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A Maui Sunrise and Haleakala Volcano Downhill Bike Trip

Updated on February 12, 2016
View from the Haleakala Volcano - Maui, Hawaii
View from the Haleakala Volcano - Maui, Hawaii

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?

See results

Donning our Bicycling Gear - Checking out our bike helmets

Bike Shop in Haiku, Maui, HI
Bike Shop in Haiku, Maui, HI

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

Haleakala Bike Company Trailer, Maui
Haleakala Bike Company Trailer, Maui

Mt Haleakala National Park

Before Dawn at Haleakala National Park
Before Dawn at 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

Haleakala Sunrise
Haleakala Sunrise | Source

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

Sunrise at Haleakala Volcano
Sunrise at Haleakala Volcano

Here comes the Sunrise at Haleakala National Park - Above the clouds at the summit of Mt Haleakala

Mt Haleakala Volcano Sunrise
Mt Haleakala Volcano Sunrise

The sun rises above the horizon in Hawaii - The colors change with the rising sun

Haleakala Sunrise
Haleakala Sunrise

The Hawaiian Sunrise Chant

Nan Cabatbat, Haleakala National Park Cultural Educator
Nan Cabatbat, Haleakala National Park Cultural Educator

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

Haleakala National Park Visitor Center
Haleakala National Park Visitor Center

Views on the Maui Bike Ride

Haleakala Dowhill Bike Ride
Haleakala Dowhill 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

show route and directions
A markerHaleakala National Park Visitor Center -
Haleakalā National Park Visitor Center, Haleakalā National Park, State Highway 378, Kula, HI 96790,
get directions

Haleakala National Park Visitor Center

B marker810 Haiku Road,Haiku, HI -
810 Haiku Road, Haiku, HI 96708, USA
get directions

Haleakala Bike Shop

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.

Haleakala Sunrise Tour
Haleakala Sunrise Tour

View the Haleakala Sunrise - Skip the Bike Ride!

Convenient Pick-up to See the Haleakala Sunrise Only

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.

Aston Maui Hill Condo Resort
Aston Maui Hill Condo Resort

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.

Maui Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook
Maui Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook

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

My Hubpage, Planning a Trip to Maui has more details about other adventures in Maui and if your travel plans include Honolulu, be sure to include a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

© 2010 Vicki Green

Have you done the Haleakala Sunrise Bike Downhill? - Please feel free to share your experience and comments.

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    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 3 years ago

      Great images of the sky.

    • Carashops profile image

      Cara 4 years ago

      Stunning photographs. Lovely!

    • profile image

      mouse1996 lm 5 years ago

      Such a beautiful sunrise. I hope I get to see it in my lifetime.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 5 years ago

      Returned with a blessing for this wonderful lens. It is now featured on Blessed by Skiesgreen 2012. Hugs

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 5 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      @jimmyworldstar: The summit of Haleakala is just over 10,000 feet and we were above the clouds.

    • profile image

      seosmm 5 years ago

      Look like a lot of fun. Very nice lens!

    • Sara Krentz profile image

      Sara Krentz 5 years ago from USA

      Beautiful - looks like a great time! Hawaii is on my bucket list.

    • RomanaSwan profile image

      RomanaSwan 5 years ago

      Looks like an awesome place to visit!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      You didn't just write about this topic, you actually did it! That deserves something extra ... *blessed* ...

    • profile image

      jimmyworldstar 5 years ago

      How high up is that mountain? It looks like you're above the clouds themselves!

    • MelonyVaughan profile image

      MelonyVaughan 5 years ago


    • profile image

      FinancialTips4U 5 years ago

      What a lovely experience! Thank you for sharing your insight and photos :)

    • profile image

      FinancialTips4U 5 years ago

      What a lovely experience! Thank you for sharing your insight and photos :)

    • profile image

      TravelingRae 5 years ago

      Oh, wow. Totally adding this to my bucket lens! Thank you for such a lovely lens. :::blessed:::

    • Shorebirdie profile image

      Shorebirdie 5 years ago from San Diego, CA

      Sounds like a lot of fun! I think I'll put this on my bucket list.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 5 years ago from USA

      This was really something. It seems funny that you would be all bundled up in Hawaii. So glad you took the pictures to share this with us.

    • profile image

      kendrafowler 5 years ago

      This is an amazing experience indeed!! Great pics !!

    • gypsykitschpres profile image

      gypsykitschpres 5 years ago

      Stunning photos. Thanks for sharing. Maui is the one vacation I didn't want to go home...ever.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      very nice lens

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Looks like a lot of fun! Now I know what to do if I ever get to Hawaii!

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 5 years ago

      Nice lens.

    • MarilynImanse profile image

      MarilynImanse 5 years ago

      Beautiful sunrise photos. The sunrises remind me of doing watch on overnight passages on my sailboat and seeing the sun rise over the horizon. Spectacular pretty much sums it up. Maui is a wonderful place.

    • PaulWinter profile image

      PaulWinter 5 years ago

      I've never been there, but it looks beautiful

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Very enjoyable, and thanks for the wonderful pictures.

    • livinglargeandh profile image

      livinglargeandh 5 years ago

      Enjoyed your content and also your Squidoo techniques.Very nice and looks like fun.

    • CherylK profile image

      Cheryl Kohan 5 years ago from Minnesota

      No, I haven't although I did live in Hawaii years ago. Thanks for sharing this experience. If I ever go back, I'll be sure to visit Haleakala during the sunrise.

    • goo2eyes lm profile image

      goo2eyes lm 5 years ago

      i saw the sunrise from above during a flight from dubai to kuala lumpur. i think that i will include this photo in one of my lenses. squidangel blessed.

    • sherridan profile image

      sherridan 5 years ago

      Fab lens. We enjoyed spectacular sunsets at key West, but I have never done the sunrise observation. Looks fun.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      This looks like an adventuresome trip on a bike! Lovely photos. Thanks!

    • profile image

      ohcaroline 5 years ago

      Vicki....this has been on my bucket list for many, many years. I heard about it when I was in Maui and said I would do it when I came back. Still waiting to get back there. Thanks for sharing this awesome experience. You lucky rascal!!!

    • Gayle Dowell profile image

      Gayle Dowell 5 years ago from Kansas

      Wow! What a fun looking activity! Bikes and sunrises, two of my favorite things.

    • profile image

      fullofshoes 5 years ago

      This looks like so much fun. And your photos are wonderful!

    • writerkath profile image

      writerkath 5 years ago

      FABULOUS Adventure! I'd want to be darned sure that the bikes have the best brakes...:)

    • donaldwilson profile image

      Don Wilson 6 years ago from Yakima, WA

      I haven't been to Maui, but have spent some time on the Big Island. I can vouch for the "Revealed" series of books. "The Big Island Revealed" was our tour bible and was so, so useful during our trip. I won't go back to any of the islands without buying the revealed book for that island. Thumbs up for that recommendation.

    • Srena44 profile image

      Srena44 6 years ago


    • CastleRoyLisa profile image

      Lisa 6 years ago from Rhode Island


    • Krafick profile image

      Krafick 6 years ago

      I've done a lot of biking in other countries. It's a fantastic way to see places. Rafick

    • Krafick profile image

      Krafick 6 years ago

      I've done a lot of biking in other countries. It's a fantastic way to see places. Rafick

    • squid-janices7 profile image

      squid-janices7 6 years ago

      Looks and sounds like SO much fun. When we drove up to Haleakala, it was socked in by clouds/fog so we didn't get to see the sunrise which was a huge bummer. We did see several groups of bicycles heading down the mountain and it looked like great fun. Can't wait to go back to Maui.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      This sounds so exciting, Hawaii being the most beautiful place on earth. Biking is the best way to savour the scenic beauty of these stunning mountains.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 6 years ago from UK

      Beautiful! I love this kind of travel photo essay, and feel lucky that you shared such a wonderful experience with us. Sadly your videos seem to have vanished (might be a temporary glitch) but this page is so interesting and well-presented that I was delighted to leave an angel blessing.

    • profile image

      boutiqueshops 6 years ago

      Absolutely beautiful photographs! Thanks for sharing this!

    • pixelposy profile image

      pixelposy 6 years ago

      Gorgeous sunrise! Definitely a must do if ever in Hawaii.

    • tiff0315 profile image

      tiff0315 6 years ago

      Okay, you convinced me. That's now on my to-do list. Great pics! Great lens!

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 6 years ago from East Central Florida

      Oh, this sounds just wonderful. Lensrolling to my cocoCay lens.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 6 years ago from Colorado

      Sign me up! I am definitely ready for my first Hawaii sunrise. :-) It's on my life list.

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 6 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      How beautiful! Thanks for sharing your trip!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      This is on my bucket list of things I need to do before I die... preferably I will do it while I can still ride a bike too.... so, I guess I should start planning my trip huh?;)