Haleakala is an amazing mountain; it’s actually a shield volcano having recently (in geological time) risen from the sea (its last eruption was in the late 1700’s). It is considered a dormant volcano rather than active or extinct and its crater, at 10,000 ft above sea level is a spectacle to behold. Once you arrive at the crater rim you will be looking down 3000′ to the crater floor peppered with cinder cones and a sweeping lunar landscape. The crater is 21 miles in circumference and the analogy is often made that you could fit the entire island of Manhattan inside it.
The crater is an incredible site to see at any time of day, but sunrise has its special appeal. Though it is always cold at the top (usually about 30 degrees colder than at sea level) and usually ‘still’, it can also be quite windy or rainy, however the best weather conditions for the day are usually at this time. The best thing to do is to get there well before sunrise when the sky is still black and the stars are still out so you can see why the observatories surrounding you are there in the first place. Then you’ll be treated to the gradual changing of the sky to its purples and violets and subtle variations of in between colors. The explosion of colors that will fill the crater with every imaginable color of the rainbow will come later and in most cases will provide you with the fireworks spectacle you were expecting.
Each and every sunrise is as different as a fingerprint and there are no guarantees as to what may happen. Sometimes the disappointment can be palpable as you arrive at the top to see nothing but mist and clouds with no view at all. Though the temperature is usually way above freezing it can reach that low at times and even much lower and yes, it can even snow up there. But for the most part, the sunrise at Haleakala Crater will not disappoint.
Your only disappointment might be that you chose not to go up and see it!