Haleakala Sunrise & Sunset: Everything You Need To Know, Updated 2021
Watching the Haleakala sunrise or sunset is truly an unforgettable experience! In 1916, Haleakala National Park in Maui was established -- that was 43 years before Hawaii became a state. And, truth be told, Haleakala may be the most stunning place you’ll visit on your Hawaii vacation.
Did you know, Haleakala means “House of the Sun”?
It was named that for a good reason! The Haleakalā sunrise and sunsets are well known all around the world. With its summit over 10,000 feet above sea level, there’s no better place on the island to view that big orange sphere in the sky up close and personal.
Nine Things You Need to Know to Plan Your Trip to Haleakala
Good news! The park is open 24 hours every day, seven days a week. If you’ve already made plans to watch the Haleakalā sunrise or sunset but are unsure how to fully enjoy your time there, then don’t worry -- we’ve prepared this trip planning guide to help make your visit seamless.
Also check out our Sunrise at Haleakala National Park and Sunset & Stargazing at Haleakala driving tours! These will give you turn-by-turn directions to the summit, make stops at scenic overlooks and our favorite hikes along the way, and tell you stories and legends about the park and Maui.
1. Stay Warm On Haleakalā at Sunrise or Sunset
Maui weather is wonderful all year. Shorts and shirts are great most of the time, but at 10,023 feet above ocean level, the climate conditions are a bit different from the rest of the island. And by different, we mean much colder! Temperatures are commonly 20 degrees cooler than other parts of Maui. Be sure to wear warm clothing and bring blankets and jackets to watch the sunrise -- even in the summer!
2. Get Ready To Hike
You can drive pretty much to the top of Haleakalā. From there, you can hop out of your car and do a little hike around the summit and crater.
In addition to the summit hike, there are a variety of hikes around Haleakalā National Park for the walking wanderer. Just don’t forget to pack water and food as there are no stores to buy supplies once you're in the park (there is water at the visitors centers, but these are closed due to Covid-19).
If you're visiting the park for sunrise we recommend you head straight to the summit and then hike — who wants to hike in the dark anyway? You'll miss all the awesome views. For sunset visits, plan to hike on your way to summit, again so you're not hiking in the dark.
3. Plan In Advance
Watching the sunrise at Haleakalā is a very popular activity. As such, there are restrictions on how many cars can enter the park between 3:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. each day. You must make a reservation if you plan on watching the sunrise at Haleakalā -- this is not a spur of the moment activity! Reservations can be made up to 60 days in advance and cost ___. Check the official Haleakala National Park website for more details and to make your reservation.
You reservation does not include the entry fee to get into the park. It costs $30 per vehicle or $15 per pedestrian walking or biking into the park.
If you arrive to the park after 7:00 a.m. — you don't need a reservation. These are just for sunrise visitors.
Also, don't forget to pack water and snacks. Water bottles are available at the visitor centers (closed due to Covid-19), but there is no food available in the park. You'll definitely want to stay hydrated as you ascend 10,000 feet above sea level. This can help alleviate altitude sickness., something else you should plan for. The drive to Haleakala's summit is the world's highest elevation gain in the shortest period of time.
If you're taking the Shaka Guide tour, make sure you download it in wifi at your hotel before you leave!
4. Don’t Forget Your Camera
Whether it’s your phone or your digital camera be sure to carry it with you! If you’re anything like us, you’re gonna be taking a lot of photos.
Make sure it’s fully charged before you head to the summit. You would not want to see that “low battery” warning come up on your screen as you’re capturing the sights up there. Clear some space on your memory card as well. But don’t get too caught up in taking photos or videos that you’d miss out on experiencing the magic of watching the sunrise or set.
5. Help Preserve The Environment
Haleakala is sacred to Native Hawaiians and should be respected by everyone who visits.
Additionally, the national park is home to several endemic species plants and animals not found anywhere else in the world. It’s up to us to keep their habitat clean and healthy.
So clean up and leave no trace when visiting the park. Do your part to ensure these species continue to thrive.
6. Start Early for the Haleakalā Sunrise
The light from the sunrise starts creeping up very early. You need to be at the summit about an hour before the sun rises.
Of course, the exact time of sunrise changes throughout the year. To help you figure out what time you should arrive, visit www.timeanddate.com. Simply scroll down the list and find the date you plan on going.
Remember, if you're traveling from West Maui, the resort towns of Kaanapali, Lahaina, Wailea and Kapalua, you're about 2.5-3 hours away from the summit of Haleakala. Be sure to leave your hotel with enough time to make it to the summit for sunrise.
7. Planning a Sunset Visit
If you're visiting the park for sunset, there's less planning involved as you don't need a reservation. You should still be mindful of timing. The sun sets around 5:30 p.m. in the winter and 7:30 p.m. in the summer. You can use www.timeanddate.com to figure out the sunset time too!
8. Haleakala: Sunrise vs. Sunset
Whether you visit at sunrise or sunset is completely your preference. You could also visit during the day and still have a great experience! Below are some pros and cons to visiting at sunrise and sunset:
You'll have loads of times for hikes and exploring the park after sunrise
You'll most likely have time in the day for another activity like hitting the beach or checking out some of the great farms in Upcountry Maui.
Watching the sunrise atop Haleakala is a coveted experience that you can check off your bucket list.
You need an advance reservation.
You need to wake up really early (about 2-3 hours before sunrise depending on where you're driving from).
You're not guaranteed a sunrise because of weather conditions. If the day you have a reservation happens to be cloudy, you might not see the sunrise at all.
You'll be driving up the mountain in the dark.
You don't have to wake up early, can take your time getting to the summit stopping at hikes and lookouts along the way.
No reservation needed.
You can look at weather conditions in advance and plan accordingly.
You'll be driving down the mountain in the dark.
9. Get Ready To Walk On Sunshine
Alright, whether you've decided to visit for sunrise or sunset, by now you should be ready for your epic Haleakalā adventure! If you’re taking the Shaka Guide tour, you don’t even need to worry about directions. Just fire up the app at the park entrance, start the tour, and our guide will lead you there.
Just make sure to grab some warm clothes or a blanket to get cozy under. Pack some snacks and water, double check your reservations if you're going at sunrise before hit the road! If you’re National Park Member, you can also bring your annual pass for free admission into the park.
When you're in Hawaii, please be respectful of the land, animals and plant species you come across. Hawaii's ecosystems are fragile. You can show your aloha by leaving the trail better than you found it. Always dispose of your trash properly and never trespass on private property. If there are no trespassing signs, they are there for a reason! For more on how to be a safe and responsible traveler when you visit Hawaii, click here.
Now all that's left is to start packing and go!
This post was originally published on 11/13/2019. It has since been updated.