Would you expect snow or freezing rain while visiting Hawaii? Well, we didn’t, but we could have, because it can happen on Haleakalā. Haleakalā (pronounced ha leh ah kah lah), or “House of the Sun” in the Hawaiian language is a national park on the island of Maui. We were able to extend some business travel to see this beautiful national park that is a blend of volcanic desert-land and lush coastal forest.
When visiting Haleakalā for a day, you have to make a choice on if you want to drive to the summit of the volcano or explore the coastal perimeter of the park known as the Kipahulu area. Each section can consume your day with driving and hiking. We chose the summit region for our exploration.
Getting to the park involved a nice drive through farmland that reminded us a lot of the farms as you enter Pinnacles National Park in central California. A blend of horses, cattle, goats, and wild chickens were scattered around the private land. Once we entered the park and continued on the steep drive to get from sea level to over 10,000 feet elevation, we entered an alien landscape that was literally built up by volcanos while also being eroded down by wind and weather. In fact, from its base on the ocean floor to its summit, Haleakalā is taller than Mount Everest.
A memorable experience for many who visit Haleakalā is to arrive in the pre-dawn hours to watch the sun come up over the earth and greet you. It’s so popular that the park now takes reservations from 3AM to 7AM to manage the volume of visitors. We didn’t partake in that experience on this trip as we didn’t want to get up that early, nor did we want to pack our cold weather gear. The summit can be 30-40 degrees colder than sea level.
Once at the summit, we parked and explored to take in the views. From 10,000′, we were able to see the Island of Hawaii 80-100 miles away in the distance. We also were able to see the nearer islands and other half of Maui. What was also amazing was that there were cloudbanks moving below us around 8,000′ and we could see down on top of them as they moved across the landscape.
As we explored more around the summit, we took a short stroll to the summit of Pu’u’ula’ula to soak in some views down into the valley that has been created over time. The peak of the volcano was once 3,000 to 6,000 feet taller but This valley reminded us of the Artists Palette of Death Valley or Petrified Forest.
What was also neat about the park was the endemic plantlife that only lives there, such as the silversword, or ʻahinahina,
Each National Park allows us to reflect on what we found to be the most meaningful moment of our experience.
Quincy: I liked climbing around the lookout point near Pu’u’ula’ula where my sister and I each found our own little sitting spots to soak in the views on a windy day. But the real highlight was getting fresh juiced pineapples on the drive back to the hotel.
Leona: My favorite was looking at the craters of each volcano, called a pu’u.
Mary: the views from the top to see the big Island in the distance.
Sean: I loved seeing the cloud layer around 8,000′ elevation as we stood at 10,000′ and could watch the clouds cruise by from a birdseye view.
Haleakala was a short trip during our entire trip, so we dropped in a few other photos as well.