If you’re traveling to Maui, the Haleakala Sunrise is a must do on your bucket list. But before jetting off to the sunrise, there are few important things to know before you. Haleakala means “House of Sun” for a good reason. The Haleakala summit is 10,000 feet above sea level and above the clouds. So watching Maui wake up is an unforgettable experience. The Haleakala summit is the best place in Maui to view the sunrise up close and personal.
With over 1 million visitors per year, this worthwhile activity will take some planning ahead. I have seen the Haleakala Sunrise a few times, so I have learned a few things along the way to make it the best experience as possible. In this post, I’ll be sharing important things to know before you go that will make the most of your Haleakala experience.
1. The Haleakala Sunrise requires a reservations
Due to its overwhelming popularity, it has caused issues with overcrowding, cars parked illegally due to limited parking and long lines to enter the park. So to help with the situation, in 2017 the Haleakala National Park now requires reservations for each vehicle entering the park.
A reservation is required for each vehicle entering the park from 3:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. They take reservations up to 60 days in advance and a limited number of tickets are available 2 days in advance, at 7am HST. The reservation cost $1.00 per vehicle (non-refundable) and a separate $25 park entrance fee.
Don’t delay making a reservation, they go fast! You will be turned away if you don’t have reservations. One time as I was approaching the entrance, a couple was waiting outside, asking cars with reservations to hitch a ride. Don’t be them, plan ahead and make reservations at recreation.gov. For more information and tips about the Haleakala Sunrise reservation system, go here.
2. Dress Warm for the Haleakala Sunrise
While Maui is a tropical destination known for perfect warm weather, the Haleakala summit is 10,000 feet above sea level so the climate there is vastly different. Temperatures at the Haleakala summit are at least 20 to 30 degrees colder than the rest of the island. The Haleakala sunrise temperatures can range from 32°F to 65°F plus factor in the wind, it can get blistering cold.
Don’t trek up the summit in your beach attire, I guarantee you’ll regret it. It won’t be an enjoyable experience. But who wants to pack arctic winter gear to a tropical destination right? Don’t worry, I made a guide on what to wear for Haleakala sunrise.
3. Plan Ahead and Arrive Early
Get there 1 HOUR and 15 MINUTES BEFORE sunrise (yes I wrote 1 hour & 15 mins before sunrise) because the upper summit parking lot is very small and limited. So depending on where you’re driving from, it can take you at least 2 hours to get to the summit. Park officials will close the upper summit parking lot if full. Then you will have to walk from the visitor center to the summit, a .25 mile uphill walk. Plus you’ll want the extra time to use the restrooms at the visitor center, snag a good spot for the sunrise and star gaze. There are no facilities at the summit.
Use the chart below to help plan your trip and when you should leave by:
4. Gas up before you go and pack food/snacks
There are no gas stations at the Haleakala Summit or Visitor Center. There is also no food or water for purchase up there. So if you plan to explore and do hikes up there, pack what you need for the day.
5. Familiarize yourself with the route
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. There is also no service at the summit, so if you’re using a GPS or navigation app like Google Maps, make sure the Haleakala Summit map is downloaded for offline use.
6. Try the sunset instead!
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. Plus it doesn’t require reservations.