Best Maui Morning in 2023 starts with a Haleakala Sunrise

The Best Maui morning starts with a sunrise over Haleakala, a hike down Thompson Road, breakfast at Baked on Maui, and finishes with snorkeling at famous Ho'okipa Beach 

Aloha Maui travelers!  E Komo Mai (welcome!) to letsgoTRAVELMAUI!  

Sunrise over Haleakala is one of our top "5 MUST-DO Adventures" while visiting Maui.   There are numerous  articles written about witnessing a sunrise over Haleakala on Maui, and it's an awesome experience that you cannot understand until you stand and SEE it for yourself.  But all those articles seem to start and end at the top of the summit.  

We would like to offer you a full morning itinerary of adventures including the famous sunrise over Haleakala, along with a hike down a hidden road with spectacular panoramic views of West Maui, Lanai, and Molokai, followed by a "BAKED" breakfast in a tiny little town called Haiku, and the morning adventure ends with sunbathing sea turtles and epic snorkeling...come  along and check out the "Best Morning on Maui" starting with an epic Sunrise over Haleakala!

Stunning landscape of Haleakala volcano crater taken at Kalahaku overlook at Haleakala summit. Bird's-eye view of the crater floor and the trails snaking around the cinder cones below. Maui, Hawaii

Stop #1 : Haleakala Sunrise

Be Prepared

Here are the basics to get yourself prepared for a Haleakala Sunrise. You will need to purchase tickets from well in advance of the day you want to go as the tickets are limited for good reason.  There is a FAQ page there to answer all your questions about the process. IMPORTANT:  You need to bring with you an email confirmation and photo ID to prove that you have a Haleakala Sunrise Summit reservation. The proof of identification must match the name on the reservation (ticket) confirmation.  The park sentry is super strict about this so be sure this is correct or you will be turned around.  Tickets are $1.50/vehicle. Tickets are limited to one per customer every three days.  There is also park admission fee of $25/vehicle.               

Be sure to look at sunrise times depending on the time of year you are visiting.  Note the drive times below.  You will be getting up in the middle of the night to start your journey.   

Summit Area - Drive time to get to the 10,023-foot summit from:  

  • The park entrance station is 30 minutes
  • Kahului is 2.5 hours
  • Wailea is 3 hours
  • Lahaina is 3.5 hours          

 Temperatures at the Summit are at least 20 degrees colder than at sea level and often drop below freezing. Dress warmly or in layers. Bring water, sunblock, and wear sturdy shoes. Fill up your gas tank and bring food, as neither service is available in the park.  

Remember this is stop #1 of our 4 stop journey this morning.  You will ultimately be snorkeling at sea level in a few hours and the temperatures will be much warmer.  Just plan on removing layers as you descend  down the mountain.  You can plan on leaving your shoes on for Stops #1-3.  

Self Drive or Guided Tour

If you prefer to skip all the hassle of getting prepared, buying tickets, driving up the winding road to the summit, then we suggest going on the professionally guided tour provided by Polynesian Adventure.  Just click on the image below to book the Sunrise over Haleakala tour (link will take you to our activities page - scroll down to WALKING TOURS and BOOK!).  Polynesian Adventure will pick you up at your hotel, condo or vacation rental and take you up the mountain. They have very comfortable, state-of-the-art, minibuses that will transport you in style.  It's a great tour and it also includes breakfast. They also offer a Haleakala Sunset tour if you prefer to sleep in and head up the volcano later in the day.

Parking / Facilities

Once you check in with the park ranger at the entry you will drive about 20-30 minutes up the winding road to the parking areas. You will pass the Park HQ/Visitor center off your right side.  It is open with restrooms and to fill your water bottle if you forgot.  Remember to go slow as you will be driving in the dark and the road gets twisty and there are no street lights.  Once you get up near the summit you will see the Haleakala Visitor Center with a very large parking area.  The summit elevation here is 9,740 feet.  

LetsgoTRAVELMAUI recommends you continue up the road to the Pu'u'ula'ula Summit at 10,023 feet.  This is a much smaller parking lot but since you got there early parking should not be a problem (Hint: leave early to get to summit at least 30 minutes BEFORE actual sunrise).  Head on up the steps to the lookout building and sit on the wall and look toward the east.  If you are really lucky and the sky is clear of clouds you will be able to see the silhouette of the Big Island (Hawaii). That is a rare bonus.


Our Stop #1 is really intended to witness the sunrise over Haleakala but it's worth mentioning all the hiking and trails available if you decide to stick around and enjoy the crater.  Or if you decide to come back and focus on hiking (See map below).  Basically, you have trails from the summit that range from less than an hour to up to four days long.  Sliding Sands trail is probably the most popular among tourists.  Campsite are available  within the park too.  

We recommend the Halemau'u Trailhead a 8,000 feet (actually 7,990 feet but whose counting) that is a good challenge and offers stunning views of the crater and all of Maui.  

Stop #2:  Thompson Road Hike

Drive / Parking

Okay, now that you have witnessed probably one of the most spectacular sunrises in the world, it's time to go for a nice gentle hike.  Be sure to stick around at Haleakala summit at least 30 minutes after sunrise.  This is a magical time and the shadows are long and the lighting is unbelievable.  Be sure to walk around and look out over the Maui valley toward the West Maui mountains, Lanai, and Molokai.  It's absolutely breathtaking and complements the sunrise you just witnessed!

Drive back down the mountain on Highway 378, turn left onto Highway 377 and head toward Grandma's Coffee House (plug that into your GPS and that will get you to the Thompson Road).  You can either park across  from Grandma's or drive down Thompson road and pull over and park (be sure to keep the road clear as this is a public road).


After you get parked take a few minutes to shed some clothes and get your backpack situated for a nice gentle walk/hike down Thompson Road.  Be sure to grab your water bottle and camera or GoPro.  This used to be an old dirt road, but since a famous person (rhymes with Okra)  bought up most of the farms/ranches at the end of the road, the road magically got upgraded with new paving, utilities and rock walls.  

It's really a beautiful walk with captivating views up the mountain and panoramic views out over Maui and west to Lanai and the West Maui mountains.  You'll see why they call Maui the "Valley Isle".  You will get a sense of the scale and vastness between Haleakala and the West Maui mountains.  

If you go to the end of the road and back it's about 2 miles.  This is a hidden hike you won't necessarily find in a Maui travel book or on a travel blogpost on the internet.  This is an insider hike that we have been doing for the last 20+ years.  Take your time, enjoy the scenery, pet the ranch horses along the way, snap some selfies and breathe in the fresh mountain air!

Stop #3: Breakfast at "Baked on Maui"


By now you must be getting hungry for a nice sit down breakfast.  LetsgoTRAVELMAUI could not think of a better way to enjoy breakfast than at the one and only Baked on Maui  in Haiku-Pauwela, Maui.  See the map for directions from Grandma's to Baked on Maui.  

The bakery has an awesome assortment of freshly baked goodies, single brew coffees sourced on Maui, CBD coffees, and of course  hot baked breakfasts and omelettes.  Our local favorite is Shashuka which is like a baked egg casserole.  The menu variety will wish you had a bigger stomach.  The restaurant has both a small intimate dining area inside and a larger, covered outside sidewalk dining area in the old Libby Pinneapple Cannery.  Parking in the adjacent parking lot or across the street or anywhere that makes sense.  

This is very laid back town and time slows down here.  This old building is a piece of Maui history that has been adapted for reuse by the local residents to sell their wares including a general store, hardware store, surf shop and yes even a funeral home. This is a must stop on Maui.  You'll soon realize what it means to be on "island time" or "Maui time".   

Stop #4: Snorkeling at Ho 'okipa Beach


The big adventurous sunrise morning on Maui ends at the famous Ho'okipa Beach.  After you finish breakfast at Baked on Maui be sure to change into your swimsuit for some fun in the sun.  Ho'okipa Beach is famous for it's surfing.  Depending on the morning and the waves it will dictate whether you are able to snorkel.  If you are a surfer you will definitely be able to paddle out.  Ask the lifeguards as there is a pecking order at this beach.    Start at the east end of the beach where all the turtles come ashore to sun themselves and sleep.  Remember to keep at least 10 feet distance from our Honu friends.

Snorkeling & Surfing

If the water is fairly flat, like in the picture,  you can put on your snorkel gear and head into the water where the turtles are sleeping.  Stay close to the shoreline and snorkel out.  If it's calm and flat be bold and start snorkeling west bound, parallel to the shore, toward the opposite end of the beach.  

You might be surprised by all the variety of sea creatures bustling about around the reef. The water is fairly shallow as the reef is prominent along the beach.  As you get down to the opposite end of the beach the waves at the shoreline get much more choppy.  Be sure to come ashore where you can see and touch the sand.  It can be a bit of a challenge but try and go with the waves to bring you back into shore.

If the water turns out to be too choppy to snorkel, grab your beach chairs and  umbrella, and chill out on the sandy beach and watch the surfers.  This is  one of the best and free activities you can do on Maui!

Hot Shower and RELAX!

Best shower on MAUI!

Well Maui travelers the incredible journey is over and it's time to relax and reflect on the morning adventures. Grab your snorkel gear and head up toward the lifeguard tower to the outdoor shower.  It's a far cry from the normal County of Maui showers you see at other beaches.  This one is just a 1/2" copper pipe with a gate valve that turns on the water. Looks can be deceiving.  This is one of the best showers on Maui!  It spews a glorious stream of hot soothing water.  

It feels soooooo good after the long morning adventures!  

You can check this adventure off your "Must-Do" Maui checklist while you sit back and relax on your beach chair and watch the surfers catch some gnarly waves at Ho'okipa.  This is MAUI at it's best.

Perfect MAUI Morning

From a locals perspective, this is a unique morning adventure that we hope inspires you to get out and be adventurous on Maui. This itinerary is a bit more dynamic and outgoing and will for sure get your day off to a healthy start.  Time can be limiting for the Maui traveler so we try to give you a manageable slice of the island pie while still giving you the rest of the day to just chill or catch your breath and resume the afternoon with new adventures.  

We will be here to educate, entertain and inform you about the next adventures, excursions, and activities  here on Maui!  Go check out our blog page, subscribe below,  and get inspired to meet Maui face to face!

Mahalo nui loa (Thank you!) from your ohana at LetsgoTRAVELMAUI!

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