Inside Haleakala National Park – Maui vacation

Scene of Haleakala with clouds

Especially if you’re going to be on Maui during your Hawaii vacation, Haleakala will be among your plans. Please don’t consider this to be something you can just stop by and see, as you might Diamond Head on Oahu or Akaka Falls on the Big Island.

No place you have ever been will have prepared you for the experiences and feelings you will have on the summit of Haleakala. The landscape — sculpted, richly colored, and actually breathtaking — will be unlike any you have seen. There’s no way to anticipate its scale or dimensions ahead of time. (A popular comparison notes that the entire island of Manhattan could nestle within its confines.) The summit takes on another dimension at night, as the darkness reveals the brilliant night sky.

The Wilderness Area is 24,719 acres and the climate varies throughout. The elevation change from rim to the floor can be 3,000 feet. You can day hike, spend the night in a tent at one of the two wilderness campgrounds, or reserve one of the three historic cabins along the trail. As you walk, cycle or drive, you will encounter brown and red cinder cones that stretch hundreds of feet high in dry, cold desert air. You’ll experience cloud forests with red and green native ferns. Nene (Hawaiian geese) and endemic honeycreepers can be seen in the lower, wetter parts of the Wilderness area during the day. You’ll hear seabirds at night. Stars will fill the sky as you have never seen them before.

The Wilderness Area can be accessed by either of two mountaintop trailheads: Halemauu Trailhead at 8000 feet and Keoneheehee near the summit at 9740 feet. The two trails merge eventually and lead down the southeast side of the volcano to the relatively barren and unpopulated coast in the Kaupo district.

If you would like to camp overnight, you’ll need a permit. Cabins must be reserved, and it’s a good idea to stop by a Visitor Center before a day hike to discuss your plans. The unpredictable weather can be severe; water is scarce; altitude can be a major factor; and certain seasonal restrictions may apply.

The Kipahulu Area of Haleakala National Park can be accessed by driving ten miles past the remote town of Hana, on the famous Hana road that circumscribes the northeast coast of the island of Maui. The Kipahulu area encompasses both the accessible coastal section and the highly restricted, biologically precious upper slope reserve that is closed to all by limited research access.

Hiking is self-guided and rewarding. There are scheduled orientations and cultural demonstrations through the Visitor Center, and it’s a good idea to tune in.

Consider hiking the two-mile trail Pipiwai Trail, following the stream that runs through the Oheo Gulch. You can swim in the cool lower pools near the ocean, but the stream can be very unpredictable and flash floods are common. You’re responsible for your own safety and should not underestimate the risk. Obey all the caution signs and warnings from Rangers.

This area also offers a drive-up campground. Be advised that Kipahlu is wet and remote. If you’re going to camp, bring water. Shared grills, picnic tables and pit-toilets are available. You don’t need a permit here, but you’ll need to have paid the $10 park entry fee. (Camping is limited to 3 nights.)

Overall, the Haleakala climate is unpredictable. In any given day, the temperatures in the park can range from a high of 80° in Kipahulu to 30°.

As you can see, planning is essential if you are to appreciate even part of what Haleakala holds in store for you. We’ll help you work a fulfilling Haleakala adventure into your vacation plans.

Since 2006 Bruce Fisher has been publishing the Hawaii Vacation Blog and the Hawaii Vacation Connection Podcast which, create daily content about Hawaii Travel and Tourism. This Blog is the only online resource providing Hawaii-based information aimed at travelers seven days per week. Postings reflect the Hawaiian Islands, their culture and their lifestyle as accurately and thoroughly as possible.

6 COMMENTS

  1. And, bring something warm to wear to the top! It’s cold. Not just chilly, but COLD because the wind is blowing 40mph… If you go for sunrise it’s frigid cold! Not joking… I know you might think I’m joking but, it’s one of the strange (and wonderful) surprises you’ll find in Hawaii.

    Great article. Nice blog… I’ll grab your RSS feed next. Thanks much…

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