Watching the sun rise over the mantel of clouds from Mt. Haleakala is perhaps Maui’s most beautiful sight.

HOLY COW, IT’S COLD. They said it would be, but when you are sauntering about Maui in your flip flops and the coldest thing you can imagine is the frosty beer in your hand, you tend to take warnings to bundle up with a grain of salt. I make the drive to Mt. Haleakala in the pre-dawn dark, up precipitous switchbacks to 10,000 feet, and recoil when I open the door to the frigid mountain air. Small groups of people are already at the rail. Some women are wrapped in blankets, one guy has socks on his hands. It is black save for a smudge of grey along the rim of the horizon, but even in this dark the dim edges of mountains and coastlines can be traced.
This is a view of Hawaii I never expected to see.

This isn’t just some tourist gimmick — as much as it is talked about and touted, this is the real deal. Ancient Hawaiian astronomers would ascend this mountain to map the stars and bring apprentices to study and no doubt shiver their asses off.

You remember that people naturally speak in whispers just before sunrise. All you hear is the click click of cameras and the not quite audible movement of copper gilded clouds into deep shadow. The sky is blooming now. It seems like it is taking forever and moving too quickly all at the same time.

Josh was a guest of the Maui Visitors Bureau during his visit to Maui.

All photos by Joshywashington and Bridget O’Neill.

1

A crowd gathers

Just before 6am, the summit lookout points on Haleakala are filled with bundled up visitors who snap photos and huddle against the cold railing. Before us is a steep, mean looking drop into the crater.

2

Predawn light

The light of the sun wraps itself around Maui like an orange blanket.

3

Dawn

The sunrise at Haleakala is a very popular scene for Maui visitors, and for good reason. This is one of the best spots on earth for astronomical observation and is home to a large array of uber powerful telescopes.

4

Light

Within moments the light was creeping into the world, filling cracks, heating the air, and bringing clarity to what was just wrapped in mystery.

5

Bridget

The daybreak etches my wife in red and gold.

6

Photographer's paradise

Let's just say I wasn't the only one with a camera...

7

Painting the world

Suddenly there was color. Shades of red filled the crater where only shadow had been. The volcano is revealed to be a dusty, Martian-like environment.

8

Strong light

The light grows strong quickly. Soon it will be warm, soon sunblock should be applied and waterbottles filled...

9

Josh

One minute you are shvering in the dark, the next you are beaming in the sun.

10

Sunlit clouds

As the air warms, clouds quickly fill the crater. Tendrils of mist wrap themselves around the lava cones and sunlight rides the backs of the clouds.

11

Day has arrived

When is day? I think day is when all the pinks and oranges and reds melt into one hue. The layers of color melt into a clean white before settling on their customary blue.

12

Haleakala, 6:55am

Thank you for watching the sunrise with me. For countless eons people have stood together to witness this great event, and the effect has never dulled in all the lifetimes lived, in the all the suns that have risen an set. There is still magic in these moments, and I am under its spell.

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