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Visiting Amazing Haleakala "House of the Sun", Maui

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Spectacular Haleakala Sunrise Tour

Horseback & Haleakala Summit Safari

Haleakala Sunrise

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.

Silversword Photo

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 Naenae.

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. PLEASE don’t leave the designated walking trail when visiting Haleakala!

Do Not Feed Nene Photo
Nene Photo
Haleakala Crater Photo

Things to Know

Safety Tips:

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.

Lodging:

The only lodging available in the park is found in campgrounds and Wilderness Cabins.

The Summit Area has a drive-up campground and is your access point to the trails leading to the Wilderness Campgrounds and Wilderness Cabins.

Kula provides the closest hotels and bed-and-breakfast lodging to the Summit Area.

Pets:

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

Accessibility:

See the National Park System Web Site for wheelchair and hearing impaired accessibility.

Haleakala Landscape Photo

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