Sunrise at the Haleakala Summit

UPDATE: Starting Feb 1, 2017, the Haleakala Sunrise requires a reservation. Read more about the Haleakala Sunrise Reservation System before heading there.

Drive above the clouds and watch the Sunrise at the Haleakala Summit from 10,000 feet above sea level is amazingly breathtaking.   One of the best views I’ve seen in my life.   In Hawaiian, Haleakala means the house of the sun, very fitting! But do come early to snag a good spot, at least 1 hour before sunrise and dress warmly.  Before the sunrise, you get the chance star gaze and slowly watch the sky transform to amazing colors.  One of the most natural and surreal experiences in my trips to Maui.

After the watching the sunrise there are plenty to do afterward:

Never tried it yet, but I’ve heard the sunset at Haleakala is just as spectacular and far less crowded.  This may be a good option for you if you don’t want to wake up at 2:30am to drive for a couple of hours in the dark.

Directions to Haleakala Summit

  1. From Hwy 37 take the 377 to the 378
  2. On Hwy 378 the switchbacks begin for the next 20 miles …
  3. After mile marker 10 is the Entrance to Haleakala National Park and you pay an entrance fee of $20 per car.  Keep the receipt as it’s valid for 3 days, which you can use to visit on the other side, like the 7 Sacred Pools in Hana.
  4. Pass the Upper Visitor center (aka Haleakalā Visitor Center) after mile marker 20 or stop here for a quick bathroom break.
  5. Drive another 1/2 mile to reach the Summit parking lot, park, and watch the sunrise.


Drive Time

  • From Central Maui (Kahului) to the Summit is approximately 90 minutes one way.
  • From West Maui (Kaanapali/Lahaina/Kapalua) to the Summit is approximately little over 2 hours.
  • From South Maui (Kihei/Wailea/Makena) to the Summit is approximately little less than 2 hours.

Hours of Operation

  • The park is open year-round, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, except for severe weather closure.
  • The Park Headquarters Visitor Center at the 7000 ft. level is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • The Haleakala Visitor Center at the 9740 ft. level is open 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. It is closed on December 25 and on January 1.
  • For More Info:

Tips on Sunrise at the Haleakala Summit

  • Starting Feb 1, 2017, the Haleakala Sunrise requires a reservation. Read more about the Haleakala Sunrise Reservation System before heading there.  You need a print out of your reservation and a photo ID to enter the park
  • The best time to go to see the Sunrise is a day or 2 after you’ve arrived in Maui while you’re still jet-lagged.  The 4th tip will explain why.
  • Route out or write out directions before going so you have a general idea where you’re heading.  The road is full of switchbacks and has no street lights.  You do not want to be navigating a map or reading a guidebook in the dark.  If you have a GPS unit make sure it has map data on the Haleakala Summit.  You’ll be surprised how many units DON’T.
  • Have a full tank of gas before you go, there are no gas stations at the Summit or Visitor Centers.
  • Get there 1 HOUR and 15 MINUTES BEFORE sunrise (yes I wrote 1 hour & 15 mins before sunrise) because the Summit parking lot is very small and limited plus you want to snag a good spot for the sun rise and star gaze.  So that means waking up 2:15am in Maui time and getting there by 4:45am Maui time if you have to. Park officials will close the Summit parking lot if full then you have to walk to the Summit from the visitor center. Sunrise and Sunset times for Haleakala.
  • The temperatures at the Summit is butt freezing cold and the icy winds make it worse!  Temperatures in the summit area commonly range between 32°F and 65°F.  So dress warm but who wants to pack snow gear to a tropical destination and take up luggage space.  This is my best advice to you and you’ll love me for it, wear at least long pants and a long sleeve shirt/sweater or a light jacket and closed-toe shoes with socks.  Then bring a blanket from your hotel/condo to keep you actually warm and a towel to place on the ledge to sit on. The ledge is cold, wet and hard.  This works every time to keep me semi-warm without packing too much and people stare at me in envy. Also sharing the blanket with someone also helps … body heat does wonders!  You’ll be surprised by how many people show up at the Summit in their beach clothes.
  • A small flashlight is helpful to navigate up the stairs from the parking lot to the viewing area.  The flash from your cell phone would work too!
  • Bring your camera to take pictures of the Summit and the Sunrise.  Just wait a few minutes after the sunrise and people start to scatter away like roaches and you can get your perfect photo with the sun without other people in the background.
  • The Summit doesn’t have restrooms.  So as you drive up, stop at the Visitor centers for a tinkle.
  • The high altitude at the Summit may complicate health conditions and cause breathing difficulties.  So be sure to walk slowly and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
  • The visitor centers do not sell food or water.  So if you plan to do hikes or hang out around the park after the sunrise, bring water and food with you.
  • Before you head out to Haleakala call the National Weather Service’s Haleakala summit forecast.  (866) 944-5025.
  • Read the park’s official website for additional information.  Haleakala National Park
  • Keep your park entrance receipt, it’s valid for 7 days and can be used at the 7 Sacred Pools on the Hana side.
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