Haleakala National Park
Located: Hawaii on the island of Maui - Established: August 1, 1916
The Park. Haleakala, the volcano that formed the eastern portion of Maui, offers visitors two highly contrasting landscapes. At the park’s summit (approx. 10,000’), Haleakala is a stark volcanic caldera with sparse vegetation.
In contrast to the summit, the Kipahulu area of the park is a lush rainforest occupying a position on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, which is much milder and wetter. Kipahulu gets an average of 187 inches of rain each year.
The Hawaiian Islands are the most remote major island group on earth. These volcanic lands were never connected to any landmass, thus the native plant and animal life are exotic. Thriving above 6,900 feet, the rare and beautiful Haleakala Silversword (pictured) is a delightful sight as you ascend the very steep 38-mile drive from the coast to the summit.
Hawaii’s state bird, the NeNe (pronounced nay-nay), can be seen waddling around near the Park Headquarters. Listed as endangered, the endemic NeNe is a medium-sized goose measuring about 25” from beak to tail feathers and is believed to have evolved from the Canadian goose, which arrived on the islands 500,000 years ago.
Getting there. Haleakala National Park has two entry points. From Kahului (near the Airport), the summit can be reached in about an hour and a half via route 37 to 377/378. The coastal area of Kipahulu is a three-hour drive from Kahului via 360/31. Kipahulu Visitor Center is located 10.7 miles from Hana.
When to visit. The park is open all year unless severe weather restricts entry. Temperatures at the summit can be quite cold in the early morning hours dipping below freezing. A jacket in Hawaii? Coastal temperatures average between 70°-80°F.
What to do. Sunrises and sunsets are a big draw at the summit of Haleakala. One of the most unusual things about viewing a sunrise on Haleakala, is how cold it is in the early morning! To catch a view of the sunrise, you will leave your hotel or condo on the coast in the wee hours of the morning to make the 1½ - 2 hour drive to the summit.
The temperature at your hotel will be pleasant. When you step out of the car at the summit, be prepared for a blast of freezing cold air! I mean freezing! It is not uncommon for the temperature to be below 32°!
Bike riding down a Volcano! For adrenalin junkies who like rapid 23-mile descents down narrow, winding roads, take a bike tour down Haleakala! The swift downward bike ride will get your heart pumping!
Hiking: For those who prefer traveling on foot, the “moonscape” crater at the summit offers over 30 miles of hiking trails. Be aware that hiking the 10,000-foot summit means the air is a lot thinner than down by the coast. Altitude sickness is common at higher elevations.
Where to stay: Maui is filled with a wide range of lodging opportunities from the very modest to ultra-luxury.
As for camping, Haleakala features two drive-up campgrounds. The Kipahulu campground is located near sea level on the wet side of the island. Access to it is via the Hana Highway. This campground will accommodate up to 100 people. The Hosmer Grove campground is located at an elevation of 7000 feet along the road to the summit of Haleakala and will handle up to 50 people.
The Park Service maintains three Wilderness Cabins that can be reserved for up to 10 people. Accessing the cabins means hiking a minimum of 3.7 miles. The cabins have no electricity so bring your own candles!
Memorable moment. Wearing a jacket at the top of Haleakala in the early morning hours to ward off the cold! A jacket in Hawaii? Memorable!
Trivia: Haleakala National Park has more endangered species than any other site in the National Park System.
Banner: Maui sunset.
Experience these Check List:
- Stop by the Haleakala and Kipahulu Visitor Centers
- Take the scenic drive to the summit (Wear a sweater or jacket if you go early!)
- Trek into the volcano’s cauldron
- Experience the very scenic drive to Hana and the Kipahulu section of the park
- Hike to the falls on the Pipiwai Trail
- Ride a bike down Haleakala
There are two main access points to Haleakala National Park. Park Headquarters, the Haleakala Visitor Center and the Kalahaku Overlook are located on the northwestern section of the park. The Kipahulo Visitor Center is located at the southwest end of the infamous Hana Highway! The coastline view along the route is stunning!