Watching the sunrise at the summit of Haleakalā volcano is Maui’s most famous attraction and a Hawaii bucket list activity. Standing 10,000 feet above sea level and watching the sun rise above the clouds feels unreal.
The Haleakalā sunrise was the highlight of my two-week Hawaii trip and here, I share practical tips on doing it. This post covers:
- 🎟️ How to see the sunrise
- 📍 Best place to watch
- 🧤 What to wear and pack
- ⏰ What time to get to the top
- ☀️ Haleakalā sunrise vs. sunset
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Haleakalā Sunrise at a Glance
Here is some general information on watching the sunrise or sunset at Haleakalā:
🌋 What is Haleakalā?
Haleakalā, which translates to “house of the sun” in Hawaiian, is a dormant volcano in Maui. It’s considered dormant because it has not erupted in over 1,000 years, but it can erupt in the future so it’s technically still active.
🌟 Why is the Haleakalā Sunrise Special?
The Haleakalā sunrise is Maui’s most famous activity for good reason.
- The summit of the volcano is also the highest point on the island of Maui, so there’s nothing blocking your view. It’s one of the best views I’ve seen in my travels.
- The sunrise is known for its incredible, vivid sky colors. Watching the sunrise felt surreal.
Catching the sunset at Haleakalā is also popular, but not as famous.
Haleakalā is located on the southern side of Maui, Hawaii. Regardless of where you stay in Maui, it’ll be at least a one to two-hour drive to reach the summit.
🚗 Getting to Haleakalā
There are three ways to get to Haleakalā’s summit. You can:
- Drive yourself, which is what I did (see below for details on driving to Haleakalā)
- Book a vehicle tour like this highly-rated one, which costs more than $200
- Book a biking tour like this highly-rated one, which costs more than $100
💰 Haleakalā Sunrise Costs
Both the Haleakalā sunrise and sunset trip require you to enter Haleakalā National Park, which has an entrance fee of $30 per vehicle that you pay at the Summit Entrance.
Due to its popularity, the Haleakalā sunrise also has a $1 reservation fee.
Note that a National Park Service Pass will cover the entrance fee to Haleakalā National Park. I had the annual $80 park pass, so my car didn’t have to pay the entrance fee. All my travel expenses are shared in this Hawaii cost breakdown.
🎟️ Haleakalā Reservations
⏳ Suggested Duration
The duration of your Haleakalā trip depends on how far you are from the national park and whether you’re going for the sunrise or sunset (the former is more crowded and will have a longer line at the entrance).
On average, you can expect to spend at least five hours on your Haleakalā trip, roughly splitting your time as follows:
- 2+ hours to get to Haleakalā’s summit
- 1 hour to enjoy the sunrise or sunset
- 1.5 hours to get back down Haleakalā
Haleakalā Sunrise vs. Sunset
Watching the sunrise at Haleakalā’s summit is the more famous activity, but both the sunrise and sunsets are stunning.
You’ll likely enjoy your experience regardless of which one you choose, but here are a few pros and cons for each.
|Haleakalā Sunrise||Haleakalā Sunset|
|Pros||• Slightly more vivid sky colors|
• Maui’s “bucket list” activity
|• Much less crowded|
• Wake up whenever you want
• Better idea of the weather
• No reservation required
|Cons||• Reservations required|
• More popular and crowded
• Wake-up is before 4am
• Weather is unpredictable
|• The drive down will be in the dark|
• Not the “bucket list” activity
One of the most important distinctions between the Haleakalā sunrise and sunset is that the former requires advanced reservation while you can plan to do the latter at the last minute.
Another one of Maui’s most popular activities is the Road to Hana, which has over 40 stops, including hikes, waterfalls, beaches, swimming holes and more.
How To Get Reservations for Haleakalā Sunrise
If you want to catch the Haleakalā sunrise, you need to get advance reservations.
🎟️ Tip #1: Get reservations online.
The #1 thing to know about Haleakalā sunrise reservations is that only 150 tickets are available each day, so they need to be booked in advance online at recreation.gov.
You won’t be able to get a reservation by calling, visiting in person or at any third-party sites.
🗓️ Tip #2: Book ahead as tickets are competitive.
You have two options when booking Haleakalā sunrise reservations:
- The Early Planner: You can book reservations 60 days in advance. Tickets are released at 7 am HST. You must select the day of your trip and the reservation is only good for that day (i.e., reservation days are not interchangeable).
- The Last-Minute Planner: A small number of tickets are also made available 2 days in advance for each given day; these are also released at 7 am HST. This is what I had to do since I didn’t plan my Hawaii trip 60 days ahead.
Unlike the “60-day ahead” reservation option, getting last-minute Haleakalā sunrise reservations is extremely competitive. Tickets tend to run out in less than a minute after they’re released. Getting reservations 60 days in advance will relieve stress.
I wasn’t able to get a reservation the first day I tried, but I was able to score a reservation on the second day I tried right at 7 am HST. Some of my friends traveling at other times were not able to get them.
💡 Haleakalā Sunrise Reservation: What To Know
Important things to know about your Haleakalā sunrise reservations are:
- The $1 reservation fee is per vehicle, so you only need one ticket per car.
- Reservations are only needed if you plan to enter Haleakalā for the sunrise, which is defined as any time between 3 am to 7 am. Otherwise, you don’t need a reservation.
- Each reservation is only good for the specific day you choose. They are not interchangeable and can’t be refunded or exchanged.
- The name on the reservation must match an ID on the day of your Haleakalā trip.
For more reservation information, you can visit the National Park’s official website on Haleakalā.
This Maui travel guide shows how to fit a Haleakalā visit into your itinerary.
What To Wear to Haleakalā Sunrise
Due to the high elevation, the weather at the summit of Haleakalā can change rapidly and be 30°F colder than the temperature at sea level.
- In the summer, Haleakala’s temperature averages between 40°F to 50°F.
- In the winter, Haleakala’s temperature averages between 20°F to 30°F.
Unfortunately, it’s near impossible to predict whether you’ll have a clear day during your Haleakalā visit. Your experience can be perfect or cold, cloudy and wet. You might have a better idea of what the weather will be like for sunset, but that’s also not a guarantee.
Since the weather can change rapidly, the best thing to do is to pack for the worst weather and leave unnecessary items in your vehicle once you get to the summit.
Here’s what to wear and pack for the Haleakalā sunrise:
- Puff or warm outer layer. Both my partner and I wore puffs and we saw people wearing all sorts of warm outer layers.
- Warm hat or headband. I brought my North Face headband and my partner wore a beanie.
- Warm inner layer. If it’s cold at ground level, wear warm clothes like a warm thermal base. Otherwise, a long sleeve or hoodie should be sufficient.
- Outer rain gear. Weather can change rapidly, so bring something in case it gets wet. I brought my rain jacket, but luckily I was able to leave it in the car. To save space and carry something lighter, these rain ponchos I’ve brought to other countries work well.
- Warm gloves. Bring gloves in case it’s windy and cold and you want to take photos.
- Long pants, ideally on the warmer side. You might be able to get away with shorts if it’s really warm, but wearing long pants is the safer bet. I wore my light hiking pants with a thin thermal base underneath.
- Sunscreen. If you’re spending more than an hour around the summit after sunrise or before sunset, it’s a good idea to wear some face sunblock.
- Closed-toe shoes. If you plan to hike after sunrise, bring hiking shoes. Otherwise, athletic closed-toe shoes will suffice.
- Snacks and/or breakfast. You’ll spend at least four to five hours getting to and driving back from the summit, so bring some food to sustain yourself. Some visitors like bringing hot coffee in a mug.
There are no vendors or stalls selling beverages, snacks, souvenirs, etc. in the summit area, so pack accordingly. It does have bathroom facilities.
- A blanket if it’s extra cold. If it’s wintertime, it’s a good idea to bring extra layers like a blanket to wrap around yourself.
What Time To Get To Haleakalā for Sunrise
In general, you’ll want to start heading out two to three hours before sunrise time to get to the Haleakalā summit. This will give you plenty of time to drive to the summit and find a good spot to watch the sun rise above the clouds.
In the summer, the sun starts rising as early as 5:30 am in Maui. In the winter, the sun can rise as late as 7 am in Maui.
If you want a more precise departure time, here’s when to leave for your Haleakalā sunrise trip:
☀️ Step 1: Look up Haleakalā sunrise time.
Click here to see the sunrise time for the next sunrise in Maui.
You’ll want to be at the summit 45 to 60 minutes before sunrise time. It will start getting bright then and you’ll want to be there as the sky turns different shades of colors, a key part of this unique experience.
For example, let’s say our Haleakalā sunrise is at 6 am, so you’ll want to be at the summit by 5 am.
🚙 Step 2: Add 30 minutes to your drive time.
Google how long will it take to drive from your accommodation to the Haleakalā Summit Parking. It’s usually about an hour or more.
Add an extra 30 minutes to your drive time because that’s how long you could be waiting at the Summit Park Entrance where they check everyone’s reservations and take payments.
In our example, let’s say that Google says it will take us 1.5 hours to get to the summit parking. Adding the extra 30 minutes, our total drive time is two hours. So we need to be out the door by 3 am based on our target 5 am summit arrival time.
🥱 Step 3: Add 15 minutes to get ready in the morning.
Of course, you know how long it will take you to get ready in the morning and whether you’ll need a snack or breakfast, so make sure to account for that as well when you plan your trip.
At certain Haleakalā outlooks (see more on where to stand below), space in the “front row” is limited and will be occupied by visitors arriving early. If you want to be in the front row, you should arrive even earlier.
Driving Up to Haleakalā’s Summit
When driving to Haleakalā’s summit, keep these two tips in mind.
🎟️ Tip #1: Double-check essential items.
You won’t be allowed entrance to Haleakalā without any of these, so remember to bring:
- Some way to pay or waive the entrance fee (e.g., cash, credit card, a National Parks Pass)
- Your reservation
- Your photo ID, which must match the name on the reservation
🚙 Tip #2: Bring motion sickness medication for the winding roads.
The roads leading up to Haleakalā are well-paved and have plenty of reflective signs and lane markers to help with visibility in the dark.
However, it will be pitch black and the roads are very winding. You can get a sense of the winding roads by looking at the map below.
If you’re prone to motion sickness by vehicle, make sure to bring medication. I slept while my partner drove up, but since I’m prone to motion sickness and didn’t prepare accordingly, I almost threw up on the drive down.
Best Place To Watch the Haleakalā Sunrise
There are several places to catch the sunrise and below is the best place to do it.
👀 Halekalā’s Sunrise Viewing Locations
Most people don’t realize this, but there are four viewing locations on Haleakalā and each of them has its own parking lot.
All viewing locations will give you a good view of the sun rising or setting over the Haleakalā crater. Here’s a Google map with all four viewing locations pinned.
- Pu`u Ula ula or Red Hill summit
- Haleakalā Visitor Center. This is the most popular and crowded viewing location. If you arrive early enough to park here, you’ll see a huge crowd lined up against the rails.
- Kalahaku Overlook
- Leleiwi Overlook
Parking for each viewing location is on a first-come first-served basis and each parking lot will be closed when it’s full, which is another reason why you don’t want to get to the summit too late.
🌟 #1 Tip: Catch the sunrise from the Pa Ka’oao Trail
My best insider’s tip for the Haleakā sunrise is that if you’re at the Haleakalā Visitor Center viewing location, you should hike the Pa Ka’oao (aka White Hill) Trail, a short 0.2-mile trail, to get the best view.
The Pa’Ka’oao Trail is the perfect place to watch the Haleakalā sunrise as there are significantly fewer people and no rails blocking your view or showing up in your photos.
What To Do After Haleakalā Sunrise
After the Haleakalā sunrise, you can leave right away or stay at Haleakalā to do some hikes or check out the different viewing locations.
🥾 Hiking Haleakalā After Sunrise
After your Haleakalā sunrise, you can hike a challenging trail at Haleakalā National Park or combine a few of the easy trails.
- Sliding Sands Trail is one of the most popular hikes in the national park where you start at the rim of the Haleakalā crater and end at the bottom of it. It’s a hard 11-mile hike that my sister partially did and said was very rewarding.
- Halemau’u Haleakala Overlook Trail is a 7.6-mile stunning hike near the volcano crater that takes about four to five hours to complete. My sister also did part of this trail and also recommends it.
- Haleakalā National Park also has a few shorter trails that you can access from the summit. These trails include Hosmer Grove Campground, Leleiwi Overlook and Pa Ka’oao Trail.
🚙 Leave Right Away After Sunrise
If you’re departing Haleakalā right away, leave late enough that you can enjoy the summit, but early enough that you can beat all the departing tour buses.
The road down the mountain only has one lane and you don’t want to be stuck behind rows of buses.
Enjoy your Haleakalā summit trip and I hope you’re lucky enough to have great weather like me. Here are other great things to do in Maui.
Maui Trip Planner
To make your travel planning easier, download the trip planner below and use it as a starting point. The planner has country-specific travel information as well as an itinerary, packing list, and map with key places pinned.
The trip planner is built on Notion, which is what I use for all my travel planning (I genuinely love this tool). If you don’t have Notion, creating an account is free.
If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below.
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- ☀️ How To See the Haleakalā Sunrise: Tips + What To Know
- 🚗 Road to Hana Guide: Map, Great Stops + Is it Dangerous?
- 🤿 Hiking Captain Cook to Snorkel in Kealakekua Bay Guide
- 🎒 Complete Maui Packing List: Tips + What To Bring
🧋 This site is run entirely by me, Lukiih. I spend hours researching each destination to ensure its accuracy. If you find my tips helpful, say thanks by buying me bubble tea!