Posts Tagged ‘sunrise’

The Haleakala Sunrise was one of our favorite experiences during our previous trip, so we really wanted to get up there again on our latest trip. Since our trip co-incided with the 2011 Lyrid Meteor Shower, we decided the peak day of the shower would be the best time to experience the sunrise. We were staying in Kihei at the Maui Banyan. All the websites and information we could find said it would take two hours to reach the summit. I found a good website with the actual sunrise time information. We wanted to get up there well before sunrise to try and spot some meteors, so we decided to leave Kihei by 3:00am. We ended up leaving at 3:15 am and reached the summit by 5:40 am. We had to take it pretty slow the higher up we got, since a few of us were feeling a bit motion sick towards the top due to all the crazy switchbacks.

Once we got to the top we went straight to the trunk of the car to grab our coats, extra sweaters, etc, as you could certainly tell we were not at sea level any longer. We had checked the weather forecast the day before, so had a pretty good idea of what to expect. And since we had been so cold on our previous trip to the sunrise, we had packed extra clothes this time – I brought my toque as well. I still ended up giving my extra sweater to Shauna, and stole my brother’s spare. The thermometer on the rental car’s computer said it was 45’F up there, and the wind was blowing on top of that. Not terribly cold, but definitely a big change from relaxing on the beach the day before.

One thing we did forget to bring was a flashlight. It was pitch black darkness up there. At least the moon was relatively big, so we were able to see well enough not to trip over anything. The view from the summit is amazing, with a panoramic view in all directions. I wanted to get some photos of the city lights of Central Maui, and was pretty happy with how they turned out:
Central Maui Lights

I also managed to fit the Big Dipper into one of them, although it doesnt show up as well in the smaller version:
Central Maui and the Big Dipper

This photo is a 27 second exposure, lit only using the moonlight and the first hints of light as the sun began showing on the horizon:
First Light

As I mentioned earlier, we picked the peak morning of the Lyrid Meteor Shower hoping to spot (and photograph) some of the meteors. Unfortunately with the moon being so bright most of the websites I had looked at figured it would not be the most visible meteor shower. We did see a handful of meteors, but I wasnt able to photograph any of them. We saw a few driving up the crater road, and a few more once we got to the top. The crowd up there was giving the occasional ooohhhh and aaaaahhhhh, as I was taking photos of the coast. So I know I missed a few as well.

As the sun continued to approach the horizon, the colors of the clouds and sky changed rather quickly. It was quite an amazing sight, and we were very happy with the whole experience even before the sun finally appeared:

Beginning of the Haleakala Volcano Crater Sunrise, Maui

Above the clouds- Haleakala Volcano Crater Sunrise, Maui

Haleakala Sunrise - Maui

It was quite crowded at the summit. Since I was busy taking photographs of the coastline and other things, I did not get a very good spot in front of the shelter area. So I decided to head down in front of the shelter where a few other people had set up their chairs. I found a nice flat rock to sit on, and patiently awaited the sunrise. In the mean time, I took a photo of the happy and slightly chilly crowd as they all took various photos from in front of the shelter:
Watching the Sunrise

Unfortunately, within another minute or so, the park ranger came along and asked us to return to the proper viewing area, as we were not supposed to be sitting down in front of the shelter. I headed back around, and started taking some more photos from behind the shelter once again. I took this photo moments before the sun finally broke above the horizon:
Haleakala Sunrise - Maui

And this one was just moments after it poked above the clouds. It was an amazing sight to behold:
Haleakala Sunrise - Maui

I had to pan quite a bit to the right in order to get a photo of the sunrise without any people in it:
Haleakala Sunrise - Maui

The view through Shauna’s camera:
Haleakala Volcano Crater Sunrise, Maui

This is one of my favorites, as the sun continued to rise higher into the sky:
Haleakala Sunrise - Maui

Once the sun was up we were able to start exploring around the summit. There are a few trails up there that circle the parking area and offer some amazing views of central Maui, as well as the Big Island of Hawaii.

Haleakala Volcano Crater Sunrise, Maui

View from the parking lot as the sun continued to rise above the shelter area:
Lookout Tower- Haleakala Volcano Crater Sunrise, Maui

View of the West Maui Mountains, with Lanai in the distance:
Early morning view of the South Maui Coast from the top of the Haleakala Volcano.

A silversword plant near the summit parking area – the only place on earth these grow:
Silversword plant- Maui Haleakala Volcano Park


We then headed down to the main Visitor Center. The views of the crater from the visitor center are quite good as well. But we really wanted to hike up the short trail that starts at the visitor center, as we did not hike it on our previous trip. I stopped to take quite a few photos along the way, and was really impressed with the views into the crater showing the Sliding Sands Trail:
Sliding Sands Trail

Once you get to the top of the trail, the entire crater lies before you once again. I do not think there are any other places on earth that look quite like this:
Haleakala Crater

It looks more like the moon than anything else:
Haleakala Crater

From the overlook at the top of the trail you also get a good view of the Sliding Sands trail, as well as the Big Island of Hawaii off in the distance. The people walking the trail look like tiny little spots, way off in the distance. The sheer size of the crater is simply amazing
Sliding Sands Trail

By this time we were starting to get hungry. We weren’t cold at all, as the sun was getting higher in the sky, and actually took a layer or two off. As we descended back down towards Kula, we saw the sign for the Leleiwi Lookout. I remembered reading about this before, and had wanted to check it out. The views from the trail to the lookout are worth stopping for on their own:
View of Central Maui

But after a quick walk (only a few minutes) we arrived at the Leleiwi Lookout, and the crater unfolded before us once again. It was an entirely different perspective, and we were very happy that we stopped to check it out:
Leleiwi Lookout

You get a different persepctive on the cinder cones and lava flows within the crater:
Cinder Cones and Lava Flow

From there it was back to the car, and onward with our descent back to sea level. It was 10am or so by the time we made it back to Kahului, so we were getting rather hungry, as well as tired. We decided that Maui Coffee Roasters was the perfect place for breakfast, and some coffee. But you can read that review here if you like.

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We decided to check out the Haleakala sunrise on our first morning in Maui during our 2009 trip. Although perhaps it was not a good idea to go on the first morning, since we were not settled in yet.

Our Maui Revealed guidebook says it takes 100 minutes to reach the summit from Kihei. So we wanted to leave two hours early to be sure we didn’t miss the sunrise. By the time we started the car we were running behind already.

I would recommend you prepare whatever you can the night before. Have the coffee maker ready, prepare some food, pack your warm clothes, etc.

The highway for the first half of the trip is quite good for driving, and two lanes much of the way. There was a pretty steady line of traffic as well, and it was pretty obvious at that time of the morning where everyone was heading. So it was pretty much a case of follow the leader.

As we got higher and higher, the highway starts getting narrower, and the switchbacks get more frequent. I kept pulling over to let the traffic by, since I wanted to enjoy the view of central Maui at night. However I soon realized we were still had a long way to the top, and not a lot of time remaining until sunrise.

Once we got to the top, it didn’t take long to notice how cold it was. The thermometer on the car read 36’F, so it certainly wasn’t any colder than we were used to (it was -20 when we left home). But the wind up there was nasty. The shelter was pretty full, and we wanted to take a lot of photos while we were up there. So that meant heading outside into the wind. After a brief period of taking photos, our hands and faces were starting to go numb. Of course that didn’t stop us from taking photos or enjoying the spectacular sunrise… we just had to take a few breaks in the shelter once in a while to warm up a bit.

We almost missed it, but got there just in time for the amazing sunrise…

20090405_137Shauna got a great panoramic shot of the sunrise:
Sunrise at Haleakala Volcano Crater

The colors were impressive as the sun passed through the various levels of clouds that day.

20090405_103One the sun had risen, we noticed the view of the Big Island in the distance to the East…

20090405_0086and the view of Central and West Maui Coasts looking to the West.

20090405_0096The crater was a sight to behold once we moved down the the visitor center where the gift store is located.

20090405_195There is so much to see and explore at the top, and also along the drive up and down. But I will certainly make room in my suitcase to bring warmer clothes for next time. I want to make sure we can stay longer and take our time exploring up there. A touque and gloves would have made it much more enjoyable.

There are a number of silversword plants – which apparently are found only on Haleakala. We didn’t see any blooming, but even just the plants made for some great photos:

Silversword on Haleakala, Maui

We will definitely go back to see the Haleakala sunrise during our next trip to Maui. It was an amazing experience to see the sun rising above the clouds. Apparently each sunrise will be different depending on the amount of clouds that day.

I have also heard that the view of the stars is another sight to see, but of course we barely made the sunrise, so we didn’t get to see any stars. Maybe next time…

There are some other recommendations in the Maui Revealed guidebook for things to do at the top. Although we didn’t get the chance to try them out yet, so I can’t really add any comments about them.¬† We will definitely check them out on our next trip. For now you will just have to get the guidebook and check them out for yourself.

And as an added bonus to seeing the sunrise, the park pass for Haleakala also covers access to the part of the park south of Hana where the Seven Sacred Pools are found. The pass expires a few days later, so make sure you keep an eye on that or else you will have to spend another $10.

We checked for the sunrise time on the park website at:


Another tip would be to bring some food up there with you. We left the Maui Banyan in Kihei well before breakfast. So after the sunrise and a bit of looking around we were getting quite hungry. We headed back down the mountain sooner than we would have liked to.

Although we did end up finding Maui Coffee Roasters, which you can read about in one of my other posts. To make things quick though: they are good, best coffee we found, and good food too…check them out.

Shauna has some additional photos posted to her Flickr account here if you want to check them out as well.

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