You can tour this area by air, foot, car, horse, and bicycle—all are great and offer fantastic scenery. But watching the sun rise as a new day dawns is free and by far the most spectacular sight in all of Maui, ranking up there with the best sights in the entire state.
The best place to watch the sun rise is at the Puu Ulaula observatory, a glass-enclosed structure at the very top of the mountain. If you’re deterred by the thought of dragging the kids out of a warm bed at 4:00 in the morning and driving up 10,023 feet to below-freezing temperatures, don’t be. Although you’ll need warm clothes, the experience is guaranteed to be unforgettable. Besides, you can let the kids sleep in the car on the way up and sightsee on the way down after the sun has risen.
You’ll no doubt see a few dozen cars parked and waiting, the people huddled together inside for warmth. As the sun emerges, so do the people, and the chorus of “oohs” and “aahs” begins.
You’re above the cloud cover here, so you get to watch the sun eke its way through the puffy clouds. Streaks of light flash across the sky, as the sun cooks the cloud color to a rosy, blush pink, then a burnt orange, and then a fiery red as it rises. Soon, it begins to reflect off the natural formations surrounding the crater, and the whole landscape adopts this pinkishorangish- reddish hue. It’s breathtakingly beautiful.
Pretty soon, the sun is officially up, and the weather warms significantly. Sunscreen is important and should definitely be applied liberally. Even if you’re not hot, at this high altitude you’re closer to the sun. Beware of blistering lips and noses! Additionally, the oxygen level drops a bit up here, and precautions are advised for anyone prone to respiratory or cardiovascular problems.
From Kahului the ride up to the visitor center will take about one and a half hours, excluding any stops for gas or food. If you’re staying in Kaanapali or Wailea, tack on an additional forty minutes.
Because you’d hate to wake up that early and miss the sunrise, plan on being there a half hour before. You can look in the daily newspaper for specific times or listen to the recording provided by the National Weather Service at 877–5111.
Licensed from GPP’s Fun with the Family – Hawaii 2007 edition. Authored by: Julie Applebaum-DeMello.
updated: February 24 2009 by GPP_HI