Watch the Sunrise at HaleakalaMaui

Rising 10,023 feet above Maui’s coastal areas is the massive shield volcano HALEAKALA. This sleeping giant is enormously popular and easily accessible for visitors; in fact, it has become a ritual for those staying on the island to rise before dawn and trek to the mountaintop in the chilly darkness to watch the sun make its way across the morning horizon.

Hawaiian legend goes that the DEMIGOD MAUI traveled to the very spot modern-day visitors do to wait for the sun to rise. However, Maui wasn’t looking to capture a stunning nature shot; rather, he was waiting to lasso the sun and slow its progress over the islands because his mother, Hina, complained that her kapa cloth would not dry properly. As the myth goes, Maui’s lasso hit its target, and it was only after the great yellow orb promised to travel more slowly through the sky that Maui loosened his rope.

Haleakala has been inactive since 1790, when two minor flows occurred on the southwest rift zone near La Perouse Bay. The GREAT BASIN below the summit, commonly called a CRATER, is 3,000 feet deep, 7.5 miles long and 2.5 miles wide and is actually an “erosional depression” where water, wind and possibly glaciers once cut into the mountain. Later, new lava flows partially filled the basin, leaving cinder cones to mark their eruptions. PU‘U O MAUI, the tallest cinder cone, reaches 500 feet from the basin floor.

The SLUMBERING VOLCANO— whose name literally means “HOUSE OF THE SUN” in Hawaiian—is the centerpiece of a 30,058-ACRE PARK that extends from Haleakala’s summit to Kipahulu Valley on the Hana coast. A place of legends and intriguing biological diversity, the park attracts more than 1 million visitors a year and offers plenty of alternatives to a sunrise vigil in a well-populated crowd.

Commercial BIKING TOURS, which originate just outside the park entrance, have become a popular endeavor for skilled adventurers. The 38-mile ride down the volcano follows a scenic, twisting, two-lane highway. Riders are transported by van to the park entrance and escorted downhill.

Non-commercial bicycle riders are allowed in the park as long as they avoid hiking paths and stick to the narrow, winding mountain road that carries vehicles throughout the park. HIKING, CAMPING, HORSEBACK RIDING and GUIDED NATURE TOURS also are popular.

Call the National Weather Service (866-944-5025) for an update on the day’s weather forecast. A recorded message will give you information on sunrise and sunset times, as well as viewing conditions at the summit. Temperatures at the peak typically range from 32 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit but occasionally dip below zero.

The park is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No food or gas are available inside. There is a $10 entrance fee that is valid for three days. The drive, if made on paved roads from the island’s coastal areas, takes about two hours.