Maui :: Haleakala Sunrise





Ever wonder what a sunrise looks like from 10,000 feet? You don’t have to do a deliberate summit of Mt. Rainier or any of the other minor peaks to find out. In fact, there isn’t much hiking at all involved. All you have to do…is get out of bed at 3am, bundle up in your layers, get in the car, and drive two hours from your Lahaina hotel up a skinny little road filled with switch-backs and hairpin turns, up the side of an enormous mostly-dormant volcano called the House of the Sun, or Haleakala.

And believe me, it’s totally worth that 3am wake-up call!

We left our hotel at dark-dark-dark-o’clock, heading for the base of the gigantic mountain. After loading up our coffee mugs {thank you, Outrigger, for the fully loaded coffee machine and fixings in our suite}, and after almost two hours of driving, most of which was spent turning back and forth up the side of the mountain, and passing through the lone national park checkpoint {$10 to park, so make sure you have cash}, we reached the parking lot and made a short hike to Haleakala’s western summit.

As you can see from the silhouettes, there were already a lot of people there and we were just starting to see the first light of the morning sky. We wrapped ourselves in our layers {it might have been 90 degrees down in Lahaina but it was in the 40s on top of the mountain} and went to join them.

At first, the light gathered gradually, filming in rich oranges and reds on the horizon, gathering in intensity, but never quite making it into the upper sky. Through most of it, we could see a beautiful crescent moon, and it was so dark we could actually see the whole of the moon with the Earth’s shadow cast across it.

We stood and waited in a remarkable silence as the sky continued to grow lighter and warmer, until we could just see the first rays of the sun break across the clouds. And, eventually, slowly, it burst through the lowest level of cloud bank.

It’s seriously like watching a sunrise on another world. The sun didn’t pop through at the edge of the horizon as we expected, but rose up from behind the clouds, through all the atmospheric distortion. That was when we realized we were looking down at the curvature of the atmosphere!

As we watched, the sun continued unveiling the world, painting it in glorious warm color.

We decided that this wasn’t quite enough – since we were there, we might as well climb to the top. So we hiked up the extra hundred meters or so to Haleakala’s summit, and got ourselves a look at the new day from the top of the island.

If you’re in Maui and get the opportunity to head up to Haleakala’s summit, the sunrise is an experience unlike anything else. This one was equally as spectacular as the first one I experienced, and Scott is still talking about it as one of his favorite memories, not just from this particular trip to Maui, but from our entire time in the islands!

That said, I really do have to thank City Mouse for being up for all of this. He’s a home-body at heart and has had the sad misfortunate of marrying a terminally adventurous woman, and while he grumbles a little bit at being dragged off on planes and up mountains at three in the morning {he’s so not a morning person}, he’s open-minded about the experience and usually ends up having a really good time!


Tips for a Sunrise at Mt. Haleakala

  1. The drive up looks like it’s about an hour from most of the hotels, but be prepared for it to take a full hour just to get from the entrance of the park to the top – the drive is very windy, full of switchbacks, and has a 15mph speed limit! Plan for time!
  2. Go early – parking is at a premium! And it costs $10 to park – bring cash!
  3. Bundle up! It was about 45F when we went up, but temperatures on top of the mountain can be well below freezing depending on the time of year. There were some brave souls in board shorts and sundresses, but they were pretty miserable.
  4. Be patient. This is a big tourist destination, and you might be gearing up for an awesome picture and have someone shove their low-resolution iPhone on a stick or gigantic iPad right in front of you {seriously, people, stop}.
  5. Enjoy the moment. It might be a long and grumpy drive up the mountain, but it is worth it.

Have you experienced a summit sunrise before? Where did you go and what did you think of it?

HAWAII
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