I could definitely not pass up the opportunity to check out Haleakala Crater during my stay in Maui, Hawaii recently. It is undoubtedly one of the most memorable experiences to be had whilst in Maui and was certainly high on my list of priorities (and one that didn’t disappoint either!).
When the day arrived, I was buzzing with so much excitement that I totally forgot to do my research first… so here are a few useful tips you may like to take into account to ensure your visit is the best it can be!
Avoid the crowds
To avoid the crowds of tourists who flock Haleakala wishing to snap the same incredible views as you are, avoiding sunrise is your best bet as it is the most popular time. In the afternoon after about 3pm, when the crowds from the day have left, is the best time and you will catch the mystic and beautiful sunset . You don’t need to worry about being rushed if you go in the late afternoon/early evening as the national park centre is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week (severe weather an exception) making it assessable at any time of the day!
It should come as no surprise that the suns rays are super strong from up above – even on a cloudy day – so remember to wear plenty of sunscreen.
The temperature drops dramatically toward the summit. This was a major mistake I made – wearing summer clothes to reaching the top of the summit and feeling absolutely freezing and uncomfortable. The temperature drops dramatically so packing some warm clothes with you is ideal and I definitely recommend it as you will need it! The climate on Haleakala is significantly different and you will be trading sunny and bright skies for dust, mist and very dark and cold temperatures (hello volcanic crater!).
Time of year
Haleakala attracts many visitors each year and with the tropical Hawaiian temperatures mild all year round, there isn’t really ever a quiet period. The Winter months (mid Nov to late March) may see a little less visitors than the popular months during Summer though.
Unless you are with a tour group ( in which the price should be inclusive) there is a small fee – approx. $10 per car when I went- or $5 per person without a car at the Park Centre in order to proceed further to the summit. The pass does last you for a total of 3 days, allowing you to visit as many times in those few days.
Best photo opportunities
There are loads of great photo opportunities up there but some of the best some will be not be from the summit lookout but elsewhere. There are various other viewpoints worth stopping at that offer great crater views and if you fancy a bit of walking, there are small trails that are incredible and you will get some great photographs!
Here is one of the pics I took not far from the summit.
Alas this, you will most certainly be reaching for your camera throughout the long, bendy and windy (2+ hours each way) drive up and back down. Although long, the drive is very scenic and as Haleakala is well above cloud level, expect some epic cloud stops along the way as you drive through white fluffy cloud cover and into the misty, dark and cold mars-like looking Haleakala crater.
It’s worth mentioning some may feel the effects of altitude sickness here so remember to drink plenty of water, stop or rest and take deep breaths if the air is starting to feel thick. In saying this, many people won’t feel a thing!
Popular activities from the National Park
Horseback Riding – yep, that’s right. You can go horse riding from 2500ft to back down the bottom. Prior riding experience is highly desirable for this.
Downhill bike tours – you can ride bikes form the National Park Centre to down the bottom of the crater. I will mention that the roads are very windy, steep and definitely not for the faint hearted. If you consider yourself an amid bike rider or are very confident on a bike, this could be a fun activity to consider.
Hikes – There are hikes available at the centre that range in distance (from short half hour to half days) some that are guided and some not. There is also the option to camp at one of the campsites.
Camping– is available here but is extremely remote. There are two different campsites; one only reached by hikers and the other you are able to drive up to. Neither supply electricity nor potable water so it is critical to pack supplies such as water but also food supplies, any necessities you may need and plenty of warm clothing to ensure you are prepared for any of Haleakala’s unpredictable weather conditions.
Star gazing – Star gazing is supposed to be absolutely amazing up here due to the clear skies and height of Haleakala. There are various small tour groups that offer this experience.
Paragliding – you can go tandem paragliding and undoubtedly experience spectacular and breathtaking views! Definitely one to pack a GoPro in for.
Helicopter – view it all from above in the luxury of a helicopter! A popular option and for good reason. Blue Hawaiian are an accredited and professional company that run excellent tours as this.
Eat before you go or pack snacks
Make sure you eat before heading up (it can take approx. 2 hours of continuous driving to reach the summit) and there is no food up there. Alternatively, pack some snacks in case you get hungry and take plenty of water also.
Caution if driving
The roads can get very steep and curvy so caution is needed if you are driving yourself and also, there are no street lights, making it incredibly difficult to drive once dark.
– The top of the summit is 10,000 feet above sea level!
– On a clear day you can catch glimpses of other surrounding Hawaiian islands such as Lanai and The Big Island
– Haleakala is still formally classified as a ‘dormant’ volcano, though it is estimated the mountain last erupted in 1790.
– The road to the summit holds the world record for reaching the highest elevation within the shortest distance! (approx. 61 kilometres that is)
-There are astonishingly many plants and forms of vegetation present that can grow on Haleakala’s unique and diverse environment. Silversword being one that can live up to 50 years and can withstand many of Haleakala’s changing weather conditions.
– Due to Haleakala’s height, it is considered among one of the world’s best viewing points for observing the celestial objects