The Best Spot In Maui To Watch The Sunrise

The best place to watch the sunrise in Maui? The obvious answer is from any east-facing location on the island with an unobstructed view of the horizon. But that's way too easy. The real answer isn't that straightforward. Does best mean the most popular place to watch the sunrise on Maui? Or the most secluded place to watch the sunrise on Maui? Or maybe the most unusual place to watch the sunrise on Maui? Maybe it means the most expensive place to watch the sunrise on Maui?

Let's start with a few lesser-known viewing spots. According to Hawaii Photography Tours, Koki Beach Park is a photographer's dream come true. The sun emerges from behind the island of 'Alau, considered a sacred place by early Hawaiians. You may find yourself in the company of a few early-morning surfers. The dark-red-sand beach is a favorite among the surfing crowd, according to Road to Hana.

It seems counterintuitive, but Hawaii Photography Tours also recommends Oneloa Beach (aka Ironwoods Beach) in Makena State Park as a worthy contender for best sunrise. Located on land jutting out from the coastline between Kapalua and Napili, Oneloa Beach is surrounded by private property. According to Hawaii Guide, the public parking area is difficult to find, making Oneloa Beach a hidden gem for those in the know. And at just the right angle, the sunrise over the island can be magical.

The sun still rises on rainy days

Contrary to popular belief, an overcast — or even rainy — dawn on Maui doesn't mean your chances of catching a stunning sunrise are shot. In fact, a gray day can make for more dramatic photos. According to Hawaii Photography Tours, a stormy morning at Hana Beach can showcase the changing hues in the sky against the background of a black-sand beach. Maui Magazine says even longtime islanders may not know about the gorgeous sunrise vistas from Waihe'e Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge. Located in central Maui, the 277-acre preserve owned by Hawaiian Islands Land Trust encompasses a stretch of east-facing shoreline. To catch the sunrise, head for Kalae'ili'ili — a rocky promontory connected to Halewaiu Road by a short dirt trail.

Another unexpectedly perfect place for catching the sunrise on Maui? Secret Cove at Makena Beach. Located on the island's western coast, Makena Beach is well-known, and often packed, for its sunset vistas, but according to Hawaii Photography Tours, it's equally impressive — and way less crowded — at sunrise. Recalling a 2017 sunrise experience, a Tripadvisor reviewer who didn't have reservations to watch the sunrise "on the mountain" discovered an alternative at Secret Cove. They called it a "great little beach" that was "secluded and quiet" where "the waves were beautiful in the morning light."

The best sunset by popular demand

This brings us to "the mountain," aka Haleakala National Park. Haleakala is located in Upcountry Maui, about as far from the island's famous beaches as you can go without leaving Maui. Also known as the "House of the Sun" (via Go Hawaii), Haleakala Crater is a 10,023-foot volcanic peak that features prominently in native Hawaiian lore and tradition. According to legend, Maui, a demigod, stood on the summit of Haleakala and "lassoed the sun" to slow its journey across the sky. Whether due to its cultural legacy or its expansive vistas, Haleakala has become one of Maui's top attractions with visitors paying upwards of $200 per person for an escorted round-trip sunrise tour (via Viator).

Self-drive tours are an option, but as the aforementioned Tripadvisor reviewer experienced, gaining access can be tricky. According to Maui Magazine, the site is so popular for sunrise-focused visitors that, in 2017, the National Park Service began limiting daily sunrise access to a maximum of 150 cars. Reservations, with a per-car entrance fee, become available 60 days prior to the planned visit date. A few other advisories worthy of consideration include this caveat: "The road up and down the mountain does not have street lights or guardrails." It's a twisty-turny drive in the pre-dawn dark.

Is it really the best?

In addition to limited daily access for private cars, that twisty-turny drive is just one of the primary reasons visitors shell out big bucks for an escorted coach tour to view the sunrise from Haleakala. According to Hawaii Travel With Kids, the final leg of the journey to the summit has so many dramatic bends, nausea is a common problem. So much so, the blogger advised packing ginger ale and keeping your eyes closed during the last legs of the pre-dawn ascent, along with mentioning the coach is likely stocked with sick bags. Yeah. It's that twisty-turny.

Other advice offered by Hawaii Travel With Kids: Dress like you're entering a winter-weather zone. Clothing appropriate for a morning beach excursion at sea level will not be comfortable during pre-dawn hours at 10,023 feet. And while most tour operators include rest stops and snack breaks en route, it's a good idea to pack your own — because you really can't be over-prepared for a seven-hour tour. That's right: seven hours. While exact itineraries differ among tour operators, it's common to plan on a pick-up time as early as 2:30 a.m. to be at the Haleakala summit for the sunrise. And, upon arrival, it can be crowded, with visitors jockeying for a front-row seat to the best place in Maui to watch the sunrise.