In ancient times the summit of Haleakala was only for the kahuna (priests) and their haumana (students) where they lived and studied initiation rites and practices. Today, the summit is one of the most popular destinations for visitors to Maui. While the best views into the crater (actually an erosional valley) are actually in the afternoon when the sun is at your back, a trip to Haleakala for sunrise is an experience well worth the effort.
I say effort, because, if you're staying in West Maui, you'll need to get up by 3:00 a.m. to make it to summit for sunrise. That can make for a long day and require that you get to bed early the night before.
If You Go
If you decide to go to Haleakala for sunset, please keep these thoughts in mind:
- If possible arrange to see sunrise with a tour group where a professional driver will take you to the summit. If that is not practical, make sure you get up early enough to plan your arrival at the Visitor Center at least 30 minutes before sunrise. Remember that your park admission is valid for 3 days including the date of purchase. This will allow you time to return on another day for great mid-day views into the crater or even sunset.
- Dress warmly, ideally in layers. By the time you reach the bottom of the mountain after sunrise, the temperature may be much warmer.
- Bring your camera. I was surprised how many people were taking flash pictures of the sunrise. They won't turn out. You'll have much better results without the flash. Only use your flash in the dark if you're taking a photo of a person or nearby object. Otherwise it is simply a distraction to others.
- Keep your voice down. For many this is a very special experience. When the mele oli is chanted please keep silent.
- Be respectful of the place. Do not walk where you are not allowed to walk. Do no damage to the eco-system either at the summit or anywhere on the mountain. Always remember that you are a guest in this sacred place.
Related Features About Haleakala
Read our feature on Sunrise at Haleakala.
View our gallery of twelve photos taken before and during sunrise from the area near the Haleakala Visitor Center.
Find our more about the Haleakala National Park Summit Area.