Maui - Haleakalā National Park


Where? : Haleakala National Park is located at the large summit area of Mtn. Haleakala, at the center of east Maui island.

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What? : A sleeping volcano mountain towering 10,000 feet above sea level and above the clouds. Mtn. Haleakala is Maui's highest point, all the summit and crater are of the mountain is declared as a National Park that offer hiking, viewing points and unforgettable sunset/sunrise opportunities.


Due note 1: For sunrise planning you needs to have park entrance reservation at the previous day (, you will not be able to enter the park without prior reservation!


Due note 2: bring warm clothes, this is 10,000f high mountain and it can be cold up there (especially before sunset or at night).

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Due note 3: The road to top of the mountain is well maintained but climbing up steeply and with a lot of twist and turns. If you want to see sunrise or come only for sunset plan for at list 1.5 hr drive up the mountain.


Due note 4: Before you start your drive up, ensure you have at least a quarter tank full, there are gas stations only at towns at the bottom of the mountain.


Due note 5: safety: the road up the mountain is going through open grassland, you can find cows on the road. Drive carefully, especially at night.


My thoughts: Highly recommended trip when visiting Maui, do not miss the hike at the volcano crater before the sunset or after your sunrise visit. Plan at list 2 hr for the hike, although it can be as short as you want. Overall, this can be half day trip.


The visit:

Haleakala National Park covers the large summit area of the volcanic mountain that make up most of Maui island. The National Park’s boundary at the mountain summit has “fingers” that extend down all the way to the ocean, at the south east section of the island. Those lower sections of the park include the Kipahulu area, this is where you can find the Seven Pools and Pipiwai Trail (the visit is covered by another blog).


The road to the top of mount Haleakala (National Park) is well maintained but winding and steeply climbing the 10,000f mountain, from every turn you see a different view.

At some point we got into the clouds and it may become foggy and rainy and after another ascent you will probably go above the clouds layer into a clear sunny day.


After entering the park gate, the road keeps climbing and you can find few stopping points along the way, Leleiwi and Kalahaku Overlooks, I recommend keep driving all the way to Haleakalä Visitor Center.

From here you will have the best crater view and start your hike into the crater.

The crater opening is huge, more than 10km to the other side of the crater and 1 km deep. Far in the landscape below you can see smaller colorful volcano cones.


From the visitor center there is a short hike to Pā Ka'oao viewing point above the crater.


Sliding Sands Trail:

The Sliding Sands Trail that will take you down to the crater starts at the parking lot parallel to the road. After the short level section and viewpoint, it starts it’s long steep descent into the huge crater area, literally feeling like entering into the stunning scenery picture.

The view is unique, the vast smooth rocky/sandy erosion plans without almost any vegetation and the red and orange volcano cones below looks like “out of this planet” landscape.

Hike down the trail as much as you want, see how the landscape change as you “get into the picture” and once you are done descending you need to hike all the way up, back to the parking lot.


The observatory telescopes:

The mountain is quite high, above clouds and the local humidity and far from any big city, you can find here a clear sky without any light pollution. This is the ideal place for space observatory, the government built there many space telescopes for scientific and security usage (satellite tracking).

From Haleakalä Visitor Center parking lot drive up to the top of the Red Hill mountain small parking lot for best sunset and observatory view. Come early before sunset because this smaller parking lot is getting full before sunset. Find a place on the rim near the cars and watch the sunset going down in the west below the clouds.


Our visit:

When reading recommendation what to do at the park, many recommend seeing the sunrise or sunset from the top.

In order to see the sunrise, you need to get up at 4am in the morning + drive 2 hr in the dark + need to book on-line permit in advance ... we immediately chose to see the sunset.

We arrived somehow after noon time and hike inside the crater of the volcano for 2 hr, the huge open crater landscape at this height is completely exposed without any vegetation and overall appearance of "Mars".

Later we went to the upper parking lot and waited to sunset.

It was indeed a unique view and experience; you are well above the cloud’s “blanket” and the sun setting down below you.



We did not see the sunset, but many visitors wake up early to drive to the Haleakala Visitor Center at the top of the mountain to watch the spectacular sunrise on the east. As the sun peeks over the horizon, changing the night colors into the morning red bright light above the vast sea of clouds.

The National Park Service requires a reservation for personal and rental vehicles to view the sunrise from the summit.