Haleakala, a massive shield volcano that rises 10,023 feet above Maui’s coastal areas, is an enormously popular and easily accessible visitor destination. It has become almost a ritual, in fact, for visitors to rise before dawn and trek to the mountaintop to watch the sun come up.
Located in Haleakala National Park, the volcano, which has not erupted for more than 200 years, is a place of legends and intriguing biological diversity that annually attracts more than 1 million visitors.
Sunrise at Haleakala, called “House of the Sun” by early Hawaiians, is not overrated, just overcrowded. The park, which extends over 30,000 acres from Haleakala’s summit to Kipahulu Valley on the Hana coast and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, offers plenty of alternatives to a sunrise watch in a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd. Here’s an idea: Plan a day trip and stay for the sunset.
You don’t have to arrive before dawn to get a look at one of the park’s outstanding volcanic features. Often referred to as a crater, this otherwordly landscape is actually an eroded valley carved into the mountain where signs of volcanic activity are evident. Lava flows partially filled the basin, leaving cinder cones to mark their eruption. Pu’u’ o Maui, the tallest cinder cone, reaches 500 feet from the basin floor.
Within the park is the starting point for the Pipiwai Trail. The trail follows the stream that feeds Oheo Gulch and ends overlooking Waimoku Falls, which cascade down 400 feet.
Activities like hiking, horseback riding, and guided nature tours are available in the park. And you can always find a vantage point above the clouds and watch the sky by day and the stars by night. To avoid being disappointed, call the National Weather Service (877-5111) for Maui’s weather forecast. It can be cold up there with temperatures at the summit typically ranging from 32 to 65 degrees F. and occasionally dipping below zero. No food or gas is available in the park and there is a $10 entrance fee, which is good for three days. The drive, on paved roads from the island’s coastal areas, will take about two hours.
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