Haleakala Crater

One of the best places in the U.S. to watch the sunrise is this impressive centerpiece of Haleakalā National Park, marking the birthplace of the island of Maui.

The Haleakalā Crater is home to the “House of the Sun,” or the East Maui Volcano. Come here to watch the sunrise; it’s one of the best in the country and you can easily imagine that you are on another planet. The Haleakalā National Park is a refreshing change of scenery from Maui’s crowded beaches and is not to be missed.Geologically, the Haleakalā Crater is one of Maui’s most fascinating spots. Over millions of years, the now dormant Haleakalā volcano slowly spilled lava from its vents. This lava overlapped with that of another shield volcano in the west. Eventually, the lava cooled, and Maui was formed. A large portion of the volcano is surrounded by the Haleakalā National Park, which encompasses 33,265 acres (135 square kilometers) of eastern and central Maui.To see the Haleakalā Crater, head to the Summit Area. This is an expansive section of the park defined by robust red colors and an impressively sculpted landscape. Visitors often comment that it’s how they imagine Mars to be, and it certainly looks as if you are on another planet. The crater itself is 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) long and 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) wide. Haleakalā (House of the Sun) is home to the island’s highest peak: Puʻu ʻUlaʻula (Red Hill) stands at 10,023 feet (3,055 meters) and its trails can get you above the clouds. Watching the sunrise from here is epic, so see if you can get there as dawn breaks. The best way is to set up camp in Haleakalā National Park. On your way back down, take in the diverse landscapes of forest and wildflowers. Geese, insects and rare birds are common sights.Haleakalā National Park is open year-round. There are 35 miles (56 kilometers) of roads and trails around Haleakalā Crater. It’s best to get there by car and then hike. Note that any route to the top involves a very steep gradient, so prepare accordingly and bring a jacket. You pay a small fee to reach the summit.