By Matt Morris – Owner & Lead Concierge
Maui Activity Concierge
Haleakala is one of Maui’s most popular attractions. With a soaring summit of more than 10,000ft elevation, the National Park draws guests from all over to go hiking, take pictures, and enjoy the views from above the clouds and each time of the day attracts guests for different reasons. Though seeing the sunrise from the summit is one of the most popular times of the day to visit the park, I wanted to share some helpful information about the sunrise and other times during the day you can visit the park and what to expect.
From Kahului (OGG) Airport, the National Park Entrance only about 27 miles, however, due to the steep grade of the road, it will take about 1.5 hours to arrive to the entrance of the park, and be about another 20 minutes (or so) to the summit area. On average, it takes about 2 – 2.5 hours to get to the summit area for most guests depending on where they are staying on Maui. You may find this Map of the Haleakala National Park to be helpful when visiting the park, regardless of the time of the day to get to the various sites and attractions found there.
To locate the Park when using a GPS, the near address you can enter is 30,000 Haleakala Highway, Kula HI 96790. (Google Maps). There are not any gas stations or convenience stores located within a short distance from the Park so it is essential to have ample gas in your car and to bring some water with you before you make the journey.
The Park is open 24-hour per day, 7 days a week unless otherwise closed for various reasons such as road work or weather related concerns. The park entry fee is $20.00 for a three (3) day pass for standard non-commercial cars (i.e. rental cars/vans) and you can pay directly upon arrival at the the entry station or at the selfpay machines. Effective February 1st, 2017, there have been some changes to the policies for entering the park from the hours of 3:00 AM to 7:00 AM (daily) in which we have outlined more details about this further below.
Since the park is open 24 hours per day, there are several different reasons to visit the park at ranging times of the day pending your interests in what would you like to see and do. Like any high altitude location, the weather changes quickly and it is best to anticipate the atmosphere to change during your time at the Park. Often times the weather is quite chilly and is usually 30 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than found at the beach, especially in the morning and in the evening. During the day, it is great to plan on both cooler and warmer temperatures as the clouds shift, often clearing for the sunshine to come through and quickly becoming cloudy again. It is highly recommended to dress in layers and plan for ranging temperatures, wind speeds, and quickly changing conditions when visiting the National Park. Regardless of the time of day you visit, it is important to realize the air is significantly thinner at 10,000ft elevation and it is harder to breathe for most guests. Walking slow and taking your time along with staying hydrated will help you have a more enjoyable experience at the summit.
Seeing the sunrise from the Park is by far the most popular time to visit this attraction. Arriving at the summit area 30+ minutes prior is essential to park and find a spot to enjoy the sunrise from – plus you can see the full sunrise starting until it fully rises as it take a little time to come up from under the clouds (the summit is usually above the cloud line). While most people feel the need to be at the very top of the summit, the parking is quite limited there and located just a short distance away is the parking at 9,700ft elevation which also offers restroom facilities and a great view of the sunrise too. Due to the overcrowding of the parking facilities and safety for others, guests are now required to make a reservation in order to enter the Park and you can make a reservation up to 60 days in advance for a non-refundable fee of $1.50 per car. The entry fee of $20.00 will still apply. Guests have the option for both self-guided and guided tours pending on their needs. While the self-guided tours require guests to navigate the mountain roads in the early morning hours on their own, the guided tours will have experience tour guides to take you to the summit. You can learn more about guided tours on our website or see more information below about our Favorite Haleakala Tours further below. If you wouldp refer to drive on your own, please make sure to have a reservation as it is required. To check current availability for the National Park for sunrise, please visit the National Park website.
Once the early morning crowds start to diminish for the day, the next set of guests begin to arrive to experience the National Park to enjoy views of the surrounding island, clouds, crater area, and to go hiking. The Park has a network of trails and this Haleakala Hiking Map is always helpful as it outlines the trail distances and various trails you can take. Most of the trails found at Haleakala are quite long and are several miles in duration, each way. One of the most popular trails is the Sliding Sands Trail which takes down to the crater area floor. While most do not make it down to the crater floor, guests will hike a mile down or so before heading back. For guests looking for a stunning view of the crater, you can either visit the 9,700ft elevation parking lot or take a 1/3 mile walk down the Leleiwi Overlook trail which also provides great views of the Crater area. This trail is great for picture taking and for the most part the trail is pretty well maintained though it still has some rock obstructions present on the trail. The Visitor Center is also open during the day from 8:00 AM to 3:45 PM (located 7,000ft – just past the main Park entrance) which will have great information about the park and on most occasions they have keiki (infant) silverswordrd plants which are also known as ahinahina, growing there so you can see them in different stages. Often times at the summit parking lot, they have the silverswords for viewing as well there too. Since they only bloom once in their life (and some live up to 50 years) it is quite remarkable to see them in full bloom.
This is perhaps once of my favorite times to visit the park, mostly due the fact that I, like others will say, am not an early riser. The conditions at the summit will be similar to the sunrise in that it is usually quite chilly and windy, though you can have some amazing views to enjoy from the summit area as the sun starts to set for the day. Often times the clouds will form from 7,000ft to 9,000ft elevation so from below it may look cloudy looking up the volcano, though the summit can be clear above this layer of clouds most of the time. The Park entry will still be same though you will just be arriving later in the day rather than in the early morning hours or middle of the day. If you arrive around the later afternoon time, you can usually see into the crater though please note as the sun starts to set, the crater does become quite dark and it is challenging to see the beautiful colors of the cinders as the sun sets past the ridge of the volcano. For those interested in stargazing, Haleakala has amazing clear skies with very little light making it a great place to sit back and watch the stars after dark.
For those that would prefer to take a guided trip up to the National Park, there are several really great experience you can have. Each guest is different in their needs so I wanted to share my top recommendations for tours related to the National Park. Availability is often limited due to the high popularity of these trips so advanced planning is recommended!
Haleakala Sunrise Tour: This includes pick up service from a nearby location to your accommodation. Guests will be taken to the summit in the comfort of a coach with a driver (who is also your guide). After seeing the sunrise, guests will enjoy a nice warm breakfast at a local restaurant. Great for guests of all ages. Early morning pick up time ranging from 2 – 3:30am pending location of their accommodation and time of year. Adults $145+taxes – BOOK NOW
Downhill Volcano Bike & Sunrise Tour: Perfect for guests with an adventurous taste. Guests will start their adventure with pick up service from a nearby location and will be taken to the summit to watch the sunrise. After, guests will enjoy riding 25+ miles downhill on custom cruising bikes with stunning views of the central Maui valley. Guests are required to be 12+ years old to enjoy this activity. Guests are $140+taxes – BOOK NOW
Combination Tour: Sunrise, Biking, & Zipline: Another great trip for those that have a sense of adventure and are looking to experience a little more thrill during their trip to Maui. Guests will be taken to the summit to see the sunrise, ride ½ way down the Volcano, and then enjoy a 5 line zipline experience. I like this tour because it includes three activities in one and still includes round trip transportation too. Guests are required to be age 12+ to enjoy this trip. Guests are $249+tax – BOOK NOW
Morning Bike Tour: For those guests that like to sleep in a little later, this trip departs after the sun rises for the day and guests will still be able to enjoy visiting the Park to see the crater during the daylight hours. After, enjoy a 25+ mile downhill biking trip with great views of the central valley of Maui with bicoastal views in the distance. Guests are required to be age 12+ for this trip. Guests are $128+tax – BOOK NOW
Haleakala & Hana Helicopter Flight: Enjoy views of the slopes of Haleakala and the backside of the Volcano on this beautiful tour. Guests will depart from the Kahului Airport (OGG) on this 45 minute flight to experience the island from above. By law flights can not go into the crater though they are able to provide great views of the full circumference of the volcano in one trip. After, enjoy waterfalls and lush tropical rainforest views when passing to Hana before heading back. Guests are $210 – $260 (inclusive) pending the time of the day – BOOK NOW
Slopes of Haleakala – Ziplines (outside of National Park)
This activity is perfect for guests who are planning on visiting the National Park during the day and may not wish to have the biking component or the early morning sunrise experience. This tour will consist of 5 lines to zip over and is conveniently located about ½ way up the volcano on the main road leading up to the summit area. The tour will take about 1.75 hours or so to complete and after your trip, you can head up to the park to enjoy hiking, site seeing, or just to visit and walk around. We do recommend zipping first and then going to the park due to timing restrictions. Guests are to be 60lb – 260lbs and are $119.99+tax – BOOK NOW
Haleakala Sunset Tour: This is one of my favorite trips as I love watching the sunset. Your trip will start mid-day with pick up service from a nearby location and your guide will take you to the summit to watch the sunset. On the way up, guests will enjoy some history and cultural discussion with the guide (who is your driver) and will often make some quick stops along the way before arriving at the park. After watching the sunset, you will make your way back down to enjoy a tasty dinner at a local restaurant for a family style dinner. This trip is great for guests of all ages. Adults are $165+tax – BOOK NOW
Stargazing at Haleakala Summit: This trip is truly out of this world! Guests will need to drive their own cars to the summit area to meet their guide before sunset and then have the chance to use the guides telescope to look ito the night sky. Guests can see various constellations, planets, and even the moon pending the time of the year. Tours are usually smaller and on average will have about 10 people or so at the most. This tour is great for guests of all ages (usually for older children only though due to the cold temperatures found at the summit in the evening). Adults are $115+taxes – BOOK NOW
We hope that this information has been helpful to you. For further questions, please feel free to contact me directly and I am more than willing to help you out with your questions about Haleakala!