This post is part of the “Weekend Inspiration Wednesday” series, meant to provide some adventure-planning inspiration in the middle of a long week.  Let me know if you’d like to guest post and share an adventure of your own!

Visiting Haleakala National Park

If you’re lucky enough to take a trip to Maui, do yourself a favor and take a break from the beaches (I know, it’s hard). Go visit Haleakala National Park. It will be worth your while. Haleakala, meaning “House of the Sun,”  is a volcano that forms roughly three-fourths of the island of Maui, and that is just the 3% of the volcano that is estimated to be above see level! The volcano is dormant today but offers incredible scenery and unique hiking opportunities. You can learn more about the volcano’s geology and history on the USGS web site.

The Park has two primary areas to visit – the mountain area and the coastal area. We did both in a 24-hour period and they are both entirely different and entirely worth the trip.

Here are the Basics:

Cost: $25 park entry fee per vehicle, good for 3 days. Or opt for an $80 Annual Pass that will get you in to all National Parks and Recreation Lands all year.

Time to Allot: Allow at least a few hours/half day to make it up to the summit and back down. You will need to leave in the very, very early morning hours to make it for sunrise. You’ll also want a half day to explore the coastal region of the park. We did sunrise at the summit followed by the drive to Hana, stayed in Hana and then hiked in the park’s coastal region the next morning.

Amazing Lodging Tip:  Koali Ranch Cottage was just outside of Hana, more affordable than the other limited Hana options, and definitely one of our favorite spots we’ve ever stayed! There are also campgrounds in the summit area of the National Park if you prefer to stay closer to the summit area than the coastal area of the park.

View from Koali Ranch Cottage

Sunrise at the Summit

The most popular thing to do in the summit area of the mountain, at top of the volcano, is to watch the sunrise. The “House of the Sun” name makes total sense once you’ve seen the sun rise from the chilly 10,023-foot peak. It is one of the most spectacular sunrises we’ve seen.

Starting in 2017, the National Park Service began requiring reservations to view sunrise from the top of Haleakala to ensure visitors have a safe and enjoyable experience. The reservation only costs $1.50 per car and can be made up to 60 days in advance online here.  If you do go for sunrise, dress very warmly – it was freezing up there!

In addition to sunrise at the summit, you can also make your way to the visitor center and to impressive views of then broader summit area where you can see lava trails and walk through the cinder desert landscape.

The summit area.

Hiking at the Coast

The Kipahulu coastal area of Haleakala National Park is 12 miles south of Hana, or “past” Hana in the direction that most people drive the road to Hana. There are no roads that directly connect the summit area of the park to the coastal area. The Kipahulu District of the park is a 4-hour drive from the more populated Kahului are of Maui.

Once you arrive, after your long drive (or not so long at all if you stay in or near Hana), you will find a magical hiking trail. (Note that swimming in the pools is prohibited but hiking trails are all open). The Pipiwai Trail, also referred to as the Seven Sacred Pools, is a 4-mile round trip hike that takes you past several smaller pools and waterfalls, through an other-wordly bamboo forest, and to the very impressive 400-foot Waimoku falls.

The trail begins just above where the freshwater stream containing the pools meet the ocean.

You’ll pass through some amazing vegetation, including dramatic banyan trees trees. We were treated to one of Hawaii’s signature rain showers while on the hike. Hikers are advised to bring sun and mosquito protection as well as rain gear, by the way. In other words, be prepared for almost anything!

Banyan grove!

Then, all of a sudden, you come to a mysterious looking bridge with a crazy impressive bamboo forest at the other end.

And finally, as if you hadn’t already seen enough beauty and variety for one short hike, you come upon this – the 400-foot Waimoku Falls. This gorgeous falls originates so far up this vertical rock wall that both your neck and camera will strain to take it all in.

Waimoku Falls


Now that you’ve seen a phenomenal National Park from top to bottom, get back to the beach! Red Sand Beach, that is, before  you leave the Hana area.

Red Sand Beach near Hana


What are some of your favorite Hawaii hikes? 

2 replies on “Weekend Inspiration Wednesday: House of the Sun

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