Arguably one of the most far-flung national parks, Haleakalā National Park on Maui is a special place, and visiting it leaves many with a deeper respect for Hawaii and its lands. Haleakalā soars above the sea, with a 10,000-foot summit at the rim of one of the world’s largest volcanic craters. It’s also home to endangered species, some of which are found nowhere else in the world, and a variety of natural ecosystems, including rain forests and subalpine shrublands. With a deep history, precious wildlife and lands, jaw-dropping scenery, and memorable activities, Haleakalā National Park deserves a spot on your travel list. Here’s how to plan a memorable trip.
Watch the sunrise from the highest point in Maui.
Haleakalā, meaning “House of the Sun,” is a fitting name for the park, as over half a million people a year visit solely to watch the sunrise and sunset over the volcanic crater, the highest point on the island. Legend has it that demigod Maui lassoed the sun in order to slow its speedy journey through the sky, so that his mother, Hina, could dry her kapa (native bark cloth) during the day. Seeing the sun rise above the 10,000-foot dormant volcano is magical. The sky turns from twilight to crimson to burnt orange in a rush of colors as the sun rises above the ocean and Hawaiians sing a native song to greet the sun. Reservations are required for viewing the sunrise, but not the sunset.
Stargaze like never before.
If you don’t want to leave your bed around 3 a.m. to prepare for sunrise at Haleakalā, sunset is still stunning, and from there, you can go right into stargazing, a magical display of cosmic entertainment. The open spaces and remoteness of Haleakalā mean world-class night sky conditions. Visitors can see rare moonbows (a rainbow produced by moonlight), planets, and even the Milky Way. Star maps are available at the visitor center or headquarters. For those wanting a bit more active adventure while viewing the crater, daytime hiking trails are options, too.
Zip line for a bird’s-eye view.
Want to see the Haleakalā area’s rich ecosystem from above? Zip lining is a great way to explore as you soar above the treetops of upcountry Maui. Skyline does zip-line tours with a sustainability initiative. Between whizzing through the air on zip lines across canyons, over 90-foot drops, and through eucalyptus trees, as well as tackling the swinging bridge, learn about the native flora and fauna of the area. Since 2002, the company has planted more than 8,000 native trees.
Look for wildlife.
Covering over 30,000 acres, Haleakalā National Park is home to many plants and animals and has more endangered species than any other site in the National Park System. More than 850 species of plants can be found here, including Haleakalā silverswords, which live 90 years or more, bloom once, and then die. The nēnē (Hawaiian state bird) also calls the park home, as does the Hawaiian petrel and six native Hawaiian forest birds. The park also includes frogs, fish, deer, axis deer, Hawaiian monk seals, bats, and other wild critters.