The Haleakalā is a 3055 meters high volcano which occupies more than 75% of Maui’s area. Although you can almost see from sea level up to the top, the mountain seemed tiny to me – at least from below. But when you arrive at the summit you can see how high the volcano really is.
The Haleakalā lies within the Haleakalā National Park, so be prepared to pay an entrance fee.
You might drive through the clouds on your way up. I was very disappointed because we suddenly had such bad weather. But don’t worry, it is most likely that you will drive out of the cloud cover again.
Haleakalā sunrise or sunset?
Haleakalā means “house of the sun” and it is said that the demigod Maui captured the sun here. Somehow fitting, because the Haleakalā is known for one of the most beautiful sunrises in the world. This sunrise is even so well known that you have to book a few months in advance! Yes, you have to reserve seats for a sunrise!!!
The reason is understandable, as the national park was so overcrowded by early risers that a traffic chaos broke out regularly.
Since this regulation was still very new at the time we were there and it was not in any of my four travel guides, we of course knew nothing about it. Quite naively I tried to book three days in advance, when we found out. Spoiler alert: hopelessly!
So we took plan B, which probably was the better choice anyway. We saw one of the most beautiful sunsets ever. But more about that later…
How long does it take from the foot to the top?
Once you are on the street 378, it takes about an hour to reach the top parking lot without a stopover. But I would plan several hours. On the one hand, you might want to make one or two stops on the way up to enjoy the view, and on the other hand you might have to wait in line to enter the national park.
The way to the summit
It´s quite easy to get to the top of the Haleakalā. You just follow the only street. The street is in very good condition, so no worries. But remember that in a short period of time you will cover an altitude difference of over 3000 meters. So be careful, take short breaks in between and drink enough water. Then you should be fine.
Hosmer Grove Loop Trail
You will find the first stopover right after the entrance. Next to the Hosmer Grove Campground the Hosmer Grove Loop Trail starts. This nature trail is just half a mile long and winds through a very fascinating forest. Most of the trees here are not indigenous. In 1910, Ralph Hosmer planted trees such as eucalyptus from Australia, sugi pine from Japan, deodar from India and several species of pine from the mainland of the United States along with other species, in the hope of establishing a timber industry.
Haleakalā National Park Headquarters Visitor Center
Next stop should be the Haleakalā National Park Headquarters Visitor Center. Here you will find some information about the Haleakalā and the area, toilets and already a nice view over the valley.
One of the best views you will get from the Leleiwi Overlook. At mile marker 17.5 you’ll enter the parking lot on the right side of the road. Take the short trail to the overlook for a panoramic view of Maui and the crater. Many visitors don’t even notice this location because at first glance it appears that nothing spectacular is here.
Pā Ka’oao lookout
You can´t miss the Pā Ka’oao lookout, where you will probably have the best view into the crater. This is also the place where you would watch the sunrise. The view from here is just amazing and I would recommend spending some time here. If you like you can also start the hike into the crater from here.
Red Hill lookout
Last but not least you will drive to the Red Hill parking lot where you will have another amazing view. It is a special experience to look at the sea from a height of more than 3000 meters.
I didn’t see the sunrise, but I would still say that we did everything right – more or less intentionally. The sunset was for sure the most beautiful I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen some suns go down. Key West can pack up.
Tip: Take a thick sweater and a windbreaker with you. At an altitude of three thousand meters it quickly gets cold when the sun is gone.
You absolutely MUST wait until it is dark, because not only the sunset, but also the following starry sky is bombastic!
Hiking within Haleakalā National Park
We didn´t do any hikes in the national park but there are some good trails. For example the Pā Ka’oao Trail where you can see the crater or the Keonehe’ehe’e Trail where you can even walk into the crater.