When visiting Maui, there is one activity every visitor participates in at least once while they are there: watching the sun set over the ocean. Take a walk, sit on your lanai, or head to the beach for a spot in the sand. Everywhere you go around sunset time you will see people waiting, staring at the horizon. Some people hope to catch a glimpse of the somewhat mythical “green flash” while others are enjoying a luau. Of the seven nights we stayed on the island, we saw all but one sunset. Each was unique, some more brilliant than others, but the truth is they’re all gorgeous.
While watching sunsets is very popular, the sunrises on the island are unrivaled as well, and something not every visitor does. To appreciate the sunrise properly, you need to explore Mt. Haleakala in the wee hours of the morning. More than 11,000 feet to the top and over 27 twists and turns make this the tallest point on the island. The once-volcanic mountain is now a diverse ecosystem, loaded with trails for hiking and tons of wildlife, most of which is above the cloud line.
To make it to the top in time for the sunrise, my mother and I left our condo in Makena at 4:30am, two hours before sunrise. Even though we left early, we still missed the cutoff for the top level parking area and found that we had to climb to the top from the overflow lot. The bright red at the horizon told us exactly where the sun would rise. After finding the perfect spot to cuddle up, we waited.
Dozens of small groups gathered where we sat. A couple of people started to sing a well known Beatles song, “Here Comes the Sun” doo doo doo doo. A few others echoed the tune while we all watched the bright orb rise above the clouds. Streams of light filled the sky.
The incredible thing about this experience is the drastic change in temperature. We left Makena Surf in 70-degree weather, arrived at the top where it was just above 30, and by the time we left the sun had warmed the mountaintop to a balmy 50 degrees. I highly recommend wearing your warmest clothes and bringing a blanket to help ward off the cold and wind at the top.
This diverse range of temperatures allows many different unique species to call this place their home. Plants like silversword and animals like the Hawaiian Goose known as Nene (pronounced nay nay), are just two of the unique breeds of flora and fauna living here. You can see and learn more about both by stopping at the visiting center on your way down the mountain.
As we made our way down, we decided to stop in nearby Paia for breakfast at Moana’s Cafe, a local hotspot on the north shore that has possibly the best breakfast on the island. I had the pulled pork eggs benedict, while my Mom ate the poached egg over sirloin burger on top of a crispy potato crumpet topped with brown gravy. Yum! They were both fantastic. After all we had accomplished this morning, it was still early: only 10am. We met with our friends for a snorkel outside our condo. This was our last full day on the island and our longest day too.
Enjoy this slideshow, and don’t miss the last post in this series, Mauilicious Vacation Part 5: Side Effect, Lava Lust.