Five must-knows before visiting Haleakalā National Park in Maui
If you’re going on vacation to Maui, then Haleakalā National Park is a must-see. This breathtaking landscape includes the summit of Maui’s highest point that towers over the island at 10,023 feet. Spectacular views and rich culture make this tourist attraction one you won’t soon forget. But there’s a few must-knows you’ll want to be prepared for before you make your visit to the “house of the sun”. Check it out.
Now, on our first visit to Maui, everyone said that of all the things you do there, make sure you visit Haleakalā . And they were right. Aside from the beautiful scenic drive along the windy Haleakalā highway, you rise above the clouds to see some of the most spectacular views in the world. We learned a few things along the way though that will hopefully help you during your visit as well.
#1: Book Haleakalā National Park sunrise tickets in advance
Sunrise on the summit of Haleakalā is super popular. That’s why you have to book tickets for the 3-7 a.m. time slot but they are really hard to get. According to NPS.gov, reservations can be made online up to 60 days in advance of your sunrise visit on recreation.gov and are only valid for the day reserved. These tickets are released at 7:00 am HST. A portion of reservations for any given day will be released 2 days (48 hours) in advance. We tried to book tickets but they filled up almost immediately. If you don’t mind getting up really early, it’s worth a shot. Otherwise, you can visit the park anytime during the day between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. without reserving tickets.
#2: Visit Road to Hana and Haleakalā within three days of each other
When you visit Haleakalā at the Summit Entrance, you will pay $30 per vehicle which is valid for three days. That pass will also get you into the Kῑpahulu District Entrance, which is at the end of the Road to Hana. Unless you want to pay an extra $30, try to visit both these places within three days of each other.
#3: Consider downloading the Haleakalā tour guide app
We decided to spend 5 bucks and download the Gypsy Guide tour guide app onto our phones. As you drive to the summit and back down, the app provides historical and scientific background to the landscape that you are experiencing. It’s super easy to use and for a small fee, I felt like it was definitely worth it. We also used Gypsy Guide for the Road to Hana and we loved that one even more.
#4: Dress warm
Even if it’s warm when you leave your hotel, once you reach the summit of Haleakalā, temperatures can dip below freezing. I didn’t really believe it but when I got there, I wished I had brought a coat. Especially if you plan on camping out at the top to wait for the clouds to part, you’ll want some warm clothes.
#5: Haleakalā is worth it even on cloudy days
It’s typically pretty hard to time a visit to Haleakalā where there aren’t any clouds in the sky. But even if there are, the landscape and scenic drive are still spectacular–blue skies or not. We reached the summit on a pretty cloudy day and we still loved it. Just go. You won’t regret it.
Check out this video below of us driving from the entrance to the summit of Haleakala. Even though it was cloudy at the top, it was still spectacularly amazing.
Other helpful tips and tricks
I must say that Haleakalā was one of the my favorite things that we visited while in Maui. I loved every minute of it and plan to visit again next time. Here’s some other tips and tricks to consider as you are planning your adventure to the house of the sun.
- Medicine: Take some motion sickness medicine if you’re prone to car sickness. Lots of windy roads.
- Lunch: Consider packing a lunch of fresh island fruit that you can eat at the top.
- Updates: Check the National Park Service website for regular updates to closures and hours of operation.
- Bike tours: You can rent a bike and ride down from the summit, but do so with caution. These roads are super windy and there are A LOT of cars. Our friend learned the hard way and broke his back!
- Top first: There’s lots of trails and various attractions to visit on the way to the summit. Consider driving to the top first though and then decide what you want to see afterwards.
- Dogs: Dogs are permitted in parking lots and drive-up campgrounds and on roadways and paved pathways only. Dogs must be leashed at all times. They are not permitted on trails.
- Sunrise jet-lag: If you’re body is still waking up at 4 a.m. when you arrive, consider seeing the sunrise before your body adjusts to the time zone.
- Crater: The hike down the crater isn’t so bad, but it’s deceptively hard on the way back up. If you’re not accustomed to high elevations, take it easy.
- Do your homework: Read up on Haleakala before you arrive with “The History of Maui Mountain”
- Souvenirs: Although most of the gift shops are closed at the summit due to COVID, you can still buy souvenirs online like this sweet hoodie, vintage wall poster or this National Geographic Haleakala Trails Map.
Do you have any other helpful tips when visiting this amazing national park? Leave your comments below.
Related link: 20 Maui tips and tricks