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  • Writer's pictureJyothi Vummiti

Sunset at Haleakala Summit - Maui, Hawaii

Haleakala meaning "house of the sun" is a massive volcano in Maui that forms more than 75% of the island. Sunrise/sunset viewing from the summit of Haleakala, at 10,023ft above sea level, is one of the most popular things to do in Maui. 

Sunset at Haleakala National Park

On our recent trip to Maui, we chose to view the sunset. After spending all day at the beaches in Wailea-Kihei area, we started our drive towards the summit at around 3:00 pm. The drive was pretty bland until we hit highway 378. There was a dramatic change in landscape and views from that point on. The uphill drive on highway 378, all the way up to the summit was simply spectacular. The highway winds up a patchy yellow-green grassy hill surrounded by low hanging clouds (see the video). We stopped at some of the lookouts to admire the views and breath in the clouds. We rolled down our windows as we approached the stretch of eucalyptus trees. We could smell the oils from a mile away. Weather was just fine until we arrived at the visitor center at 7000ft, to use the facilities, thats when we started feeling chilly. And the landscape from that point up changed once again into rugged and volcanic.

Winding road to the summit

Rolling hills and low clouds / Leleiwi lookout trail

​Since we had some time, we did the short "Leleiwi lookout" trail few miles up from the visitor center. We were at 8800 ft and the wind was so intense that it was hard to stand still and get a picture. The amazing panoramic views of the crater of Haleakala felt like we were looking at a different planet altogether. ​We arrived at the summit an hour before sunset so we had no problem finding a parking spot. Cars kept coming until 5 mins before sunset, some were lucky but the others turned around unable to find a space.  Packing a cold weather jacket to Hawaii in summer felt funny, but we were so glad we did not ignore the warnings of thousand others. It was nearly freezing up there and wind just made it 10 times worse. We saw many people in normal clothes, beach attire and some covered in beach towels leave without witnessing the sunset. 

Leleiwi lookout / View from the summit

Silversword or Ahinahina plant

While we waited for the sun to set we noticed a rare beauty, the "Silversword" or "Ahinahina" plant. It is a highly endangered species native to Hawaii that grows only on the slopes of Haleakala. 

Beautiful sunset at Haleakala summit

Views from the summit were breathtaking. Sun beautifully painted the sky in pretty gold and red as it disappeared into the horizon. Clouds spread like a carpet above the faintly visible hills and ocean. There were only a dozen others around so we were able to enjoy the moment in peace and silence. We left 10 mins after sunset as the temperature was dropping every second and the wind was insane. We couldn't feel our fingers and nose for a long time. Some of the visitors stayed longer to witness the star studded sky, wish we had too. It was a beautiful evening nonetheless. We would love to witness the sunrise on our next trip to Hawaii.

​Gear Used: We used Fuji X-T1 with 18-55mm lens. As a secondary camera Fuji X-70.

Useful Information:

Where to Stay: We stayed in Ashton Mahana at Kanapali. Check out other options. Getting there: From the airport head east on highway 37 and 377 for 16 miles. Then take highway 378 and continue for 22 miles till you reach the summit. Hours and Cost: Open 24/7. $25 for private vehicle and is valid for 3 days.  Trail: Leleiwi lookout trail parking is on the right side of the road (on your way up). The trailhead is on the opposite side of the road. It is a short .15 mile trail, very uneven, cold and windy. What to Bring: Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, water, snacks (there won't be any food nearby), sturdy shoes, dress in layers, cold weather and/or rain jacket and a camera.



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