by matt morris
Soaring 10,000ft above sea level, the Haleakalā summit is one of the most incredible viewing spot on the island of Maui. Located about 1.5 hours away from Central Maui (Kahului), this trip will certainly be one journey you will not want to miss out during your stay on Maui! Although the most popular time of the day to visit the Haleakalā National Park is during the early morning hours to see the sunrise, the sunset is equally spectacular to experience and you don’t have to wake up in the early morning hours to make the drive! I recently took a trip to the summit to see the amazing sites again and thought it would be nice to share my experience with guests and local residents. For this trip, I opted to take a pre-planned trip (with a tour guide) which was great as I didn’t not need to worry about driving and could had the luxury of looking out the window the entire trip up.
My journey started in Kahului where we began to make our way up the side of the volcano on the Haleakalā Highway. One of the nicest things about this tour was that our driver was also our guide and guests were both entertained and educated about the island’s rich history of culture and sugar cane, which is located on both sides of the Highway on the way up. We made a short stop at the Maui Lavender Farm which is about 1/2 way up the volcano. This scenic and enjoyable stop allowed us to walk around the gardens, see the incredible views, and take pictures of the beautiful flowers such as lavender, king protea, and pin cushions. Additionally guests are able to walk into the little shop they have to look at and even purchase various Lavender products such as soaps, lotions, tea and water (I can never resist fresh banana bread and they had a delicious loaf sitting there with my name on it). After a short 30 minute stop here, it was time to continue along the way up to the Haleakalā National Park.
As we continued to drive through the clouds, our driver was really informative about the inversion layer which is the layer of clouds between 7,000 and 9,000ft elevation where the warm air meets the cool air and explained that it is at times hard to predict what the conditions as the summit will be like. He also noted that it is common that it may look cloudy from the lower elevations and that the higher altitudes will be clear, however, there are times where the cloud layer is a little thicker near the summit. The drive along the slopes of Haleakalā continued through the small town of Kula and our guide pointed out a few unique plants such as the protea, avocado trees, and the swan plants found along the side of the road. As we drove a little higher up the volcano, we drove through the clouds, which was spectacular! The further along we drove, the better views we had of the Central Maui valley including Kihei, Kahului, and Wailuku. It was nice to see the clouds starting to break up as well.
Upon arrival to the park entrance, our guide continue to talk about the park history and how the land was acquired back in the early 1900’s and then became a National Park. We were even fortunate enough to see to Nēnē (Hawaiian goose) crossing the road right at the entry. From the entrance of the Park, we still had several miles to go and thankfully the clouds had cleared and our driver let us know what a beautiful evening it was going to be at the Summit area. The drive was really pleasant and it was great to be able to take pictures along the drive and listen to our guide talk story with the guests too.
Upon arrival to our destination at the visitor center (9,700ft), we got off of the bus and were able to walk around and could even see the Haleakalā Crater just before the shadow of the crater rim started to appear. We arrived with plenty of time to take pictures and check out the information signs that were posted around various parts of the area we were visiting before the sun started to set. Each day, the views will be different, and for our trips, there was a thick layer of clouds at around 7,000ft elevation (nearly 2,000ft below where we were) and we could not see the central valley or the neighboring islands, though it was a scenic “blanket” of clouds that was just simply amazing to see. It was finally time to sit back and enjoy the spectacular colors as the sun sank into the clouds.
It was getting quite dark and it was time to head back down the slopes of Haleakalā, the same way we came up the dormant volcano. On the way down, it was great to think about the highlights of our trip and it was great to know that our next stop was dinner at Cafe O’lei (included in our trip) . Usually when I travel to the summit area, I am rather tired from the altitude change and it was great to not need to worry about dinner after the trip. The menu which included salad, Portuguese bean soup, pasta, and a tasty beef dish. What a great way to end the trip before heading back home!
Tips & Recommendations for Viewing Sunset
Many guests often ask me about taking a trip up to the Haleakalā National Park by tour or by doing a self guided trip. Personally I think that each guests is different and it really depends on the guest – I find that there are many highlights of taking a tour versus driving and I wanted to share some of the highlights and thoughts of doing guided tour:
Tips for Visiting Haleakala at Sunset
Haleakalā National Park is one of my favorite places on Maui to be. There is SO much more than just site seeing here and you may find that you will easily lose track of time watching the clouds roll into the crater or just looking out into the surroundings. Don’t miss out on this amazing experience regardless if you take a tour or go a self guided trip up to the the National Park. For additional details about visiting this National Park, check out our Guide to Haleakalā which is filled with great information about visiting Haleakalā at different times. If you are ready to book your trip, Please feel free to contact us today to learn more about the park or about the island of Maui. Though we do not recommend doing any extensive hiking during the sunset, there are some short hiking trails that you can visit to see stunning views too.
I hope this information has been helpful to you and your ‘ohana (family). Maui Activity Concierge is happy to help you with any of your questions related to the Haleakalā National Park or any of your Maui questions. As a full service Concierge, we are interested in making the most of your Maui vacation and to make sure you and see and do the things you want to while on vacation. Looking to experience more while on Maui? Check out our website for other activities or feel free to use our Activity Request Form and we are happy to send you more information about the activities you want to experience during your Maui vacation! We are looking forward to speaking with you!
Maui Activity Concierge LLC
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