Many visitors opt to watch the sunrise from the top of Haleakala, or the East Maui Volcano. // © 2014 HTA and Max Wanger
Maui travelers looking for lofty outdoor adventures are setting aside time to visit Haleakala, the world’s largest dormant volcano. Presiding over Haleakala National Park, the 10,024-foot-high mountain has welcomed an increasing number of visitors in the past few years, all of them spellbound by its mesmerizing landscape, wildlife and unique adventure opportunities.
The following are a few ways to reach new sightseeing heights on Haleakala.
By law, commercial companies are not permitted offer downhill rides from the very top of Haleakala. However, several firms shuttle guests to the summit for the view, then drop them off at the 6,500-foot elevation for guided and self-guided downhill rides. Equipped with bikes, helmets and other necessities, participants glide down the remaining 25 miles past upcountry towns, gardens, shops and peerless natural beauty.
From 15-minute strolls to day-long treks, Haleakala’s hiking options wind through dramatic deserts and forests. Dozens of trails lead visitors to singular sites such as giant cinder cones and the silversword plant, found nowhere else in the world. For guided walks, sign up for a ranger-led outing, or book the four-mile tour with Hike Maui that explores territory from the 8,000- to 10,000-foot elevation.
During the four-hour Haleakala Crater excursion with Pony Express Tours, horses do the hard work while guests enjoy the otherworldly views from the saddle. This equestrian excursion descends 2,500 feet for explorations of the crater floor. A picnic lunch of croissant sandwiches in awe-inspiring surroundings is part of the tour.
Travelers have to rise well before dawn to watch the sunrise from the summit of Haleakala, but the payoff is enormous. Even Mark Twain braved the near freezing morning temperatures for the chance to see the sunrise here. He called the event “the sublimest spectacle I ever witnessed.” It’s a resounding endorsement for celebrating the break of day at the top of Haleakala, Maui.