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Best Places to Visit in Maui - Haleakala National Park

 
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The drive to Haleakala is stunning.



 

 

 

 

  

Best Places to Visit in Maui - Haleakala National Park  

 




 




 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

Haleakala National Park, Maui

Haleakala is not only a national park, but also a recognized international biosphere and important wilderness area.  Haleakala National Park is comprised of two sections that are dramatically different.  The most popular area is the Haleakala Volcano, which we describe here.  The other area is Kipahulu, which is geographically separated from Haleakala and can only be reached by road from the south coast. We discuss Kipahulu in our section on Hana, since,  at present, it is  the only way you can access Kipahulu. (The road to Kipahulu from the western side of the Big Island (Route 31) has been indefinitely closed and access to the Kaupo Trail is currently unavailable.)

The Haleakala Volcano looms over  Maui and is one of the signature vistas of the island.  Mark Twain was enamored with the area's volcanic landscape writing at length on Maui and his camping experiences on Haleakala.  Even today most visitors to the island find themselves attracted to the bleak hills of Haleakala's volcano.  We don't know if it's magic, but Haleakala seems to transport its visitor to another world.

You can arrange a tour of Haleakala or drive your rental car up the paved highway to the Park at the summit.  While driving is convenient, your attention will be focused on the circuitous road and not on the scenery - a fact that is especially true on the way back down when the road curves too much for the driver to gaze at the incredible vistas around each corner.

 

One of the "to-do" tours for all visitors to Maui is to arrange a trip to watch sunrise from the summit of Haleakala. In order to make this pilgrimage, you will need to rise early, as the drive will usually take ninety minutes or more (depending on the location of your hotel).  Many vacationers want to stay in bed during the early hours, but sunrise at Haleakala is a special treat and we recommend it highly.

The scene at dawn almost has a “cult” feeling as the visitors wait to see if the clouds give way to a spectacular sunrise or … more clouds...or rain....or snow. Don’t be surprised to find out that many of your fellow travelers believe that summit is a global “power spot” or “vortex” that is spiritually significant and similar in lore and reputation to Sedona, Arizona.   Those visitors graced with a clear sunrise will have a memorable tale to tell, as the view from Haleakala at dawn is magnificent and close to being beyond description by mere mortals (be sure to take your camera).

It is often uncomfortably cold at the top of Haleakala and you should plan on wearing layered clothing and a good quality windbreaker, especially if you are plan to arrive pre-dawn.  Winds and wet weather are always possible at the peak and during these periods gusts of cold air whip around the summit. To be honest, it can be downright inhospitable - but the view at dawn more than makes up for these minor distresses.

Winter rains often create unsafe conditions in the park, resulting in the closure of back-country  trails and sometimes the upper road to the summit.  Always inquire locally before you start your trip to Haleakala to determine conditions at the summit or whether you might want to make the trip another day.

We have adapted a map produced by the U.S. National Park Service to show you the general details of the road to the Haleakala National Park Visitor Center and some details on the trails through the Park.  If you intend to hike, check in at the visitor's center and observe all the rules and regulations concerning the Park's use.  Click here for the Map of the western half of Haleakala National Park.  For a 3D view of the same area, click this link .

This valley, which is eroded into the Volcano, runs several miles.

The views at Haleakala National Park appear otherworldly.  At its summit (10,023 feet) the scenery  takes on the aspects of a moonscape, although one that has its own observatory (not open to the public).  The peak area lacks vegetation and the surrounding valley is arid, as most of the water in the air has been wrung out before it reaches the peak.  There is ample evidence of volcanism extending for miles in all directions.  The dominant feature here is a long gray-brown valley eroded into the side of the volcano  On a clear day, the view of the island from the summit is spectacular but sometimes Haleakala gets in the way of seeing as much of  Maui as you might expect possible from 10,000 feet above the ocean.

While driving the summit, you will experience several different landscape horizons.  As you move towards lower elevations inside the park, you will begin to see native plants and occasional wildlife. 

 

If you are in really good shape, you might consider hiking some of the Park's trails.  Of course, you can camp, swim, picnic, bird watch or just look around if that suits you.  Check out the Haleakala National Park Official Website for more details on these activities. 

 

Haleakala is worth a visit to see stunning vistas such as this one. Consider a bike ride down Haleakala

Bike rides down the slope of Haleakala to the west coast are very popular with tourist.  If you are a talented rider, you can attempt the upslope ride to Haleakala.  It is reputed to be the steepest climbs in the world for a cyclist.  We know all readers of ThereArePlaces are in terrific shape and could ride to the top without breaking a sweat, but  the more popular  ride  is down the slope, especially if you are inclined to enjoy roller coasters.

Haleakala bike rides (outside the Park - see note below ) are offered by a number of companies and the  two listed below are very popular and offer a variety of packages and services.   The  bike companies have age guidelines and other restrictions, so contact them for details. Finally, you may find substantial discounts for booking online.

Make sure you examine the details of any package before booking a reservation.  Be sure to ask about their policies regarding bike usage and safety.  Make sure that you have confidence in their equipment  before you place a reservation. Also, make sure that you are capable of the ride down the mountain and ask about any restrictions they may enforce. If you are going to ride, be sure to wear rubber-soled shoes with closed toes.

Please note, that riding a bike down Haleakala can be dangerous, even fatal, and our mention of these companies does not constitute a recommendation on the safety or capabilities of these companies, their products or services.

The Haleakala Bicycle Company - The company's website is  http://www.bikemaui.com    For  information on their sunrise tours, follow this link.

Maui Downhill provides similar services, which are described at their website.

Note:  In 2007 three fatalities and several serious accidents  occurred among the 90,000 bicycle riders using Haleakala, according to the Park Service.  As a consequence, the NPS has placed a moratorium on the use of any park property by commercial bike companies.

The moratorium does not apply to bicyclists riding in the park on their own, nor does it apply to commercial operations outside of the park boundaries (about the 6,800 foot level of Haleakala's slope).

What Else is there to do in Maui?

We have several recommendations.  First, if you are in the mood for a road trip, consider taking a spin along the scenic Road to Hana . Next, take a look at our recommendations for the remaining best places to visit in Maui

Destination Guide Index or Googling ThereArePlaces.


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