Travel Diaries

Hawaii Diaries #13 – Haleakala Crater

Haleakala A.K.A. Mars on earth was our destination for day 13. I call it Mars because it sure as hell doesn’t look or feel like Earth up there but I’ll let the pictures show that.

Our initial plan to do the Road to Hana was squashed again as the long ride didn’t seem appealing given that we’d be traveling tomorrow. It was an easy decision to make since we also wanted to see Haleakala. I’m so glad we made the choice to go there because it was AWESOME.

If you’re not familiar with Haleakala, it’s a huge ass dormant shield volcano that makes up ~75% of the island of Maui. The thing is massive and you can see it from most parts of the island. The place is a national park and you can drive all the up to the peak and check out the sights if you’d like.

The big thing here is seeing the sun rise from the top but you gotta wake up at like 3 A.M. for that. We are not morning people nor was I too excited about driving near edges in the dark. If you do want to do that, you have to get tickets ahead of time and prepare to leave super early. I hear it’s a beautiful sight.

Haleakala is about an hour drive from Kihei. The road starts climbing as you approach. You’re already at 7000 feet before you enter the actual park itself and it’s around a forty minute drive up the slow winding paved roads to the peak.

It’s not really a scary drive or anything but you are right near the edge of the road for a good portion of it. Keep that in mind if you’re afraid of heights. However, it’s not a big deal as long as you drive slow and keep your eye on the road. There are some pretty cool views of the western side of the island to check out so it’s better to be a passenger here.

There’s a few stops on the way up. However, I recommend just driving all the way to the peak as the best parts are all there. You can make it all the way to the top where you’ll stand more than 10,000 above sea level. It’s similar to Mt. Evans in Colorado in the way it winds around to the top. I visited Mt. Evans in 2017 and thought it was a very cool trip. Mt. Evans is higher than Haleakala but in the end it’s just a mountain so you get what you expect; mountain views.

Haleakala is a whole other animal. It’s like being on freaking Mars when you get up there.

We drove right past the visitors center and all the way to the peak. It’s definitely colder up there so a jacket is nice. It was about 80 at the bottom and just north of 50 all the way up here. However, the temperature can definitely be colder when the sun isn’t out so be aware if you’re here for a sunset or sunrise.

At the peak, there’s plenty of parking and a short walk past some cool rocks to some awesome views.

I don’t know if the pictures do it justice but the views are breathtaking.


How cool is that? It legitimately looks and feels like another planet. There’s nothing but red gravel all around and it just doesn’t feel look like any other place I’ve been.

It’s a drive totally worth making. You’re up in this awesome place, well above the clouds and can just enjoy the views.

There’s a few lookouts including the one at the very peak. This area is one of the best places in the world to look at stars. The park has an observatory for that reason although it’s not open to the public.

That peak lookout has awesome views but there’s plenty more to see. After we took in all in the sights and walked around, we drove back down to the visitor’s center.

Here you can get some maps and talk to the park rangers about potential hikes. There’s some neat hikes that take you down right down into the crater itself but we were just here for the views today. The air is a bit thinner up here too so prepare to get more winded as you hike.

The area behind the visitor’s center has some overviews that are worth seeing as well. You get to take a peek at the crater from different angles and appreciate the massive landscape in front of you. There’s so many different mounds and colors to take in; it’s a bit overwhelming.

If you’re here for hiking then there’s plenty of that but we were pretty tired so we drove down. One thing I was glad not to miss is the Kalahaku Overlook. It’s right off the road on the way back down and leads to some awesome views.

First, you emerge between some rocks to get another view of the crater from a different vantage point. We really had perfect weather as the sky was clear and the sun was beaming down on us keeping us relatively warm.

After that you can walk a bit higher up and see the whole thing again. This time you get a nice shot of the Big Island in the back. At least, I think that’s the island of Hawaii. We’ll be there tomorrow!

The one cool thing you’ll really notice in this area is the variety of colors that are present in the crater. The sands are quite pretty as they flow into each other and meet. It must have been quite a sight to see this thing erupting and the lava flowing.

After a few moments admiring the crater one final time, we got back in the car and drove down. Here’s one final shot of us still above the clouds as we made our way back to the real world. This time my wife drove so I could appreciate the views on the way home.

I think they’re pretty either way, up or down so if you’re here as a couple, have one person drive up and another drive down. It’s only fair!

Overall, Haleakala turned out to be an awesome visit and I’m glad we made our way out here. It came at the cost of the road to Hana but that leaves something to do for the next time we visit Maui. Honestly, I’d probably come back just to see Haleakala at night and we may have to see a sunset or sunrise here once in my lifetime. It really is quite a sight up there.

We headed back to Kihei and stopped at a small food truck that was supposed to have some of the best fish tacos on the island; South Maui Fish Company.

It’s a tiny truck with a grill right outside and they serve fish until they run out. The tacos were good and bursting with fish. I didn’t love the sauce that came on them but everything else worked very well.

It’s hard to complain when the fish is so fresh and the tacos are chock full of it.

After lunch, we headed down to a beach nearby and walked around a bit. Maui definitely has some awesome beaches and Kamaole Beach Park was no exception.

The water was clear and warm and the sand was perfect for walking. We spent some time walking back and forth and enjoying the perfect weather.

We even paused near the end to take in the sights and watch the clouds pass by and listen to the waves crash against the rocks.

It’s not a long beach but we still spent a good deal of time traversing the sand until the wind picked up and started to pelt us with tiny shards of killer sand.

We didn’t have dinner plans so we headed back home to eat in and relax as we had a flight the next day.

This was our last full day in our short but memorable stay in Maui. It’s a beautiful island; one we barely scratched the surface of and I’d definitely come back to do more if I ever have the chance.

It was off to the Big Island, Hawaii, next, simply to see the volcano. You can’t go this far away from home and not see an active volcano!

Related : Hawaii Diaries #14 – Maui Shave Ice and Big Island Time

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