Haleakala is the volcano that formed Maui. Haleakala is known as house of the rising sun. Maui is a demigod and according to the myth, the sun god La was fond of sleeping so he would race across the sky shortening the days making it impossible to accomplish that days work in such short time. As La shined its first ray above the rim of the crater, Maui lassoed the sun and forced it to slow its journey across the sky in order to lengthen the day. La assented and ever since it has saunterd across the summit lest Maui stike again. Hence the name Haleakala.

About 2 miles down into the crater.

BEFORE YOU GO:

  • NATIONAL PARK PASS: Haleakula is a U.S. National Park so it does cost $25 per vehicle to enter. If you frequent U.S. National Parks, I’d recommend buy a National Park pass that is good for a year from purchase date. It costs $80 for the pass and 3 or 4 visits to Haleakula or any other National Park pays for itself. You can purchase the pass at the entrance of any National Park during open hours. And to see a list of all the Parks that this pass covers click here.
  • DRESS WARM: The elevation at the summit is 10,023 feet so YES it gets pretty cold so plan accordingly. I’m talking like 30 40 degrees cold so a warm jacket, long pants and a beanie are recommended, especially in winter. Also bring a blanket or if you’re in a jam a beach towel to snuggle under and watch the sun set or rise.
  • IS IT ACTIVE? Although there has been no activity for centuries, scientists are constantly monitoring potential eruption activity. It is still considered an active volcano.

WHY GO:

SUNRISE/SUNSET:

Many people visit Haleakula summit for 1 reason and that is to watch sunrise or sunset. It is truly a breathtaking experience. You’re above the clouds and you get to see the sun rise above or set below the clouds.

If you plan on watching sunrise you have to make a reservation ahead of time as a reservation is needed if you plan to visit between 3 am to 7 am. Tourism has increased and now they only let a certain amount of people in everyday for sunrise. Spots fill up quickly and sometimes months in advance so planning ahead with this activity is a must and only costs $1 to reserve your spot. You can make a reservation here.

Above the clouds!
Standing on top of a volcano above the clouds in Hawaii. BucketLister moment!

If you are planning on watching sunset then no need to make a reservation.

Maui may seem like a small island and just because you can see Haleakala summit doesn’t mean that its super close. Make sure you give yourself ample time to drive up the crater on the switch backs. Depending on where you are driving from but for example if you’re coming from the West Side it will take a couple hours to drive there one way.

BIKING DOWN:

A popular activity is to book a tour with a company that will provide you with bikes and take you to the summit. Once at the summit the bikes are unloaded and you then coast 26 miles down the mountain, criss crossing back and forth along the switch backs until you reach the ocean in Paia. This activity takes place in the morning and I recommend taking the sunrise tour as the views into the crater at sunrise is something that everyone should experience while visiting Maui.

HIKING:

This is my favorite part of exploring the crater. I mean who doesn’t want to explore this foreign land up close and personal.

  • Trail: Sliding Sands/Keoneheehee Trail
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Duration: 4-5 hours
  • Distance: 8 miles out and back

The most popular hike is Sliding Sands Trail or Keoneheehee Trail which starts 500 feet below the summit. Red, orange, and purple colored hills and volcanic rock take over the back drop as you hike along the black sand and descend 2,500 feet down into the crater. You’ll feel like your walking on the surface of Mars. The elevation and sandy trail makes this one strenuous. You can hike through the crater by connecting to the Spur Trail towards Holua and eventually onto the Halemauu Trail.

  • Trail: Halemauu Trail
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Duration: 5 to 7 hours
  • Distance: 5 miles down the switchbacks and back up

Hiking Sliding Sands and up the switchbacks of the Halemauu Trail is a great day hike and one of my favorite hikes on Maui. The Halemauu Trailhead starts at 8,000 feet. I recommend parking your car at the trailhead and hitchhiking the next 1,500 feet to the Haleakala Visitor Center parking lot where Sliding Sands Hike starts. Together these trails are a challenging 11.6 miles.

  • Trail: Pa Kaoao Trail
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Duration: 1 hour or less
  • Distance: Less than .5 miles round trip

A shorter, very easy walkable trail that will give you great views of the crater is the Pa Kaoao Trail. This trail starts at the summit of Haleakala at 9,740 feet just outside the House of the Sun Visitor Center. If you’re short on time this trail will give you the panoramic views above the clouds.

  • Trail: Hosmer Grove Loop Trail
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Duration: 1 hour or less
  • Distance: .6 miles

Another easier trail is the Hosmer Grove Trail which is located just inside the entrance to Haleakala National Park. Since this trail is lower in elevation than the summit you’ll pass through sub-alpine tress like eucalptus, sugi pine, spruce, cedar, Douglas fir, deodar and sandalwoods. There are also campgrounds here which brings me to our next bullet point.

CAMPING:

There are a few campgrounds available to camp at in the crater.

Hosmer Grove Campground is available on a first-come, first-served basis. No permits or reservations are required or accepted to camp. There is a maximum of 3 nights per month per person with a limit of 50 people and 12 person group limit. This campground has picnic tables, BBQ grills, drinking water, and toilets. Temperatures can get very cold at night so come prepared.

Kīpahulu Campground is located on the east side of the crater which can be reached on the way to Hana via the Hana Highway or it is possible to hike through from the summit but you’re in for a long day of hiking with all your gear. This campground is the same as Hosmer Grove as it is available on a first-come, first-served basis, no permits or reservations are required and there is a maximum of 3 nights per month per person with a limit of 100 people and 12 person group limit. Kipahulu Campground has picnic tables, BBQ grills, and toilets. No water is available; However, drinking water is available at the Kīpahulu Visitor Center restrooms.

Hōlua and Palikū are primitive campsights that require permits. Space is available on a first-come, first-served basis with a limit of 3 nights per person per month with a maximumof 25 people each and 12-person group limit. Hōlua and Palikū campsites have toilets and water available nearby. The water is non-potable and must be filtered or treated before drinking.

Camping permits can be obtained at the Headquarters Visitor Center between 8:00 AM and 3:00 PM up to one day in advance. Permits are free and require photo identification. Both camp sights are accessed via Sliding Sands Trail.

There are 3 cabins available to stay in that require advanced reservations; Hōlua, Kapalaoa, and Palikū. The Wilderness cabins are accessible only by trail. Reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance at www.recreation.gov. The permits can be picked up at the same place you’d pick up your permit for the Hōlua and Palikū Campsights at the Headquarters Visitor Center between 8:00 AM and 3:00 PM on the day you’re hiking in. It cost $75 per night per cabin which accommodates up to 12 people.


Visiting Haleakua Crater is a top attraction for anyone visiting the beautiful Hawaiian Island of Maui. There is a way for everyone to visit Haleakala crater and experience her beauty depending on your time and preferences. I hope this guide was able to provide you with some insight of what activity would suit you the best. Thank you for reading and join my mailing list on www.IMJESSTRAVELING.com for more posts on Maui and off the beaten path destinations as I take on the world.