Haleakalā (translates to “house of the sun”) rises up almost disproportionally to the size of the island in general. Its peak of 10,000 feet above sea level is typically obscured by dark storm clouds which seem to be set like a perpetual angry crown set atop the volcano. Still considered an active volcano by the experts even through the last major eruption was approximately 600 years ago, don’t expect to see any eruptions or lava flowing here.
Being on holidays we chose to experience the sunset rather than the sunrise as we are late starters by age and choice. We were rewarded with the most spectacular sunset above the clouds. There are not that many places in the world you are able to do this with such relative ease.
A short walk from the first carpark is a lookout on the rim of the crater which is approximately 11 klms long, 3 klms wide and 800m deep the interior of which is like sci-fi fantasy creation of an extraterrestrial world. You can then drive a short distance to the summit. Unfortunately there is not a lot of parking available, so definitely get there well before sunset to get a spot.
Be warned that no matter what the weather is on the island below, it will be cold, very cold at the top. It was amusing to watch the odd person in shorts and a t-shirt last about 2 minutes before disappearing back in the car for warmth only to miss out on seeing an awesome sunset.
It is also worth noting that it is approximately a 30 mile drive up or down with a very steep gradients and countless switchbacks. It could take you the best part of an hour to drive depending on conditions, so factor that in so you don’t miss out. Coming down after the sunset can also be difficult in the dark. You will need to use your lower gears to slow the car down rather than run the risk of overheating your brakes and losing them all together.
You can find more information on the Haleakalā National Park on our post “Rainforest and Waterfalls – The Pipiwai Trail”