Dominating east Maui with its summit at 10,023 feet is the majestic volcanic crater known as Haleakalā (House of the Sun). One of only two national parks in Hawaii, Haleakalā is home to endangered bird species, rare native plants and out-of-this-world landscapes. There are also many cultural and historic sites within its boundaries from the moon-like summit to the rainforest of Kipahulu accessible only from the road to Hana/Highway 360.
For those who seek a path less traveled, drive up to the summit in the late afternoon and stay for sunset. The above-clouds view toward the west is awe-inspiring. At night, a telescope offers unique perspective: the stars and heavenly bodies are so dense at this high elevation that you’ll see movement in the sky.
In the summit area, explore over 30 miles of hiking trails that range from just 10 minutes to multi-day overnight trips. Stop by the visitor center and ask about the weekly Waikamoi Cloud Forest Hike that begins at Hosmer Grove just inside the park entrance. Call ahead to make reservations.
If you’d like to volunteer while on vacation, visit the Friends of Haleakalā National Park’s website, fhnp.org, and find a schedule of service trips that will require backpacking into the crater, and possibly an overnight stay.
From June to July, be on the lookout for the rare and endangered Haleakalā silversword. These endemic plants can only be found in the park, growing on volcanic cinder, a dry and rocky substrate subject to freezing temps and high winds. The skin and hairs of the silversword protect it from its harsh environment.
Hawaii’s state bird, the nene, or Hawaiian goose, also calls Haleakalā home. The breeding season for this endangered native bird is October to March. Follow speed limits within the park so as to avoid any accidents with this protected species. Park Headquarters Visitor Center, 8 a.m.-3:45 p.m., 808-572-4459; Haleakalā Visitor Center, sunrise-3 p.m.
Kipahulu District (coastal):
The coastal section of Haleakalā National Park, referred to as the Kipahulu district, can only be accessed via the famous Hana Highway, and is located 12 miles past the town of Hana. The drive itself is worthy of exploration with its waterfalls, ocean vistas and so much more. Don’t rush the journey—you’ll find many stops to enjoy picture-perfect moments.
There are several hikes available from the Kipahulu Visitors Center. The Pipiwai Trail is a moderately strenuous, four-mile (roundtrip) hike that will take you to the spectacular 400-ft. Waimoku Falls. Also view Oheo Gulch, otherwise known as Seven Pools. Kipahulu Visitor Center open 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., 808-248-7375.
SUMMIT NEED TO KNOW
Daily passes are required for entry.
• Entry fee: $20 per vehicle $10 person, $20 motorcycle
Daily passes are non-transferable and are valid for 3 days including the date of purchase.
Private Vehicle: $25. Valid for 3 days. Admits private, non-commercial vehicle (14 pax capacity or less) and all occupants to Haleakalā National Park including both the Summit and Kīpahulu Areas.
Motorcycle: $20. Valid for 3 days. Admits a private, non-commercial motorcycle to Haleakalā National Park including both the Summit and Kīpahulu Areas.
Per Person: $12. Valid for 3 days. Admits one individual with no car to Haleakalā National Park including both the Summit and Kīpahulu Areas – typically used for bicyclists, hikers and pedestrians. Youth 15 and under are admitted free.
For commercial and non-commercial groups, see website for entrance fees.
• Park headquarters at 7,000 ft. is open 8 a.m.-3:45 p.m. Haleakalā Visitor Center, 9,740 ft., is open sunrise to 3 p.m.
• The last place to get food or gas is in Pukalani. Bring lots of water if you plan to hike, and a flashlight if you’re going during predawn hours or after sunset. Sun protection and sturdy shoes are highly recommended.
• Temperature is at least 30 degrees cooler than at sea level, so dress in layers and bring clothing for all weather.
• Weather varies at the summit; call (866) 944-5025 ext. 4 for current conditions.
• On the way up, stop at two overlooks: Leleiwi and Kalahaku. The latter is a good place to see the endangered silversword.
• Since the park is open 24/7, catch the sunset as opposed to the sunrise, and hang around for stargazing.