The journey to visit the top of this majestic mountain and dormant volcano named Haleakala is arguably one of if not the number one main attraction on Maui. There are many ways to experience this extraordinary endeavor such as going up with a bike tour and pedaling back down, up before dawn for the sunrise experience, at your leisure in time for the sunset, camping or staying overnight in the crater at a cabin, horseback riding across the volcanic floor or travel up at night to see the outstandingly clear view of the stars.
This volcanic mountain is an impressive ten thousand feet above sea level and takes about 2.5 hours on a windy highway to get there. Dress accordingly as temperatures drop between 50 to 65 degrees depending on the conditions which are sometimes known to dip below zero. It may rain with wind shear and possibly even snow in the winter. So strap on those hiking boots, layer on those clothes, pack a raincoat and umbrella just in case the weather calls for it. Also, be sure to remember fill your vehicle gas tanks. Bring provisions to eat and drink as there won’t be any opportunities to fill up on the way there and on the way back until you head back into town.
If you choose to go for the trendy sunrise view, you will need to make a reservation as late as the day before, so as to ensure a parking spot at the summit. Once arrived, there is a bathroom and nature center that will allow for some warming up however, you will want to find a nice spot outside to perch for the next moments where you witness the suns’ first exposure of welcoming a new day. Careful not to blink, you’ll not want to miss the split second when the laser of the suns’ corona flashes its epic green ray.
After the adoration of the suns’ grand entrance has all been had, you may want to hike into or around the crater trails for a time to experience the mars-like familiarity without the added space gear, but with likely the same deafening silence. The rhythmic crunch of the red cinder pebbles beneath your shoes can be hypnotic. You may encounter some very rare silversword plants that are only found at this location on the entire planet. The silversword plant looks inviting with its spear like leaves that look soft and fuzzy with fur. It’s best not to touch. The Silversword plants are extremely sensitive and its leaves can break off very easily which could cause it to die. If you’re lucky, you may even see the revered state bird, the Nene goose. Again, please don’t chase or touch; they bite hard and so does that heavy fine you’ll get when caught. While hiking the long nineteen miles one way across the volcanic floor and need I remind you that this is a dormant and not extinct volcano so…no pressure, no pressure.
This mountain has the mythical story behind it that you may have heard where Maui the demi-god strapped a lasso around the sun to encourage it to move slower. There is another mythical legend that there once resided here the volcano and fire goddess Pele, after being exiled from Tahiti due to her fierce temper. She did have time spent at Haleakala to live before a battle with her sister goddess of the sea, Haumea. She lost that battle and it is said that Peles’ spirit lives at the now active volcanic mountain, Kilauea on the Big Island. It is also said that there are times when she may appear as a spirit; an attractive young woman, an older white haired elder and sometimes as a white dog. She might test the generosity of a person and one might hope that one does not fail, as to feel the wrath of Pele would not be a contented outcome. Known for hitch-hiking, Pele in the back seat, once the vehicle starts moving, she will mysteriously disappear and by this time one would know that an encounter has taken place. To add onto that nugget of information, one does not want the negative repercussions that occur when one tries to take any type of volcanic rocks away from the island as a souvenir. Bad idea.
Aside from the long Dramamine filled rides to the summit before dawn, the cold biting weather conditions, the risk of rousing a sleepy volcano and aside from fighting the temptation of heisting a possibly cursed volcanic pet rock…it’s safe to say that a visit to the majestic mountain of Haleakala, the House of the Sun will leave you walking away with a once in a lifetime experience that may come close to something that is in the vicinity of satisfyingly spiritual.
The state motto and known Hawaiian phrase is Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ‘Aina I ka Pono which translates: The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. Remember to treat all land, foliage and artifacts in Hawaii with respect. Be kind. Never leave your trash behind. –End-