Maui, Hawaii - Normally you'd think of beaches, waterfalls, snorkelling, and sun. I had similar images in my mind prior to researching adventures on the Emerald Isle. With a bit of research a much more unique adventure stood out to me, catching a sunrise from the summit of Haleakala.
Haleakala is a 10,023 foot dormant volcano that makes up roughly 75% of the island of Maui. Haleakala is believed to have last erupted in the 17th century but the signs of volcanic activity can still be seen in this amazingly beautiful and stark environment. Few places on earth allow you to stand on the summit of a volcano, watch the clouds beneath you, and see the sun illuminate fields in a Mars-like illusion.
Here are some tips to help you on your way:
1. Get there early
Our first attempt failed because we got to the park too late. Lines begin to form on the entry road up to 2 hours before sunrise. This number is reduced in the off season but do not underestimate the time it will take to get there. Parking lots will fill, too. If you’re like me and enjoy taking pictures get there early to grab some night shots...it's a great excuse and ensured success.
2. Decide where you'll watch from before you arrive
Because of environmental sensitivity, people are expected to stay on marked paths and pullouts. The three places you can park, walk, and shoot from are the true summit, the Haleakala visitor center, and the Kalahaku overlook. My favorite spot was the little hill that rises from visitor center but each are unique vantage points.
3. Be prepared for cold, wet conditions.
10,023 gets chilly, especially standing outside waiting for the sunrise. There was frost on the ground, and as mentioned before, clouds are below you. Sometimes these clouds come up to greet you creating a very wet and windy morning. The clouds obscured the sunrise on my second and third attempts so be prepared for cold and wet conditions!
4. Look around
When the conditions cooperate you can look across the channel with the big Island and see Mauna Kea, the largest and (from the base) tallest Mountain in the world. Also, if you have binoculars or a telephoto lens, looking into the clouds below you as the sun starts to rise reveals and amazing looking scene. Looking behind you can often result in beautiful rainbows and the earth's shadow. There is A LOT to see up there!
If you watch the forecast, get there early, get to your spot, are prepared for cold weather, and look at the beauty all around you will be able to witness one of those most amazing experiences in the world. Make sure you let that sink in and keep the smile on your face!
Written by Eric Schuette
You can see more of Eric's adventures on Instagram: @ericschuettephotography