The two things I heard from friends and read online as the must do activities while in Maui were the Road to Hana (of course) and visiting Haleakala, specifically at sunrise. Now you can rent a car and drive up to Haleakala on your own, but I am a big tour gal so I jumped at the chance of having someone else drive me up. We choose the Haleakala Sunrise Tour offered by Valley Isle Tours.
Things To Know About the Haleakala Sunrise Tour:
- The Valley Isle tour is well known for being the first group on the mountain. Although it may sound insane, the tour group picked us up at 2:45am, but for good reason. We were staying at the Sheraton and it took at least 45 minutes to get to the base of the mountain plus another hour by the time we got to the top of the mountain. Most importantly, this tour group gets you the best spots at the front. By the time other tour groups, and lots of people who drove their own cars up, arrive to the mountain it can get crowded. Every member of our group was able to stand right at the railing. Most people recommend doing the tour on your first full day in Maui as there is a time change anyways, so it won’t feel quite as brutal to wake up this early on your first day.
- It’s not just “chilly” up on that mountain, it is COLD. I’m originally from Chicago, so I was preparing myself for frigid temps, but it was the blast of wind that made it a little more than uncomfortable while standing outside for two hours. I wore a pullover sweatshirt, light jacket, and heavy coat, plus jeans, a scarf, and gloves. Luckily the company provided heavy, hooded ponchos, but I wish I had hand warmers and definitely thicker socks as my fingers and toes were numb by the end of the morning. (Some dudes actually showed up in shorts! Also, I don’t think this is a kid friendly tour as too many toddlers were in tears after only ten minutes outside, and I don’t blame them).
- One of the reasons I think it was great having a tour guide, is the drive up to the top of the mountain is not the easiest. It’s not as crazy as the Road to Hana, but it is on the side of a mountain with plenty of twists and turns. Add in the fact that it was pitch black outside and that we were all exhausted that early in the morning, I was happy to let a seasoned drive take over while I got an extra hour of sleep on the bus.
- Included in the tour price they also offered a breakfast and a half. I say “a half” as the first breakfast was sad, but who really wants to eat at the time anyways. After our tour, they took us to a great second breakfast buffet at a restaurant in town.
- Another reason for getting there so early, is because once the sun has risen at 7:00am, the fun is really over. The best part is watching as the sky changes over the two hour period. For the first 30ish minutes we spent in Haleakala National Park, it was still pitch black outside and I enjoyed staring at the sky as I had never seen so many stars in my life. It was truly breathtaking. Then the light starts to appear and it takes another hour and a half for the sun to finally appear up in the sky.
- Anyone who is looking to take the drive themselves, you need to apply for a permit to enter the park beforehand. I have heard they do sell out, so I would look into it before you get to Maui. If you take a tour, the tour company itself handles everyone’s permit and you don’t have to worry about it!
- My only complaint about taking the tour, is that they add on a second section to the trip where we stop at a couple more places on the mountain. The entire tour bus was so exhausted, cold, and wind blown by that point, that we were very much over the mountain. Although the sunrise was amazing and so worth braving the elements, no one wanted to get off the bus and walk around anymore once we were done. Plus we were starving.
Love this photo when I took a quick look back at everyone watching the sunrise together.The surroundings to me looked like a planet from Star Wars.A very frozen and exhausted (but accomplished!) Chloe with a lukewarm cup of hot chocolate.