“Oohs” and “aahs” echoed through the air as the sun peeked through the horizon. The question we had in our minds has just been answered.
Is the view worth driving 1.5 hours in the wee hours of the morning, just to catch the sunrise at the summit of Haleakalā (Maui)? The East Maui volcano was not named Haleakalā aka “House of the Sun” for no reason! See for yourself. You be the judge…
It is about 11 miles from the entrance (where you pay your $10 per car fee) of Haleakalā National Park to the top. The road is a little winding with no street light. However, it is well paved and marked. On the day we went, there were a few cars ahead of us, so it was not entirely pitch black. We’d advise you to plan for the drive to be 2 hours or more (in case there are a lot of cars) from Lahaina.
It is also said that Haleakala is perfect for star gazing. So arriving early gives you time to admire the night sky and the stars. It’ll also give you time to secure best viewing spots and so you can take pictures of the sunrise without people blocking your view.
When we got up to the top, we parked at the Haleakala Visitor Center. That’s where most of the crowd is. Turns out the parking lot at the summit was full, so the road leading up there was closed. We pretty much just joined the rest of the crowd catching the sunrise at the visitor center. After sunrise, we drove up to the summit (it was open shortly after sunrise at 5:30am) to enjoy the view from there.
AHINAHINA (aka SILVERSWORD)
Another unique feature of Haleakalā is the Ahinahina (aka Silversword) — A subspecies of a kind of tarweed that grows on the slopes of Haleakalā and nowhere else in the world![two] [/two] [two_last] [/two_last]
- Budget about 2 hours travel time to the top of Haleakalā from Lahaina. Budget more if you want to get there before the summit’s parking lot fills up. For more directions, see here.
- Cell coverage is spotty and so is GPS. I’d recommend having a written or printed copy of the maps and directions before you head to Haleakalā.
- The weather can change at ANY time and your chances of seeing the sunrise may be interrupted by heavy fog, clouds or even rain. So check the weather forecast and sunrise times before you go.
- An alternative to seeing the sunrise is viewing the sunset from the summit instead.
- Not everyone thinks the view is worth driving up the mountain for. We think it was beautiful but we were looking at it from a photography point of view. Others may find it to be just like any other sunrise/sunset they’ve seen with the exception that you see the cloudline below you. So, is it worth it? It all depends on your own preferences and priorities of what you want to do and see when in Maui.
- Wear your thermals if you brought them. Also, dress in layers and warm clothing. The weather will be warmer after the sun rises but until then, it’s freezing!
- Wear covered and protective shoes (sneakers, hiking boots etc…). You don’t want to be standing there in sandals. Bring scarves and gloves if you have them too.
- Bring your blanket from the hotel as well as towels to keep you warm if you did not pack warm clothing. I am not kidding, it is COLD!
- Be respectful to the place and keep your voice down. To some, it is a special moment. Also make sure you don’t step where you are not allowed to. The eco-system there is very delicate. You can damage the root system of the Ahinahina if you step on it, for example.
- The roads up the mountain is well paved and marked. So it’s rather safe to drive even though there’s no streetlight.
- Arrive early to enjoy the night sky as well as to get a good viewing spot.
- The entrance fee to the park is $10 per car, valid for 3 days. For more fee structures, see here.
- Since it is high elevation, people with respiratory issues may want to proceed with caution (thanks Nathalie for the suggestion to include this!)
- Walk to the left of the visitor center for a slightly different view of the sunrise/scenery.
- Don’t use your camera’s flash when taking scenery pictures directly aimed at the sun. If you have a person or a subject in the foreground that can be enveloped/reached by the flash, then by all means, you should use your flash. However if it is a scenery view such as this where the mountains and the skies are too far away to be reached by the flash, then don’t use the flash.
- Your best bet is to take multiple exposures of the scene and then process them into an HDR image. This will ensure that you’re able to capture details of the foreground as well as the sun.
- Bring your tripod for the multiple exposure shots you’ll need for your HDR photos.
- Use HDR processing software such as Photomatix Pro and Lightroom to process your photos.
- Most of our photos were taken using a Nikon D700 DSLR along with a Nikkor 16-35mm f/4 Wide Angle lens.
- Some of the photos above were also taken using our Leica D-Lux5 point & shoot. A comparable point & shoot to the Leica D-Lux5 is the Panasonic LX-5 and Canon S95.
Have you seen the sunrise from Haleakala? Do you think seeing the sunrise is worth the effort of getting there?
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