There’s lots to do on Mount Haleakala: hiking, biking, horseback riding, star gazing, watching the sunrise (or sunset), camping, birding, or just escaping the heat of the beach for a day.
While you’re there or on the way, you have a good chance of seeing rare plants and rare birds and, at the top, a landscape not unlike the pictures from Mars. There is also a chance you’ll see nothing. If the mountain is shrouded in clouds, wait for another day. If you can see the top from outside our front door at Maui Vista, it’s worth a try. Even so, the weather on Haleakala can change rapidly and the erosion crater can fill with clouds in minutes. On the other hand, it can change for the better just as fast.
If you go, be prepared. According to the National Park Service, the average temperature at the summit is 17 degrees (Fahrenheit) cooler than at sea level. And that’s an average. It can be very cold especially at night and in the shadows. If the wind is blowing and you don’t have layers of clothing, you will not stay long.
In addition to the drop of temperature, several other things happen at 10,000 feet. First, many people feel light-headed due to the thinner atmosphere. Take it easy until you know how the altitude affects you. The thinner atmoshpere also means the UV rays are even stronger than at sea level. Fortunately you’ll probably be wearing more clothes than your normal beach wear, but remember to bring sunscreen. Finally, if you’re active, you may need more water than usual. There’s precious little water and no food at the summit. If you plan to stay a while, bring your own.
It’s about a two hour drive from Maui Vista to the top of Haleakala over good, but windy roads. It’s a National Park so, if you don’t already have a pass, there is a $10 entrance fee per vehicle. The pass is good for three days and includes the driver and all passengers. There are also things to do and places to eat in the Up Country below the park. (See our posts Kula – a Drive in the (Up) Country and Grandma’s Coffee House in Kula.) Make a day of it!