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Haleakalā National Park: 9 Essential Tips & More

Would you like to visit one of the most beautiful places on earth? The next time you’re in Hawaii, stop by the Haleakalā National Park for the opportunity of a lifetime!

With a landscape that features Mars-like red deserts, rock gardens, waterfalls, and the famous Road to Hana, this park is one you will want to visit!

Not sure where to begin? We’ve got you covered! Read on to learn all about the Haleakalā National Park and what to expect on your visit.

A view of the mountains and volcanic formations of Haleakalā National Park.

Where is Haleakalā National Park?

The Haleakalā National Park is located in Hawaii, on the island of Maui. The park itself is positioned in a dormant volcano bearing the same name.

The park is separated into two distinct sections: the summit area and the coastal Kipalulu area. The park covers more than 30,000 acres of land!

A History of Haleakalā National Park

Haleakalā means House of the Sun in Hawaiian. The legend associated with Haleakalā centers around a demigod named Maui. The story goes that he took hold of the sun and slowed its passage through the sky. This, in turn, made the days longer.

The Haleakalā National Park was originally part of the Hawaiian National Park, established in 1916. It included Mauna Loa and Kilauea volcanoes, as well. However, in 1961 the Haleakalā National Park was made its own separate national park.

In 1980 the park was assigned as an International Biosphere Reserve.

The Visitor Centers

There are three visitor centers within the park.

The Headquarters Visitor Center is part of the summit area. It has a ranger station, restrooms, and water, and is wheelchair accessible. It also has a picnic area, a public telephone, and a small exhibit.

The Haleakalā Visitor Center is also part of the summit area and has a ranger station, restrooms, water, and a bookstore, and is wheelchair accessible. It also has starting points for the Pa Kaoao and the Keoneheehee Trails.

The Kipahulu Visitor Center is found along the coast in the Kipahulu District. It holds an information desk, exhibits, and a bookstore. There are also restrooms at this location.

The Summits

View of volcanic sand and mountains in Haleakalā National Park.

Visiting the Summit District of Haleakalā National Park will take you anywhere from 1 ½ – 3 hours drive time, depending on your starting point.

Hosmer Grove

This summit has an elevation of 6750 feet. It includes a picnic area, a hiking trail, and a water fountain. It is located one mile below the visitor center.

Halemauu Trailhead

The elevation for this summit is 7990 feet. Its features are hiking trails and restrooms. The Halemauu Trail begins here. It’s also the ending point for the Keoneheehee Trail.

The Leleiwi Overlook

This summit features a hiking trail and boasts an elevation of 8840 feet. This area has a unique ecosystem that hosts unusual native species of plants and rare or endangered species of animals.

The Kalahaku Overlook

This spot is perfect for catching a beautiful view of the crater below but has no other activities available. The elevation comes in at 9324 feet. Be warned — wait to see the view of the summit once you’ve parked. There’s a sharp curve on the road on the drive up, so you’ll want to pay careful attention as you drive.

Puu Ulaula Summit

This summit is Haleakalā’s highest, coming in at 10,023 feet! It is wheelchair accessible and it provides a 360-degree view of the scenery. It’s a great spot for stargazing or catching a sunset.

Interesting Facts About the Park

A long leafed, gray-green silversword, a plant you'll find in Haleakalā National Park.
Silversword can be found in Haleakalā National Park.


The weather along the summit can be unpredictable. Temperatures usually range between 40-65 degrees but can dip to freezing. Weather can change quickly in the park. Be prepared for strong sunlight, high winds, heavy rain and clouds.

Along the Kipalulu area, the weather is usually a bit warmer, although rain is also common. Flash flooding is a possibility. This area draws considerably more mosquitoes, as well.

Flora and Fauna

Because Hawaii is a connection of islands, many of the animal inhabitants can fly. Plenty of birds, bats, and insects will be found in the park. There are also snails and spiders.

Native birds of Haleakalā National Park include the state bird the Hawaiian goose (the nēnē, shown below), the Hawaiian petrel, and several other forest birds.

There are over 850 types of plant life found within the Haleakalā National Park. Visitors will be fascinated to know that over 300 species of plants aren’t found anywhere else in the world. Over 400 species are native to the land. This park is home to mint plants, Haleakalā silverswords, Seussian na’ena’e plants, and bird-pollinated geraniums.

The Volcano of Haleakalā

Haleakalā is a shield volcano that makes up 75% of the island of Maui. It’s estimated that it last erupted between 1480-1600 A.D.

Things to Do in Haleakalā National Park

Hiking Trails

While there are many hiking trails already mentioned along the summits, there are a few favorites to consider.

A popular option for visitors of Haleakalā National Park is hiking the trails behind the Kipahulu Visitor Center. These trails connect with the Pipiwai Trail, the Kipahulu campground, and the O’heo Gulch Trail.

However, the Keoneheehee Trail is the most popular trail to hike. It dips down into the crater floor. The hike to the crater floor is 3.9 miles one way.

Be aware that there are lower oxygen levels at the summit, which can cause altitude sickness.

As always with hiking, bring lots of water. There are no vendors that sell water once you’re inside the park.

Temperatures can also dip in this area, so bring extra clothing to layer.

Not up for such a strenuous hike? There’s a shorter hike from the rim to a lookout area with a beautiful view. This is recommended for beginning hikers or those with health concerns.


There are two front country campgrounds located outside of the crater.

Kipahulu Campground is off the Hana Highway and has 21 assigned camping sites. Be sure to reserve your spot beforehand so one is available for use when you arrive. This is a good spot to see the Kukui Bay sunset, just behind the campground.

Hosmer Grove Campground has no assigned campsites. But there is an open field where campers can find a spot and pitch a tent. It frequently rains here, so bring protective rain gear. This campground is a good spot to stay if you travel to the Haleakalā Crater Sunrise spot.

Drive the Road to Hana

This is a favorite for visitors of Haleakalā National Park. The Hana Highway is a one-lane road that winds through some of the most gorgeous scenic views of Hawaii. Be aware that this road is narrow and can be tricky to navigate.

The Road to Hana will take you along the southeast coast of Maui. It includes access roads to the Pipiwai Trail, the Kipahulu campground, the O’heo Gulch, the Waimoku Falls, and the Pools of O’heo.

It’s best to drive the Hana Highway on a clear day without the threat of rain. As stated, this road is narrow and difficult to navigate in some areas, even in the best of weather. It’s prone to flash floods, as well.

Having said this, the best time to drive this road would be in the wintertime when there are fewer tourists to contend with. Fewer cars on this road will make the experience less stressful, so you can take the time to enjoy the view!

Things to Know Before You Visit Haleakalā National Park

Lush greenery surrounding volcanic hills in Haleakalā National Park.

Before you begin your journey, be sure you have a full gas tank. There are many areas within the park to travel but no gas stations. You don’t want to run out of gas during your trip!

There’s an entrance fee of $30 per vehicle to enter the Haleakalā National Park. However, you can purchase an America the Beautiful Pass at the front gate, which will allow entrance into all state parks.

Be prepared for an adventure without cell service. Although you can get service in some spots, the service is spotty at best. Plan not to rely on your cell phone for emergencies and pack accordingly.

You’ll need to remember to bring good-quality sunscreen. This location is particularly sunny and puts visitors at a higher risk of sunburn! While you’re at it, pack some bug repellent.

Pack plenty of snacks and water. There are no food vendors in the park, and you don’t want to get stuck hiking on an empty stomach! Plan to pack a lunch and have a picnic along the way.

As with any national or state park, consider following the Leave No Trace guidelines to keep the area clean and welcoming for future visitors!

Plan Your Visit

A plane landing in a tropical location at sunset. Flying to Hawaii concept.

How to Get There

The cheapest option would be to catch a commercial flight into Honolulu and then hop over to Maui on one of the Hawaiian airlines. Once you’re on the island, rent a car, and you’ll be free to explore Haleakalā National Park at your leisure!

When to Go

Hawaii is a favored vacation destination, especially during the summer months. Plan to visit Haleakalā National Park during the winter months. The weather is still pleasant and warm, but you won’t fight as much traffic or tourists as you travel.

Enjoy Your Visit to Haleakalā National Park

A stunning night sky view of the Milky Way from within Haleakalā National Park.
A stunning night sky in Haleakalā National Park.

You’re now ready to visit one of the most beautiful national parks in the world!

Interested in learning more about camping in the state of Hawaii? Visit our post on 21 Best Places to go Camping in Hawaii!