One of the many "must dos" in Maui is watching the sunrise or sunset at the
10,023 foot summit of Maui's magnificent dormant volcano, Haleakala. This will
be a truly beautiful, memorable, unique experience for you! People begin
driving at 2 or 3 a.m. every day to get the chance to view a sunrise from above.
The landscape of Haleakala (lit., House of the Sun) varies from stark volcanic,
moon-like surface to sub-tropical rain forest to rugged backcountry. The
summit area is protected by Haleakala National Park, established in 1916.
The mountain summit is one of the only easily-accessible areas of Hawaii where
rare and native species survive and thrive.
The road to the summit, (35 miles from Kahului), is entirely paved and easily
driven. Driving time from Kahului is approximately 1.5 hours. The summit can
be reached from Kahului via Route 37 to 377 to 378. There is a $10 private
vehicle fee for admittance to the park.
Be sure to check the weather forecast and the sunrise/sunset times before leaving.
Haleakala National Park has more endangered species than any other park in
the National Park System, even including species that are listed as endangered
by the US Fish and Wildlife Service but not native to the park. Hawaii is home
to so many plant and bird species that are found nowhere else on earth, and
they are vanishing quickly. The east side of Haleakala National Park, the
Kipahulu Valley, is closed to the public and set aside as a Biological Preserve.
Haleakala National Park has also spent considerable time and money to put
up and maintain 34 miles of fence to keep out non-native animals like goats,
cows, and pigs that do not have predators and destroy native vegetation.
Perhaps the most famous of the plants found in Haleakala National Park is the
fascinating silversword (ahinahina). The Haleakala crater is the only place in
the world this plant can be found. By 1927 only about 1000 of these plants
remained due to hikers, other visitors and grazing wild goats which had been
introduced to the mountain. Conservation efforts in the park have increased
the numbers now to about 50,000 plants. The silversword, from the same
family as the sunflower, is well adapted for its life in the barren high altitude of
Haleakala's summit. It is able to store and retain moisture in special tissue in
the "leaves" which allows it to survive in the hostile environment. Layers of
white hairs on these leaves help protect the plant from the strong ultraviolet
radiation at high altitude and give it its distinctive frosty silver shine. The
silversword is a large plant, with a rosette measuring up to about 2 feet across.
It lives from about 15 to 50 years, blooms only once, sending a stalk 5 or 6
feet upwards, and then dies.
Also found in Haleakala crater is the Naenae plant, a shrub with yellow flowers.
There is also a crossbreed plant which is a combination of the Silversword and
The Nene, also endemic, is the Hawaii State bird. Surprisingly, it is a long-lost
cousin of the Canadian Goose. In 1946, the nene was almost extinct, with only
50 birds left. Efforts were made at a captive breeding program, and the nene
was brought back to Haleakala by way of boyscouts carrying the birds in their
backpacks. Today, there are 250 nene at Haleakala. Unfortunately, they like to
be where people are, and are sometimes hit by cars. Please watch out for
them! DO NOT FEED THEM! Keep them wild!
Other native endemic birds found at Haleakala are the Ua’u (dark-rumped
petrel), the Pueo (Hawaiian owl), the Amakihi, and the Apapane. Ask a ranger
about these and other endemic and endangered species. There are books
available for purchase at the Visitor Center.
It is important to protect the remaining delicate ecosystems of Hawaii.
don’t leave the designated walking trail when visiting Haleakala!
Things to Know
The high altitude at the summit area may complicate health conditions and
cause breathing difficulties.
Consult your doctor prior to traveling to high elevations if you are pregnant,
have young children, or have respiratory or heart conditions.
Walk slowly at high elevation and drink
lots of water to avoid dehydration.
Check on elderly friends or relatives often to be sure they are OK.
Turn back and seek medical attention if
you have health concerns.
The only lodging available in the park is found in campgrounds and Wilderness
Summit Area has a drive-up campground and is your access point to the trails
leading to the Wilderness Campgrounds and Wilderness Cabins.
the closest hotels and bed-and-breakfast lodging to the Summit Area.
Dogs must be leashed and permitted only in parking areas, campgrounds, roadways and paved pathways.
Dogs not permitted on trails.
Do not leave animals unattended at any time.
Dogs not allowed in park buildings. Working dogs permitted in buildings
See the National Park System Web Site for wheelchair and hearing impaired accessibility.