Haleakala National Park is located in Upcountry Maui and is the most popular attraction there. If you have ever been to Maui or are ever planning on going then you will hear that seeing the sunrise at Haleakala is a must do. The only problem is that if you are planning on seeing the sunrise at Haleakala than you have to be heading out your door around 3 a.m. I do not know about you but being up that early was not something on our list of things to do. We wanted to see all the beautiful colors that the sun makes and there is no better place then Haleakala which literally means “House of the Sun” but we did not want to waste a day because we were too tired to do anything else. We are very active vacationers and sitting on the beach lounging around all day is not my ideal vacation. So, I did a little research and found out that sunset may just be as nice or even better depending on the weather and it will give us all morning and most of the afternoon to see other parts of Maui. It was decided we went to see the sunset instead of the sunrise.
We went snorkeling that morning and went back to our hotel for lunch did a little resting and relaxing then about two in the afternoon we headed for Haleakala National Park. We checked out the park and walked around and hiked at Hosmer’s Grove which you can read about by clicking here. Then we headed further up the volcano. Be prepared for a winding road if you get queasy when taking those types of roads you might want to take some Dramamine. I found just rolling down the windows and getting some fresh air helped a lot.
The drive up to the summit was very easy. We did take the pull-offs and the short hikes to see the crater. Unfortunately, we were there on a cloudy day so it was hard to get a picture of the entire crater. We should have checked the weather report before going but even then it is hard to tell how clear it is going to be 10,000 feet above sea level. Remember that even though you might have been swimming in the ocean just a few hours ago it will be a lot tougher to breathe the farther you go up Haleakala. Take your time and drink lots of water, and do not push it to hard because you might just end up making yourself sick which could waste a valuable day of vacation time.
In order to have a somewhat comfortable visit to the Haleakala summit make sure you packed some winter clothes for your visit to Maui. You do not need to bring you heavy coat, but you might want to bring several layers. Karen and I each wore a tee-shirt, a long sleeved tee-shirt, a sweater and hoodie. Even though we were more prepared then a lot of people there, when the sun went down we were still a little chilly, but pretty comfortable. There were visitors out there in shorts and a windbreaker that we were jumping up and down trying to stay warm Karen and I were just glad we were not them. We also brought with us some snacks that came in handy while we were waiting for sunset. Also, bring plenty of water you are going to need more then you think because of the higher elevation.
When Karen and I finally reach the visitor center near the summit the park building was already closed so we did not get to go inside that or talk to any of the rangers. In fact, there were probably less than a dozen cars that were there for sunset. We walked around the ranger station took some pictures and Karen who was a little cold and starting to get hungry went to the car while I took the short hike by the visitor center that is called Pa Ka’oao. The hike takes you to another overlook which is worth the time if you have it. There is a second trailhead that is called Sliding Sands Trailhead which will take you down into the Crater.
After my short hike I went back to the car to check on my wife she seemed to be doing well so we took the short drive up to the Pu’u’ula’ula Summit. We had about 45 minutes before sunset so we walked around and took some pictures. One of the things you should keep an eye out for are silverswords or ahinahina which is a plant only found in Hawaii. After taking some photos we found a good spot for nature’s lightshow.
The sunset was spectacular, I wish my photography could represent just what type of feeling seeing a sunset at the house of the sun gave us. I am happy that we went at sunset looking at pictures online and hearing my parents talk about how crowded it can be at sunrise was something that we did not even want to mess with. I would say that there were less than thirty people at the summit at the time we were there. I personally cannot tell you that sunrise is better because I have never seen it, but I do not regret going at sunset.
We wanted to stay for the stars to appear, but Karen was starting to get a headache which is one of the symptoms of altitude sickness. Not wanting to risk it we headed down. The drive down in the dark was not bad at all we just put it in a lower gear and took our time going down. It is a long drive and by the time we got back to our hotel room we were exhausted. We went from swimming in the ocean to looking at a sunset from over 10,000 feet. That day in Maui was a very fulfilling day.
For more information on the national park visit their website at http://www.nps.gov/hale/index.htm
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