Tips for a perfect Maui sunrise

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Making the most of your early morning wake-up call

I stood facing east with two conflicting desires: that this beautiful moment last forever and that it be over quickly. Indeed, the slow but impending sunrise at the top of Haleakal? on Maui was gorgeous. But it was also cold. Despite my North Face® puffy coat (which at first seemed ridiculous to have in Hawaii) and hoodie that covered my head, my body still shivered in the predawn chill.

How I got suckered into that moment, I do not know. But I wouldn’t have traded it for a warm, sea-level bed for anything.

I was visiting Maui with my Expedia Viewfinder colleagues. As part of our week on the island, we all had the opportunity to partake in numerous activities. I chose to get up at about 3:00 a.m., rattle my significant other, Jon, out of bed, and drive up to Haleakal? for this early morning ritual. I thought we’d be surrounded by my fellow Viewfinders, but we were the only ones from the group up at this seemingly ridiculous hour. Go figure!

I guess I can take some solace in the fact that not only did I get to experience an amazing sunrise that day, but I learned some tips on how to best view said sunrise. 

View on the way down from Haleakal?

Leave early

Get an early start, not because you might miss the sunrise, but because you might not find parking otherwise. Whichever part of the island you’re traveling from, plan to arrive at the viewing point no later than 5:00 a.m. Our 3:30 departure from the Fairmont Kea Lani got us there too late to get parking in the lot at the very top. Instead, we got one of only two spots left at the second-to-top lot. Any later and we would have been at the third-best spot.

Drive safe

The road up to the summit is a twisty one. At that time of day (or night, as it were), you’re going to be tired. It’s still dark out and there will be a lot of other cars on the road. Take it slow both there and back to avoid any mishaps. All the better if you have someone to help navigate while you drive.

What to bring

At over 10,000 feet, the summit is cold in the wee hours of the morning. Though you might question traveling to Hawaii with gloves and a warm jacket, if you have them, you’re going to enjoy yourself far more than the people wearing the bedsheets from their hotel room (I kid you not). It’ll also be windy, so a hat or hoodie will come in handy as well.

Viewfinder Tip: There will be lots of people vying for the same sunrise photos you are. Bring your aloha spirit and make room for others.

Departing in the middle of the night for the sunrise can mean you’re a bit bleary-eyed. Don’t forget your camera and a flashlight (or enough juice on your smartphone to use the built-in flashlight). You’ll be stumbling around in the dark to find a good viewing spot. Though there’s little risk of falling over the precipice given the fencing placed around the viewing spots, you don’t want to ruin the sunrise—or your trip—by taking a tumble up there.

As the sun starts to come up, you’ll likely start getting hungry. Bring water and some food to munch on so you have something to carry you over before heading back to the hotel. Better yet, stop at nearby Kula Lodge for breakfast.

It may seem daunting to get up so early while on vacation, but I’m certain that, like me, you won’t regret it for a moment.

What’s your favorite place to experience the sunrise?

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This author has either a relationship with, or received other compensation (which may include monetary or in-kind compensation) from, the product or service providers that are the subject of this post.

Beth Whitman

Beth Whitman finished her tenure as an Expedia Viewfinder blogger at the end of 2015. She is the founder and CEO of Wanderlust and Lipstick and WanderTours. With 25+ years of solo travel, she writes for the women's travel market to encourage women to travel and live out their dream journeys.

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