This slice of Maui sunrise is not a free-for-all.

By Cailey Rizzo
September 27, 2019
Photo by Reinhard Dirscherl/ullstein bild via Getty Images

It used to be a well-established maxim that the early bird got the worm. But today, apps and reviews and guidebooks have informed all the other birds about the early trick and there’s no guarantee being early will get you anything. The worm in this metaphor is a sunrise in Maui.

The Haleakala Sunrise is sometimes also known as the “top of the world” sunrise and is one of the most spectacular events to see in Hawaii. (Mark Twain once called it the “sublimest spectacle” he had ever seen.) But it’s so popular that you now need a reservation if you want to see it.

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Back in 2017, officials at Haleakala National Park in Hawaii had to implement a system to limit the number of people who were waking up early to come see the sunrise over Maui’s tallest peak. When it was at its most popular, more than 1,000 people were crowding the land and causing safety issues.

Photo by Reinhard Dirscherl/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Photo by: Sergi Reboredo/VW Pics/UIG via Getty Images

Now if you want to see the Haleakala Sunrise, you must visit the park’s website well in advance and book your place. You’ll need a car to get to the “Summit District” (as the sunrise viewing point area is called). And this is what the park is limiting, not the number of people per se.

Only 150 vehicles are allowed into the park every morning and they now must have a registration, which costs $1 per car. To enter the Summit District, visitors must present a paper print-out of their reservation and a photo ID matching the name on the reservation. Sunrise reservations are only necessary to enter the park between 3 and 7 a.m.

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This reservation fee is in addition to the park entrance fee of $20 per car, payable at the park on the day of the visit.

Reservations open up two months in advance with a limited number of last-minute tickets released again two days before the selected date.

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But remember: just because you make a reservation doesn’t mean your sunrise is guaranteed. And there are no refunds if you can’t see the sunrise. The park cannot control weather conditions and you’ll have to cross your fingers that your reserved day shows clear skies.

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