Coastal splendours, mountainous trails, rainforest hideaways and volcanic cinder cones – the many exquisite elements of Maui’s Haleakala National Park are just waiting to be explored. Meaning “house of the sun”, Haleakala National Park stretches from the coast to the volcano’s rim and will impress intrepid travellers in need of a nature-inspired getaway.
The history of the alluring park is intriguing. Legend has it that the demigod Maui trapped the sun in the Haleakala volcano – he wanted the sun to travel more slowly across the sky so he could enjoy longer days with more light, and so the “house of the sun” came to be.
The park has two main sections reachable via separate roads: the summit of the volcano and the Kīpahulu coastal region. Together, they cover over 34,000 acres and range from sea level to 10,000 feet. It’s quite a climb and area to cover, on foot or by car. It’s best to dedicate at least one day to each area, or even camp overnight. Just be sure to plan ahead as there's no food, beverages or petrol stations available in the park.
Start with a visit to the summit in the early hours of the morning, if possible. At the high elevation with crystal-clear air, both sunrises and sunsets are spectacular. In fact, the park is famous for the explosion of stars that appears every night – all the more reason to take advantage of the campsites or book a cabin. Permits and weather information are available at the visitor centres, open seven days a week. Hiking around the summit can seem like walking on the moon – the cinder desert has vivid colours and expansive rock formations. In addition to your camera, pack for both warm weather and cold temperatures.
After seeing the park from above, drive in from below in the Kīpahulu area. The famous winding Hana Highway offers views of the ocean and inland waterfalls, and a chance to spot some roaming sea life. A hike through the rainforest wonderland to the silvery pools of water fed by the mountain streams is a must. Check in with the friendly National Park Service for maps and conditions.