Five tips for an amazing Haleakala sunrise excursion

As one of Maui’s most popular attractions, the Mt. Haleakala volcano offers stunning views from almost 10,000 feet above sea level. Go on an unforgettable excursion to the top of the mountain and view the Haleakala sunrise from above the clouds. On a clear day, you can watch the sun crest the beautiful ocean horizon, complete with a truly breathtaking 360-degree view of the island below.

Mt. Haleakala is a dormant volcano that originally helped form the entire island of Maui. Today, it acts as the focal point for Haleakala National Park, which features rugged trails, cinder cones, and scenic lava rock fields. While visiting Mt. Haleakala at sunrise is a popular choice for many tourists, we've got some key insider tips for a successful sunrise outing—and vacation rental options for a relaxing home base.

a group of people seeing the sun rise at haleakala

1. Don’t forget to make a reservation

Since February 1, 2017, Haleakala National Park has required reservations for viewing the sunrise at the summit. While the cost is just $1.50 per car, you must pay the reservation fee in advance if you plan to enter the Summit District of Mt. Haleakala between the hours of 3 a.m. and 7 a.m.

Also keep in mind this fee is separate from the national park entrance fee. However, you can reserve your Haleakala sunrise spot up to 60 days in advance! Go to www.recreation.gov for reservations and check out www.nps.gov/hale for more information on the park.

2. Bundle up with warm clothes

With Maui’s classic tropical climate, it’s easy to forget that the temperature changes when you’re 10,000 feet above sea level! On average, temperatures at the Haleakala summit are about 20 degrees colder than at sea level and can often go below freezing.

While the best sunrises happen on crisp, clear days, the weather at the summit can be unpredictable and is frequently windy and wet. Make sure you have a warm jacket, and swap those flip-flops for a pair of tennis shoes or boots!

cars going down the mountain from haleakala

3. Leave early and plan your drive

If you’re leaving from Kaanapali or Lahaina, it’s recommended that you head out at least three and a half hours before sunrise. It takes about an hour and a half to get up the mountain from Kahului. Also keep in mind that the roads up the mountain do not have any street lights, and you’ll be driving in the dark.

In the summer months, the sun typically rises between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m., while in the winter, it’s closer to 7 a.m. Check the national park website or try a quick Google search to see when the exact sunrise will be during your visit!

Vacation rentals near Haleakala

The summit of Mt. Haleakala is a few hours' drive from the most popular areas to stay on Maui, on the west and south sides of the island. Wailea and Kihei, in south Maui, are slightly closer than Lahaina or Kaanapali—about a three-hour drive.

4. Prep for any motion or altitude sickness

The mountain roads leading up to the summit are winding and there are a lot of switchbacks—a big trigger for anyone who is prone to carsickness! Stock up on some motion sickness medicine or supplements ahead of time to avoid issues.

At an elevation of 10,000 feet, altitude sickness is also a possibility for some people. While altitude sickness typically takes several hours to kick in, some may be affected faster. The majority of visitors are fine for a short visit while viewing the sunrise, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind as you travel to the top of Haleakala. Heading back down the mountain is the best remedy for anyone who starts to feel altitude sickness symptoms.

Lahaina vacation rentals and condos

In the event of altitude sickness or motion sickness, at least relaxing next to a sparkling pool is a great remedy. If you're staying in Lahaina, you'll be relieved to find that most vacation rentals there have pools—perfect for unwinding after an early-morning start and a long day.

pancakes with strawberries and bananas

5. Plan your post-sunrise breakfast

Keep in mind there is no food, clothing, or gas for sale in the park, so come prepared with all your essentials beforehand. Have a quick breakfast before heading up to the summit, or plan on having a snack while watching the sunrise.

On your way back down the mountain, you might like to head over to an eatery such as the Kula Lodge Restaurant for a delicious meal after the sunrise.

The Haleakala sunrise is a breathtaking excursion and a must-see for any Maui visitor. With just a little preparation, viewing the sunrise on Haleakala will be a truly unforgettable experience.



Article written by Kalie Eyman

Featured photo courtesy of James Huckaby. Additional images courtesy of Krishna Santhanam, Jessie Hodge, and versello.