Sunrise at Haleakala: when to go, what to bring, directions & viewing tips

Haleakala at sunrise
Watching the sun rise above the clouds at Haleakala National Park is a unique and memorable experience that I highly recommend you see. Haleakala is a Hawaiian name that means house of the sun. It is truly an awesome place to watch the clear night sky and stars fade away as the sun lights up the sky and earth.

There are so many people who go to watch sunrise on Haleakala hurriedly as if it was just another thing to mark off their “to do list”. Do you remember the scene from National Lampoon’s Vacation when the Griswolds saw the Grand Canyon in all of about 30 seconds? There have been so many people who treat sunrise on Haleakala the same way. I’d like to encourage you to really enjoy your time on Haleakala. So, I’m writing up my best tips for getting the most out of your early morning at more than 10,000 feet above sea level.

NEW: Book a sunrise reservation 

Beginning February 2017, visitors in personal or rental vehicles wishing to view sunrise at Haleakalā National Park will need to make sunrise viewing reservations ahead of time at The online reservation system was implemented to ensure visitor and employee safety, protect natural and cultural resources, and provide a quality visitor experience at the summit during sunrise hours (3am to 7am). At last check, the reservation  fee is $1 per car, but check for any updates to that cost.

The one-day sunrise reservation is not sold at the park but is available online. How far in advance that you can book a reservation has varied. Check for the current options. They have generally offered the tickets in two different batches. Check for their current policies as it is subject to change.

A sunrise reservation is only available via and cannot be transferred. To enter the Summit District between 3am and 7am, the reservation holder must be present and show both the one-day sunrise reservation receipt (for that day) and a photo ID.

Note that a reservation is not required if visiting prior to 3am and after 7am.

Getting there

image I highly recommend you map out your route at least the day before you go while you are alert and in light. What might be even easier is if you are bringing a GPS navigation system (see my post on Hawaii GPS stress savers), check your unit to see if it has the Haleakala crater or summit stored in the system.

Please note that there are two Haleakala visitor centers on Maui — one on the summit, which is where you want to go. The other one, which you do not want to go to for Haleakala sunrise, is past Hana in Kipahulu.

You can create your own custom directions to Haleakala summit for sunrise. Write out, print out or download the directions including both the highway’s name and number. This advice may sound silly, but it will save you from having to navigate on-the-fly from the map in the dark. You’ll likely be sleepy and less alert when you’re in the car on your way, so by having your directions all laid you, you’ll save yourself from stress and possibly prevent making a wrong turn.

Make sure you have plenty of gas the day before you go. You certainly don’t want to trying to find a gas station that is open in the middle of the night. Be advised that there are no service stations in the park.

The road to the summit is well paved and marked. Be aware that the road that leads up to the crater is very curvy and steep and there are no street lights.

The lower elevation of the road runs through open range cattle farm, so it’s possible that cows could be in the road from around September through March. We have seen cattle very near to the road. Be especially careful driving around the blind curves in the grassy, lower elevations.

How much does it cost?

In addition to the sunrise reservation fee, the entrance fee to Haleakala National Park is currently $30 per car for a car. The fee allows you to have valid entrance for three days. Here is a link to the fee structure to verify the current pricing. Take note of how long your park entrance slip is valid. Then, aim to plan your day to drive the road to Hana within the valid date so that you can present your entry slip at the Haleakala visitors center at the Kipahulu region and not have to pay the fee again.

What’s it like to drive the road?

After a mid-day visit to Haleakala, we created this video of driving down Haleakala. A few things to notice is that the road is on the cliff edge and there aren’t guard rails.

When to go

I like to plan to see the sunrise at Haleakala on the first or second day of my trip to Maui. I travel to Maui from the east, so I’m jet lagged anyway and getting up in the wee hours of the morning is not hard to do particularly early on in the trip.

Some folks prefer to go to Haleakala at sunset. Personally, I like sunrise. In this link, we look at the pros and cons of Haleakala sunrise versus sunset.

Most people will look at the sunrise times for Haleakala and the drive time and allow the minimum time to get to the summit. They rush straight to sunrise barely getting there before the sun appears. These people really miss out on the beautiful and serene show that God provides beforehand.

I love to get to the summit around 5am so that I can do some stargazing before the sky starts lighting up. The summit of Haleakala is actually one of the best places on earth to stargaze. It is also one of the most easily accessible places in Hawaii to get a world-class view of the night sky. You will most likely see more stars than you’ve ever seen in your life — unless you are there on a full moon night. Watch for shooting stars.

As the stars start to fade and the night sky lightens, take note of the direction the light is coming from. Then take a seat along the rock wall towards that direction. You’ll then have the “best seat in the house” for watching sunrise. Notice all the subtle changes in color in the sky and land. (Note: if you see lights off in the south east direction, that will most likely be from the Big Island.)

Weather might also factor in your decision of when to go to see sunrise.  Call this toll free number to access the National Weather Service’s Haleakala summit forecast.  That toll-free number is  (866) 944-5025.

What to bring

  • The summit of Haleakala is over 10,000 feet above sea level, so it is cold and often windy. Check the current summit weather conditions at this link. If you have room in your suitcase to stuff in a warm coat or windbreaker, bring it. Packable, puffer coats are ideal. At a minimum bring a warm scarf, socks, gloves and a hat that’s not easily blown off. Those items don’t take up much room in your luggage. You might consider bringing thermal underwear, if you have it. Wear long trousers and long-sleeved shirt. (It’s always a good idea to have long trousers in Hawaii anyway.) If you can, wear layers of clothing. Bring beach towels and blankets to wrap around you. Trust me, it’s going to be cold, even in the summer. It could also be windy, so be as prepared as you can for those conditions.
  • A camera for taking photos of sunrise and the volcano’s summit.
  • A flashlight for navigating your way from the parking area up to the observatory steps.
  • Binoculars to get a closer view of the stars, planets and distant terrain.
  • You might want to bring water and/or a light snack as there are no food services at the park. If you’re staying in a condo, you may have access to a thermos for bringing a warm beverage.

What to do after sunrise

  • Take in the views of the island that were most likely dark when you arrived.
  • See the endangered silversword plant — usually seen in the summit parking lot.
  • Go to the summit visitor center, which is just below the very top of the summit. There, you can learn more about the history and geology of the area. Park rangers are generally on hand to answer questions. Be sure to see the view of the crater floor with its barren but colorful terrain.
  • The summit area of the park offers over 30 miles of hiking trails for taking in the views, seeing native shrubs and plants, and possibly seeing some wildlife. We saw the endangered Nene when we were there.
  • After leaving the park, my favorite thing to do is to have some fluffy macadamia nut pancakes with coconut syrup at the Kula Lodge restaurant. Breakfast is good here, but the views are even better!

See my article, If you are wondering whether you should see Haleakala sunrise or sunset.

If you’re someone who likes to learn more about a site before you visit it, check out this USGS page about the geology and history of the volcano Haleakala.

I hope these tips will help you get the most out of your sunrise experience. Do you have any tips you’d like to share? Please post them in the comments.

See more ideas of what to do and see on your Maui vacation.

  1. You can’t stress enough how cold it is up there, until the sun comes up. That wind whips through you. They do have a glass shelter you can use to get a break from the wind, but it gets so crowded you’d miss the spectacular sunrise – and it is spectacular!

  2. I love blogs because this information will still be around so that I can check back and follow your directions! I still love the idea! What a wonderful thing for newlyweds to do! Thank you for sharing this! I will keep Andy’s advice in mind too! Must have thick jacket! 🙂

  3. To Stephen – I don’t know what to say about your extremely kind words. I’m totally lost for words. All I can say is thank you.

    To Evelyn – First I apologize for the much delayed response to your comment. Oh yes, a warm jacket is definitely useful. As a Honolulu resident, do you even own a warm jacket? 🙂

  4. I must agree with Stephan, you have a very nice blog. The layout and photos are very pleasing to the eye. Your posts are helping me prepare for my trip in March.

  5. My friend and myself visited Maui last December. We took some pictures of the sunrise at Haleakala. I have a gorgeous capture of the sunrise, despite the flurries, and cold that we experienced right before this. I also have a wonderful picture of a man that looked like Santa Claus. This was right around Christmas as a matter of fact. The interesting thing about this morning, is that is was very cold. Everyone there shivering, but this man. He had shoulder length naturally white hair, mustache, and a beard. Invision Santa. He wore nothing but a Hawaiian short-sleeved shirt, and some Cargo shorts and sandels. I never once saw this man even remotely act like he was cold. I got his attention by saying: Santa, to get his attention, and as he turned, and he realized I was going to take his picture, he gestured with a thumbs up, and let me take his pictures. As we were all leaving, I didn’t see where he disappreared to? I have both pictures that I would love to sell as advertisement for the Maui literature that is distributed. Any leads would be wonderful. We have other excellent shots also. Was Santa taking a quick breather just before he had to get back to the North Pole? Noone else, seemingly, was looking at this Santa looking person, but me and my friend. We have examined the photo, and noone else seemed to see what we were seeing. We had nothing on board altering our person. Just sharing…

    1. Hi Annie, so thrilled to see you got to see the sunrise at the top of a crater! Your old friend Ann in Denver!

        1. Hello Annie, it’s been nearly 4 years since I responded to your Hawaii Post…Yep, that’s me! Hope you are OK, are you still in NM?

    1. Re: pic of your Santa; no it wasn’t what I saw that Dec. visit. Where do I send pictures, and I will share the Santa I saw, along with a pic of my beautiful sunrise that looks very similar to the one you posted on this site. I think I might have mentioned that I thought it was one of mine? No reply from you on that.I await your info on where to send my pics. Thanks, Shiela!

        1. Hi Shiela! I was trying to include you as a contact to send pics, but I’m not having any luck via your web sit instructions. Not identifying your address. Maybe it the way it layed out. Could you send me an email with the address to submit photo. Thanks

        2. Hi again…just read Fidel’s comment about pictures. I am soo sorry for the misunderstanding. Never did I think his recent photos were mine. If I can get mine to you soon, I will. I would love others to see what I experienced while there in 07.It’s all in the name of the beauty of Hawaii! Bye for now.

  6. Just spent a week in Maui….just got home October 5, 2009. The sunrise at the summit was totally awesome. My hubby…who really could have cared less about getting up to see the sunrise got up at 2:30 AM to drive me to the summit so that we were there well before sunrise. We got there about 5ish and had enough time to catch the changing colors and see the “ceremony” that a guide did. She chanted and prayed and then basically told everyone “the sun has risen”. People laughed because alot of peolple were standing around and some were mumbling about when was the sun going to rise? The sunrise at the summit is totally worth the drive…if you don’t mind getting up that early and driving on a very dark and curvy road.

  7. Sheila,

    your blog is awesome and really help me plan for my trip in FEB 2011 that’s coming up. I am really getting confused regarding the directions. are there any unauthorized or dangerous to drive roads that we might encounter. can we trust google maps. Please explain. Thanks in advance

    1. Hi Sindy,

      I’m glad that you’re finding Go Visit Hawaii useful for you trip planning. All the roads up to Haleakala from the main resort areas of Maui are fine to drive. The road up to the summit is well paved, though it is curvy and steep, it’s not too difficult to drive.

      There are just sections of Maui roads that are designated as unauthorized by the car rental companies. You can read more about those two sections here:
      – Several miles past Hana (and the Kipahulu Area (7 sacred pools) the road narrows and is unpaved in sections —
      – Several miles North of Kapalua – the road narrows –

      Other than that, the roads are great and you’ll enjoy all the beautiful scenery.

  8. Hi sheila,

    i am trying to get directions to to Haleakala visitors center at 10,000 ft. I typed in Visitor’s Center at 10,023 Ft, Haleakala National like you said in Google map but it doesn’t calculate directions to that point all it does is to Visitor center headQuarters which is at the bottom of the summit i guess. how can i get directions to the top point of the summit. Appreciate your help

    1. Sindy – I can assure you that Google Maps used to have that exact point of reference labeled as “Visitor’s Center at 10,023 Ft, Haleakala National”. I have no idea why they’d remove that because it was very useful.

      As I think you have already determined — do NOT go to the section of Haleakala that’s in the Kipahulu region off the road to Hana.

      Take a look at the satellite view from the summit of Haleakala.,023+feet,+Haleakala+National+Park,+Maui,+Hawaii&sll=20.808755,-156.375961&sspn=0.444805,0.891953&ie=UTF8&hq=visitor+center+at+10023+feet&hnear=Haleakala+National+Park,+Kula,+Hawaii+96790&ll=20.709686,-156.253237&spn=0.001676,0.004506&t=h&z=19 See that building in the shape of an hexagon/octagon? That’s the building your aiming for. Take note of the teardrop shape of the parking lot so that you’ll know you’re in the right spot when you get there. Other indicators are that off about a quarter of a mile away, you’ll see some astronomy observatories. (The observatories are not open to the public, by the way.)

      Are you taking a GPS? If so, check to see if it has anything stored in in for Haleakala summit or something like that. We used a GPS the last time and it took us straight to it.

      Otherwise, I suppose you’re going to have to use a combination of google maps, this map and any paper map you have available to navigate your way.

      Once you get inside the park boundaries, you will find that there are not many side roads. You’ll drive a steep and winding road for many miles. Once you get towards the top, you’ll see one visitors center for the crater (on the left if I remember correctly) don’t stop there. Continue driving until you reach the teardrop-shaped parking lot, which is maybe one-ish mile more towards the top. From the parking lot, you’ll still have to walk maybe a tenth of a mile up to the summit building (hexagonal/octagonal-ish building) Remember, you are going to the very summit of the mountain.

      It’s such a shame that google removed that summit indicator, because it was very helpful.

      1. Dear Sheila:

        We, a family group of 8, have purchased parking tickets for two days on Sept 25th and Sept 26th, 2017.

        We are wondering whether we can see Sunset on 25th and stay back for the Sunrise on 26th at the Haleakala Summit?

        We are aware that the rest rooms are available 24 hrs. Is the glass shelter/enclosed shelter is also open 24 hrs? If so, are we allowed to spend the night there?

        If not, can we sleep in our cars parked in the Haleakala National parking lot, near the summit?

        If so, will there be a security guard for our safety?

        I appreciate if could clarify at the earliest so that we can plan accordingly.

        Amarnath Amaravadi

        1. These questions are more related to the policies of Haleakala National Park and unfortunately beyond our scope. I would suggest you call the park directly to ask your questions.

      1. OMG Sheila you are just awesome. i cant thank you enough for the custom made map. no where on the internet i was able to find such detailed accurate directions to Haleakala summit. Thanks a ton to your hubby. one last question though. i used the custom map and it gave me two diff routes. one through crater road and another one Haleakala Highway. i suppose it doesn’t matter which one we take

        1. Glad it helps, Sindy.

          If you look at that custom google map and zoom out (with the “-“, you’ll see that the road up to Haleakala Summit is called both Crater Road and Haleakala Drive.

          Basically, once you’ve paid at the park entrance, you follow that same road all the way up to the summit. There really aren’t any turns — just bunches and bunches are curves.

          Now, when you get back home after your trip, I hope you’ll let us know how everything went. 🙂 When do you leave for Maui?

        2. sure i will. This is such an amazing Blog. very helpful and detailed. Your reply certainly helps. we are leaving on the 16th. i am doing all the prep work now:)

  9. We just got Back from 2 Weeks in Hawaii, and I will say that this is the BEST sunrise that I have seen in YEARS!

    My Biggest tip is a rather Simple one. CAMP – with a tent – inside the park the night Before you want to see sunrise. You can get some stargazing in and then go to bed. Wake up at 5:00, grab a couple energy bars, and drive the last few miles up to the summit. Sunrise for us on 1/28 was at 0702, and we got to the Summit Parking lot just in time. There are Limited Parking spaces, and you don’t want to have to hike it from the parking lot 1/2 mile away.

    Ohh, and for those people Worried about how much it’ll cost you, HA! Camping inside a National Park or National Forest is FREE! In 4 nights on Maui, we spent $0 in Lodging expenses!


  10. Hi Sheila,

    I just wanted to thank you for your site. Three of your tips in particular (bring a blanket, arrive early to stargaze, and enjoy some macadamia nut pancakes at Kula Lodge) were all thumbs up for this traveler! I was warm at the summit, had a good hour to see the incredible view of the stars before sunrise, and am currently full of pancakey/syrupy goodness. Keep up the great work!

    1. Awesome, Michael! We don’t give advice that we wouldn’t do ourselves.

      Oh my, how we wish we’d just seen the stars and then the amazing Haleakala sunrise and were full of pancakey/syrupy goodness, too. Enjoy the rest of your time on Maui!

  11. Sheila,
    I’m trying to figure out if I should try to incorporate seeing the sunrise and traveling the road to Hana all in the same day. We will be coming from the West side of Maui (Kaanapali). Would you recommend driving to Haleakala Summit for the sunrise then doing the road to Hana in reverse, or not? I really like your blog! Being a first timer to Hawaii I have found it extremely useful in planning our trip. Thank you so much!!

    1. Carman- I highly recommend that you plan Haleakala sunrise and driving the road to Hana on separate days. Both drives take a hefty amount concentration. Though, technically you could make both drives in the same day, it would be super exhausting and you wouldn’t enjoy the road to Hana nearly as much.

      Also, driving the back road (the in reverse route) is not approved by most rental car agencies. That means if the car breaks down or you get into an accident while driving that prohibited drive, you would be held financial responsive for the repairs. I want to make sure people are aware of this risk before driving that section. See more here:

      1. That’s exactly what I needed to know. Thank you so much for your quick reply! We will do them on different days. 🙂

  12. Hi Sheila,Your blog is simply is so so great! I am trying my best to include the Haleakala sunrise in our husband and me are gonna be in Maui for just 3 nights! I am planning to reach the summit around 5 am to experience the sunrise, and would be driving from a small hotel in Kahului (closest to the airport). I added the address in your custom made map to see how much driving time do I need..and it shows 38.3 miles and 1 hour 21 minutes 🙂 Just wanted to check with you again…is that much time enough to reach the summit from Maui Seaside Hotel, Kahului?

    1. Hi Sneh. Thanks for the kind words about the blog. It’s music to my ears. 🙂

      The drive time sounds about right from Kahului. If you decide to get an earlier start, you’ll just have extra time for stargazing, assuming it’s not a full moon night.

      1. Thanks a lot Sheila for the help 🙂 still working on my itinerary and soaking up as much info as I can from your articles ! thanks 🙂

  13. Sheila,
    Just wanted to tell you that we had THE BEST time in Maui this past January, and a lot of the reason for that is all your info in this blog. I had no idea what to do and what not to do, it’s pretty overwhelming planning things to do for a place you’ve never seen. I took a lot of your suggestions and put together the most awesome 7 days we’ve ever had on a vacation. Thank you for all the info and always answering everyone’s questions. btw, we went to Mt Haleakala for sunset, and breathtaking doesn’t even begin to describe it!! There is so much beauty everywhere you look on Maui, its difficult to take it all in. Thanks again for your blog and info.


  14. Thinking of going in early Jan. ( my 40th birthday) to the top of Haleakala. I read (somewhere) it snows….are the road passable if snow fall does happen or do they close the road down?

    1. It does snow on Haleakala, but not very often at all. From my observation, Haleakala might get snow once every one to two or three years. From my memory, I don’t believe there was any snow at Haleakala over the winter of 2012/2013. The park does close for severe weather.

      1. I wanted to add, that any substantial snow accumulation is rare. Though, they probably get some snow flurries at the summit level each winter.

  15. Wow! Thanks so much for all this info! We are planning a trip this September and I just about gave up because there was so much info it was about overload, then I found your site! My question is this: I will be travelling with my husband and 2 semi small (5 and 10) children. We will be there 10 days not including travel time, but really just wanted to see the natural beauty of Hawaii, and therefore had really planned on only staying in Kauai and travelling a few days to see some other gems ( they really just want to snorkel with sea turtles, go figure :)) What would you recommend to be able to see the sunrise? Is there anyway to get there early or should we go ahead and just try to stay in maui a few days? Thanks so much!!!

  16. Wow thanks for the fast and great response!! I’m still going through your site, could I ask one more question related to this? If we are wanting to see the more natural part of Hawaii(sea turtles, volcanoes, rainforest), would 4-5 days in maui and then 4-5 in Kauai be your recommendation? I thought we could ‘do’ all the maui spots and then relax in Kauai. My husband really wants to see the Arizona too but again it’s on another island and from your writing I know we need to be there early, so i’m not sure we’ll be doing that. It’s a little overwhelming! Thanks so much I really appreciate it!!!

  17. Hi Shiela,

    You have a very informative and detailed blog! Its proving to be really helpful in planning our trip. :-)I would like to know if we should do both Mauna Kea sunset and stargazing as well as Haleakala sunrise or is doing just one of the two good enough? Are these two quite similar experiences?

      1. Thank you so much for your prompt reply! And just noticed the typo in your name in my previous message.. Sorry about that!

    1. Anywhere between 30s to 50s. Use the weather forecast link in the article for more information as you get closer to July.

    1. I have heard from many people who biked down Haleakala and loved it. I’ve not personally tried it because I’ve heard of many injuries and even deaths that have resulted from these tours. As we wrote in this post back in 2007: “Doctors at Maui Memorial say, they see at least two to five injured cyclists in their emergency room each week, with broken bones or facial injuries from their downhill ride.”

      Also, just from my observation as we’ve safely passed the bikers going down Haleakala, they didn’t appear to be having fun.

      1. Aloha Sheila,

        I just found your blog, and am happy to say that you give very good advice. – About the biking downhill- tours: I agree with you, don’t recommend it at all. I always wonder ( I live on Maui ) why would anybody who hasn’t biked back home for years, suddenly bikes down Haleakala?
        These tourists look very uneasy, and I’m afraid they will hit my car. That by the way, happened to my friend’s car…

  18. Hey! I’m going to Maui in a couple of weeks and I was wondering what you think about a tour to Haleakala vs going independently. Also, do you recommend NOT bringing little children on this? They are about 5 years old. Thanks for your help!

    1. The main benefit of going on a tour is that none of your travel partners have to do the stressful driving. Some tour companies will provide heavy coats, which is a plus. It is much more expensive compared to going independently though.

      Just my opinion, but I don’t think little children would enjoy the experience. There’s just not much there to keep them entertained.

      1. Hey Sheila!
        You have an amazing blog and I love it! 🙂 just one question though, I’m going to Haleakala in March with my family and we were planning to rent a car, but we’re not sure if we should get a 4-wheel drive or a if a regular 2-wheel drive would be fine. Any suggestions??

        1. Glad to hear you love Go Visit Hawaii!

          You do not need a four-wheel drive for Haleakala. The road is well paved the whole way.

  19. Thanks for the great advice, and the amazingly useful blog! I thought I would add a few pointers for novices from my recent trip up the mountain…

    1) There are two parking lots at the summit. The higher parking lot is the one Sheila’s post refers to. It’s teardrop-shaped (see Google Maps), tiny, and gets blocked off as soon as it is full. It is the right-hand turn when you get to the top and encounter the traffic guide. The second parking lot is at the visitor center. It’s oval-shaped, and holds more cars and all the tour buses. Note that you can’t walk from the lower lot to the upper lot, so you’re stuck with your choice. That being said, we had an excellent view from the slightly lower visitor center. Speaking of which…

    2) The visitor center is an excellent windbreak, depending on the wind direction. Follow the railing behind the building, and there is a cozy corner where people huddle to stay warm.

    3) The trail up the hill from the visitor section does lead to a great outlook, but it would be very exposed on a blustery day.

  20. Dear Sheila,
    Thank you for your very useful blog!!
    We are going to visit Maui next August. It would be wonderful to see sunrise at Haleakala but I’m a bit worried about my kid (age 5). I’m thinking about altitude sickness and i’m afraid it might be a bad experience for him!
    Have you ever had any experience with kids?
    Thank you!!!

  21. Heading to Maui in ten days…so excited! The first fews days there will be a full moon. Do you think waiting a couple of days to see Haleakala when the moon is waning would be better? Also from the bottom of crater road how long does it take to get to the top? Is the traffic with tour buses and such a problem?

    1. When the moon is out, it’s pretty to see, but you won’t see much in the way of stars. If you want to see stars, make sure you visit before the moon rises.

      Use the directions link in the above article to estimate drive time.

      Traffic is usually not too bad — especially if you don’t “wait until the last minute” to try to catch sunrise, but it’s not unusual to get behind a slow car or two or so.

  22. hi there! after parking, how long does it take to reach the summit? is it a hike? just curious so we can plan timing. want to get there early enough to see and enjoy the stars. thanks!

    1. It’s not a hike. If you are at the summit parking, it only takes a few minutes from the parking lot to get to the highest point

  23. Hi Sheila,

    I find your article very useful. We are planning to visit Maui in a couple of weeks and we are staying at Hana for a couple of nights. We are excited about catching the sunrise early in the morning but do you think my 4 year old and 1 year old will be able to handle the wind or the cold? Any suggestions to make it easier for them and us? Thanks in advance!

    1. I assume you are talking about watching sunrise from the summit of Haleakala and not from Hana. Your children’s ability to handle the wind and cold really depends on how windy and how cold it is as well as your children’s tolerance to cold and windy temperatures. They will need to be bundled up in warm winter clothing at a minimum.

      You should also note that the oxygen level at the summit is less than what you experience near sea level. Children can sometimes have a greater difficulty adjusting to the higher altitude. So you may want to look into that further before you commit to bringing the little ones to the summit.

      1. We just returned from our Maui trip two weeks ago and we were successful in catching the most spectacular sunrise from the Haleakala summit! I have to add- the starry sky before the sunrise was even more amazing than the sunrise itself. It was really cold but thankfully not so windy at the summit and we had to stand a good hour and a half with our 4 year old and 1 year old boys but it was worth it! While packing for the vacation, I packed one bag with just winter clothing for the boys and some fleece jackets, windbreakers, hats, gloves for myself and my husband (trust me, we used it all!). We did get some “what on earth were you thinking bringing a child and a baby to the summit” looks from some people up there, but we have always been the adventurous kind and it was well worth all the effort- an experience we will never forget! We caught some breathtaking views of the crater (from the visitor center below the summit) and the silversword plants(near the parking lot). We also made a pitstop at the local store on your way down from the summit- they have this candy called ‘pineapple snow’- supposedly you only get it inside the park and nowhere else in Hawaii, one of the best things I’ve ever tasted!

  24. Sheila, thank you for this website! We went to Maui in February 1991 (when I was 7 months pregnant with our first), and we are returning with our adult daughters in October. D you know what the weather is like that time of year? I can’t wait to show them the sights, especially the sunrise! I didn’t see you mention the bicycle ride down the mountain. We are thinking of doing that this time. Have you ever been on that trip? Thank you for your site. It has been a long 24 years since we have been there, and I am sure some things have changed or improved since then. I’m jealous that you get to go so often! Happy travels!

    1. Chris – You’re going to have a wonderful return trip.

      this post includes information on October weather in Hawaii:

      We have not taken a bicycle ride down Haleakala because we have heard about so very many injuries. As you probably know, the curvy, steep road is shared with both cyclists and cars. The tour guides try to look out for the people on their tours, but still, it seems a bit stressful. You might try it, have no issues and love it. We’re reluctant to recommend it based on the number of injuries we’ve heard about.

  25. Hello!

    Two questions…have you ever heard of people getting altitude sickness there? Would that be something we would need to be concerned at all about? I only ask because when we are at Tiny Town in denver this was a concern. Second we live in Toronto so I am thinking of telling the kids to bring their winter coats. Would these be sufficient for warmth or overkill? Thanks for the read it was informative and helpful, glad I found it!

    1. We haven’t heard of anyone getting altitude sickness on Haleakala, but it is not beyond the realm of possibility. The elevation at the summit is just over 10,000 feet above sea level.

      Winter coats are definitely not overkill.

  26. This was so great to read! Thank you for all that info! We are going to Maui in a fee mnths & only staying for 3 days – we hoped to do the Haleakala Crater sunrise & a hike down into it & back up, on the first day, the Hana Rd the 2nd day, & the other side of the National Park on the 3rd day & then drive back to the airport – does that sound doable?

    Mainly I was wondering if it is safe to do the driving up to the crater yourself in the darkness when you are not familiar with the roads? There is just myself & a girlfriend going & i dont want to do anything too stressful, BUT i havent found a tour that includes getting there for the sunrise & then doing a hike, do you know of any? Also, ithought i heard that there was a zipline up there now too, or am i thinking of somewhere else?


  27. Just wanted to say thank you so much, this helped us plan the day and it wound up being the most memorable experience from the trip. Don’t know what we would have done without this guide 🙂 (The pancakes at the Kula Lodge were a great way to top it off)

  28. You suggest going the Haleakala the first or second day of the trip due to jet lag. We are traveling from the east coast leaving at 6:00am and arriving on Maui at 2:30pm. We are staying at the Mahana in north Kaanapali. Is it reasonable to think we could do the sunrise that first day or would it be a better idea to wait for the second morning of our stay?

    1. We too travel to Hawaii from the East Coast. That first night is the easiest night to get up early for sunrise due to jet lag.

  29. Wow, We are planning a trip to Maui in April and I am doing some homework. Luckily I found your blog. It is not only well written, fun to read, the information that you give is so complete and precise. Much appreciated!

  30. Great Blog!! Traveling to Hawaii at the end of the month. Want to do sunrise at Haleakala was wondering if there is an outfitter to rent cold weather gear? I get cold easily but don’t have the room to schlep my big coat. I have some lightweight gear but think I need a parka for wind.
    On a side note, trying to decide what type of vehicle to rent. Was thinking jeep or truck. Any recommended type and company?

  31. Hi Sheila! Unfortunately me and my husband didn’t reserve a spot in time to see the sunrise — are there other spots on the island that you’d recommend visiting to see a sunrise? I’m so bummed it’s booked 🙁


    1. Have you checked to see if there are any guided sunrise tours that you can take while you’re on Maui?

  32. Hi Sheila,
    Visiting for my honeymoon in June from Massachusetts. We fly in on the 23, and plan on waking up at 2:45 on the 24th to hit the road. I saw a few posts regarding Google Maps, and hope to use Maps for most of my visit to the island (although I will be printing details for our drive to the peak for sunrise and for our Road to Hana trip). In Google Maps, it looks like a search for Haleakala will bring me right up to the Summit Building. I just want to make sure I am heading to the right place. Really looking forward to this view! And if you have any other tips for our 4 day visit to Maui, please share! Thank you!

    1. Under the “Getting there” section of this article, we have a link where you can create custom directions to the summit. I believe “summit building” is the right place. It’s basically as high as you can go.

      Check out our Maui vacation itinerary and Maui honeymoon guide for additional tips: Maui is an amazing place for a honeymoon!

      1. Thanks, Sheila. We are only on Maui for 4 days, so I am now wondering if doing the sunrise and the Road to Hana on separate days would be too much. We are staying in Kaanapali, so we are looking at a minimum of a 2 hour drive to the sunrise/Road to Hana starting point. It looks like sunrise takes place around 5:50 AM. I am wondering if it would be crazy to see the sunrise and then head to the Road to Hana for 1 big day of adventures to start our trip. Do you have any thoughts on this? I am wondering if I should post on Trip Advisor to get some ideas from anyone who may have been crazy enough to try this…

  33. I am going to Maui in a few weeks, but there aren’t tickets available via the online reservation system. Is there any other way to see the sunrise? This will be my first time to Hawaii 🙁

    1. Check for availability for guided tours for Haleakala sunrise. There are currently only four companies who are allowed to bring guided tours into the park for sunrise. They are: Haleakala EcoTours, Polynesian Adventure Tours, Skyline Eco Adventures and Valley Isle Excursions.

      1. Thanks. I just found out that they release a limited number of tickets at 4pm HST for 2 days in advance. I just tried it and there were 21 tickets available. I’ll give that a try before my flight and use the guided tour as a backup.

  34. Sheila, is sold out for the tickets for the sunrise. Is there any way aside from the expensive tours we can enjoy the sunrise in HALEAKALA? Thank you for your advice.

    1. Not really. Check for the latest policies for releasing tickets. Some tickets can be booked up to two months in advance. Another batch of tickets are released for booking within two days.

  35. Hi! do we need an all wheel / 4 wheel drive to go up there or we can go in a 2 wheel drive as well?

  36. Hi Sheila, i wanted to ask about the night drive. How was it for you when you went there for the first time. If i have never been driving to Haleakala during the day, would it be to intimidating to drive it for the first time at night? How windy is the drive? THANK YOU!!!!!!!!

    1. As you can see from the video we posted, the road is curvy, but very well marked and paved. Our first few drives up there were in the dark of the night. Just remember that hundreds of people drive up in the dark every day without incident.

      We’ve never noticed any issues with wind.

      After you go, please report back on your experience and let us know about the Kula Lodge pancakes. 🙂

      1. Will do! I love your site so much! And very exited to share my experiences! I’m going in the end of August ! So exited!!!

  37. I have been on your site ALL morning putting the finishing touches on our 9 day trip to Oahu (4 days) and Maui (5 days)! The information has been GREAT. Thank you so much for this site and I also appreciate all of the contributors! I am second guessing our decision to do two islands in this span of time, but we also realize we are not going to try to do EVERYTHING.

  38. I can’t thank you guys enough for all the great posts and recommendations in this amazing site. I just got back from Hawaii (missing it already 🙁 ) after spending 8 unforgettable days and my birthday there.

    As a first-timer in this magical paradise, this blog was great for me to pick activities and things to see in Oahu and Maui! Unfortunately, I couldn’t get to this part about the Haleakala sunrise on time to know about the limited ticketing and understand how cold it gets up there! However, I happened to speak with an AirBnB host a few days before going there, and she told me about the 60 days in advance period I was supposed to reserve a ticket to see the sunrise, but also told me I could get one if I called or reserved online 2 days in advance. So I was lucky enough to be able to book a reservation by phone!! 🙂 (one needs to call exactly two days before the date of the visit, on or a few minutes before 7:00 am Hawaii time, for a chance to get a last-minute parking ticket, if one didn’t reserve two months in advance as the National Parks Service advises to do).

    Obviously, I wasn’t prepared for the weather, so when I realized I needed to bundle up, my only choice was to wear several layers (I put 4 t-shirts on and a baseball cap on my head as I didn’t have any sort of jacket or sweater) and, of course, it wasn’t enough, I was cold AF!! Those non-stop winds get through your bones and freeze your soul haha. According to the park, the temperatures were around 59 degrees, which wasn’t so bad, but with the windshield, it felt like 40 degrees or even less! So I just endured the tiredness and the cold and stood there for about an hour, the first glow that you see on the horizon about 45 min. before the actual sunrise is beautiful! and the stars in the dark sky even before that, are amazing!.

    This was a once in a lifetime experience for me, the landscapes of the craters seem from out of this world! and the sun rising over the clouds was the perfect closing for my vacation! So follow this blog’s recommendations, reserve on time, bundle up!, get there early (I entered the park around 3:40 am to see the stars and there were cars already parked, by 4:30 am the first two lots at the top were basically full), and enjoy this great experience along with all the awesome plans you can choose to do in Hawaii!

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