I visited Haleakala summit for sunset this week, and as you can see from the photo, it was nothing short of spectacular. Having driven up for sunrise years ago, this timing seemed like an interesting juxtaposition. The drive up was very different with almost no cars, so I had the windy road virtually to myself. When coming for sunrise, I remember it was traffic all the way.
An easy drive up -- slow down and take your time
Don’t be intimidated by the drive. Just slow down and enjoy. Once I turned up Crater Drive it took about 45 minutes to reach the summit. The views and scenery along the way are fantastic. You’ll find the road in pristine condition from when it leaves Olinda, all the way to the 10,000 foot peak.
Once near the top, there’s a visitor center (closes at 3pm) and a short hike. That’s not the end of the road, however, there’s more to see at the top where you’ll find an enclosed observation deck (always open) and surreal views over the crater to the ocean beyond. I also saw the two summits of the Big Island in the distance.
The well maintained national park is vast, encompassing far more than the famous volcanic summit. It starts at the ocean at the Kipahulu area, which is accessed just beyond Hana. That’s home to O’Heo gulch, also knows as Seven Sacred Pools. Your $10 at either point buys you a three day entrance, as it is just too much park (and too much driving) to be done in one day.
There are an unlimited number of things to do, including sightseeing, walks, organized downhill bike rides and even horseback. You can also do a walk or hike conducted by the National Park Service. Naturalists will enjoy unique Hawaii flora and fauna. Star watching is unequaled, being above one third of the earth’s atmosphere. This is also the home to Hawaii’s first astronomical research observatory. If you’d like to stay on, and plan ahead, there are cabins for rent in the park.
You can expect the weather to be extreme within the park. At 5pm the temperature at the summit was a very brisk 45 degrees and sunny. Last week, flash floods and hail pelleted the park all the way down to sea level. I wore all the clothes that I had with me, and was still cold.
The National Park Service has more on their Haleakala website.
Where you’ll find us
Beat of Hawaii is on Maui this week. You’ll also find us reporting from Molokai, Lanai and the Big Island in the weeks ahead. That in addition to our normal beats of Kauai and Oahu. So expect to hear a lot more from each island.
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