The highest point on Maui is the peak of Haleakala. This is a popular destination because of the fantastic views from the Haleakala Visitor Center (at 9,750 feet). On a clear day you can see into the crater which looks so much like the moon that American astronauts trained here when they were preparing for their lunar landing. Looking in the other direction, you can see the West Maui Mountains, Molokai and Lanai.
We usually try for an early morning arrival at the lookout – best odds for a clear view into the crater. This time we were on a cruise around the Hawaiian Islands and by the time we got off the ship, got the rental car and took in a few other adventures, it was mid-afternoon when we started the long drive up the mountain.
Make the drive up Haleakala part of the adventure
It’s a beautiful drive through the upcountry Maui towns of Olinda, Makawao and Kula. You’ll see rolling green pastures, cows and horses, and drive through sweet-scented eucalyptus forests. On the way up, we pulled over and let the kids run through a grassy field. It was a wonderful break from the driving and we all had a great time. Just make sure you don’t park near one of the many blind curves!
The view from the top of Haleakala
The clouds were beginning to roll into the parking lot by the time we got to the top of Haleakala. We saw beautiful and very rare silversword plants growing right next to the parking area. We also got very close to several nene geese – also endangered. The Haleakalā National Park is home to many endangered species. (You can learn a lot about the parks plants and animals at the visitors centers.)
Clouds usually fill Haleakala crater by mid-day, and since we arrived close to sunset, the crater was filled with billowy white. In spite of not being able to see into the crater, we had a fantastic time.
The kids wore as many warm clothes as we had with us. We watched as the sun slowly sank towards the horizon. Every once in a while the clouds would clear enough to see the rest of Maui Island. Other times, we were engulfed in a cold fog, glowing orange from the setting sun.
It was dark and we were all starving by the time we got back to the ship, but we all agreed it was a fantastic Maui day!
PLANNING FOR THE TRIP WITH KIDS:
Bring plenty of snacks and drinks, fill up with gas. Stores and services are at least 30 minutes from the top. It’s about 2 hours one-way from Kahului and slightly less from Wailea.
Be prepared for extremes in temperatures; very cold weather, rain or very hot, sunny weather.
Check the Haleakala Park site before driving, the road can be closed during severe weather:
Park is open 24hrs, three visitor centers have different hours with the one at the top open at sunrise and closed by 3:00.