Seeing the summit of Haleakalā, Maui’s largest volcano, is one of the most popular things to do in Maui. The cinder landscape of this dormant volcano with its unique wildlife is an incredible sight to see. But when should you go? Many travel early in the morning to see the Haleakalā sunrise. Others wait to travel in Upcountry to the Summit area later in the day to see the sunset.
Either way, you can watch the sunrise or sunset and have time to experience our Haleakalā bike tour. On our self-guided tour you get to bike through Upcountry Maui and see it up close as you bike down all the way to sea level. On this bike tour – from the mountain to the sea – you’ll see a variety of different wildlife and picturesque countryside landscapes that stretch out to the ocean; you can stop to eat at a restaurant nestled on the slopes of Haleakalā; or you can spend a while in one of the charming small towns along the way to shop, eat, or browse one of their numerous art galleries.
It’s worth planning to see the incredible sunrise or sunset over the landscape of the Haleakalā Crater. Which is better? Both are amazing sights, but here are a few things to consider:
Most visitors to Maui are jetlagged the first few days they are here. So take advantage of automatically waking up early and see the unforgettable Haleakalā sunrise. If you’re at the Summit a little before sunrise, you can also see the amazingly clear sky filled with stars. Watching the Haleakalā sunrise, seeing the explosion of colors as the sun rises above the clouds at 10,023 feet above sea level, is truly awe-inspiring.
Of course, the main perk to waiting until the evening to venture up Haleakalā is that you can sleep in. This may be more important to some. However, if you do experience jetlag on your trip, you may want to wait until the end of your Maui vacation when you get adjusted to the time.
The sunset on the peak of Haleakalā is also a gorgeous sight. Many like to visit Haleakalā at night not only to view the picture-perfect sunset but also to afterward see the night painted with bright twinkling stars.
“Temperatures immediately before dawn and immediately after dusk are regularly below freezing,” the Haleakalā National Park Service cautions, so both sunrise and sunset will be pretty cold, and you’ll thus need to dress pretty warm.
Overall, many locals will say that the sunset experience on Haleakalā is the best! Being above the clouds when the sunsets over the mountain is unforgettable. The convenience of not getting up early maybe more appealing to some. If you have the chance while in Maui, you should see both of these amazing phenomenon.
How does the Bike Ride Fit Into All of This?
If you opt for the sunrise option, keep in mind it is very crowded and you do need to wake up around 2am to get up the volcano in time. It will be cold so dress warm & bring layers. Since our tour starts at 9am, guests that still want to experience sunrise on their own and save a bundle of money, go up on their own and then drive down immediately following sunrise. It takes about an 1 hour 30 minutes to come down and reach our shop in Paia (Leave no later than 7:30am, keep in mind everyone will be leaving at the same time after sunrise). Once you arrive in Paia, Park your car for the day and we will shuttle you up for your bike ride.
We used to offer sunrise bike tours for 18 years and concluded offering. To book a sunrise tour with any operator these days will cost you about $200-$220 per person due to changes within the National Park system! Our tour is only $70. We share with our guests the option to catch the sunrise on your own for a $25 park entrance fee per car and a $1.50 online reservation fee through the National Park website. (book ahead! or better yet – do sunset!) Save $265+ and do sunrise or sunset on your own and have a more personal experience at the summit.
Furthermore, when you do a sunrise/summit downhill option, you have to get back in the shuttle van and drive down to 6500ft’ where all bike tours are Permitted to start and that is where we begin our ride…(right outside the National Park entrance.) You don’t get to bike down from the summit! We offer the longest self-guided downhill, with the least amount of climbing. We are the only physical bike shop for the Downhill bike tour in Paia.
Riders are often groggy and sleepy while biking which isn’t safe. You will be biking down with all the sunrise traffic coming down the mountain as well as local rush hour and for some that can be a little unnerving. With our ride beginning later, there are less cars on the road which makes it safer and a more comfortable ride down. Also most of the shops & restaurants that you get to explore on our self-guided tour will be closed in the early morning during the sunrise rides which is only part of the reason we believe that the sunset tour beats the Haleakala sunrise bike tour.
For the sunset option, finish your bike ride leisurely. Enjoy Paia and the beaches after the ride…and then drive up and watch the sunset. Bring a towel, warm clothes, beverages of choice, Hawaiian picnic and watch the spectacular sunset! You can enter the park an hour early and explore the park, hike around a bit and see it more than you would at sunrise.
It’s also warmer at the crater than it will be waiting for the sun to rise. You can look up at the volcano and see if the weather is to your liking to view the sunset! Keep in mind all the sunrises and sunsets are 50/50 that you will have incredible views due to our tropical weather and clouds that come through. At least for sunset you can decide if it’s worth it but for sunrise it’s all or nothing, due to your reservation and it’s dark so you can’t totally see the weather. It will be cold once the sun begins to set so dress warm & bring layers.
(First photo by Courtney Collison via Flickr)
(Second photo by Divya Thakur via Flickr)
So what’s the best way to see Haleakala? Sunrise or Sunset? We recomment you experience the wonders of the Haleakala downhill bike tour and save yourself some money by visiting the sunset afterwards.