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Haleakala National Park

Get up early and head straight for the summit of Haleakala (if you’re jetlagged and waking up in the middle of the night, you may want to get there in time for sunrise). Bring water, sunscreen, and warm clothing (it’s freezing at sunrise). Plan to spend a couple of hours exploring the various look-out points in the park. On your way down the mountain, turn right on Makawao Avenue, and head into the little town of Makawao. You can have lunch here, or make a left on Baldwin Avenue and head downhill to the town of Pa’ia where there are a number of great lunch spots and shops to explore.

The crater is actually an erosional valley, flushed out by water pouring from the summit through two enormous gaps. The small hills within the crater are volcanic cinder cones (called pu’u in Hawaiian), each with a small crater at its top, and each the site of a former eruption. The mountain has terrific camping and hiking, including a trail that loops through the crater.

Before you head up Haleakala, call for the latest park weather conditions (808/877-5111). Extreme gusty winds, heavy rain, and even snow in winter are not uncommon. *Because of the high altitude, the mountaintop temperature is often as much as 30 degrees cooler than that at sea level. Be sure to bring very warm clothing.

You can learn something of the volcano’s origins and eruption history at the Park Headquarters/Visitor Center, at a 7,000-foot elevation on Haleakala Highway. Hikers and campers should check-in here before heading up the mountain. Maps, posters, and other memorabilia are available at the gift shop.

Leleiwi Overlook, at about an 8,800-foot elevation on Haleakala, is one of several lookout areas in the park. A short walk to the end of the parking lot reveals your first awe-inspiring view of the crater. The small hills in the basin are volcanic cinder cones (called pu’u in Hawaiian), each with a small crater at its top, and each the site of a former eruption. If you’re here in the late afternoon, it’s possible you’ll experience a phenomenon called the Brocken Specter. Named after a similar occurrence in East Germany’s Harz Mountains, the “specter” allows you to see yourself reflected on the clouds and encircled by a rainbow. Don’t wait all day for this, because it’s not a daily occurrence.

The famous silversword plant grows amid the desert like surroundings at Kalahaku Overlook, at the 9,000-foot level on Haleakala. This odd, endangered beauty grows only here at this summit of this mountain, and at the same elevation on the Big Island’s two peaks. It begins life as a silver, spiny-leaf rosette and is the sole home of a variety of native insects (it’s the only shelter around). The silversword reaches maturity between 7 and 17 years, when it sends forth a 3- to 8-foot-tall stalk with several hundred tiny sunflowers. It blooms once, then dies.

The Haleakala Visitor Center, at an elevation of 9,740 feet, has exhibits inside, and a trail from here leads to White Hill — a short, easy walk that will give you an even better view of the valley. Hosmer Grove, just off the highway before you get to the visitor center, has campsites and interpretive trails. Park rangers maintain a changing schedule of talks and hikes both here and at the top of the mountain, including an hour-long loop trail into the Waikamoi Cloud Forest that will give you insight into Hawai’i’s fragile ecology. Call the park for current schedules.

Just before the summit, the Crater Observatory offers warmth and shelter, informative displays, and an eye-popping view of the cinder-cone-studded, 7-mi-by-3-mi crater. The highest point on Maui is the Pu’u ‘Ula’ula Overlook, at the 10,023-foot summit. Here you’ll find a glass-enclosed lookout with a 360-degree view. The building is open 24 hours a day, and this is where visitors gather for the best sunrise view. Dawn begins between 5:45 and 7, depending on the time of year. On a clear day you can see the islands of Moloka’i, Lana’i, Kaho’olawe, and Hawai’i (the Big Island). On a really clear day you can even spot O’ahu glimmering in the distance.

The air is very thin at 10,000 feet. Don’t be surprised if you feel a little breathless while walking around the summit. Take it easy and drink lots of water. *Anyone who has been scuba diving within the last 24 hours should not make the trip up Haleakala.

On a small hill nearby, you’ll see Science City, an off-limits research and communications center straight out of an espionage thriller. The University of Hawai’i maintains an observatory here, and the Department of Defense tracks satellites.


Pipiwai Trail – The Bamboo Forest, The Seven Sacred Pools and Waimoa Falls are all accessed from the trailhead at the visitors centre past Hana on the back of Haleakala. Trailhead

Located at the end of the Hana Highway in the Kipahulu area of Haleakala National Park, the visitors center here is the start of this popular hike. Elevation gain: • 900ft (from 200 – 1,200ft).

The 4 mile round trip to the falls and back takes in several great waterfalls before reaching the spectacular Waimoku Falls, and a boardwalk journey through dense, dark bamboo forest that you’re unlikely to forget.

Follow the trail parallel with the road on which you arrived on, before crossing it and heading uphill.

Makahiku Falls – Although the ultimate destination of this hike is the enormous Waimoku Falls, you’ll also encounter several more spectacular falls as you trace your route up Oheo Gulch. Admire the sheer 180ft drop of Makahiku Falls from the trail overlook, or if you’re feeling particularly adventurous you could explore it up close. Be aware however, that because of the steep drops and potential flash flooding risks people have lost their lives by taking risks on this trail.

Bridges & banyan trees-The trail continues follows the route of the stream, passing over bridges, past huge sprawling banyan trees and providing opportunities to visit and admire several other smaller waterfalls on the route.

Bamboo Forest – Follow the boardwalk through the bamboo forest, so tall and so dense that daylight struggles to penetrate.

Waimoku Falls – Being one of the wettest places on earth the Hawaiian islands boast some of the best waterfalls, and Waimoku Falls is definitely among that category. After negotiating a stream crossing just before the falls, you end up at the foot of the 400ft falls where you can get as close as you feel comfortable. Exercise caution here however, since the constant cascade of water can also bring occasional rocks and branches plummeting down to the boulders at the bottom of the falls.

Oheo Pools – Though the most adventurous hikers will be tempted to cool off in the pool on the edge Makahiku Falls overlooking the 180ft drop to the rocks below, we chose a visit to Oheo Pools instead. Located a short hike away from the visitors center towards the ocean, these freshwater pools promise a refreshing dip among fantastic scenery, while you can listen to the Pacific Ocean crash against the rocks nearby. Near the park entrance you’ll also find a great interpretive center and buildings reconstructed to illustrate how native Hawaiians once lived.

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