One of my favorite moments in Maui was watching the sunrise from the summit of Mount Haleakala, Maui’s tallest volcano. It stands above the clouds at 10,023 feet above sea level. You can see it in its entirety on a fairly clear day, as pictured below:
To view the sunrise from the top, you must drive in the dark for nearly two-hours along a thin road with hairpin turns. An experience in and of itself, to say the least. For those who are brave enough to do this, you need to get up well before sunrise. I believe we got up at 3 or 3:30 in the morning, coming from the other side of the island. I would also recommend getting there early, as they close the top once the parking lot is full. Don’t forget to fill up on food and gas before you leave, and pack warmly as it will be very cold at the top!
Since it’s Hawaii, most people don’t think ahead to pack warm clothes. I found that many people wear pajamas or sweatpants and bring either towels or blankets to wrap around. This is a good idea, as you will most likely be waiting outside for the sunrise. We brought a blanket from our hotel and it worked out just fine. Another option to stay warm is to choose to wait in the car or watch the sunrise from the glass viewing room at the summit (which is still fairly cold, but not windy). I highly recommend bringing a flashlight or using your cell phone to provide some lighting while you are at the summit, as it is pitch black. I used a flash for the nighttime photos but this is deceiving. We couldn’t see anything in front of us that wasn’t directly illuminated by our phones. Be sure to step carefully as there are inclines and people to navigate around!
Finally, we got to see what we’ve been for. Minutes before the sun appeared, the sky slowly began to illuminate. Our eyes adjusted and we began to realize the magnitude of what was around us. We found ourselves sitting atop the clouds with nothing around us but the mountain itself. Everyone was consumed by silence in these moments…it’s quite a surreal experience.
After a few minutes, the sun finally emerged through the clouds. It instantly elicited gasps and awes from everyone around.
Many have said that Haleakala looks like the moon, and I’d have to agree. But to me there’s also a very otherworldly vibe that Haleakala brings, making it a magical experience that should not be missed. For those of you who like adventure, consider taking a tour bus to the top and then riding back down on a bicycle. If you are so inclined and have the time, it seems like it would be a thrilling experience. People who have done it highly recommend it!