A Large Volcano on the Hawaiian’ Island of Maui
If you are visiting Maui be sure and take the time for a morning visit to another world. Haleakalā offers a glimpse into a landscape that leaves the impression that you have visited Mars, with the bonus of spectacular vistas of the Pacific and the island of Maui spread out at your feet.
The Hawaiian island of Maui is actually two volcanic cones joined by a small stretch of land. The larger volcano to the southeast is Haleakalā that towers 10,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean and is still classified as active, though currently quiet.
The Haleakalā Observatory, also known as the Haleakalā High Altitude Observatory Site, is Hawaii’s first astronomical research observatory.
Haleakalā is a unique place since it is one of the only places on earth where you can drive from sea-level to ten-thousand feet in just a few miles.
The trip up the slopes to Haleakalā National Park from the seaside town of Kapalua is a full two-hour drive. The steady climb up the slopes represents most of the trip but the views from the summit are worth every minute it takes to get there. From the summit looking off to the north you will see the coast with its reefs and surf just offshore near the coastal Hana highway. Looking south is the spectacular view out across the caldera with its numerous smaller eruption cones and gorgeous multi-colored deposits. The landscape makes you feel as if you are on the planet Mars.
A popular trip is to go up to the 10,000 foot summit before dawn to watch the sun rise out across the Pacific. You do need to get a permit for the pre-dawn trip from the park service before the morning drive. Mark Twain called sunrise from Haleakalā “the most sublime spectacle I have ever witnessed.”
The best way to really experience the park is by walking its trails. There are 35+ miles of hiking trails in the Wilderness Area that guides hikers through sub-alpine scrubland, rain-forest, and cinder desert. Read more on the hiking trails HERE.
On the slopes of Haleakalā are a number of native birds and over 800 species of plants with over 300 species native, or endemic to Hawaii, found only in the islands. At the higher elevations you will find the Maui silversword or Haleakala silversword, a rare plant and part of the daisy family Asteraceae.
The silversword is referred to as ʻāhinahina in Hawaiian (literally, “very gray”). The Haleakalā silversword is found only at elevations above 7,000 feet on the Haleakalā volcano, on the summit depression, the rim summits, and surrounding slopes in the national park. The Haleakalā silversword has been a threatened species as defined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, since May 15, 1992.
If you are only spending a day or two on Maui probably the least costly way of getting to see Haleakalā is by rental car. Cars are usually about $75 for a day and at the most $100. It is also worth pointing out that the best time to visit is in the morning. Because of the islands height it has a tendency to develop clouds around the peak in the afternoon and while it is a beautiful sight being above the clouds on Haleakalā you could miss some spectacular views of the island.