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What: A scenic national park known as the “house of the sun”
Where: Upcountry Maui to the southeastern coast
Towering over the island of Maui and visible from just about any point, Haleakala Crater is a force of nature in every sense. At 10,023 feet above sea level, this dormant volcano is the stage for a breathtaking range of landscapes—and skyscapes. Haleakala means "house of the sun" in Hawaiian, and legend goes that the demigod Maui lassoed the sun from its journey across the sky as he stood on the volcano’s summit, slowing its descent to make the day last longer.
Many visitors wake up early to drive to the Haleakala Visitor Center, the best spot to watch what may be the most spectacular sunrise on earth. As the sun peeks over the horizon, an ever-changing swirl of color and light dance across the vast sea of clouds—a sight described by Mark Twain as “the most sublime spectacle I have ever witnessed.” Perhaps just as impressive are Haleakala’s sunsets and the bright, starry skies revealed at night. Remember, the National Park Service now requires a reservation for personal and rental vehicles to view the sunrise from the summit district. Your reservation is for parking at the summit and doesn’t include the required national Park entry fee. Drive times from Kaanapali and Wailea to reach the summit average 2 hours.
Sunrises and sunsets are only two of the many reasons to pay Haleakala National Park a visit on your trip to Maui. Spanning more than 30,000 acres of public land, the stunning landscapes range from Mars-like red deserts and rock gardens near the summit to lush waterfalls and streams in the park’s coastal Kipahulu section, near Hana.
There are numerous hiking trails that offer solitude and scenic vistas, while guided hikes and horseback rides provide an expert's insight in addition to the natural beauty. There are more endangered species here than any other park in the National Park Service, like blooming ahinahina (silversword) and nene (Hawaiian goose), the state bird. Visitors can also camp here, with separate campgrounds and cabins available.
For information regarding Haleakala sunrise viewing and reservations, visit the National Park Service's site.
For more in depth information, view the National Park Service's video, Haleakala: A Rare and Sacred Landscape.