Head Up To Enjoy The Sunset And Night Sky At The Haleakala Summit
We enjoyed the sunset and night sky at the Haleakala Summit high above Maui. We debated sunrise or sunset but in the end got the most amazing views from the top. It was definitely one of the highlights on our visit to Maui in Hawai’i.
Planning Our Visit To Haleakala
Haleakala National Park is known as the “house of the sun”. It was an amazing spot to visit for the views at sunrise or sunset. We spent lots of time researching the views and watching the web cams at different times of day. There were many things to consider before we chose a sunrise or sunset visit.
When we visited Maui, reservations were still needed for sunrise. And sunrise meant a very, very early wake-up call. The big downside for the sunset and night sky at the Haleakala Summit was the drive down the twisty road after dark. After driving all the twisty roads in Maui, we were not scared off by the night drive. So sunset was our choice for this trip.
Haleakala (or the “East Maui Volcano”) was a vast shield volcano that covered more than 75% of Maui. The Haleakala Crater on this dormant volcano sat at 10,023 feet above sea level. Many hiking paths went to the crater. But hike in the park meant a much longer visit to Haleakala. We learned that a visit for just sunrise or sunset required a National Park pass. And the pass was valid for 3 days. So if we planned our visit to the summit early enough on our visit, it was possible to return to hike.
For our visit to Hawaii, we packed for the hot weather. But we knew in advance we wanted to go to the summit at Haleakala. And we knew that it got very cold very fast at the top. So we made sure we took several layers to keep us warm.
It was about an hour to drive to the base of Haleakala from our hotel and another hour to reach the summit on the twisty roads. Since we wanted to be at the summit well in advance of sunrise, we left our hotel more than 4 hours before the sun started to descend. We wanted to get one of the limited parking spots.
The Drive Up To The Haleakala Summit Was An Experience
It was an easy drive from our hotel in Maui to the start of the road up to the Haleakala Summit. We passed by the juncture point where we turned on another day trip and drove the Road to Hana. The early part of the drive along Route 377 went steadily up but was quite tame.
We did many crazy drives on the twisty roads in Maui. After we turned and continued the climb up Route 378 to the summit, we were glad we had some practice on the Maui roads.
It was a slow but steady drive up. The hairpin turns slowed us down regularly. And the narrow roads were also shared with bicycles!
As we climbed we watched the altitude signs increasing. We got great views out over the coast and it was clear we would soon be above the clouds. So when we hit the cloud layer we were not surprised.
We pulled up at the gate to the Haleakala National Park in the mist and purchased our 3 day National Park Pass. But we passed the Park Headquarters Visitor Centre. It would have been a good idea to stop for a bathroom break!
As we drove up towards the summit, we were above the clouds and the skies were clear. We went past the turnoff for Hosmer Grove. This picnic spot would be great on a longer visit and was the beginning of the Supply Trail hike path. We passed the Halemau’u Trailhead for another hiking access point.
We did not stop at the lookout points on the drive up (Leleiwi Overlook and Kalahaku Overlook). These viewpoints might be ok for sunset views but we wanted to enjoy the sunset and night sky at the Haleakala Summit.
Reaching The Summit At Haleakala
As we kept driving higher, the green land turned to lava fields. And we got our first view of the Haleakala Observatories high on the point. We passed the Haleakala Visitor Centre and the large parking lot. We knew there were also a few coveted parking spots there that faced the sunset. But we were still going higher.
When we arrived about 2 hours before sunset we found lots of open parking spots. As sunset approached, the lot became full and a park ranger marshalled traffic. We added a few layers of clothes and headed out to explore the summit before the sunset began. Before 4pm the temperature was already at about 63F (or 17C).
We started at the small covered shelter – thinking there might be a bathroom! We found no facilities but learned more about Haleakala.
The Haleakala Observatories stood on the point overlooking the coast. While paths went up to the buildings, they were not open to the public when we visited.
While the views over the coast were great, we found that the most stunning views looked over the Haleakala Crater. The sun had just started to sink and the rocks seemed to warm in that photographer’s golden hour.
We were happy we arrived early and got good parking spots to enjoy the sunset and night sky at the Haleakala Summit.
Walk Down To Visitor Center
From the summit, we got a view down to the Visitor Centre. When we learned there were no bathroom facilities at the summit, it meant a trip down to the Visitor Centre. Since we did not want to lose our parking spot, it meant a 0.5 mile walk down and back up.
The walk down was pretty easy. We got more views of the caldera as the shadows lengthened and the clouds continued to move in. Hikers walked along the paths to the caldera.
We found bathrooms at the Visitor Centre. Signs provided more information about the Haleakala National Park. Different hiking paths started from this parking lot. The view on one side was over the caldera. And when we looked the other way we saw lava fields that led to the East and the coming sunset.
Parking spaces were still available in the big lot. But the prime parking spaces at the front with the direct view East to the sunset were full.
We felt the altitude a bit more on the walk back up for the sunset and night sky at the Haleakala Summit. When we paused to catch our breath we saw the Big Island of Hawaii off in the distance. It was a good reminder of the view we got on our helicopter tour over the Big Island.
Watching The Sun Set And The Colours In The Sky
By the time we returned to the summit, it was time to get ready for the coming show. We ate the picnic lunch we packed and then put on another layer of clothes. As the sun got lower in the sky, the temperatures continued to drop. People settled in on the lava rock with a view to the East. Some were better prepared with chairs and blankets.
Once the sun got close to the horizon, we knew it would sink fast and we were prepared. We got a great view up the coast and straight out with the observatories in the foreground. There was a little cloud on the horizon which hid the sun when it sank.
Once the sun was down, many people headed for their cars. But we knew the show continued. The horizon lit with bright colours as the sky darkened above us. It was the perfect time to catch silhouettes with the sharp colours in the background.
A Great Finish For Sunset And Night Sky At The Haleakala Summit
But we were not yet ready to leave. We carefully walked on the paths to find a spot with few people. And tried to avoid people using their phones as flashlights. We were rewarded as the night turned dark and the stars popped in the sky.
By this time we were pretty cold despite our layers of clothes. We carefully found our way back to the car and put the car heat on. We marvelled at the amazing day we had to enjoy the sunset and night sky at the Haleakala Summit.
Our drive up presented us with yet another of the twisty mountain drives on Maui. But the drive down in the dark was far more challenging. Luckily we hit no fog and the view from the headlights kept us well within the road lines.
We drove down at the speed limit but often pulled over when aggressive drivers wanted to go much faster. When we reached the bottom and the road straightened out, we were happy to head back to our hotel.
An Amazing Night To Enjoy The Sunset And Night Sky At The Haleakala Summit
The sunset and night sky at the Haleakala Summit was simply stunning. Our planning put us at the summit well in advance of sunset and guaranteed us a spot where we wanted to be. There were many other good spots on the drive up for views to the East. But we were happy we got to the summit.
We loved chasing sunsets and we knew to be patient after the sun set. Some of the best coloured skies happen with the reflected light after the sunset. And the dark sky as night settled in was amazing.
We were sure that planning for a sunrise on Haleakala Summit would have been great. But we could not have had a better experience at sunset. This was one of the great experiences on our visit to Maui.
Did you enjoy the sunset and night sky at the Haleakala Summit? Should we plan a sunrise visit on a return trip?
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What a wonderful experience! It’s good to know that the parking lot gets full and it’s a smart idea to arrive earlier. I would have stayed as well for the blue hour, that is when you can get some really cool shots as well. It’s not just about the sunset. Also it’s good to know that the permit will allow you enough time to go hiking if you want as well. I would definitely like to do that, the scenery up there is pretty spectacular.
We were so glad we went up to the Haleakala Summit and packed to stay when it got cold after dark. A stunning show. But next time we will get our pass early and enjoy some hiking.
Wow, that sunset is absolutely stunning, one of the clearest I’ve ever seen captured on camera! I definitely think a sunrise trip is also in order, might as well make the most of being at the Summit! I have never been to Maui but this is going on my list now for sure.
We were so glad we planned this visit to the Haleakala Summit for these views. Definitely a treat on Maui.
What an incredible adventure! We did something similar here in Sicily but the sunsets were not as sharp as in Hawaii. It’s great you stayed to see the night sky, your photos are truly spectacular. I’d love to visit this summit and even just Hawaii one day.
It was wonderful to see the transition to day through the sunset and into the dark sky. A perfect spot to get this view in Maui. Definitely one for your Hawaii list.
What a magnificent sunset! It is definitely worth the lengthy drive. The summit of Haleakala seems like an excellent spot to observe the sky as it transforms into different colors as the sun sets. Along the route, the brilliant white clouds are very striking. I must say that I really enjoy looking at the photographs.
The summit of Haleakala was more than we expected. And worth sticking around after the sun set. Next time we will have to try sunrise.
Wow! This is indeed an exciting experience. I admire you for going through the twisty roads. I still do not have the courage to drive there. It is nice to know that there are many parking spots. That sunset is beautiful and definitely worth the trip.
It was a manageable drive up on the twisty roads. But a bit crazy coming down especially when some people wanted to speed far faster than we were comfortable with. We were glad we went early enough to ensure we got parked. Lots to keep us engaged for a few hours at the Haleakala Summit.
This is amazing! We were suppose to go see the sunrise at Haleakala in 2020 but a week before our trip Covid closures started and our trip got cancelled. It looks so beautiful there! I would love to go and also see the night sky there. I am a little bit scared to drive up and down on dark but sometimes we just have to put our fears aside to see places we have always dreamed about.
Sorry you missed the great sights at the Haleakala Summit in 2020. It was definitely worth the drive. Slow and steady was just fine for us.
First time I read about the Haleakala summit trip – it sounds like something that goes on my bucket list for Hawaii. Funny that you can drive directly to the summit. Are there good hiking trails on the mountain too? I would have chosen sunset over sunrise too! I hate getting up early and waiting around in the cold.
There are some hiking trails part way up and then more trails from the lower parking lot at the summit. The park pass gave us 3 days but we just ran out of time to go back and do some hiking. I am sure you would love it.
This looks so amazing!! I’d love to experience something like this.
The Haleakala Summit is definitely something to put on your plans for when you visit Maui.
The view from the summit looks amazing. During the day AND at night! And I love that you can drive directly to the summit, something I’m sure my mom will appreciate 😉 Thanks for sharing!
We were glad we arrived early enough to park right where we wanted to at the very top. It was great to settle in for a few hours. Warm clothes and a comfy spot to sit will make the visit better.
You shared so much excellent information in this post and the photos are beautiful. Can’t wait until I get to visit Hawaii so I can check this place out it looks stunning!
We had a lot of things on our plans for Maui. We were sure glad we got to the top of the Haleakala Summit for these amazing views. Hope you get to visit one day.
What a lovely virtual trip. Just loved it. I have always been fascinated by sunsets more than sunrise because of the color of the sky being so amazing after the sun sets. Also because during holidays we hate to get up too early after all the walking to explore and the late nights most of the days.The drive to the summit through winding lanes also sounds exciting in the evening.
The trip up to the Haleakala Summit was definitely well worth it. Loved all the changes in colour as we watched.
We’re planning a trip to Maui and this blog helps us to find fun things to do! Thank you for sharing!
We loved our visit to Maui. I would definitely add a trip up to the Haleakala Summit. You get a 3 day pass so plan to take in some hiking too.
I was thinking of Maui and I come across your blog. Perfect timing. Ever since my daughter watched Moana she’s been asking! Good to know that a reservation to needed to be there for sunrise at Haleakala National Park. Ooh… The hairpin bends at the last part of your drive is crazy! Driving on the hairpin bends while sharing the road with cyclists? Whoa! But it is totally worth it. Truly a picture is worth a 1000 words and last few pictures of the sunset, the colors of the horizon with the silhouettes of people and the starry night sky are just spectacular.
I hope you do get to plan a visit to Hawaii and Maui. We found lots to see and do. And were so glad we got up to the Haleakala Summit for sunset and stayed as the night sky fell.
The night sky looks spectacular. Although the route looks crazy with so many winding roads, I guess the views are absolutely worth it.
The drive up and down was definitely worth it. Loved how the views changed over the hours we were there.
Maui is definitely one of our “Happy Places,” and it doesn’t get much more spectacular than up at Haleakala! Hopefully, everyone reading and planning the trip takes note of the layers. Surprising how cold it gets! Great photos, and really useful details. Thanks for sharing!
We debated sunrise or sunset and were glad we finally went with sunset. Maybe next time we will set the alarm and get up early. And we will definitely pick up our park pass in the to do some hiking.
I’m sending this to my sister because we’re heading to Maui later this year! This overview will be helpful because I’m sure we’re going to attempt this for either sunrise or sunset, we’ll see. Great decision to stay for the starry sky!
You are going to love Maui. So many things to see and do. Your park pass to get up to the summit is good for 3 days. If you want to hike, leave some time either to spend more time on one day or plan a second day. Not to be missed!
I saw the sunrise at Haleakala, but now I think I want to see the sunset if I ever make it back there. Beautiful photos.
Next time we will go for sunrise. I understand that the Haleakala Summit is a different experience in the morning.
Wow, just loved looking at all your photos. It looks like a spectacular sunset.
The Haleakala Summit did not disappoint for views!
Nothing better than an adventurous drive with some incredible sunsets to top it all off. I bet there are some challenging hikes too.
On our next visit we will definitely plan enough time to do the hikes on Haleakala Summit. The sights were amazing.
What an amazing day you had and you have provided a great amount of helpful information. The views are absolutely beautiful! Loved seeing the day to night pictures, and hopefully I’ll be able to visit Haleakala in person one day.
I hope you do get to visit Maui and enjoy the sunset and night sky at Haleakala Summit. Definitely worth the drive.
The sunsets and starry skies must be spectacular at Haleakala Summit! Amazing on clear and even some cloudy times.
We were so glad we had a great day to see the sunset and skies from the Haleakala Summit. We watched the weather and hoped we picked the perfect time.
Wow those colors are incredible !! I would love to see that purple sky . Looks like you need to be a confident driver to go down in the dark but man does it loom worth it!
The range of colours we got from sunset through to the night sky on Haleakala Summit was indeed stunning. We just drove up and down slowly and let those that wanted to speed pass us. Well worth the drive!
What an incredible adventure! To be able to see such spectacular views is amazing. I have never seen such striking colours before and your photos are great so thanks for sharing. I’ve not made it to Maui yet but will park this post to keep Haleakala Summit in mind.
If you get to Maui a trip up to the Haleakala Summit is absolutely worth the drive.
I Haven’t been to Hawaii yet but my parents went years ago. While they were there, they rode bikes down Haleakala! It sounded like a crazy experience! Sunrise would be so much more relaxing haha.
We saw the signs for bikers when we drove to the Haleakala Summit and were sure on the lookout for the bikes. It surely would have been a wild ride down from the Haleakala Summit.
Wow it looks like another world from the top! I haven’t been to any of the island in Hawaii but your post has definitely piqued my interest.
It took us forever to finally get to Hawaii but we found so many amazing sights.
What an amazing place to end the end! The drive up there looks fun too with all the windy roads! And such clear skies. Simply wow!
The drive is always part of the fun for us. And so worth the drive to the Haleakala Summit.
These pictures are so dreamy! I have not been to Mau’i yet but I am definitely adding this to my travel bucklist because WOW. Literally so beautiful, would love to see those gorgeous purple skies.
We were really amazed at the colours we saw at the Haleakala Summit.
Wow! Those photos are stunning!! I always heard about watching the sunrise at Haleakala, but as a night person, I would prefer the sunset! I went with my family as a child and would love to take my kiddo there. Great post! Very inspiring!
I hope you and the family do get to visit. A great evening fun for sunset and the night sky.
What a crazy drive up to the top! But those views are well worth it, so amazing!
We were prepared for crazy roads after other drives in Maui. But definitely worth going up for the views.
What an amazing view. All those hairpins and switchbacks to get to the top must have been challenging.
The drive to and from the Haleakala Summit was certainly part of the adventure.
We drove the road to Hanna many years ago, but did not make it to Haleakala that time. Your photos definitely make me want to go back and see it!
We were sure glad we went up to the Haleakala Summit for sunset and night views on a perfect evening.