Maui Volcano: 10 Best Things to Do in Haleakala National Park

Updated Jan 9, 2024 ,

Haleakala National Park Sunrise

Clocking in at a whopping 30,000 acres and standing at 10,023 feet above sea level, there are countless things to do in Haleakala National Park. Attracting visitors for its unique volcanic landscape, mesmerizing views, and plenty of scenic hiking opportunities, it’s one of those places you should not miss on a visit to Maui.

Haleakala means “house of the sun,” and for good reason. Haleakala boasts the most breathtaking sunrise and sunset views you’ll find anywhere in Maui. But while most visitors come here to witness the sky transform into a kaleidoscope of colors, there are a variety of activities to experience in this otherworldly location.

From experiencing the Haleakala Sunrise and hiking in the Haleakala Crater to walking through a dense Bamboo Forest, here’s a list of the best things to do in Haleakala National Park.

Experience the Haleakala Sunrise

Painting Maui’s sky with an ethereal palette of pinks, oranges, and gold, Haleakala’s sunrise is a sight to behold. It’s one of the most popular things to do in Haleakala National Park, with thousands of visitors climbing the volcano every month to witness the spectacle.

The sun rises around 5:30 am in the summer and as late as 7:00 am in the winter. Space is limited, and reservations are required, so plan to arrive at least an hour before sunrise if you want to secure a good spot. From many places on the island, that means leaving your hotel as early as 2:30 am, depending on the time of year, since the drive can take up to two hours.

The routes to the summit are well-paved, with plenty of reflective signs and lane markers, so driving in the dark isn’t difficult. However, the roads are winding, and it takes a while. So, if you’d prefer not to drive, a Haleakala Sunrise Tour might be a better option.

One last thing to note about the sunrise is to dress in layers. It can be really cold at the summit in the morning, but as soon as the sun comes out, you’ll start to warm up, especially if you plan on hiking afterward (one of the best times to hike, in my opinion).

Haleakala Sunrise vs Sunset

Many people swear by the sunrise, but my personal opinion is that the sunset is a better experience. Don’t get me wrong, the sunrise is worth it, but it’s over quickly. With the sunset, you get treated to a show that lasts much longer, with the added bonus of stargazing if you stick around. You also don’t need to wake up so early in the morning!

Learn MoreThe Best Haleakala Sunrise Tours

Haleakala Sunset and Stargazing

If you don’t like waking up early, then watching the Haleakala sunset might be for you. Casting dramatic colors over Maui’s volcanic landscapes, it’s just as captivating as the Haleakala sunrise, so you won’t be disappointed if you do this instead.

Joining a Haleakala Sunset Tour is the easiest way to experience the sunset, but those with a rental car can make the drive without a reservation. Just be sure to leave yourself plenty of time as the drive can be as long as two hours from many parts of the island.

When visiting Haleakala Summit for the sunset, there are two things to keep in mind:

  • Dress Warm – It can get really cold (I mean freezing) at the top of Haleakala, even before the sun goes down. So dress in warm clothes to ensure you’re comfortable.
  • Be Patient – A cloudy sky at the summit can be a bummer. But be patient! It was cloudy the first time we went, but the sky opened up just before sunset for a spectacular show. It’s not guaranteed, but conditions can change quickly.

If you have time, after sunset, it’s worth sticking around for stargazing. Due to the high elevation and minimal light pollution, the skies here are clear and pristine, making it one of the best places in the world to view the cosmos.

Learn MoreThe Best Haleakala Sunset Tours

Bike Down Haleakala’s Slopes

Given its remarkably stunning landscapes and miles of switchbacks, Haleakala National Park is a superb cycling destination. The dormant volcano is over 10,000 feet at its summit, and cycling through its winding roads on a Haleakala Bike Tour is an experience you’ll never forget.

You’ll start your journey not on a bike but in a van as you’re shuttled to the top by your tour guide. Once there, you’ll gear up and get ready for your descent. Depending on the tour you book (guided or self-guided), the van will follow behind as you make your way down.

Unfortunately, tour companies are no longer allowed to drop riders off at the summit, but you’ll still start close to the top. Additionally, parts of the lower road are off-limits due to complaints from residents, so some tour companies have you shuttle the switchbacks twice.

Learn MoreThe Best Haleakala Bike Tours

Zipline on Haleakala’s Mountain Side

Ziplining in Maui is a unique and exciting way to experience the island’s stunning natural beauty. One of the best places to try this adventurous sport is on the slopes of Haleakala. There’s only one zipline company that operates here, but it’s a good one.

Located only a few miles from Haleakala National Park, Skyline Hawaii’s course is an award-winning 5-line zipline that lets you zip over 90-foot drops. This course takes you across canyons at over 45 mph as you enjoy a bird’s eye view of Haleakala’s gorgeous landscapes.

If the thought of ziplining makes you worried, have no fear! These tours are operated by professional guides that not only ensure your safety but are fun to hang out with, too.

Learn MoreThe Best Haleakala Zipline Tours

Take a Haleakala Helicopter Tour

Taking a helicopter tour in Maui allows you to enjoy unparalleled panoramic views of the island’s stunning scenery, including the volcanic landscapes of Haleakala. As you fly over Haleakala, you’ll witness the lunar-like landscape of the crater’s interior from above.

On certain tours, you’ll also love the thrill of spotting cascading waterfalls as the helicopter flies over Hana’s lush rainforests. Some will venture into remote valleys, offering breathtaking views of remote areas of Maui inaccessible to many. When booking a helicopter tour, be sure to double-check that it passes over Haleakala’s crater if that’s what you’re looking for.

The Best Maui Helicopter Tours have experienced and knowledgeable pilots who provide informative commentary throughout your journey. You’ll learn about Haleakala’s unique features, cultural significance, geological history, and other interesting insights.

Learn MoreThe Best Haleakala Helicopter Tours

Hike in Haleakala Crater

Haleakala National Park is renowned for its excellent hiking opportunities, offering various trails for different skill levels. Your hiking adventure will take you through diverse and fascinating landscapes, with trails leading into the crater found on Haleakala’s summit.

Since Haleakala is renowned for its breathtaking sunrise, many visitors also choose to hike early in the morning for a magical experience. It’s also a lot cooler at the summit earlier in the day, making the conditions more favorable for hiking.

The Sliding Sands Trail and Halemau’u Trail are two of the most popular Haleakala trails, offering a closer exploration of the crater’s interior and martin-like landscape. Just be prepared for a challenge as you descend nearly 2,400 feet over 3.8 miles to reach the crater floor.

Learn MoreThe Best Haleakala Hiking Tours

Visit the Haleakala Crater Overlooks

One of the best ways to enjoy a panoramic view of the breathtaking landscapes of Haleakala National Park is to visit the Haleakala Crater Overlooks. There are two overlooks you can find within the park, including the Kalahaku Overlook and the Leleiwi Overlook.

Each overlook has an observation deck renowned for its views. They offer visitors the opportunity to admire the crater’s unique geological features, including several cinder cones and one of the most recent lava flows from the last eruption some 400-600 years ago.

The overlooks are also a perfect spot for photography enthusiasts who want to capture the awe-inspiring views of Haleakala. From here, you can take photos of the park’s rugged terrain and cinder cones, which look even more spectacular during sunrise or sunset.

Learn MoreKalahaku Overlook and Leleiwi Overlook

Camp in Haleakala National Park

Haleakala National Park is one of the few places with camping available in Maui. Camping offers the opportunity to experience the park’s unique landscapes in a more intimate setting. The park has three designated campgrounds: Hosmer Grove, Kipahulu, and the Wilderness Cabins.

While Hosmer Grove and Kipahulu are more like campgrounds that many people are familiar with, the wilderness cabins are an adventure of their own. To reach them, you’ll have to hike into the crater, with the closest one a 3.7-mile hike from the summit and the furthest 9.3 miles. You’ll have to hike your gear in, making this a challenge for only the most experienced hikers.

Before you head out to camp, be sure to research the weather and prepare for the varying conditions. Temperatures can be cold, and the weather is unpredictable, so ensure you have the appropriate clothing and gear. Also, you must make reservations online when camping in Haleakala National Park, and it’s extremely competitive, so book as early as possible.

Learn MoreHaleakala Permits and Reservations

Hike the Pipiwai Trail and Bamboo Forest

One of the most popular trails in Haleakala National Park is the Pipiwai Trail. It features diverse landscapes, taking you to waterfalls, a giant banyan tree, and through a lush bamboo forest. As a moderate trail, it’s suitable for a range of hikers and is approximately four miles round trip.

The trail’s starting point is on Haleakala’s backside (the Kipahulu District), which you can reach by driving to the end of the famous Road to Hana. It’s not in the same area as the Haleakala Crater, which you can reach through Upcountry Maui.

One of the hike’s highlights, and my favorite part, is the enchanting bamboo forest. It’s like entering a different world and an experience unlike anything else. Those who do the entire trail will also be treated to Waimoku Falls, a 400-foot waterfall that is a sight to behold.

Learn MoreThe Pipiwai Trail Hike

Explore Kula and Makawao in Upcountry

On your visit to Haleakala National Park, it’s worth stopping by the towns of Kula and Makawao, nestled along the slopes of Haleakala in Upcountry Maui. While not within the park, they are close to the area and are popular stopping points for those visiting Haleakala.

With its elevated location, Kula offers stunning panoramic views of the island, including sparkling coastlines. As part of Maui’s agricultural region, it has vast farms and fields producing various crops, including fruits and vegetables. Check out the Upcountry Farmers Market, where local farmers sell fresh produce and handmade crafts.

Another beautiful town to visit in Upcountry is Makawao. Home to numerous art galleries, boutique shops, and local eats, it’s a charming town worth exploring. Known for their paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) culture, if you happen to be here during the 4th of July, be sure to check out the Makawao Stampede Rodeo.

More About Haleakala National Park

Haleakala Crater Cinder Cones

Haleakala National Park is one of the most unique places in Maui. It’s perfect for all visitors, whether traveling with kids, on a solo adventure, or on a romantic getaway. If you’re visiting for the first time, check out these commonly asked questions about Haleakala National Park.

When is the best time to visit Haleakala National Park?

Haleakala National Park is accessible year-round. The best time to visit is early morning to catch the sunrise or late in the afternoon for sunset. You can expect the weather to be generally milder earlier in the day, making it perfect for hiking and outdoor exploration. However, once the sun goes down, it’s almost assured to be cold at the top, so bundle up!

Are the hiking trails in Haleakala suitable for all skill levels?

Haleakala National Park is known for hiking, offering trails suitable for various skill levels. Some trails are easy and short, such as the Hosmer Grove Trail. Those who prefer something more challenging can walk the Sliding Sands Trail. Families with kids can explore shorter, well-paved paths, while seasoned adventurers can tackle longer, unpaved routes.

Is it possible to camp in Haleakala National Park?

Yes, it is possible to camp in Haleakala National Park. However, you need to make reservations and obtain a permit online. The park has two distinct campgrounds, Kipahulu and Hosmer Grove. Both have decent camping facilities and a serene environment for a relaxing stay. There are also wilderness cabins located in the crater for more adventurous travelers.

Can you see wildlife at Haleakala National Park?

The wildlife is another thing to look forward to on your visit to the Haleakala National Park. It is home to unique and endangered animals like the Hawaiian goose (Nene), which you could come across during your hike. You will also find numerous bird species and fascinating plant life that adapt to the park’s volcanic terrain. The Silverswords found here are unique to Haleakala and bloom only once in their 90-year lifespan.

What to wear for a visit to Haleakala National Park?

It’s best to dress in layers when visiting the Haleakala National Park since the park has varying altitudes and temperatures. You can start with comfortable clothing, and as you get to the summit, where temperatures can be chilly, put on a jacket and hat. When hiking, be sure to wear a pair of sturdy and closed-toe shoes. Don’t forget to lather on sunscreen and wear sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun.

Justin and Katie Busa

Meet the Authors

Aloha! We’re Justin and Katie, the owners of Maui Hideaway. We’ve been visiting Hawaii together with our family for 20 years and would love to share the experience of the islands with you. Whether you’re looking for a place to stay or just some vacation advice, we’re here to help!

Links on this page may be affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no cost to you.