Stick Around for an Incredible Sunset
The volcanoes on Hawaii’s Big Island seem to get all the attention. They act like attention starved teenagers, always acting out with bright molten displays of youth. While time spent watching the fiery glow of Kilauea’s lava flows should be a top priority for anyone booking a flight to Hawaii, there is another volcano dominated National Park that deserves your attention as well – Haleakala.
Visiting Haleakala National Park is like visiting a completely different Maui. The centerpiece of the park is the Haleakala volcano, rising 10,023 feet above sea level and dominating the land area of the island. Instead of miles of resort dotted coastline, visitors on Haleakala are treated to over 20,000 acres of wilderness. The drive up to the park takes visitors through Maui’s upcountry, a rural and charming region with rolling hills forests often shrouded in clouds. The town of Kula has a coffee and protea farm which offers tours, fun gifts, and an incredible view of the coast down below. The first zip line in the country, Haleakala Slyline Tour, is also on the way up the mountain and features five zips for adrenaline junkies to enjoy.
Many visitors to the park arrive in the wee hours of the morning, not because they have a thing for driving up winding mountain roads during pre-dawn hours but because sunrises on Haleakala are the stuff of legends. I will never forget the Haleakala sunrise my husband and I experienced on our honeymoon. The light sweatshirt I packed was no match for the frigid temperatures of an early morning at 9,740 feet but the moment the clouds lingering offshore began to turn cool shades of purple and blue against a horizon glowing from the light of a new day, all those shivers from the cold were replaced by chills from the beauty of it all.
If you sleep through the sunrise, there is still much to enjoy about Haleakala throughout the day. The volcano has several hiking trails that cut through a variety of landscapes. Those looking for a challenge hike through a unique landscape will enjoy the Sliding Sands Trail which descends 2,800 feet into a desert valley with impressive views of the volcanic cinder cones and old lava flows. Stick around for an incredible sunset the sort of night sky most city folks can only dream about. Amateur astronomers should bring along their telescopes (or rent a pair of high power binoculars from a rental shop in town), pitch a tent in the either the back country or Hosmer Grove, and gaze in awe of a Milky Way so brilliant you could almost reach out and touch it.
Photo: Sharlene Earnshaw