As long as there have been top 10 to-do lists about Maui, viewing the sunrise from Haleakala, the highest point of the island perched above a crater, has been on them. It also seems as though the early morning traffic problems at the national park have existed for just as long.
In an attempt to deal with overcrowding and long lines at Haleakala National Park, the National Park Service recently announced that for the first time it will require reservations to enter the park for sunrise viewing. Starting Feb. 1, visitors entering the park between 3 a.m and 7 a.m. who want to access the mountain summit will have to reserve entry ahead of time online and pay $1.50 per vehicle.
Issues with traffic, and the National Park Service's attempts to smooth out the parking and entrance system, have been ongoing for at least a decade. During the busiest times, the park gets twice as many vehicles as the sunrise viewing areas can hold, according to Polly Angelakis, chief of interpretation and education at the park. The park frequently gets in excess of 1,000 visitors for sunrise, and overcrowding has led to habitat damage as turned-away vehicles park off road and crowded hikers push into off-limits areas.
The reservation system is considered a "pilot" program, according to Angelakis, designed to protect employee and visitor safety, natural and cultural resources, and provide a pleasant visitor experience at sunrise.
In 2017 the park will begin developing a long-term Sunrise Summit Visitor Management Plan, and it is seeking public input. Several options, including shuttles buses like those used in the valley of Yosemite National Park, are being considered.
In addition to being the highest point on the island, Haleakala has ties to native Hawaiian legend. It is on the summit of Haleakala, which means "house of the sun" in Hawaiian, where the Polynesian demigod Maui lassoed the sun and forced it to slow its journey across the sky.
The reservations will be sold at recreation.gov, and will be available 60 days in advance. The reservations are nonrefundable, even if poor weather obscures viewing.
Entrance to Haleakala National Park, which must be purchased separately from the sunrise reservation, costs $20 per vehicle, and the pass is good for three days.