By the time we got to the summit, the moon was setting in a cold crystal clear sky and the sun was not yet visible over the clouds below us. At over 10,000 feet, Christmas Day, 2015 we were shuttled up to the top of Haleakala Volcano to see the sun rise and then bike down the steep slope filled with blind s-curves. It was an unforgettable experience!
This was our second trip to the island of Maui over the Christmas holiday week. The last and our first visit, prior to this, was in 2009. However, we did not arrive until the 27th that year. Arriving prior to the holiday forced me to look for something memorable to do on Christmas Day, being that we were away from our mid-west home with our three boys. Christmas eve was spent indulging ourselves with an early, albeit, overpriced dinner at a restaurant called “Dukes”, where we sat with the ocean in view. We relaxed at our rented condo in Kapalua for the remainder of the short evening but went to bed early – about 9:30 p.m. if I recall correctly. The early bedtime was necessitated by having to get up by 1:30 a.m. to drive to the bike shop on the other side of the island to check in and catch our van ride to the summit.
You can drive to the summit of Haleakala but since we were biking down the volcano after the sunrise, we needed to leave our rental car below, where we could retrieve it after cycling. But, here is a tip. There are hundreds of tourists who visit the Haleakala Summit for the sunrise each day. It is a National Park. You need to arrive early to be sure you are admitted (as with any National Park there is a small fee), as they only allow so many cars in due to limited parking and even more limited viewing of the dawn of a new day. So be prepared. You will wait in a line of cars.
The line was avoided for us by being in a shuttle van owned by the bike company. I am guessing they took 30 of us up to the summit in the we hours of the morning that Christmas Day. There were two vans. The ride up was quiet – as most people are not conversant at 3:30 a.m. and some actually caught a little more sleep. Upon arrival at the lookout, the van driver parked and kept the motor running. It was still dark without any signs of dawn. We watched as more and more cars snaked their way up the side of the mountain to park and experience what all hoped to be a fabulous view of the sunrise. We were lucky Christmas Day in 2015 as the sky was clear and we were confident we would have a gorgeous sunrise.
The other way to be prepared for a sunrise visit to Haleakala is to bring blankets and wear warm clothes. In Hawaii? I can hear you exclaiming! If you have planned your visit to the summit ahead of time, like us, you will be prepared if you are wise. The temperature was in the low 30’s that Christmas morning, almost the same as some Christmas morn’s back in Wisconsin! You need to pack something warm to wear on the summit! Blankets are used to wrap around oneself and a loved one to add to your comfort. Hats and gloves are useful, too! Yes, in Hawaii! We could see our breath as we stood and waited patiently for the moon to set and the sun to rise Christmas Day, 2015. I remember my teeth chattering as we were positioning ourselves for the best view.
Bare in mind hundreds of other tourists are doing the same! All I can say at this point is to remember to be respectful of others, as well as the land upon which you are standing.
There are really no words for the experience of seeing an early morning sunrise into a clear sky over the clouds, especially on Christmas Day! The summit of Haleakala is other worldly as it is, and then to see a golden orb of light turn the marshmallow like cumulus clouds from a drab gray to a pure white is a sight to behold. First, just a line of golden orange appears, signaling a soon to rise circle of light. The Dawn of a New Day. The Birth of Christ, our Savior. Tonight, I will remember this experience, and most likely every Christmas morning for the rest of my life, I will stand on Haleakala watching the sunrise, at least in my mind.