on May 10, 2009
Our second day, my husband and I woke up at 2 am (yes, crazy) to drive to the top of Haleakala. Located 10,023 feet above sea level, the Haleakala crater can be seen from almost anywhere in Maui. The clouds that form on its north face is the source for the rainfall for the Road to Hana waterfalls on the north shore. Sunrise at Haleakala – Not the Best Conditions for a Good SunriseIn pitch black, we arrived at the base of the mountain. Neither of us had every driven up a mountain before and not sure what to expect. Upon entrance into Haleakala National Park where the visitor center was located, it was still pitch black, windy, and had started raining. My husband began to question our sanity, but I urged him to continue on. After the visitor center, switchbacks on the road increased and the road narrowed. Clouds forming just below the crater became thicker and thicker as we ascended, with increasing winds and rain. Soon, the visibility in front of us completely became enshrouded with clouds. The only thing we could see were the yellow reflectors in the center of the road guiding us like breadcrumbs to our destination. Since we could not see, there was no option but to just keep going and pray those little breadcrumbs would not suddenly go away. Finally, we were at the top of the crater. We headed to the lookout point to watch the sunrise. Basically, the clouds kept rising as the sun rose, leaving us slightly disappointed with the ‘majesty’ of it all. It was nice, but not spectacular and the fright-fest we endured ascending at that early in the morning left us thinking it was something we should have not done for the result we got. I think, however, that our experience of the sunset was tainted as we probably did not have the best conditions for the ‘out of this world’ experience I had heard so much about. Also, dress warm. We had hats, gloves, a jacket, and long underwear, and it was still freezing standing in the dark waiting for the sun to peek above the crater. Further, if you bring a camera, make sure it is fully charged as the cold does drain your battery quicker than normal.The Summit, Crater, and Drive Down - Lovely and a Must SeeOnce the sun rose, it warmed up and the crater came into view. At the top, the views of the island of Maui and the ocean below were amazing. As we slowly descended, we stopped as much as we could to enjoy the lovely lookout points along the way. The terrain at the top of the mountain is almost like being on another planet – rough, red, and covered in interesting arid plants (like silverswords). In spite of the drive up, we really enjoyed visiting Haleakala National Park. Actually, we almost laughed seeing the switch-backs in daylight as there was nothing we should have been scared of. If you decide to wake up early and see the sunrise, just know that it is dark, windy, and cloudy and once at the top, you might not see an amazing sunrise. If it is worth the early wake up call on your vacation, then go for it! Hawaii is all about adventure. The sunrise part was not for us, but had we had the amazing sunrise we hoped for, it might have changed our expectations. As for the rest, it was certainly something we enjoyed seeing and I can’t imagine visiting Maui and not seeing Haleakala. Also, if you are also visiting Ohe’o Gulch during your trip, be sure to save your Haleakala ticket as it is valid at both locations. Bike Company Observation – Do your ResearchWe chose not to bike down Haleakala as we had heard some things about the dangers of this activity. I really did not think the actual bike ride seemed dangerous; however, certain tours did not give the appearance that they were as ‘safe’ as others. We saw one couple using a tour that told us their ‘bike was terrible’ and then watched the husband fix his wife’s chain and break that had broken before they headed down a very steep hill. This same tour had a guide that showed the group how to work their bike at the top of the mountain, then got in a van and stated ‘see you at the bottom’ and left them to fend for themselves. This is compared to another company that stayed with their group the entire time and stopped along the way to provide a brief narrative of the sites of Maui. So, be sure to do your research if you are considering this option as there is a big difference between tour companies. This difference, it appeared, also impacts the level of safety for this activity.
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