Sunrise at Haleakala National Park

Haleakala National Park well known for their amazing sunrises. Famous authors and poets have spun tales and verses about the amazingness that is the Maui sunrise over the not in-active (only dormant) Haleakala Volcano.


Haleakala is one of two United States National Parks in Hawaii. I thought ahead and brought my annual National Park pass along (which expires in a few weeks!) and saved $20 on the entrance fee per car.  I got my money’s worth out of my pass this year!


Sunrise starts around 6am and ends around 7am. And yes, you need to be even earlier to get a parking spot in the parking lot. I woke up at 3:45am (yay for my body being on East Coast time still), drove the 1 1/2 hours up the curvy road to Haleakala, and arrived at 5:35am and got one of the last parking spots. It is super-important to bring every piece of clothing you brought with you to Maui to Haleakala as it is freezing! It was about 40 degrees with 40 mile per hour winds at the edge of the crater. I hiked up the Pa Ka’oao Trail (the whole .2 miles of it to another overlook that was so much less crowded than the main viewing platform. I made friends, huddled behind the rock wall, and waited for the sun.


Around 6:03am as promised, the sun started to rise.


By 6:35am, the sky was looking gorgeous and by 6:45am I was ready to sit in my car with the heater blasting.

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But I waited it out and stayed for the whole sunrise.  Overall, it was very pretty but I’m not sure it was worth getting up at 3:45 am.

After the sunrise, and after I blasted the heater in my rental car for about 10 minutes, defrosting my fingers and toes, I set off for Sliding Sands Trail. Sliding Sands Trail came highly recommended by my Lonely Planet Guidebook on Maui and by a few people I’ve spoken with thus far. The only bad thing about it is that you are walking into a volcano crater so eventually you have to walk back up it.


The walk down was awesome but steep. As I was walking I thought to myself how much I was going to despise the walk back up. But it was cool inside the crater.

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I walked downhill for an hour as my guidebook suggested and then turned around to walk back out. The whole trail down and out is about 9 miles and didn’t have time for the entirety, thank goodness. The walk back up was brutal. Absolutely brutal.

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About halfway back up another solo woman hiker decided going further was a bad idea and hiked the rest of the way with me. It was nice to have someone to complain with Smile

But we made it!

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The Sliding Sands partial hike was pretty but it is possible to do only 20-30 minutes downhill and get almost the same views. That’s it from Haleakala National Park. My next adventure is whale-watching since it is whale birthing and mating season here in Maui!

Reader question: Would you get up at 3:45am to watch the sunrise in the cold?

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1 Response

  1. So much fun!! We did that too and WOW it was SOOOOOO cold! Totally worth it though. Next time stop by the surfing goat dairy and lavender farm on the way down!

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