Maui – Sunrise from the top of Haleakala Volcano (USA)

Categories: Travel reports, North America, USA, Hawaii

The most visible landmark of the whole of Maui is the massive shield volcano Haleakala, which occupies more than 75 of the area of the island and is the highest elevation at 3,055 meters. If you start from the actual foot of the volcano, which is far below the sea, it is even 9,053 meters high. The Haleakala is currently not active and researchers believe it must have last erupted around 1790. A must-do on Maui can be seen sunrise from the top of Haleakala Volcano. Since we had not yet done this on our world tour, now was the time for it.


Haleakala National Park

Haleakala National Park was founded in 1916 as part of Hawaii National Park, which included Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It was split off from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in 1961 and Haleakala National Park has been self-contained ever since. Since 1980, the park has also been an international biosphere reserve.

Entrance, Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii, USA, Travel report

Haleakako National Park

Opening hours, admission and reservation

The park is open 24 hours a day all year round,so you can go in and out at any time. Entrance to the National Park costs USD 25 per (non-commercial) car for three days. We had already bought our Hawaii Tri-Park Annual Pass in Hawaii’I Volcanoes National Park, so we didn’t have to pay for a park entrance here at Haleakala.

However, if you want to see the sunrise from the crater rim (between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m.), you have to make a reservation online since February 2017 due to the limited number of parking spaces. This is possible up to 60 days in advance on the following website: You pay 1.50 US dollars per car (i.e. separately to your parking entrance) for the reservation and receive an e-mail confirmation, which you should bring with you on the day of the visit – together with a photo ID – and must show at the toll booth.

The drive to the lookout point

We got up very early today (around 4 o’clock) and set off from Kahului to be at the top just in time for the sunrise. We had already made our reservation for this a few weeks before.

We drove over Haleakala Highway 378 to the first toll booth. From there it goes over long winding road up to the summit.

Haleakala Highway, Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii, USA, Travel Report

The Haleakala Highway at night

There are a total of four viewpoints in the national park with 150 parking spaces from which you can see the sunrise. It is not that you can simply choose a parking space, but these are allocated. The Park Rangers start first with the top parking lot at summit. Once it is filled, they block the access road and direct the next cars to the parking lot below. These are the following in the order from highest to lowest viewpoint:

(1) Pu’u Ula ula Summit (3,055 meters)
(2) Haleacala Visitor Center (2,968 meters)
(3) Kalahaku Overlook (2,842 meters)
(4) Leleiwi Overlook (2,694 meters)

The Sunrise at haleacala Visitor Center

We were upatatated at around 5.30am and by that time the top Summit car park was already closed, so we were led from the Park Ranger to the Haleakal’s Visitor Center and parked our car there. Then we packed up our photo equipment and dressed warmly before we walked to the lookout point. We should have hurried a bit more, because the best places directly on the railing were then unfortunately already gone. The problem is that all the tourist buses that offer tours here are there very early and occupy the best places with their groups.

Full View Gap Form, Haleakala, Sunrise, Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii, USA, TravelReport

The full viewing platform

Tip:Being there early is worth it here on cases. And dress you warmly. At an altitude of almost 3,000 metres, it can get very cold – even in otherwise warm Hawaii. But when the sun comes out up here, it burns quite nicely. Therefore, it is best not to forget the sunscreen 😉

This morning was wonderfully clear, in front of us was a huge cloud cover and at about 6.31 o’clock the sun rose aboveit. It was a really nice sight. Then it quickly becomes clear why the Haleakala is also called “House of the Sun”. After ten minutes, however, the whole spectacle was already over and most of the tourists left. We took some photos in peace and then visited the Visitor Center to warm up a bit. In addition to all the information you get here about the Haleakala, you can also pick up a survival certificate. The Haleakala is one of the few places in the world where you can cross the heights within a short distance via the 37-mile drive from sea level to the summit.

Sunrise at Heleakala, Puu Ulaula Summit, Red Hill, Best Place, , Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii, USA, Travel report

Sunrise at Haleakala

The view from the summit of Haleakala

Afterwards we went up to Pu’u Ula ula Summit, the highest point of Haleakala. This car park was still closed this morning, but was reopened to the rest of the visitors after sunrise. Due to the clarity and dryness of the air, there is also an observatory and other research facilities up here. From the parking lot you can walk up a small slope and has a great panoramic viewof the crater from the viewing platform. On the park area there is a small landscaped garden in the middle, in which the very endangered Ahinahina grows (german: Silver Sword). This plant grows only here at the top of Haleakala and on a mountain in Westmaui, nowhere else in the world.

The Kalahaku & Leleiwi Viewpoints

On the way back towards the park exit we made a stop at Kalahaku Overlook and the Leleiwi Outlook. From both vantage points you also have a wonderful view into the crater, which with its ash cones is more reminiscent of a lunar landscape.

All travelogues from Hawaii

We had already visited the islands of Hawaii during our trip around the world on the way from North America to Australia. Here we were on O'ahu, Kaua'i, Maui and Big Island. Because we were so enthusiastic about the different islands and the diversified nature, we were able to make up for all the things we had not been able to do last time or which were partly not even possible. In 2015, for example, you couldn't see flowing lava on Big Island, because it didn't flow towards the sea as usual, but towards an inhabited village. And this was closed for access for the safety of all. But since 2016 the lava of Kilauea is flowing towards the ocean again and so we could finally realize one of our biggest wishes: To stand very close to flowing lava. We also wanted to snorkel on O'ahu in Hanauma Bay, climb Koko Head Crater, see a hula show, marvel at the fireworks of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, enjoy the sunrise on the 3,055 meter high Haleakala and watch the turtles on the beach along the Road to Hana. So many things we didn't know about last time or didn't manage to do last time.

Travel Reports Hawaii » Hawaii: Things to know, Photo spots & Travel Guide for a holiday
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» O‘ahu: Honolulu – Things to do & the most beautiful photo spots
» O‘ahu: Honolulu – Hike to Manoa Falls & Tantalus Lookout
» O‘ahu: An Island Tour & & the most beautiful photo spots
» O‘ahu: Koko Crater – A hike on the old railway tracks in Oahu
» O‘ahu: Hanauma Bay – One of the most beautiful snorkelspots on Oahu
» O‘ahu: Diamond Head Crater – Stunning view over Honolulu
» Big Island: Arrival in Hilo & Akaka Falls State Park
» Big Island: Lava Hike on Big Island – Get close to flowing lava & feel the heat
» Big Island: Hawaii Volcanoes NP – The Lava Viewing Area at Ocean Entry
» Big Island: Lava Boat Tour – A boat trip to Ocean Entry on Big Island
» Big Island: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – Things to do & Photo spots
» Big Island: Hike to Papakolea Green Sand Beach
» Maui: Lahaina, Nakalele Blowhole & the west coast of the island
» Maui: Sunrise from the top of Haleakala Volcano
» Maui: The panoramic Road to Hana & the Piilani Highway