Aloha Insiders! I feel I've been slacking a lot in my postings, so now I'm back with another installment from my August trip to Maui! This time I'll be covering Haleakala National Park. Located on the massive shield volcano, Haleakala, Haleakala National Park is actually composed of two different zones, the summit zone and the Kipahulu area located along the Hana Highway. The Kipahulu area is a lush, coastal tropical forest that contains the Ohe'o Gulch with its "7 sacred pools) and the Waimoku Falls. I, unfortunately, didn't visit this area, but did visit the summit area. The summit area is open 24/7, 365.
Regardless of the area you visit, there is a $10 entrance fee per vehicle that grants you access for 3 days from the date of issuance. The drive up to the summit will take you around an hour from the Courtyard Maui Kahului Airport, with the Wailea Beach Marriott being the next closest Marriott property, followed by the MVC in Ka'anapali and the Ritz-Carlton in Kapalua. To pay for park entrance, you may pay at the guard shack at the summit area entrance, or if it isn't manned, you may also use the automated machines at the visitor center located next to the guard shack.
So what do you go to Haleakala summit for? There is in-fact, a lot to do, depending what you'd like to do. There's high-elevation forests to explore, hiking within the crater, and of course, stargazing and sunrise/sunset viewing. If you plan on doing sunrise, I'd highly recommend arriving at the summit 2 hours before sunrise, which means you'll need to leave your hotel between 3-4 hours prior to sunrise. It is also important to dress WARM. It is highly recommended that you bring WINTER WEAR. Why? The temperature at 10,000ft is very different than at sea level. During my visit, the temperature at the summit was around 40F not factoring the windchill from the 25+ MPH windows blowing that day. But why arrive so early? Because it not only gives you the chance to do some stargazing, but it'll also let you beat the crowds. 1 hour prior to sunrise, the roads begin to clog and parking spaces are gone. So claim your parking and your viewing spot EARLY!
Here's some very poor star shots
And here are some shots from the sunrise
Beyond the sunrise/sunset viewing, most people will likely trek up to Haleakala to view the unique landscape and endangered/unique species such as the Ahinahina, aka Silverswords. If you're in good shape and/or looking for an adventure, you could also hike the crater. The wife and I didn't attempt this, but a friend of ours did it and it took him over 12 hours to do the entire trail. An area that he found particularly difficult was the portion called Sliding Sands trail because, the sand is very slippery there of course! Anyhow, here's some shots of the summit area during the day.
In the picture below, you can see Mauna Kea on the Big Island off in the distance.
Here are the observatories and USAF installation atop Haleakala
And of course, a few shots of the Ahinahina
Haleakala is a beautiful place, and well worth the journey and fee if you are able to appreciate the uniqueness of the place and the scenery. If you aren't one of those people, then this is someplace you should probably skip. But, even if you decide to journey up during the day and skip the sunrise/sunset, be aware that the temperature rarely gets above 60's and the weather can turn very quickly. Come prepared for any time of weather if you plan to stay long. During the winter, you may even encounter ice/snow. Oh, and that 25+MPH wind I was talking about? That was the weather forecast for sea-level. At the summit, the wind was howling and created near tropical storm force gusts that sometimes kicked up the "sands" and gave you a good blasting.
So would I visit again? Yes. Would I do sunrise again? I'm not so certain about that. It's a beautiful sights, but the crowds can get to be a bit much, especially when they get pushy...