The Magic of Haleakala National Park

As I opened my eyes, the red light coming from the alarm clock didn’t make any sense. How could the alarm already be going off? Just seconds ago I laid in bed, reminiscing with Bob about our delicious dinner from Mamma’s Fish House. It couldn’t be time to get up already- could it? As I closed my eyes again, the alarm went off, sounding more like two angry penguins fighting than a good morning rooster. After hitting the box several times, evidentially touching the right button, the alarm ceased and Bob said it was time to get up.

The love of travel and adventure has forced me outside of my comfort zone so many times. It seems like all the best activities don’t wait around for you to sleep in. This was definitely the case in Maui, where almost every must-do activity on our list required us to wake up and be in the car long before sunrise.

Luckily, these adventures prove themselves well worth the journey and you’re rewarded with some pretty spectacular sights.

Haleakala National Park

Perfectly named by early Hawaiian settlers, Haleakala or house of the sun, is known for its beautiful sunrise over the mountain. While searching for more information about the gods of Hawaii, it is believed that the demigod’s grandmother helped him captured the sun to slow it’s progress over the earth and prolong each day.

On our last full day in Maui, we decided to wake up super early and watch the demigod’s work and sunrise over the Haleakala Crater. The park is open 24 hours a day, letting visitors dictate when they want to tour the grounds. Most people recommended that we do the sunrise hike around the crater or drive up to the top and then rent a bike down. After a couple of unfortunate mishaps, you can no longer bike down from the top of the crater. (I was uneasy about this idea before I knew about the incidents, but luckily the decision was made for me and I didn’t have to bike down the mountain.) We decided to drive up and hike around after the sunrise.

We arrived well before sunrise-almost too early, actually. Most guides insisted on waking up two to three hours before sunrise because it could take you an hour to drive to the top from your hotel. Haleakala is over 10,000 feet high, double the height of Molokai and Oahu combined, and also the level at which people start to feel altitude sickness, so we brought along several bottles of water and a few snacks incase we got hungry or started feeling sick.

The Sun Rise on the ‘House of the Sun’

It takes longer than you might imagine for the sun to fully rise. Before you freeze to death, you get this incredible view of the first light coming up from the ocean and over the crater. The light ranges from pale purples to intense oranges. It is raw and, I know this is going to sound like hippie talk, but you feel more connected to the earth than I ever have before.

There were about a hundred or so other people at the top by the time the sun finally rose. Half frozen, half in awe, the peaceful silence from the spectators was welcomed. We were each allowed to experience the moment as we wanted to, letting the sun thaw our faces a bit.

Some people took videos, everyone took photos, and every so often someone would let out an expressive sigh of wonder. While the wake up call was early and I lost feeling in my fingers for twenty minutes or so, the experience was truly magical.

Here are our photos from the our time at the crater and some tips for planning your own adventure:

sunrise maui

maui haleakala volcano

maui haleakala hike

haleakala national park

*Not one person mentioned exactly how cold it would be: When guides suggested we bring layers and prepare for cold temperatures, they could have expanded on the word cold a little bit more. It wasn’t just cold. It wasn’t just freezing. It was like being in a white out snow storm while tropical storm strength winds hit you over and over again. The cold and wind just whip through you, leaving your entire body shaking well after you’ve returned to the car and have the heat on full blast.

I know this sounds crazy- but this is one trip you actually want to over pack. Bring layers, sure, but also bring gloves, leggings or long johns for under your jeans, a hat that covers your ears and a big, big jacket.