The Hawaiian archipelago is essentially a chain of volcanic islands. Geographically a part of Polynesia, these iconic islands are a hugely popular vacation destination for several reasons. There are gorgeous beaches, world-class resorts and stunning landscapes. You can explore one of those epic landscapes by spending 24 hours in Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui.
A Massive Volcano
Haleakala towers over Maui, making up about 75% of the entire island. Just over 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) high, it is, in fact, the very reason Maui exists in the first place. It is an awesome volcano in every sense of the word. Don’t be afraid, though, as this is a dormant volcano. Unlike other Hawaiian islands that experience some very lively volcanic activity, Haleakala is quiet and serene—albeit absolutely otherworldly and spectacular.
Because this is a volcano, there’s obviously also a crater. And an enormous one at that. According to Wikipedia, Haleakala Crater measures no less than 7 miles (11 kilometers) across, 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) wide and almost 2,600 feet (800 meters) deep. It truly is a sight to behold, which is why hiking is a fantastic way to spend your 24 hours in Haleakala National Park.
How to Spend 24 Hours in Haleakala National Park
For the sake of convenience, let’s assume your day in Haleakala begins in the afternoon and ends in the afternoon of the following day. This gives you enough time to get there (or to Maui in the first place) and one afternoon, evening and morning to experience the best the park has to offer.
There are two main areas in the park—The Summit and Kipahulu Areas. Both are basically opposites, respectively the barren moonscape of the volcano itself, and a lush area of rainforests and waterfalls. Note that both areas are very remote and not exactly connected by roads. Visiting both of them in just one day is possible, but does require some planning. And that’s exactly what this blog post is for!
Also, it’s important to note that sunsets as well as sunrises are major highlights in this park. However, since you only have 24 hours in Haleakala National Park, you’ll have to choose. Note that sunrise watching is so popular that it requires a permit/advance reservation. Therefore, it’s suggested that you opt for a sunset from the volcano instead.
Start your visit to Haleakala in The Summit Area, after a long and winding, slow and scenic drive up the volcano.
The summit of Haleakala is most likely unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. This landscape of endless barrenness, sculpted by wind and boasting all kinds of colors, is nothing short of mesmerizing. Its scale is difficult to grasp, its majesty hard to understate. Although the drive is slow and filled with switchbacks, it’s superbly scenic. This is actually one of the most accessible volcanoes in Hawaii.
There’s only one way to really experience what this mighty volcano is all about and that’s hiking. The Wilderness Area near the summit features more than 35 miles (56 kilometers) of trails, but be aware that most of them are pretty remote. There are basically two trails that offer access to the other wilderness trails—the Halemau’u Trail and Keonehe’ehe’e Trail. You can hike an out-and-back section of these trails for a great introduction to Haleakala.
Spend the afternoon exploring the rim and the crater itself, but be sure to stick around for sunset. Watching the sunset from Haleakala is one of the greatest things to do in Haleakala. Remember that there are no food, drinks or gasoline in the park, so make sure to stock and fuel up before your visit.
The park is also a prime spot for stargazing, so you are strongly recommended to hang around until well past sunset as well. You really have nowhere to be—except for your accommodation in Maui—so make the most of your 24 hours in Haleakala and enjoy a world-class night sky.
Rise early in day two and hop into your rental car. After an afternoon of volcano hiking, you will now head to the other side of the park. The Kipahulu Area can only be reached along a long and meandering coastal road. The renowned “Road to Hana” is a section of your drive today.
The drive is part of the fun, so take your time. Once you arrive at the Visitor Center in Kipahulu, there are a few short hiking trails waiting for you. Definitely hit the Pipiwai Trail, which runs through a famous bamboo forest and offers beautiful waterfall views. Two other, short trails lead to stunning coastal views. Enjoy this lush and tropical part of the park—the complete opposite of the barren summit—before retracing your way along the coast.
Have You Ever Spent 24 Hours in Haleakala National Park? Do You Have More Tips to Share? Be Sure to Leave a Comment Below!