One of the most popular things to do on Maui, Hawaii is to watch the sunrise on Haleakala Crater inside Haleakala National Park. It means standing on top of a dormant volcano, peering down into the 2,600-foot-deep crater, spanning nearly 7 miles wide. It means standing above the clouds on the horizon. It means watching the sun wake up the day from a vantage point that most hikers miss because it’s not easy to get to the top of a 10,000 foot mountain before the sun comes up…but this one has a paved road. It also means, if you count the elevation from the sea floor, you’d be standing on the third tallest mountain in the world, at just under 30,000 feet.
The Hawaiin name, haleakala, means “house of sun,” and legend has it that a god by the same name as Maui imprisoned the sun in the crater in an effort to lengthen the day. And I’d say she succeeded, for if you don’t usually start your day at sunrise, then your day will surely be longer.
Here are some things you’ll want to know before you watch the sunrise at Haleakala Crater:
- Make sure your rental car can make it to the top. If you rented a VW Westfalia like we did, you’ll have to arrange another mode of transportation as they weren’t built for that much elevation gain.
- Arrive EARLY! There’s limited parking at the top, and park employees direct traffic. If you don’t get there early enough, you could 1) not make it all the way to the top for the best view or 2) be sent away entirely.
- Starting February 1, the park now charges $1.50 per car to watch the sunset, but you can make reservations up to 60 days in advance (I’d recommend this!)
- You also still need to pay the park entrance fee of $20 per car (unless you have the Interagency Annual Pass for $80 which I highly recommend if you love national parks!) but it’s good for three days, so save your receipt if you plan to also camp at Kipahulu.
Hands down, this is the best sunrise view on Maui, and it’s 100% worth the loss of sleep, the early-morning coffee, the nearly 40 hairpin turns on the hour-plus drive to the top. And yes, it’s worth the cold morning temps and high winds you’ll surely encounter, as well as the crowd of other sunrise adventurers at the top. This is daybreak at its finest.