When on our honeymoon in Maui, we didn’t do a lot of excursions because we were so exhausted from the wedding, and when we got back home, were about to start packing to make our move to Texas, so we just wanted to relax. However, one day we did make the 2ish hour drive to Haleakalā National Park, one of Hawaii’s two National Parks. We only spent an hour or two there, but you can definitely make a day out of it!
Here is my guide to Haleakalā National Park!
Getting to Haleakala National Park
Like I mentioned, it took us about 2 hours to get there, but that was to the top of the volcano. The drive from our hotel in Ka’anapali to the park entrance was 1.5 hours, and then another 30ish minutes to the top.The Summit District is about an hourʻs drive from Kahului and Kihei.
Fare warning–the road up to the top is WINDY! There are so many horseshoe turns, and a lot of the time you’re driving pretty close to the edge of a cliff. So if you get carsick easily, I would recommend that you drive or take some motion sickness medicine beforehand.
Best Time to Visit
Much like the rest of Hawaii, the best time to visit is during the Spring (April & May) or Fall (September through November). However, the weather is pretty great year round (the lowest average is 81 degrees)! The benefit about visiting during the shoulder seasons of Spring & Fall is that you miss the major crowds of Summer & Winter. Maui gets the least amount of rain May-September, and it’s best to visit Haleakalā when there are less clouds, so that would be the best time. It’s also usually about 20 degrees cooler at the top of the volcano than at sea level, so keep that in mind!
As you can see below, there was a layer of clouds below us which looked really cool, but it made for less of a view.
Things to See & Do in Haleakala National Park
If you’re just planning on spending a couple hours in the park like we did, head to the top of the mountain, aka the Summit District. The crater lookout points are just next to the parking areas. The lookout at the very tippy-top, Pu’u’ula’ula, is at an elevation of 10,023 feet above sea level! It’s pretty crazy to me that you can drive up all that way in just about an hour! You can also see some of the other Hawaiian islands in the distance if it’s clear enough.
Sunrise at the Summit
If you’re a morning person, you for sure need to go see the sunrise at the Summit! We didn’t make it, but I’m sure it would be beautiful 😍 If you plan on going, you need to make a reservation ahead of time up to 60 days in advance. Get more info about reservations here.
As you can see in a couple images above, there are several observatories at the Haleakalā Summit. They were built there because the site offers the fourth-best viewing conditions of the stars on the planet! Since the elevation is so high, you’re above the clouds where the atmosphere is clear and dry, with minimal air and light pollution. You can even see the Milky Way 🤩 Learn more about stargazing at Haleakalā here.
The Summit District has over 30 miles of hiking trails, which are anywhere from short 10 minute walks to multi-day overnight backpacking trips. The Keonehe‘ehe‘e (Sliding Sands) Trail sounds like the coolest, in my opinion! You can hike down to the “crater floor”, which is 3.9 miles down, and a 2,500 ft elevation change. After hitting the crater floor, you can continue another 5.7 miles to “Pele’s Paint Pot” & Kawilinau, formerly called the “bottomless pit,” which is 65 feet deep. To check out more hikes in the area, click here.
There are three different options for camping overnight at Haleakalā National Park. Both the Summit District and the Kīpahulu District offer frontcountry, drive-up camping. Tent camping and cabin camping are available with applicable permits and reservations. The Hosmer Grove Campground, which was open as of June 1, 2021, lies in the cloud belt of Haleakalā, at nearly 7,000 feet (2134m) in elevation. There are only 6 designated sites, so make sure you book a few months in advance. BONUS: When you make a reservation to camp at Hosmer Grove Campground, you automatically get a sunrise reservation at the Summit!
If you’re heading to Maui anytime soon and enjoy the outdoors, I highly recommend visiting this unique National Park! It’s not everyday you get to stand on top of a volcano 😉
Do you have any tips for visiting Haleakalā National Park? Let me know in the comments!