Once you enter the park, there are not really any amenities other than restrooms, so grab breakfast beforehand, and by all means, pack your camera and warm clothes so you can savor the following hours in comfort and awe.