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The top 5 things to do at Haleakala National Park

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The highest point on Maui is Haleakala, the 10,023-foot shield volcano that dominates the island’s east and is the centerpiece of Haleakala National Park.

This remarkable terrain stretches from the vast, windswept summit crater to the pounding surf of the Kipahulu coast. As the national park with the most endangered species in the country, Haleakala is teeming with unique beauty.

Haleakala, “house of the sun,” commands significance to natives and visitors alike with its many stirring sights. Here are 5 defining experiences of Haleakala National Park.

Sunrise seen from Haleakala National Park

Catch sunrise or sunset from the Haleakala Crater rim

Haleakala serves striking sunrises and sunsets from its top-of-the-world vantage point at the volcano’s summit rim. Watching the sun rise or fall from the mountaintop is one of Haleakala's most popular activities, so arrive early. Reservations are required for sunup viewing, but not sunset.

Don't forget to bundle up; Haleakala is over 10,000 feet above sea level. Also keep in mind that cloudy or rainy weather can scuttle the spectacle.

The night sky over Haleakala

Go stargazing

Sundown is a teaser for the afterhours show on Haleakala. By nightfall, you'll be able to see a whole host of celestial objects, from the wispy garland of the Milky Way to Jupiter's shining moons.

You can rent binoculars and telescopes at numerous outlets on Maui, and the park headquarters and visitor centers carry star maps to help you navigate the skies. (Again, bundle up so you're prepared for the nighttime chill.)

Craters in Haleakala National Park

Backpack into the crater

Spending a few nights in Haleakala backcountry is probably the closest you'll get to feeling like you're on the moon. Trekking across the yawning crater, you’ll find yourself surrounded by ethereal landscapes that seem nearly lunar, dotted with rare silversword plants and rainforest cliffs farther east.

Armed with the proper permit, you can either pitch a tent at designated campsites or stay at 1 of 3 historic backcountry cabins. 

A red ‘i‘iwi

Explore the flora & fauna of the Hosmer Grove

The Hosmer Grove nature trail that runs along the park's northwestern boundary is canopied by non-native trees including Douglas fir, eucalyptus, pine, and deodar cedar. In 1910, a forester named Ralph Hosmer brought these species from Australia, India, Japan, and the mainland U.S., trying to revive the local timber industry. 

You might spot native birds like the red ‘i‘iwi and other honeycreepers while strolling through Hosmer Grove. Some of these species may be threatened or endangered. Walk slowly and listen carefully—you might be lucky enough to see them fly by.

Waimoku Falls

Visit the Kipahulu District

Haleakala National Park’s far southeast constitutes the Kipahulu District, 12 miles past Hana and reachable via the Hana Highway. Vastly different from the summit area, Kipahulu offers lush rainforest gorges and wave-hammered volcanic headlands. Sharp-eyed visitors may also spot wildlife including great black frigatebirds and spouting humpbacks.

Many flock to the “Seven Sacred Pools” of 'Ohe'o Gulch, but don’t miss the Pipiwai Trail, a 4-mile round-trip trek up the namesake stream. Along the way you’ll pass the 200-foot Makahiku Falls, a giant banyan tree, and a dark bamboo grove before reaching the big finale: the 400-foot cascade of Waimoku Falls, streaming down a cliff.

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Road trip planning resources

AAA Travel alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.

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