My wife and I decided to go up the mountain on 7/25 to see the sunset after spending the early part of our day driving the loop around west Maui. It was one of the best experiences of our trip!
Of course, the main attraction of this park is getting up early and going up to view the sunrise. While I'm sure that is every bit as spectacular, I'd also recommend going up for sunset, which we found to be breathtaking. Here are some things to consider about sunset:
1. You don't have to wake up at 0-dark-thirty. You're finished by 7:30pm and still have plenty of time to get back down and go somewhere for dinner.
2. You can judge whether or not the cloud cover makes it worth the trip (and remember, you actually WANT some clouds...too few clouds = boring sunrise/sunset, too many clouds (or too high) obscures your view. Just make sure the summit is poking through and it'll be fine).
3. It's MUCH less crowded (there were maybe two dozen people there that evening), which makes the drive up (and down) much faster.
4. It's warmer while the sun's up (low 60's)...and even when the temperature drops quickly as the sun goes down (upper 40's), it takes hours to reach the overnight lows you'll feel at 4am (mid 30's).
5. Unless you're planning a horse ride into the crater or the bike ride down the mountain, this gives you plenty of energy and daylight to do some of the moderate hikes and then cap off the visit with the main event (sunset).
Of course, it's all up to the individual (or group) visiting at the time, and I'm sure there are advantages to sunrise that we were not aware of. But I wanted to point out that sunsets are amazing up there because I hadn't read much in that regard since the popular focus is on sunrise.
Also, make a point to take the Leleiwi Overlook trail and the Pa Kaoao trail if you can. Both take 10-15 minutes (round trip) and both have great views.
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