Haleakala National Park is one of the top highlights of Maui and is the only national park in Hawaii (and maybe in the world) where you can both swim in the ocean and freeze on a volcanic crater. And all this within one day.

The Haleakala National Park has really incredible sights and a landscape like on Mars. But you also have to pay attention to some things here. What exactly that is, we tell you now in our travel report.

Haleakala National Park on Maui

The Haleakala National Park is located in different regions of the island. There is the Kipahulu area, which is located in the far west of Maui and offers the Pipiwai Trail as the most famous sight. The other region is located in the center of Maui at an elevation of over 3000 meters at the Haleakala Crater.

Haleakala National Park Maui 2024 I The Best Activities

There is no direct road connection between the two parts of the national park, although they are only a few kilometers apart as the crow flies. If you want to get from one part to the other, you have to drive along the beautiful, but quite strenuous Road to Hana, which will take you about 2 hours from the crater to the seaside Kīpahulu area.

The Kīpahulu Area (Pipiwai Trail)

Located on the west coast of Maui, the Kipahulu area of Haleakala National Park is on the Road to Hana and is especially popular for the Pipiwai Trail.

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This hike takes you along waterfalls, a giant banyam tree and through a bamboo forest. The destination is the Waimoku waterfall, which plunges down a rock face covered with bushes and trees from over 120 meters.

The hike is not particularly strenuous and in less than an hour you will be at the spectacular waterfall. During heavy rains, the water stream on the mountain even splits, so you can marvel at several parallel waterfalls. Simply phenomenal!

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Haleakala Crater

The area of Haleakala volcano is located in the interior of the island and can be reached by a very well developed serpentine road. Haleakala is an inactive volcano that last erupted in 1790. It is over 3,000 meters high and has an area of over 50km², which is equivalent to about 5 soccer fields.

The highlights on Haleakala Crater are the sunrise and sunset and the hiking trails that lead through the crater area.

Sunrise at Haleakala Crater

A special highlight on the over 3,000 meter high crater is the sunrise. You have the chance to see the sun rise above the clouds and get a panorama that seems to be out of this world. We had such a spectacular view already during our hike to Pico Ruivo on Madeira and can therefore imagine how the view must be here. Nevertheless, we skipped the sunrise here. Why, we tell you now.

You have to start extremely early
The sunrise is between 6 and 7 o’clock. That means you have to leave your hotel between 4 and 5 o’clock. That’s extremely early if you can’t even be sure to see anything. If you don’t want to drive yourself in the pitch dark, you can join a guided tour* that will pick you up from your hotel.

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Tickets for the sunrise are severely limited
There are only 150 tickets available each morning for the sunrise. These are booked up quickly, so you should be quick. However, they only cost 1€ in addition to the normal entrance fee of 30$ and are also per car and not per person. You can also book a guided tour* if you don’t want to drive through the darkness alone so early.

Often the volcano is cloudy
Very often – especially in winter – the volcano is cloudy all day. There is a webcam (more on that later), but it won’t do you much good at night. So you should only make the trip for sunrise if the weather forecast really predicts absolutely clear skies.

It is extremely cold on the volcano
Especially at sunrise temperatures can be around freezing point. So you should have a thick jacket with you and do without short socks and flip-flops.

Sunset on the volcano
If you don’t want to leave so early and still want to have a spectacular view, then the sunset is a good option. Here you don’t need a separate ticket and you can try it several days in a row if the weather doesn’t play along.

Haleakala National Park Maui 2024 I The Best Activities

Sliding Sands Trail

Hiking at Haleakala Crater

There are several hikes on Haleakala volcano, but the most spectacular and most hiked is surely the Sliding Sands hike. This hiking trail starts at almost the highest point of the volcano and leads you over 18 km through inhospitable desert landscapes directly through the crater. You will feel like you are on Mars and we have only seen similar landscapes in the Valle de la Luna in the Atacama Desert.

The hike is easy to do in one day for experienced hikers, even though there are almost 1000 meters of altitude to climb. Unfortunately, the hike is not a circular route, but you have the possibility to walk back to the place of origin via the serpentine road. Alternatively, you can try to stop a car at the road to continue hitchhiking.

Haleakala National Park Maui 2024 I The Best Activities

You can find the starting point of the hike here on Google Maps. If you follow the trail to the end, you will come out here at the serpentine road (Google Maps).

If you only want to take a look at this phenomenal natural scenery, then it is enough to follow the hiking trail for a few kilometers. You can see the valley of the crater from above and can therefore guess what would expect you in the further course of the hike.

But keep in mind that you are here at an altitude of almost 3000 meters, the way back goes steeply upwards and thanks to the thin air this becomes very exhausting very quickly!

Brief information about the Sliding Sands Trail:

  • Length: 18 km
  • Duration: 8-10 hours
  • Loop trail: no
  • Altitude gain: 970 meters
  • Difficulty: difficult
  • GPX: Hike at Alltrails

Nenes | Hawaii’s national animal

A very special highlight here high up on Haleakala Crater is a small animal that lives in other areas of Hawaii, but is most likely to be spotted here by you. The Nene is a Hawaiian goose species and became the national bird of Hawaii in 1957. The animals are usually very shy, but strangely not up here.
Haleakala National Park Maui 2024 I The Best Activities
They are used to humans and sometimes even walk right up to you. The animals are super cute, but protected by law. You are not allowed to touch or feed them. In addition, you should drive carefully and slowly on the way to the volcano, because many animals have been run over by careless tourists.

Tickets for Haleakala National Park

The Haleakala National Park has an entrance fee, which you can pay online or on site at the ticket office. The price is 30$ no matter how many people are in the car. The ticket is valid for 3 days and entitles you to enter the crater area as well as the Pipiwai Trail hike.

Tickets are available online on the official website of the national park.

Haleakala Webcam | What is the weather like on the volcano?

It really only makes sense to go to the crater in Haleakala National Park when the weather is reasonably good. If it is very cloudy then the clouds are hanging in the mountains and in doubt you will not see anything. To minimize this risk it helps to have the mountain always in sight. You can see the summit from most regions of Maui and so also estimate quite well how cloudy it is probably up there.

Additionally there is a webcam where you can see the weather at the visitor center of the crater. If you have a clear view here, then off to the top!

Keep in mind, though, you’re at over 3000 meters, so it’s going to be cold. Even if you don’t want to go up for sunrise, you should have long pants, a sweater and a jacket.

We hope you enjoyed our blog post about Haleakala National Park. Feel free to leave us a comment or a few stars.

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