Haleakala National Park is located on the Hawaiian island of Maui. For people that have been to more than one of the Hawaiian Islands, Maui often rises to the top of the favorite list. The island is not only popular but stunning. The national park was called “Haleakala,” meaning “House of the sun,” after a myth about the semi-god Maui who imprisoned the sun there to lengthen the day. One of the main features of the park is a massive dormant volcano. Established in 1961, the park has over 33,000 acres and is divided into two main areas, the summit area, and the coastal area. This gorgeous area receives over 1.4 million visitors a year.
The Haleakala Crater
The most visited feature in the park and a favorite tourist attraction on the island is the summit of the sleeping volcano known as the Haleakala Crater. The area is huge, being over 2 miles wide at the top. Two trails lead into the crater from the top summit area. There are also three cabins available to stay in, but visitors need to make reservations to stay here. One of the top-ranked things to do in the park and on the island is a Haleakala sunrise tour. Outside vendors and concessionaires can be used for this. Most have some van or vehicle and will pick you up at your hotel early in the morning (sometimes 2 a.m.) to make it to the summit before sunrise. Once at the top, be prepared for the most amazing and glorious sunrise you have ever seen, because you are so high up, sometimes you re above the clouds that may linger in the morning. People say it was indeed a remarkable experience and it is highly recommended. If you’re not a morning person don’t worry, the sunsets are just as beautiful.
The coastal region of Kipahulu is the other area of the park that people love. To get there, you must drive 12 miles past the famous town of Hana, along with the winding and beautiful Road to Hana. This area has fantastic views of the coastline, wildlife, hiking, waterfalls such as the 400-foot Waimoku Falls and tropical vegetation. To explore this area, bring your swimsuit, sunscreen, insect repellant, drinking water, and food. The weather is hot and humid so be prepared. The Pipiwai Trail is a visitor favorite, as you wind through a bamboo forest and see some incredible sights on the island. It is a 4-mile round trip hike with scenic forest views, waterfalls, and other natural features. There are a few other trails to try here as well. Avoid swimming as the current and rocks are dangerous, but do enjoy the gorgeous island views of the ocean and coastline.
Explore the Wilderness
Many national parks have designated wilderness areas which are managed under stricter rules and regulations. Haleakala has over 29,000 acres of designated wilderness, meaning there aren’t as many accommodations and amenities and it is remote. The elevation from the floor to the rim can be a staggering 3,000 feet. That means there are variations in the climate and altitude, making for many different types of things to experience at the various levels. There are two wilderness campgrounds to stay at if you want to hike during the day and stay the night for further exploration the next day. The Holua campsite can be found over 4 miles from the Sliding Sand Trailhead. Day hikes can be taken from this point and are to the central wilderness area. The other campsite is called the Paliku, located on the east end and at the base of a rain forest cliff. Watch for clouds and fog as they tend to roll over the cliff to the areas below, and rain is widespread and frequent. The wilderness area has shocking and unpredictable weather, so be prepared if you are hiking or staying here. Temperatures have a wide range during the day and can change anywhere from 40-70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 30 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the evenings. If storms strike, 80 mph winds can occur, and the temperatures can drop below freezing!
There are no significant cities and therefore little light pollution on the lovely island of Maui and in the national park. Sky-watching is one of the best things to do at the park. The park is open 24 hours a day, but there is only staff available during the day during visitor center hours. Binoculars can be rented at one of the dive shops nearby. Both day and night sky watching is incredible here. Try one of the park overlooks, or the summit, where on bright days the visual horizon is over 100 miles of visual splendor. Star maps are available at the visitor center so you can find them in the night sky and see if you can find the moons of Jupiter on clear island nights. Don’t forget the famous sunrise and sunset from the summit of the volcano for unforgettable views and star gazing.
There are a few different types of guided activities for curious visitors. Supervised activities are offered through the park and led by park rangers, or many outside vendors do guide activities such as the sunrise tours, horseback riding, and hikes through the park. A schedule of events is available on the Haleakala website, and they also have a list of vendors and their different activities. Guided activities led by park staff are usually free, but the outside vendors will charge for their services. There are many interpretive talks held during the year at the visitor center where visitors can hear and learn about cultural demonstrations and guided walks and talks.
Volcano and Rain Forest
This park is unique because it has two unique and diverse regions in the same place. The arid and dry landscape of the now sleeping volcano will amaze you from the view at the top. The coastal area has views of the ocean splashing against rocky cliffs and where people can hike to see natural waterfalls and subtropical forests. Maui is famous for its beaches, its calmer atmosphere and of course its beauty. The Haleakala National Park contributes to these elements by protecting some of the best landmarks and beautiful regions on the island. Discover Haleakala and watch the sunrise above the clouds on a dormant volcano for a once-in-a-lifetime experience you won’t soon forget.