Rising 10,023 feet above Maui’s coastal areas is the massive shield volcano Haleakalā.
This sleeping giant is enormously popular and easily accessible for visitors; in fact, it has become a ritual for those staying on the island to rise before dawn and trek to the mountaintop in the chilly darkness to watch the sun make its way across the morning horizon.
To help protect the natural and cultural resources at Haleakalā National Park, a new reservation system has been put in place for sunrise viewings at the park. Reservations at recreation.gov may be made 60 days in advance, and there is a reservation fee that is not part of the entrance fee to the national park. Go to nps.gov/hale/planyourvisit/sunrise.htm for more information.
Hawaiian legend goes that the demi-god Maui traveled to the very spot modern-day visitors go to wait for the sun to rise. However, Maui wasn’t looking to capture a stunning nature shot; rather, he was waiting to lasso the sun and slow its progress over the island because his mother, Hina, complained that her kapa cloth would not dry properly. As the myth goes, Maui’s lasso hit its target, and it was only after the great yellow orb promised to travel more slowly through the sky that Maui loosened his rope.
Haleakalā has been inactive since 1790, when two minor flows occurred on the southwest rift zone near La Perouse Bay. The great basin below the summit, commonly called a CRATER, is 3,000 feet deep, 7.5 miles long and 2.5 miles wide, and is actually an “erosional depression” where water, wind and possibly glaciers once cut into the mountain. Later, new lava flows partially filled the basin, leaving cinder cones to mark their eruptions. Pu‘u O Maui, the tallest cinder cone reaches 500 feet from the basin floor.
The slumbering volcano — whose name literally means “House of the Sun” in Hawaiian — is the centerpiece of a 36,000-acre park that extends from Haleakalā’s summit to Kīpahulu Valley on the Hāna coast. A place of legends and intriguing biological diversity, the park attracts more than 1 million visitors a year, and offers plenty of alternatives to a sunrise vigil in a well-populated crowd. Hiking, camping, horseback riding and guided nature tours also are popular. In addition, Roberts Hawaii stops here. Call the National Weather Service (808-973-5286) for an update on the day’s forecast. A recorded message will give you information on sunrise and sunset times, as well as viewing conditions at the summit. Temperatures at the peak typically range from 30 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but occasionally dip below 0.
Visit nps.gov/hale/planyourvisit/fees.htm for more details.