Why I Woke up at 3AM on my Hawaiian Vacation
I don’t know about you but I love to sleep. Now especially as an adult I feel like we are in a constant struggle to catch up on some shut-eye. So while on vacation, away from the bothersome alarm clocks and early bedtimes, you would think you should relax and finally catch up on some ZZZs.
But if you find yourself in Maui, you have to commit to one day of waking up before the sun is out.
I’m talking about watching the sunrise over Haleakala.
At 10,023 feet above sea level, Haleakala is a dormant volcano and the highest peak in Maui. Haleakala, when translated from Hawaiian, means “house of the sun”. This experience truly puts you level with the great sun. The 33,265 acre park offers hiking, swimming, back country camping, commercialized tours and horseback riding. But what drives most people to visit is the epic sunrise.
We stayed one night at the Upcountry Bed and Breakfast in Kula with that one goal in mind. The owner, Mike, lives there with his dog and runs the multi-room bed and breakfast himself. We arrived after dark and settled into our room to prepare for the next day.
Mike has got the sunrise routine down pact and will explain everything you need to know the night before. He also prepares for you a bag filled with snacks, thermos for hot coffee, chairs and tons of blankets (see above!). You essentially do not need to do anything which was nice. The hardest part is just getting yourself out of bed in the morning.
TIP: The National Park Service requires a reservation for visitors in personal and rental vehicles to enter the Summit District from 3:00AM-7:00AM. The one-day $1.50 sunrise reservations holds your spot to be able to see the sunrise and can be done 60 days in advance. Do not wait until the last minute or you can pretty much kiss this experience good-bye. It books fast!
We managed to get up and make the drive in pitch darkness up to the Haleakala National Park. At 4AM the darkness was illuminated only by the headlights of all the other cars also on their way to see the sunrise. They recommend to get there at least 30 minutes before sunrise, which can be anywhere from 5:30AM-6:55AM depending on what time of the year you visit. To guarantee no one’s big head blocks your view I would say 60 minutes is better.
Now let me bring up the fact that not only are you doing this trip before the sun rises but you are also going up to 10,000 feet in elevation. IT WILL BE COLD! Make sure to pack pants, a hoodie, and/or fuzzy socks! Leave your flip-flops for the pool. Sounds odd for Hawaii but while you’re sitting there in the darkness you don’t want to be stuck on the fact that you’re freezing. Instead download the SkyView app and try to make sense of all the stars around you.
Once the sun comes up your eyes will be completely glued to the bright orange, red and yellow streaks across the sky. You won’t even remember the miserable early morning wakeup. It is truly breath-taking.
Cue the Circle of Life. I felt like I was in the Lion King. Except Mufasa doesn’t die.
Now either you can leave once the sun is fully risen and take a quick nap or you can be adventurous and go exploring. No judgment either way! Just note that there is no food sold in the park. So if you didn’t stay with someone as nice as Mike (Thanks Mike!), make sure to bring some snacks if you want to stay longer.
If you decide to stay don’t miss out on these guys! They’re known as ahinahina, or the silversword. They’re a highly endangered flowering plant native to the mountains of Hawaii. Sadly I doubt they’d flourish in practically underwater Miami or else I would’ve tried to sneak them back in my suitcase.
Hiking is not easy!
Remember that hiking uphill takes twice as long as hiking downhill. Keep that in mind before you pass out from exhaustion and/or dehydration. Ambulances can take up to 45 minutes just to get to the park. If you’re prepared you’ll have a great time. It was a great way to balance out all the poke, shaved ices and banana breads we had already had on the trip.
RARE FOOTAGE OF ME HIKING IN APPROPRIATE FOOTWEAR.
If you make it to Maui make sure to include this in your itinerary! It is so worth it. Have any of you already done this? Let me know about your experience in the comments below.