The Birth: The word Haleakala is Hawaiian for “house of the sun.” A Hawaiian legend stated that Maui, a demigod, imprisoned the sun in the volcano to lengthen the day. The Haleakala volcano last erupted sometime between 1480 and 1600 AD.
An area including the volcano’s summit down to the southern shore of the Pacific, as well as two volcanoes on the island of Hawaii, was originally created as the Hawaii National Park in 1916. The volcanoes on the island of Hawaii were made into a separate National Park in 1961.
It Happened Here: Bicycling down from the Haleakala summit is a unique way to see the island of Maui. Tour operators used to pick people up at their hotels, deliver them to the summit parking lot in the National Park, and then lead them down the 27-mile, 10,000′ slope to the ocean. After many fatal accidents involving cyclists on the twisting mountain road, in 2007 the Park suspended all bicycle tours within the park boundaries … so now tour operators have to start outside the Park, at 6,500′. Watch out for them as you drive up!
Size: 33,265 acres
# Visitors: 1,094,668 in 2012 – just about half of the visitors attracted in 1999. Visitation is relatively steady month-to-month, but July and August are typically the biggest months, with February and March the smallest. Interestingly, only one in six visitors to Maui also visit the National Park. Most people are making a big mistake!
Plants: Once plants and animals were brought to the Hawaiian island (the most remote island chain on earth), each species had to develop special adaptations in order to survive in their new climate. As a result, many species are unique to the islands, and rare. More endangered species live in Haleakala National Park than in any other National Park in the United States. As people have come to Maui and the National Park, some of these species have suffered. It is said that the silverswords, known to native Hawaiians as ahinahina, used to cover the summit of Haleakala Mountain to a degree that the mountain looked as if it were covered with snow.
Animals: The Hawaiian Petrel, AKA ‘Ua’u, is an endangered species with a large nesting colony atop the Haleakala summit. They are migratory seabirds that fly at night and are believed to navigate by stars. The state bird of Hawaii, the endangered Hawaian Goose, AKA nene, also nests at Haleakala.
Choices: The summit of the volcano is a totally different experience than the lush tropical forest at the shoreline. You’ll need to spend two different days to appreciate the top and bottom of the park: to drive from the summit to the Kipahulu station takes about 6 hours round trip.
Fees: The park is open daily; a 7-day pass is $10. Hold on to your pass; you’ll need to visit the shore and the summit on different days.
Staying There: There are no hotels in the Park. There are three primitive wilderness cabins available through a lottery for rental. To reach the cabins, you must hike at least four miles (Holua) or more (six to Kapalaoa and ten to Paliku). Wilderness camping is also available by permit only, and group sizes are strictly limited. Water may not be available in the crater, and won’t be potable without filtration.
Contact Info:PO Box 369
Makawao HI 96768 (808) 572-4400
Current Issues: Many native Hawaiians fought the expansion of the observatory complex on the summit of Haleakala, but to no avail. Construction has now begun on a massive, $300 million telescope atop the summit which should be completed by 2020. Construction of the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope began late in 2012 after several years of delays caused by the controversy.
Don’t Miss This: You need to watch the sun come up over the crater, which I photographed in 2010. The link for The Haleakala Adventure is below.
The views for sunset are just as spectacular. It is said that if you see your shadow on the clouds during a sunset, then you will have wonderful luck.