Top 10 Things to Do on Haleakala
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One of the biggest attractions on Maui is Haleakala, the world’s largest dormant volcano rising 10,023 feet above sea level and offering some of the best and most memorable views in all of Hawaii. Since Haleakala covers such a huge portion of the island, many companies and individuals have discovered unique ways to experience its vast beauty, from downhill bike rides through the cloud line to stargazing on its slopes after the sun goes down. On a two hour drive to the summit of Haleakala, you’ll pass through as many ecological zones as you would on a drive from Mexico to Canada! Haleakala National Park also has more endangered species than any other site in the National Park System. No matter how you choose to experience the Haleakala Volcano, one thing’s for sure – it’s a must.
Best Haleakala Activities To Do
#1 Watch the Sunrise/Sunset
Without a doubt, the most popular thing to do on Haleakala is watch the sunrise or sunset. More than half a million visitors per year make the winding drive through Upcountry to reach the summit of Haleakala National Park to witness the changing colors of the sky and dramatic landscape.
To ensure a smooth journey, make sure to fill up your gas tank and map your route the day before. Check the Sunrise and Sunset Time Chart to know how far in advance you need to leave, and be aware that cattle often graze on Crater Road from September through March, so drive slowly and be on the lookout around blind curves. The cost for entering Haleakala National Park is $10 per vehicle, which is good for up to 3 days and the perfect excuse to visit the Kipahulu Area of Haleakala National Park. Pack warm clothes (Haleakala Outfitters rents jackets for $20), as the summit is usually between 35 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and don’t forget to bring water, snacks and your camera! Reservations must be made in advance!
Hawaii is known worldwide for its amazing stargazing and observation sites, from the volcanoes of the Big Island to Haleakala Observatory on Maui, where astronomists from across the globe come to experience the superb seeing conditions.
Maui Stargazing is a small company that offers private and group stargazing experiences, perfect for all members of your family. Guests meet at Upcountry’s Kula Lodge before sunset to make the drive up the slopes of Haleakala to the 10,000 foot summit, where seeing conditions are spectacular on clear nights. Since gazing is best when the moon is smallest, check the moon phases around the time of your trip and reserve your tour when the moonlight is at a minimum. Jan, the owner of Maui Stargazing, is an excellent guide and points out amazing star clusters, nebulae and galaxies and even allows guests a close-up view of the moon. Pack warm clothing (Jan provides free jackets, pants, and hats on tours) and get ready for a truly amazing experience!
#3 Take a Hike
Maui is home to an amazing variety of hiking trails. Take a look at our list of the Top 10 Hikes in Maui to see which one(s) are a must on your Maui bucket list.
On Haleakala, many different trails are available depending on your preference and experience level of hiking. For experienced hikers, Sliding Sands Trail is the perfect challenge on Maui. Beginning at the summit of Haleakala, the Sliding Sands Trail descends a staggering 2,800 feet to the valley floor, continuing on to Kapalaoa cabin for a total of 5.6 miles or Paliku cabin at 10.4 miles. On the way back out, it’s recommended that you take Halemau’u Trail due to the steepness of Keoneheehee Trail. While this trail is not for the inexperienced, it does provide amazing views you won’t find anywhere else. Make sure to pack lots of water, snacks and all necessary supplies.
For amateur hikers, head to the Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area & Forest Reserve, where you’ll find trails ranging from .6 miles to 1.7 miles in length at an average of 7,000 feet above sea level. These hiking trails offer some of the most magical views on the island, often encompassing hikers in cloudy mist through redwood trees, plum trees and native flora and fauna and offering sweeping views of West, Central and South Maui as well as neighbor islands.
#4 Bike Down
One of the most popular thrill activities on Maui is biking down Haleakala. Since 2010, chartered bike tours are no longer allowed to start within the National Park, which means they must go back down to just outside the boundaries at 6,500 feet to begin the ride. Alternately, you can choose to rent your own bike and ride down from the 10,000 foot summit yourself.
Haleakala Bike Company offers excellent service and a great assortment of tours, including a Sunrise Special Tour, where guests will be driven to the summit in time to watch the sunrise before biking down. They also offer the Summit Deluxe Tour that leaves later in the morning or the Haleakala Express Tour that does not visit the summit and allows guests to focus simply on the bike ride. Bike rentals are also available for those of you who would like to do it yourself! This is a great way to experience the elevation change, see the wonderful views and have fun at the same time.
#5 Ride a Horse
Even if you don’t fancy yourself a cowboy, the views from some of the most popular horseback riding trails and ranches around Maui make the experience well worth the trek.
We love Makena Stables’ Sunset Tour along the winding trails through Ulupalakua Ranch, where you’ll enjoy sweeping views of the last lava flow on Maui at La Perouse Bay, the ocean and remote hills along the back, less traveled side of Haleakala. The ride also includes a relaxing break at Kalua O Lapa, one of the most scenic viewpoints on the entire island, where you’ll be treated to fresh fruit, snacks and bottled water. With cooler trade breezes and the fading sunset, this is a treat for the paniolo in us all. Groups are kept to a maximum of 6 people to ensure a friendly and interesting ride for everyone.
Although they no longer do horseback rides in the crater of Haleakala, we still love the Pony Express Tours through Hana Ranch, the largest working cattle ranch on the island. At 4,000 feet of elevation, you’ll be surrounded by lush rolling pastures and enjoy panoramic views of Maui. This family-run business is the perfect way to spend a morning or afternoon in Upcountry before grabbing lunch, touring Makawao or wine tasting at Tedeschi Vineyards.
Ziplining is a great way to enjoy the scenery of Maui while enjoying an exciting day outdoors. Grab your friends and family and head to Piiholo Zipline or Skyline Eco Adventures, both located on the slopes of Haleakala Choose from the 4-Line Zip, 5-Line Zip and variety of Zipline Canopy Tours at Piiholo or zip backwards if you want at Skyline, where you’ll learn about native flora and fauna as well as local history before zipping through the forest canopy. Piiholo also offer a unique Zipline/Waterfall Hike Combo Tour, perfect for guests who want to visit some of Maui’s most remote waterfalls in addition to ziplining. And for those that want to zipline directly into water, Skyline has a unique course on the west side called Zip’n Dip!
#7 Go Paragliding
If you enjoy the thrill of ziplining but want to take it a step farther, consider paragliding on the slopes of Haleakala Volcano! Proflyght Paragliding offers tandem paragliding with an experienced instructor, perfect for those of you looking to give it a try on your next trip to paradise.
All instructors are certified by the U.S. Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association, so you can ensure you’re in the best hands possible. They fly in all seasons and most days of the year and are located at Waipoli Flight Park on the slopes of Haleakala. The views during this experience are amazing, so make sure to pack your GoPro and sense of adventure.
#8 Camp Out
Not many visitors consider camping on their trip to Maui, but it can be an excellent way to see the island and experience truly unique scenery.
If you plan on hiking the crater of Haleakala, there are 2 wilderness campsites available for use. Hōlua is located 3.7 miles down the Halemauʻu Trail or 7.4 miles from the Sliding Sands Trail, and Palikū is located at the base of a rainforest cliff, 9.3 miles on the Sliding Sands Trail or 10.4 miles on Halemauʻu Trail. Temperatures and weather conditions vary greatly at these altitudes, so make sure to pack for every occasion.
For less strenuous camping, consider one of the 2 drive-in campsites on Haleakala. Kipahulu Campground, located on the backside of Haleakala National Park, overlooks ocean cliffs and is only a short walk from O’heo Gulch (aka Seven Sacred Pools) and Pipiwai Trail, where you can hike through a bamboo forest to reach Waimoku Falls, a 400 foot cascading waterfall. If driving the Road to Hana isn’t on your agenda but you’d still like to camp, take the drive through Upcountry Maui to reach Hosmer Grove Campground in the cloud belt of Haleakala, just below 7,000 feet of elevation. Enjoy much cooler (and even freezing, on occasion) temperatures and beautiful surrounding hiking trails.
#9 View it from Above
Helicopter tours are one of the most popular activities in Hawaii, and for good reason. With so many stunning landscape views and hidden wonders, a helicopter tour offers the best views of some of Maui’s most remote areas. Escaping the cloud cover, helicopter tours are something you won’t want to miss if you’re looking for a unique way to enjoy the views of Hawaii.
Blue Hawaiian all offer excellent helicopter tours of Hana and Haleakala, giving you a birds eye look at Haleakala’s stunning crater, hidden waterfalls, lush rainforest, taro fields and some of Maui’s most scenic ocean cliffs. If you’re visiting Maui between December and April, you may even get a chance to whale watch from the sky!
One of the best ways to experience Maui is to see firsthand what it takes to maintain its beauty. Volunteering not only allows you to meet people and learn about local culture, but its a great souvenir to take home, knowing that you helped contribute to its well being.
With so many excellent ways to get involved on Maui, we highly recommend volunteering on Haleakala for an inside look at its unique needs, history and maintenance to keep it functioning smoothly. Organizations like Friends of Haleakala National Park host service trips throughout the year to assist in thistle eradication, Nene Goose habitat improvement, blackberry eradication and general cleaning duties for the cabins located in the crater of Haleakala. In addition, Haleakala National Park offers drop-in volunteer opportunities for visitors interested in one to three day projects.
Mahalo for reading Pride of Maui’s Top 10 Things to Do on Haleakala, and we hope you get the chance to explore it fully! What are you looking forward to trying the most? Let us know in the comments below!