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Hawaii's Haleakala National Park - An Overview

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The sun sets over Haleakala National Park, Hawaii

The sun sets over Haleakala National Park, Hawaii

© bobosh_t via Flickr

Contact Info:

By Mail:
PO Box 369
Makawao, HI 96768

Phone: (808) 572-4400

Overview:

This park has a legend behind it: It was here, in the basin at the mountain’s summit, that the demigod Maui snared the sun, releasing it after it promised to move more slowly across the sky. In fact, Haleakala means “house of the sun.” It is a beautiful place to explore with volcanic landscapes, sub tropic rain forests, and many endangered species who call it home.

History:

Haleakala, originally part of Hawaii National Park, was redesignated as a separate national park in July 1961. It was designated an International Biosphere Reserve in 1980 and nearly two-thirds of its 29,824 acres are designated as wilderness.

When to Visit:

The park is open year-round, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and visitors will enjoy a trip at any time. Rain typically comes in the winter but temperatures remain fairly constant month to month. If you want to avoid the crowds, visit the summit after 3 p.m. and take in the sunset.

Park Headquarters Visitor Center is open 7 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.; Haleakala Visitor Center is open 5:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Kipahulu Visitor Center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

* When you plan your trip, keep this important note in mind: There is no food or water sold in Haleakala National Park so plan accordingly.

Getting There:

Park headquarters and the 10,023 foot summit can be reached from Kahului via Route 37 to 377 to 378. Driving time to the summit from Kahului is approximately 1.5 hours. Keep in mind there are no gas stations within the park. The last place to get gas while driving to the Summit Area is in the town of Pukalani. If you are heading to the Kipahulu area, the last place to get gas is along the Hana Highway.

There is no public transportation available to or in the park. You will need to fly directly from the mainland or from another Hawaiian island to Kahului in central Maui.

Fees/Permits:

Visitors are required to pay an entry fee for the park. If you already have any of the America the Beautiful Passes, your entrance fee will be waived.

If you don’t have a parks pass, check out the following prices for entrance:

  • Private Vehicle: $10. Valid for 3 days. Admits private, non-commercial vehicle (14 pax capacity or less) and all occupants to Haleakala National Park including both the Summit and Kipahulu Areas.

  • Motorcycle: $5. Valid for 3 days. Admits one individual on a private, non-commercial motorcycle to Haleakala National Park including both the Summit and Kipahulu Areas. Any passengers pay the per person fee.

  • Per Person: $5. Valid for 3 days. Admits one individual with no car to Haleakala National Park including both the Summit and Kipahulu Areas- typically used for bicyclists, hikers and pedestrians. Youth 15 and under are admitted free.

If you plan on visiting the park and other Hawaiian national parks, you may want to consider purchasing the Hawai`i Tri-Park Annual Pass for $25. The pass is valid for 12 months from purchase date and admits the pass holder/s and passengers in a non-commercial vehicle (14 pax capacity or less) to Haleakala National Park, Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park and Pu`u Honua `O Honaunau National Historical Park.

Things to Do:

Backpack Haleakala: Library patrons can now borrow Backpack Haleakala!, an embroidered backpack filled with exploration tools including books, binoculars, a camera, and an activity sheet packet. Visitors can waive the park entry fee is they bring their Backpack Haleakala!, library card, and Driver's License or Identification Card. Currently, Backpack Haleakala! is available only at Makawao Public Library (808-573-8785). For more information about the program, call (808) 572-4400.

Hiking: Hiking trails are accessible in both the summit area and Kipahulu area of the park. A number of trails offer trips ranging from less than an hour to as long as three days.

Camping or backcountry camping: See the Accomodations section for more info. Just know that the wilderness of this park is meant to be backpacked and explored.

Sky Watching: This park offers one of the most spectacular night sky views in the world. Be sure to rent a pair of 10x50 or 7x50 binoculars at one of the island dive shops and pick up a star map at Park Headquarters or Haleakala Visitor Center. Be sure to check out the sunrise/sunset as well.

Swimming: Allowed in the Kipahulu Area (coastal) of the park - but only when conditions are safe.

Cultural Activities: Hawaiian cultural activities and demonstrations take place occasionally in both the Summit and the Kipahulu areas of the park. Ask at the visitor centers for details.

Junior Ranger Activity Book: Kids 7-12 years old who are visiting the park with family members should ask at any park visitor center to find out how to become a Junior Ranger at Haleakala National Park.

Major Attractions:

Summit Area (Mountain): Visit the summit to experience volcanic landscapes and high-elevation ecosystems. Spend a few hours driving to the highest point on Maui, enjoy a day hike through native Hawaiian ecosytems, or join a Park Ranger for a talk or demonstration.

Kipahulu Area (Coastal): See how Hawaiians have interacted with the land for hundreds of years. The lush rainforest and cool freshwater stream and pools create a tropical setting for an afternoon of hiking, while the coastal views are simply breathtaking.

Wilderness Area (Mountain): Get away and experience nature as it should be. Whether you choose a day hike, or plan a 3-night backpacking trip, you will love it the chance to experience the landscape, take in the night sky, and soak in all that the park has to offer.

Accommodations:

The only lodging available in the park is in the campgrounds and Wilderness Cabins. The park offers two car accessible campgrounds: Kipahulu and Hosmer Grove. Kipahulu campground is near sea level on the wet, east-side of the island in the Kipahulu area of the park. Hosmer Grove is on the way to the summit, high on the windy slopes of Haleakala.

There are two primitive wilderness campsites, at Paliku and Holua, which are accessible only by trail. Permits are required for overnight camping at these sites. Camping permits are free, require an 8-minute orientation, and may be obtained at the Headquarters Visitor Center on the day you begin your trip. Campsite space is available on a first-come, first-served basis but special accommodations may made for educational groups and boy-scout groups up to 6 months in advance. Keep in mind that each person is limited to a maximum of 3 nights per 30 day period in the wilderness campsites with no more than 2 nights at any one site.

Pets

Dogs are permitted in parking lots, drive-up campgrounds, on roadways and paved pathways only. Dogs must be leashed at all times and are not permitted on trails. Working guide dogs accompanying a person with a disability are permitted in buildings; speak to a Park Ranger for information on hiking with guide dogs.

Areas of Interest Outside the Park:

Waianapanapa State Park: Located 80 miles from Haleakkala National Park, visitors can hike, fish, swim, and camp. There is a huge seabird colony to explore, as well as beautiful spot for picnicking and relaxing.

Iao Valley State Park: Only 49 miles from Haleakala National Park, this state park is open year-round and offers one of the most beautiful destinations to explore. Check out the Iao Needle while you’re there - a 2,250-foot basalt spire that’s sacred to the people of Maui.

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