Hiking the Haleakala Crater – Image courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authorit
Haleakala National Park
Take a scenic two-hour drive up the twisting 61km-long Haleakala Crater Road that rises from sea level at Kahukui to the summit of Haleakala – Maui’s highest point and the world’s largest dormant volcano at 3000m above sea level.
From the Puu Ulaula Overlook, the volcano's highest point, discover a panoramic view that extends for more than 150km – on a clear day you can see the islands of Molokai, Lani, the Big Island of Hawaii and Oahu shimmering in the distance.
The glass-enclosed overlook offers a 360-degree view and is open 24 hours a day – perfect for watching the sunrise, which falls between 5:45 and 7am, depending on the time of year.
Pop into the Haleakala Visitor Centre, located near the summit, to learn more about this volcano region. A short walk from the centre leads to White Hill for great views of the valley.
In the vast 4900ha Haleakala Crater, hike through a lunar-like desert landscape scattered with orange volcanic cinder cones, meet endangered nene geese (Hawaii's state bird) and admire rare silversword plants that lie scattered around the Kalahaku Overlook, at 2743m. Endemic only to Hawaii, the silversword plant takes from 5 to 20 years to bloom, after which it dies.
Haleakala was designated an International Biosphere Reserve in 1980 and is home to more endangered species than any other national park in the U.S.A.
Choose from a range of horseback rides and hikes ranging (from one- and two-hour hikes to overnight trails) around the crater and into the nearby Waikamoi Cloud Forest.
Along the way, look out for the nene goose, identifiably by its black head and yellow cheeks; 'u’au, a large, dark grey-brown and white Hawaiian petrel; the kike koa, one of Hawaii's rarest birds, with an olive green body and yellow chest; and the 'akohekohe, a crested honeycreeper with black plumage, a furl of white feathers sprouting over the beak and bright-orange surrounding the eyes and nape – it is found only on the northeastern slope of Haleakala.
For a fast and fun-filled trip back to Kahukui, arrange a downhill bicycle ride.
Tip: Arrive just before dawn for one of the world’s most romantic sunrises. Whatever time you decided to visit, remember to bring a warm jacket. Because of altitude, the mountaintop temperature is often as much as 7°C (30°F) cooler than that at sea level. Summer is generally dry and warm; winter can be wet, windy and very cold.
Note: You should not make the trip up Haleakala if you have been scuba diving during the previous 24 hours.
Location: Haleakala Crater Roa., Makawao
Phone: 808/572-4400; weather conditions - 866/944-5025
Cost: US$10 per car
Hours: Park Headquarters daily 6:30am-4pm; Haleakala Visitor Center daily sunrise-3pm
Access: Haleakala Summit is about 60km, an easy 2-hour drive from Kahului on Hwy. 377 & Hwy 378