Yesterday afternoon we drove up Haleakala to enjoy a post New Years sunset. It sure was beautiful. And there were a lot more people than I had anticipated.
Last time we went for sunset was just over a year ago at Thanksgiving. My bad, I assumed with less people on the island, there would be fewer people at the summit of Haleakala. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of parking in the crater valley parking lot, but the top lot (with the best sunset view) was overflowing with double parked cars.
A couple of observations
- Arrive early rather than just on time. You want to make sure you get parking. While we arrived on time, the upper lot was full and we ended up having to walk to the summit. Not usually a problem, but at 10,000 ft altitude it’s a bit harder to breathe and you can develop a headache.
- It’s cold up there. Yesterday afternoon the temperature at the summit was at about 50F. It dipped after the sun set. We were prepared, dressed in our long pants, winter jackets, mittens, hats, scarfs and hiking boots. Yes, we still have these things left over from 10+ years ago when we moved to Maui. We saw a number of people in shorts and t-shirts with beach towels wrapped around them for warmth. Fail.
- Yes, per Hawaii State mandate, even here you have to wear a mask. The bonus is that it keeps your face protected from the wind!
- The crater valley, though always amazing, doesn’t have the stunning colors before sunset that you see in morning pictures. Closing in on sunset the valley just looks dark. If you want to enjoy it with all its colors, come earlier in the afternoon.
- Stay on actual paths – don’t just wander among the dirt and plants. The amazing and protected silversword plants grow here. Stepping on their fragile root system will kill them.
- Don’t just leave as soon as the sun sets. Just like at the beach, the sky turns the most amazing colors within half hour or more of the sun having set. If you wait til it’s nearly dark, you can stargaze on the drive down – now that’s spectacular! Have you ever seen the Milky Way with your naked eye? Just be sure to pull into an actual pull-out.
- While to the summit is beautifully paved, there are no guardrails once you enter the national park. Yesterday my new-driver son (just weeks away from taking his road test) chauffeured me. There is only a small ‘lip’ at the edge of the road, so pay attention!
- There really are cows on the road between the lower forest and the park gate (before you reach the national park). Watch for them. Especially at night they like to hang out on the road. The asphalt holds the heat.
- Sunset is soooo romantic. Last night we were standing next to a couple. Next thing we knew, he had a little box with an engagement ring and was proposing to his now-fiancee. It was so romantic!