Have you ever thought about visiting Haleakala National Park? This is a National Park on the island of Maui and it looks a lot like a moonscape!
Where can you find Haleakala National Park?
The US state of Hawaii is home to two US National Parks:
- Volcanoes National Park on the island of Hawaii (better known as Big Island)
- Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui
So, Haleakala National Park is located on Maui and covers a large part of the southwest of the island. From the airport in Kahului it is about an hour’s drive to the entrance of the park. Good to know: you cannot get to Haleakala National Park by public transport. You really need a rental car or you need to book a tour.
What is Haleakala?
Haleakala is a large shield volcano and covers no less than 75% (!) Of the island of Maui. Only the top of the volcano is part of Haleakala National Park. It is an active volcano, although the last eruption took place around the year 1600.
According to a local legend, the grandmother of the demigod Maui lived on the top of the volcano. Together they captured the sun to make the days last longer. The sun gave in and caused the days in summer to last longer than the days in winter. The word Haleakala is Hawaiian for “house of the sun”.
The two districts of Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park consists of two different districts:
- Haleakala Summit Area
- Kipahulu Area
There’s no connection between the districts. You cannot drive directly from one district to another, only via a very long detour around the island. Most people therefore often only visit one district.
Haleakala Summit Area
The most famous and most easily accessible district of Haleakala National Park is the Haleakala Summit Area. You can drive all the way to the top via a winding road. In the Summit Area, you can admire the large crater, walk in a special forest called Hosmer’s Grove and you can see the observatory.
The Kipahulu Area is a lot more difficult to reach and is, therefore, less visited. To get here you have to take winding roads all the way to the other side of the island. Along the north, you can take the road to Hana (one of the highlights on Maui), or you have to drive on a partly unpaved road when you want to reach this district from the south. The Kipahulu Area Visitor Center is a 30-minute drive from Hana.
Much of the Kipahulu Area consists of a tropical rainforest that is closed to the public. But there are many lakes to see her, you can even go swimming in some of them!
How much does it cost to go to Haleakala?
A visit to Haleakala National Park costs $ 30 per car or $ 15 per person on foot or by bicycle. Your admission ticket is valid for three days. If you plan to visit multiple national parks in the United States, it can be beneficial to purchase an America the Beautiful pass. It costs $ 80 and is valid for an entire year for almost all of the National Parks and National Monuments in the USA.
Check the Haleakala National Park official website for the most up-to-date information.
How much time do you need?
Personally, I would spend half a day or a full day visiting Haleakala Summit Area (including sunrise!). And about half a day to the Kipahulu Area. Please note: it takes more than three hours to drive from one district to another, so I wouldn’t visit both districts on the same day.
If you plan to do a lot of hikes, you can easily enjoy two days in the Summit Area and a full day in the Kipahulu Area.
Weather in Haleakala National Park
The weather is very unpredictable in Haleakala National Park, so it is wise to put on a lot of (light) layers. For the Kipahulu Area, a raincoat is a must (and swimwear!) And for the Summit Area, it is useful to bring a warm sweater or jacket.
At the top of the volcano, it is often quite sunny but it can also be a bit chilly. Make no mistake and apply sunscreen as much as you can, because the sun is very bright here. During a walk in the crater, I got a really bad sunburn on a place I forgot to put sunscreen on, and that hurt so bad! So please, take care of yourself before going on any hikes.
Things to do in Haleakala National Park?
You now know a bit more about Haleakala National Park its location, but what are the fun things to do in Haleakala National Park?
Go to one of the visitor centers
There are three different visitor centers in Haleakala National Park: two in the Summit Area and one in the Kipahulu Area. In every US National Park, it is recommended to visit a visitor center because you learn so much about the park! You can also buy souvenirs here, ask rangers about the most beautiful places to visit and use the bathroom.
Go to the top
The top of Haleakala is at an altitude of 3,055 meters (10,023 feet) and you can get there all the way by car! From here you have a fantastic view (if it is not too cloudy) of the entire island of Maui. You’ll be able to have a good look at the observatory and you can see the volcanoes on the largest island of Hawaii (Big Island).
Get up early for the sunrise
Many people visit Haleakala National Park to admire the sunrise, which is spectacular. The colors of the landscape become even brighter and it seems as if the sun is rising from the crater.
The sunrise in Haleakala National Park is extremely popular, which is why you can only watch it if you have a reservation. A reservation costs $ 1 and can be booked a week in advance via this website. Make sure you are on top of the volcano at least half an hour before sunrise (earlier if you want to get a good spot). Beautiful places to watch the sunrise are the top of Haleakala, the Haleakalā Visitor Center, or just in the crater of the Keonehe’ehe’e Trail (a few minutes walk from the visitor center).
There are some beautiful trails to be found in Haleakala National Park and most of them are located in the Summit Area. A few recommendations:
- Keonehe‘ehe‘e: An 11 mile (17.8 kilometer) hike through the crater. Please note: this is a one-way trail, you will end at a different place than where you started. There are no shuttles in the park, so you will need to arrange your own transportation (or hitchhiking). You can also choose to hike a short section of this trail into the crater and hike back the same way (this is what I did myself). That is also very recommended!
- Hosmer Grove Nature Trail: short loop trail of 0.54 miles (0.87 kilometers) at the Hosmer Grove Campground. A special ecosystem with trees, plants and birds that can be seen in few other places in the world.
- Pīpīwai Trail: 4 mile (6.4 kilometer) hike in the Kipahulu Area. Through the rainforest, a bamboo forest and along a waterfall.
Visit the viewpoints
In the Summit Area, you will find various viewpoints and it is definitely worth stopping there. With clear skies, you’ll be able to see very far and you will see other islands of the state of Hawaii.
Where to stay
Do you also feel like visiting Haleakala National Park while reading this article? It is helpful to stay as close as possible to (or in) the park to make your visit to Haleakala National Park worthwhile.
In the park: camping
You can stay the night in four different places in the park:
- Hosmer Grove Campground (Summit Area): a small drive up campsite, first come first serve. No fixed places, you can put your tent anywhere you want. There are restrooms, picnic tables, and BBQs. The campground is free (which comes in handy if you plan to do Hawaii on a budget!).
Kīpahulu Campground (Kipahulu Area): This is also a drive-up campground, but close to the Kipahulu Visitor Center.
- Primitieve cabins (Summit Area): if you plan to do long hikes in Haleakala National Park, you can sleep in one of the primitive cabins. These are only accessible on foot and you must apply for a permit to be allowed to sleep here. A permit costs $ 75 per cabin (which can accommodate up to 12 people).
- Primitive Camping (Summit Area): There are two primitive campgrounds in the park, both only accessible for hikers. You need a permit to stay here. This is free and available at the Headquarters Visitor Center.
Good to know: there is no drinking water available at the campsites. The water at the cabins and the primitive campsites is collected rainwater, so it must be filtered. That’s why I always bring this Sawyer water filter when I’m going for a hike.
Outside the park
There are no hotels or luxury accommodations to be found in the National Park. Would you like to stay in a more comfortable accommodation? These are some recommendations:
- Kula Lodge in Kula: several rooms in a nice wooden lodge, not far from the access road to the park (Summit Area).
- Heavenly Hana Paradise in Hana: small guest house in a tropical location. Perfect as a base to visit the Kipahulu Area.
- Banyan Tree B&B Retreat in Makawao: cozy B&B with beautiful gardens, a yoga studio, and a swimming pool. About a 40-minute drive from the Summit Area.
I always book my hotels and hostels through Booking.com and apartments and houses with cooking facilities through Airbnb. Since the (affordable) options on Maui are limited, I would book something well in advance of your trip.
Tip: Have you never booked anything through Airbnb? Then use this link to sign up and you will receive a great discount on your first booking.
Fancy a trip to Maui? Here’s some practical information.
How do you get to Maui?
The islands of Hawaii are about 3000 kilometers from the nearest continent, so you will have to fly there. Flights from Europe often have a transfer in the USA (usually Los Angeles or Seattle) and it takes almost a whole day. From Westcoast USA, it takes about five hours to reach Hawaii by plane. Check Skyscanner to compare prices and travel times.
Rent a car in Hawaii
As I mentioned earlier, Haleakala National Park is not accessible by public transport and you will have to rent a car to get there. That is definitely recommended on Maui, only with a rental car you will get to the most beautiful places.
It is wise to reserve your rental car before departure so that you can drive away immediately upon arrival. I myself like to compare prices in advance and usually I find the cheapest options for a rental car in the US through one of these websites:
Especially when you travel from Europe to Hawaii, it’s smart to reserve a car through a European company. This way you know that all necessary insurance is included in the rental price.
If you’re not from Europe, you might want to check these websites as well for a good deal on a rental car in the US:
Do you want to read more about Hawaii?
These were all my tips for visiting Haleakala National Park. Would you like to read more about a trip to beautiful Hawaii? Then order one of these great travel guides:
Or check out one of these articles:
- The perfect itinerary for Hawaii: exploring Oahu, Maui & Big Island
- How much does a trip to Hawaii cost?
- Hawaii on a budget: tips & tricks
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