Trip ’09 Plans – A Haleakala Decision

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Trip 4 Plans

For almost the last year now, I (alone) have been gearing up to make the trek up Haleakala bright and early to see the sunrise. And as our next trip gets even closer, we have a tough decision to make…

Haleakala Sunrise vs. Haleakala Sunset/Star Gazing?

Haleakala SunriseThere was a similar question posted on Go Visit Hawaii back in October, but I didn’t pay too much attention to it at the time because I had my goals set on a sunrise. Yet, looking at a few guided sunrise tours (which as it turns out, there are only a few) that 2am-3am departure time from Ka’anapali still seems a little underwhelming. We were planning to do go up to Haleakala that first morning we were there, which is recommended because of the time difference and the jet lag coming in from Chicago, but we still aren’t that sure about it.

Seeing the limited selection, and pricing, of the guided Haleakala Sunrise tours, I started weighing the option of driving ourselves, and not knowing the road very well. As a comparison, we’ve taken two guided tours on the Road to Hana on our past trips, and it’s only now do I think I’m ready to brave the drive myself.

Then I started rationalizing against the sunrise on Haleakala this trip because we’re planning to spend a night in Hana, and could see a spectacular sunrise off the East Maui coast. Added to that, I began comtemplating a replacement for the Haleakala sunrise by doing a star gazing tour with Star Gazers Maui. That would include both the sunset and star gazing on top of Haleakala, and includes dinner, down jackets, and hot chocolate to keep us warm. There is no transporation provided, however, so we’d still have to drive to and from the summit ourselves.

There wasn’t a lot of information on the Star Gazers’ website, so I emailed them a few questions yesterday and am waiting to hear back. I did find a few reviews on Trip Advisor that seemed very encouraging. Cindy’s aunt and uncle also did this tour a few years ago and had nothing but good things to say about it.

A Tough Decision

While this is turning out to be a tough decision to make, I guess by most standards, this is a relatively nice problem to have. At this point, I’m starting to lean towards the side of caution and just saying we’ll do both. Driving up to do the sunrise ourselves would still mean leaving too early and not knowing where we’re going, but doing a trial run down from the summit in daylight will certainly help for when we’d have to do it in the dark for the Star Gazers.

There’s a lot of information on the Haleakala sunrise in guidebooks and in the blogosphere, but not too much about stargazing up there. I know you can see the stars from Haleakala before sunrise, too, but I think a night tour would give me more time to add to my Maui Stars collection. We’ll probably make up our minds sometime next week depending on what we hear back from the folks at Star Gazers Maui. In the meantime, if anyone has any suggestions, experiences, or other guidance that you’d like to share about either of these options (or doing both), we welcome your input.


About Kris

Kris and his wife Cindy are avid Maui fans, and have visited the island half a dozen times since '06. Over the years, they have made many friends living on Maui or through social media, which keeps them in touch with the island until they can return again.

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7 Responses to “Trip ’09 Plans – A Haleakala Decision”

  1. robertkudla Says:

    Hey Kris, there is only one way to the Volcano, you will have no problem. Also, check to see if the astronomy clubs are set up while you are there. It is then free to look through their telscopes. We never paid anyone to let us look at the stars,i it will blow you away, especially a camera buff such as yourself. Anytime after the 16th of February should work for you. But if you are there on the 9th of February, it is a full moon and going around the upcountry road past the winery towards Kaupo should reveal a beautiful moonrise.

  2. robertkudla Says:

    Kris, there is only one road to the volcano, you will have no problem. Also, check to see if the astonomy clubs are on the mountain while you are there, we never paid anyone to look at the stars. If you go stargazing, go after the 16th of February for best viewing and if you are there on the 9th of February take the upcountry road past the Winery towards Kaupo. The moonrise will be spectacular.

  3. Kris Nelson Says:

    Thanks, I’m still meaning to check out what clubs are out there and when they’ll be up at the summit. In regards to the road up the volcano, my concern is getting a feel for how the curves and hairpins are, the changes in the elevation, and going through the clouds in the dark.

    When we picked the dates for our trip, I specifically looked for when there was a new moon (Feb 24th) so that I could get better photographs of the night sky. Didn’t even think about the type of views that a full moonrise would offer. Good to know.

  4. robertkudla Says:

    Don’t sweat the curves. Chicago driving has prepared you well. :-)

  5. Liza's Eyeview Says:

    I wish I can help you by giving a specific reply based on experience. Unfortunately, I had only seen the Haleakala Sunrise once (it’s spectacular but we had to leave Kihei at 2AM so we won’t miss the sunrise). I have not experienced the Star Gazing yet although it is on my list of “to do with out kids one of these days – maybe on summer vacation”. I think it would be fascinating.

    I will ask my husband’s input and will post his comment later.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Aloha and Hau’oli Makahiki Hou from Maui,

    Have done both sunrise and star gazing from Haleakala and you’ll have no problem with the drive. However, there is no way to know in advance if it will be a good sunrise/sunset. You just have to go up and find out. Sometimes it can be beautiful and other times if there aren’t enough clouds (sunrise) or are too many clouds (sunset/stargazing), the trip is a bust. I’m lucky in that the park is only about 45 minutes from my house, so it’s not such a big deal, but driving all the way from Ka’anapali at the crack of dawn and having it not be good might be a disappointment.

    If you do go for either, take EVERY piece of warm clothing you have. Was up on the summit a week ago and it was 39 degrees.

    Malama pono

  7. Kris Nelson Says:

    Mahalo for the tips. If I lived 45 minutes from Haleakala, I would probably be up there 3-5 times a week. :)

    I've been seeing the "no guarantees" about the weather here and there, and have been keeping that in the back of my mind (way back). We've been pretty lucky over the years with different parts of our trips, so we're keeping our fingers crossed.

    As for the temps, I shot the lunar eclipse last February here in Chicago, and the with the wind it was -4° F!!! I'll be packing my gloves for sure, but those down jackets from Star Gazers Maui sure sound hard to pass up.

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