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A Maui Sunrise and Haleakala Volcano Downhill Bike Trip
Sunrise at Maui's Mt Haleakala - The House of the Sun
The sunrises from the top of the Haleakala volcano on the island of Maui are famous for their beauty . I'm a morning person by nature and have always enjoyed watching the sunrise. So when my husband and I and a small group of friends decided to take a February trip to Hawaii , I knew that visiting Haleakala National Park and watching a sunrise from the volcano summit was an experience I didn't want to miss.
Mt Haleakala on the Hawaiian island of Maui is the world's largest dormant volcano and the Hawaiian name translates into English as "House of the Sun". After witnessing one of the Haleakala sunrises myself, I doubt that any place on earth has more beautiful sunrises. The volcano sits on the Hawaiian Island of Maui in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and rises to more than 10,000 feet in elevation providing an unobstructed view of the horizon as the sun rises each morning.
Following the sunrise, many people enjoy taking the famous volcano downhill bike down from the mountain. The trip down from the volcano follows a winding road for over 20 miles from the 6500 foot level of the mountain to the bottom and on to the town of Haiku. As the road twists down around the mountain there are fabulous views of the island and ocean at every hairpin turn. In some ways, this adventure is not for the faint-hearted, but if you are looking for a fantastic experience, you might want to consider adding the Haleakala Sunrise Bike Downhill to your bucket list of things to do before you die.
On this page you will see the beauty of a sunrise at Maui's Haleakala National Park and experience what it is like to do the famous Haleakala Downhill Bike Ride.
All photos by the author, Vicki Green, unless credited otherwise
You need to be a little bit cuckoo
You have to get up at what time?
If you want to see the sunrise from Mt Haleakala, you need to get up really early, or maybe just go to bed really late. As the old saying goes, if you snooze, you lose.
Depending on where you are staying on the island and which company you rent a bike from, you will need to get up in the morning by around 2 am if you want to see the Haleakala sunrise and do the bike downhill. First you need to get to the bike company where you will be fitted with a bike, helmet and rain gear. After everyone has their gear, they load the bikes into trailers and the people up into tour bus vans and drive about an hour to get to the top of the mountain.
What would you do?
Would you get up at 2am to go see a Haleakala sunrise?
Donning our Bicycling Gear - Checking out our bike helmets
Our Mount Haleakala Adventure Begins
We drove from our condo in Kihei to the other side of the island to the bike shop in Haiku. After arriving at the shop, we were fitted with our bike helmets and rain gear. Rain gear is provided because the weather on Haleakala can change quickly and it often rains several times during the course of a day. Here is our group after getting fitted for our helmets and rain gear, waiting for the bikes to be loaded into the trailers so we can be on our way.
Bikes are Loaded into Trailers
Mt Haleakala National Park
Mt Haleakala National Park in the Dark
We didn't take any pictures as we rode in the van to Haleakala National Park because it was still too dark to see anything. We found our way in the dark from the parking lot to the sunrise viewing area by the visitor center as a small glimmer of light started to appear on the horizon.
Bundled Up for the Cold in Hawaii
What do you wear to watch a Mt Haleakala sunrise? - Hint: Pack the Long Johns
Yes, this is me on a tropical island in Hawaii bundled up like the Michelin Man waiting for the sunrise. As a small bit of color begins to show on the horizon I'm wearing long underwear, a turtle neck shirt, a down vest, a polar fleece jacket with a hood, bike pants, gloves and the rain gear provided by the bike company. My teeth were still chattering!
Although Hawaii is in the tropics, the summit of Haleakala is over 10,000 feet in elevation and in the early morning before sunrise it is cold and windy. The temperatures are often below freezing and the wind chill makes it feel even colder. If you want to see the sunrise on Haleakala, pack your long johns, down jackets and polar fleece and be prepared for all kinds of weather. Don't forget a hat and gloves!
Dress in layers to so you can take warmer clothes off as temperatures rise while you glide down the mountain to lower elevations and as the sun rises higher into the sky.
Stay warm and dry at the top of the volcano - Clothes to pack
If you want to watch the sunrise from Haleakala, don't forget to pack your warm clothes and dress in layers. I brought a down vest and was glad I did. Other than being cold for a few minutes when we first arrived at the visitor center, I was able to stay comfortable by taking off layers and stashing them in my backpack as the temperature rose.
The light and color of the Sunrise is starting to appear - Brilliant red and orange colors appear on the horizon
Here comes the Sunrise at Haleakala National Park - Above the clouds at the summit of Mt Haleakala
The sun rises above the horizon in Hawaii - The colors change with the rising sun
The Hawaiian Sunrise Chant
Hear the Hawaiian Chant to the Sunrise by Nan Cabatbat
The Haleakala Volcano National Park Visitor Center - Many gather each morning to watch the spectacular sunrises
Learn More About Haleakala National Park
- Haleakala National Park (U.S. National Park Service)
The official Haleakala National Park US National Park Service web site. Maps, hours, driving directions, fees, information on camping and cabins in the park
Views on the Maui Bike Ride
The Haleakala Bike Downhill Starting Point
The park service does not allow the tour companies to start the bike ride from inside the national park, so there is designated area just outside the gate where the bike tour operators can park and everyone can get their bike to start back down the road from the volcano. I wish we had more pictures from the downhill bike ride, but we only took a few. From the top of the volcano to sea level there are 5 different climate zones, so the weather can change suddenly. We were thankful for the rain gear, because we did pass through a brief rainstorm. Here is one photo we took shortly after getting our bikes. The numerous hairpin turns of the road are visible as well as the breathtaking views of the island and ocean beyond.
Bring a backpack or daypack on your trip to the volcano
I found this Kelty daypack very handy to have along. As we dropped in elevation and as the temperatures became warmer, it was great to be able to take off layers of clothes and stuff them in my daypack. It has lots of compartments to easily keep and find cameras, sunglasses, valuables, water bottles and snacks. It is available in several colors and I used it often during our trip.
From Haleakala to Haiku - Our route down the volcano to the Haleakala Bike Company
What is it like to bike down the volcano?
Choosing a Bike Tour Company
If you are interested in doing the Haleakala Sunrise Bike Downhill, there are several reputable companies that provide bikes and bike tours on Haleakala. We chose the Haleakala Bike Company because they offered the bike and gear rental without an escort or time constraint. They only required that we have the bikes back to the shop by closing time at 5pm. If you need assistance during your ride for a flat tire or any other type of problem, their vehicles make frequent trips up and down the mountain so you can flag one down. Or if you don't see one of their vehicles, they provide a phone number to call, so bringing along a cell phone is a good idea.
Although an escorted trip would have meant having support vehicles along for the entire trip, we preferred to be able to have the flexibility to take our time and stop whenever we wanted to enjoy the view or see other attractions. All of the escorted bike trips we looked at required everyone to keep up with the group. Everyone in our little group was on the "downhill" side of 50, so we didn't want to be rushed into going faster down the volcano than what was within everyone's comfort zone. We had no mishaps or mechanical problems and everything went smoothly so the "freestyle" trip worked well for us.
View the Haleakala Sunrise - Skip the Bike Ride!
For those who would like to see a magnificent sunrise from Haleakala, but aren't able or willing to ride down the volcano on a bike, there are also convenient tours available that will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the top of the mountain and return you to your hotel after the sunrise.
Planning a Trip to Maui?
This is the Aston Maui Hill Resort where we stayed in Maui. There are a lot of fantastic hotels and condos on the island of Maui. Since we had a group of 3 couples, it was a little more tricky to find a place that fit everyone's criteria. Instead of getting 3 separate rooms, we decided to try to find a 3 bedroom condo with a kitchen to be able to prepare some of our meals rather than eating every meal in a restaurant.
Some of the criteria that was important to the group was a King or Queen size bed in each bedroom, a separate bathroom for each couple, a view of the ocean and a large pool. We also needed to stay within everyone's budget. We found the Aston Maui Hill in Kihei fit all of our criteria and was a great place to stay.
This book is not only comprehensive, but it is written in a humorous and easy-to-read style. It has lots of full color photos and maps that really helped to find some of the more off of the beaten path places.
Planning a Trip to Maui?
I borrowed and purchased several books about Maui to help us plan our trip. "Maui Revealed" was by far my favorite. The author lives in Hawaii and anonymously tries all of the hotels, restaurants and adventures featured in the book. I found the reviews and tips very helpful when planning our vacation.
More Adventures in Hawaii
© 2010 Vicki Green