If you’ve become a national parks queen like me (I mean, I basically wrote a love letter to them), you can’t come to Hawaii without spending a day at Haleakala National Park. We spent a full day day there in order to experience an ancient volcano crater. There are other things to do in the park, but we were definitely #TeamCrater.
The Short Version
- We weren’t able to do this due to a last minute flight cancellation, but I HIGHLY recommend driving up for sunrise. Sunrises at Haleakala require a reservation and there aren’t that many spots available. Tickets open up on certain days at a particular time, and then more are released a few days before the desired date.
- Take your time driving up to enjoy the stops and views along the way until you reach the summit, then wander around.
- Hike Sliding Sands Trail.
- Enjoy sunset back up at the summit.
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The Long Version of Our Day at Haleakala National Park
The Drive Up & Summit Area
Since we were no longer going to be there for sunrise, we arrived to the park entrance around 9am. We spent an hour or two driving up the winding roads and just collecting our jaws off the bottom of our rental car. It’s truly spectacular to climb up into the clouds and be able to look around to see the island become smaller and smaller. There are countless stops and pullouts to check out as you drive up to the summit, so if you’re not a hiker you’ll definitely get to check out some truly impressive crater views. The most popular views are:
- Kalahaku Overlook
- Leleiwi Overlook
- Pu’u’ula’ula (Summit Observation Deck)
Getting up to the summit is amazing because you can see the observatory and walk around. Let me tell you want though you will want LAYERS because it is cold up here. Like, no joke. Jackets, gloves, hats, the whole gambit.
Hiking Sliding Sands Trail
Once we got to the summit, we headed to the Sliding Sands Trailhead where we hiked about half the way down before we had to turn back so we could make it back for sunset in time. This hike was one of the coolest – if not THE coolest – hike I’ve ever done. It looked like you are trekking through a completely different world and I loved it. The terrain looked like Mars, the plants looked like they were robots, and it was just the coolest experience. If you’re a fan of hiking and/or unique environments, you’ll want to do one of the hikes into the crater.
We were unfortunately only able to do about half of the hike (so ~5 miles of the total 11) due to needing to head back for sunset, but it was still an excellent workout. If you can make it work, and are able to, the full hike will be nothing short of astonishing.
Sunset at Summit
After we finished hiking, we rested our noodle-like little legs and grabbed chairs for sunset. It was a dream. We were at the summit area looking toward the observatory, and just watched the sky turn all different shades of orange and pink. Every once in awhile a cloud would overtake the area and we’d all be totally blind until it passed. It was truly incredible, but also chilly. Please save yourself from the cold and bring a blanket; you won’t regret it.
So there you have it, an amazing day at Haleakala National Park. A little bit of volcano, a lot of hiking, and just enough sunset. This was just one day of our incredible four days in Maui, and it is definitely one of my most favorite. If you want to follow along on the trip and see rad videos of this place, check out my Maui Highlight reel. And if you want more Hawaii recommendations and tips, check out my other Hawaii blogs.