Most people come to Maui for the beaches and party towns; we came to see the cold, dry summit of Haleakala. Haleakala National Park is one of two national parks within the state of Hawaii, and since it is one of my bucket list items to visit them all, the beaches had to wait. I had a volcanic crater to see!
Haleakala National Park is divided into two sections: the summit and the coast. Completing the Road to Hana will actually put you in the coastal section of the park, which we were not able to do (why are there never enough hours in the day?). However the pictures we saw of the coastal area in the Visitor Center looked absolutely beautiful, so if you can, plan your time in Maui better than we did so you can see both halves of the park!
The summit area of the park is rather remote, and took over an hour to get there from the cruise ship port. A lot of the drive is on curvy mountain roads, so if you are prone to motion sickness, come prepared. In addition, the elevation at the summit area is rather high (around 10,000 ft), so those with breathing problems may want to exercise caution. It’s a long drive for an ambulance to get up there should any problems arise, and you never know what sort of cellphone reception you will have when you are out in nature.
On to the fun stuff! We were lucky and it finally wasn’t raining. And thank goodness for that, because it is incredibly windy and absolutely freezing at the summit!! The second I stepped out of the car I immediately regretted wearing shorts.
The views were pretty cool. This was the trailhead for one of the hikes we did. I love how it looks like it just drops off the edge of the earth. It made it feel like we were hiking in the sky up among the clouds…
The hiking trails are all pretty moderate, but they are very exposed. You get the sun beating down directly on you giving you a sunburn, while at the same time the wind rushes all around you, chilling you to the core. The best advice I can give is to use plenty of sunscreen, bring a hat and sunglasses, wear sturdy hiking shoes, and dress in layers. Lots of layers. One minute it’s hot, and the next it’s freezing. And I know you are in Hawaii, but trust me: bring the heavy jackets for this one.
They had wind breaks set up at the end of the hiking trails, and by the way we all hid inside it, you would think we were hiking in the arctic tundra! Californians don’t handle cold very well.
My dad on the trail; despite the slightly miserable weather conditions, the views were stunning and the trail was a lot of fun to hike.
The view from the summit – you could see all the way across the ocean to other islands in the distance. With views like this, who cares if your face feels frozen?
For the record, this sweater was absolutely not warm enough. I planned quite poorly.
They say that watching the sunrise or sunset from the summit is breathtaking, and it is easy to see why. The park is remote and far away from any light pollution, and you can see for miles in every direction. Plus being so high up gives you unobstructed views of the horizon. I would’ve loved to be up there to see it, but sometimes it is hard to get everyone on board with waking up at like 4 a.m. on vacation. If I ever make it back to this park, I would definitely stay overnight in one of their campgrounds or cabins.
“The demi-god Maui and his mother, Hina, lived near Rainbow Falls in Hilo on the island of Hawaii. Hina would make kapa from the bark of the wauke and mamaki tree, and the strips would be dyed with magnificent designs to form cloth. The kapa, however, would still be damp when night fell, and Hina would lament how the sun moved too quickly across the sky to dry the cloth.
Upon hearing this, the demi-god traveled to the island of Maui and climbed to the 10,000-foot summit of Haleakala, where the sun was asleep in the giant crater. Maui hid until morning and watched the sun begin his daily journey. As the first ray of sunshine appeared, Maui snared it with his lasso of twisted coconut fiber.
The sun demanded to be released, but Maui would not let go. “Promise me that you will move more slowly across the sky,” he told the sun. Left with no choice, the sun struck a bargain with the daring demi-god. He would move slowly for six months out of the year, and then move at his preferred pace for the other six months. Agreeing to the terms, Maui hurried home and told his mother the good news. As a reward, Hina made her son a new cape, and sure enough, it dried in one afternoon”
– The legend of the spectacular sunrise on Haleakala (obtained from Aloha-Hawaii)