Travel Date: Wednesday, Nov 25 2015

The alarm goes off. It is time to get up and drive to Haleakala National Park to see the epic Haleakala Sunrise that everyone recomments. 
The entrance to park is only 27.2 miles away but it takes about 1 to 1 hr 15 mins to get to the summit. And additionally if you want to get a car parking spot you want to get there atleast one hour earlier. We left around 4 AM.

Definitely beats the ugly car.

It is very very dark. Barely any street lights.

We arrive at the entrance on the park.

We skip the Visitor Center entrance and don’t have to pay anything. I have National Parks Pass anyway.

We initially stopped at the lower parking/summit area near the Keonehe’ehe’e (Sliding Sands) Trailhead but we decided to check the higher summit instead. If you get the opportunity, watch it here anywhere from the Pa Ka’oao Trail.

However we drove to the upper parking/summit area: Haleakala Summit Parking/Observation Building near Magnetic Peak. Also a good place to watch the sunrise, but I think the lower parking/summit area is better view for the sunrise.

The temperature is 44 F.

The moon is out in full force and giving us a little bit of light.

Eventually after an hour of waiting around, the sun begins to color the skyline and clouds.

The Haleakala Observatory nearby.

The Observation Building

As the sun rises and I’m walking around, I recognize some familiar faces from our first day on Big Island: Zhengdong and his girlfriend Mengjia whom we met on our trip to the Green Sands Beach.

I find Justin, and we share a tourist reunion as a group. Kind of crazy running into

Zhengdong, and Mengjia are taking lots of good pictures from the mountain top.

Time to leave and go check out the lower summit parking lot.

Lots of clouds mixed in with the sunrise.

After enjoying the sunrise, we decided to check out the Keonehe’ehe’e (Sliding Sands) Trail. One of the National Park Rangers recommended that we walk on the trail for a little bit just to check it out.

Walking to the trailhead.

There is a small rainbow visible in the clouds. I don’t know if you can see it in the image below.

It is hard to see the Missing Summit with the clouds in the way.


We begin walking on the Shifting Sands.

I can see and feel why they call it the Shifting Sands trail.

I turn around and take a look back at the trail behind.

Lots of clouds around.

These trails are not elegant but there is something simplistic and meditative about them.

Shadows in the Sun (Justin and I with a walking stick).

Clearer views of the the cones.

We stop and take a look around. There is a lot of fog approaching us.

It almost looks like moon rock.

The fog (or clouds) surround us and makes visibility a little difficult to see or take pictures in.

We decide to turn around and walk back.

It begins to get really foggy all around us and visibility is extremely poor.

We finally get back to the car and hit the road.

The views from the top of the mountain as we descend down are amazing.

We made it back down to the entrance… with the brakes still functioning.

After driving down the mountain we decide to take the Road to Hana via Route 31 and 360 located south of the island. More about that adventure can be found here in this blog post.

Part 2:
Along the way we connected with another part of the Haleakala National Park which could only be accessed through the roads south of the island.

Standard check-in. I’m grateful for my National Parks Pass.

It is slightly raining, and when it rains there is no swimming in any of the Pools at Ohe’o.

I’ve got my rain gear ready.

Justin and I initially planned to visit the Waimoku Falls via the Pipiwai Trail, but decided against it due to the rain. So we took the Kuloa Point Trail to visit the Lower Pool’s of Ohe’o.

As we are walking on the trail, we see a Pineapple Tree.

Yes, it is a tree with pineapples.

We arrive the Pools at Ohe’o. When it rains you are not allowed to swim in the pools. The National Park Service people indicated that

We continue walking on the trail.

And make it back to the trail head. I really wish it wasn’t raining so that we could go and hike up to the Waimoku Falls.

We head back to the parking lot, jump back in the car, and continue on to Hana.


Waking up in the morning at 3:13 am was tough, but necessary. The first location where we watched sunrise of Haleakala was a little disappointing. Perhaps the clouds had something to do with it – or that I have seen many amazing sunrises all across the country and world and my expectations were too high. The second lower location for the sunrise was amazing, especially after the sun came up. You MUST MUST MUST stick around for 20-30 minutes after the sunrise. Don’t be like everyone else and run away at the break of daylight. Wait for the sun to rise up above the clouds.

I really enjoyed walking on the Shifting Sand trails but the walk back is a challenge since you are walking back uphill. Don’t underestimate it. I even learned some valuable lessons while driving down the mountain. – thank you Justin.

The Pool’s at Ohe’o were cool, and I would have loved to take a dip – maybe a skinny dip – if it were not raining. C’est la vie!

With all that said, my favorite moment of the Haleakala National Park was seeing the pineapple tree. You can chalk it up to the simple life pleasures that make me SMILE. 🙂

Expenses: $0.00
No expenses since the American the Beautiful National Parks Pass got us in the Haleakala National Park for free.