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Maui Travel Tip: What to Know About Haleakala

One of the most interesting places to visit on Maui is Haleakala, the 10,023 ft. volcano which makes up the east side of the island.  There are two facts that surprise many visitors:  it is not a dormant volcano, it just doesn’t erupt very often, only every 200-500 years.  (The last one was 200-250 years ago.) And the moonlike depression in the center is not a true crater; it’s simply a product of erosion.  But everyone refers to it as a crater because that’s so much easier to say!
The moon or Maui?
Astronauts actually did lunar landing training here.
Haleakala is not a quick side trip to be checked out on a whim.   The drive one way takes 2-3 hours depending where you start, and the last hour is spent on 25 miles of twisting road and switchbacks.  It’s not a difficult drive, as the road is wide, paved, and well-marked.  And the views are spectacular.  But you have to take your time, and watch for cyclists.  Anyone prone to car sickness might want to give it a second thought.

Here we go!
One of the straighter sections
And you need to know what to expect.  Here are few tips before you head up to the summit:
Bring your own food and drink – It’s at least an hour drive back down the mountain to get to any restaurants or other services. 
Prepare for high wind – I suggest women bring a scarf they can tie around their chin, especially if they have long hair that will poke them in the eye or get stuck in their mouth.  A knit cap works if it fits securely.  Even a hat with a chin strap can get pulled off easily in the strong gusts.
Wishing I had a scarf right now!
Wear sunscreen – The sun’s rays are especially damaging in the thin atmosphere.
Bring layers to keep warm, and raingear or a water repellant jacket – It can be hot & sunny at sea level but wet & misty at the summit.  Even if it’s a clear day, the temperatures are much lower and the wind makes it feel much colder.
Bring binoculars – You will have panoramic views of the entire island, and can even see all the way to the Big Island on a clear day.

Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa in the distance
Watch the time if heading out on a trail into the crater – Distances are deceiving because of the lack of perspective, and a landmark may be much farther away than it appears.  Also remember that it will take twice as long to climb back up as it does to go down, and it will feel more strenuous due to the elevation.   Once the sun goes below the rim to cast shadows, temperatures drop very quickly, so don’t head out too late in the day.  (This one I can vouch for from experience!)
The trails down there are much further away than they look!
If you want a truly memorable experience, watch the sunrise from the summit.  This takes an especially hardy traveler, as you have get up insanely early while on vacation, and withstand temperatures that can dip below freezing.  But it’s worth one of the most beautiful and unique sunrises you will ever see.  And to add to the adventure, ride back down on a bike with one of the tour companies!

Sunrise circa 1988. I don’t expect it’s changed much.
A van full of thrill-seekers parked at the summit.
A nice stop on the way back to sea level is Grandma’s Coffee House, a family-owned business that has been roasting coffee on the premises for four generations.  It’s small and simple, but the food is good and reasonably priced, including  large sandwiches, homemade desserts, banana bread, and of course, excellent coffee.

Lots of Grandma’s pies in that case
For helping planning a fun and memorable trip to Maui, contact me at suzette@family-treks.com.