National Parks

From Sunrise to Sunset: 9 Top Things to do at Haleakala National Park on Maui

Haleakala National Park reached the Pacific. credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

Haleakalā National Park features 30,000 acres of land from the moon-like crater of the Haleakalā volcano to the tropical footpaths along the rugged coastline. It is one of the top things to do in Maui and is divided into two districts.  As a sacred land, Haleakalā National Park offers opportunities to explore. Many travelers yearn to summit the moon-like volcano to see the sunrise or the sunset. The Kīpahulu District is set in a lush rainforest with waterfalls and scared pools, rich in Hawaiian history. As Maui’s most popular site, planning is important, so here are the top things to do at Haleakalā National Park. 

Top 9 Things to Do at Haleakalā National Park

  • Stop by the Visitor Center 
  • Take a Scenic Drive 
  • Visit the Summit for Sunrise or Sunset 
  • Take a Hike
  • Attend a Ranger Program
  • Have a Picnic
  • Visit the Kīpahulu District
  • See the Waterfalls in the Rainforest
  • Earn a Junior Ranger Badge 

Haleakalā National Park at a Glance 

Year Established: 1961
Located: Maui
Size: 30,000 acres
Top Features: Haleakalā Volcano, Kīpahulu

Why Visit Haleakalā National Park

Seeing the sunrise or the sunset on top of Haleakalā is a bucket list item.  However, this national park offers more. Visitors can learn about Maui’s volcanic history and why the park’s landscape resembles a moonscape. 

The Kīpahulu District is completely different, with waterfalls and lush tropical plants in the southern part of Maui. Both locations explain the significance of this area to the Hawaiian people. 

Visitors Centers at Haleakalā National Park

A must for any national park visit, Haleakalā National Park features three visitor centers. Two are located in the summit district, and one is located in south Maui in the Kīpahulu District, though only two are currently open

Headquarters Visitor Center

Visitor centers hand out maps and Junior Ranger booklets and feature interpretive areas to learn more about the culture and history of the area. Rangers are on hand for information during its operating hours.

Located about one mile from the summit district sign at Mile Marker 11 on Crater Road. Open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Visitor centers feature 24-hour restrooms.

Haleakalā Visitor Center

his is the visitor center closest to the summit of Haleakalā and overlooking the volcanic valley. Visitors can ask questions, get maps and walk through its interpretive area.

Located about 10 miles from the Headquarters Visitor Center, it features 24-hour restrooms and is open daily from sunrise to noon. 

Kīpahulu District Visitor Center

Kīpahulu District Visitor Center offers a display on the cultural and natural history of Hawaii and is in South Maui,

It is located at Mile Marker 42 Hana Highway and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors can use the 24-hour restrooms.

Top Things to do at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Sunrise at Haleakala National Park. credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

Top Things to Do in the Summit District

Most first-time visitors’ signature experience is traveling to the summit district, located 10,000 feet above sea level. The dormant crater is 7 miles across and was created from an eruption about 1 million years ago. It is a popular place to view the sunrise or enjoy the inky night sky.

Though planning is required for summiting. The weather along the coastline stays moderately temperate year-round, though it can snow on the top of Haleakalā. Visitors need to pack and wear layers no matter the time of the day.

Scenic Drive in the Summit District

The Haleakala Highway is a scenic drive to the summit. It originates outside the park in the town of Kahului and runs for 37 miles, connecting the ocean to the summit.

The portion inside the park is 10.6 miles long and was completed in 1935. It offers several overlooks, like Kalahaku Overlook. It reaches the summit with views of the Haleakala Crater and sunrise views at Red Hill and White Hill.

Drivers need to remember the drive from the summit entrance to the actual summit can take at least 30 minutes. All visitors driving in the dark at Haleakalā should use caution and stay observant of wildlife wandering close to the road. 

Sunrise, Sunset and Stargazing on the Summit

For the special sunrise ritual, an NPS reservation is required. Reservations are released 60 days in advance, though some are held until two days before. The reservation is required to enter the park from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. and is date-specific. For more information, consult the NPS website.

Permits are not required for the sunset, though parking lots will close when their spaces are filled. Visitors should have a backup location in mind for sunset.

Stargazing is also a top activity in the Summit District.

The Haleakala Highway up to the summit. credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

Top Hiking Trails in the Summit District 

Pā Ka’oao Trail—A .4-mile trail with a 100-foot elevation change

Keonehe’ehe’e Trail—A .5-mile trail to the first overlook with a 50-foot overlook.

Leleiwi Overlook–A .3-mile walk to an overlook with a 100-foot elevation change.

Halemau‘u Trail–A 2.2-mile roundtrip trail with a 400-foot elevation gain.

Hosmer Grove–A .5-mile loop

Ranger Talks at Haleakala

The Haleakalā National Park hosts free ranger talks for visitors. The topics range from day to day, though geology and guided hikes are popular ranger talks. The park offers a sunrise orientation program daily at 7 a.m. 

Top National Parks to See Volcanoes 

Picnicking at Hosmer Grove

There is a covered picnic table at Hosmer Grove. It is located near the Hosmer Grove Campground and offers a picnic table along with water, trash and vault toilets in the area.

Camping in the Summit District 

Hosmer Grove Campground 

  • Year-round
  • Reservations Required
  • 6 tent sites, no RVS
  • Potable Water and Vault Toilets
  • No Showers
  • Limited to 3-night stay in 30 days

Wilderness Cabins at Haleakala National Park

There are three wilderness cabins in the Summit District. Each requires a hike and offers bunk beds, a wood-burning stove and a propane stove. A pit toilet is located nearby, though there is no potable water available.

They are available for reservations via Each requires a hike ranging from 3.7 miles to 9.3 miles.

A view of the Kipahulu District of Haleakala National Park. credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

Kīpahulu District

While the summit district is about its volcano, the Kīpahulu District is about the waterfalls and the lush foliage along the coast. Located along the Road to Hana on the southern tip of Maui, The main parking lot is located at the visitor center at Mile Marker 42, about 10 miles pass the town of Hana on Highway 360. Plan for rain as this is the rainy side of the island

Top Things to Do at the Kīpahulu District

  • Stop by the Visitor Center
  • Take a Hike
  • See the Waterfall 
  • Walk through the Bamboo Forest

The Kīpahulu District Visitor Center is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. It offers cultural and natural history exhibits and features 24-hour restrooms. It is located at Mile Marker 42 Hana Highway.

Hiking in the Kīpahulu District

A couple of hikes take hikers past one of the top sites in the Kīpahulu District.

Kūloa Point Trail—A .5-mile trail with an 80-foot elevation change that passes ‘Ohe’o Gulch, or the Seven Sacred Pools. It is fed by a small waterfall flowing down the gulch.

Pipiwai Trail—A 4-mile roundtrip trail with an 800-foot elevation change. It is one of Maui’s most popular hiking trails.

The top sites along the Pipiwai Trail are the Makahiku Overlook, which is half a mile in and offers a glimpse of the Makahiku Waterfall. The bamboo forest is one mile in, and the 400-foot Waimoku Falls is two miles in.

Plan for rain, as this is the rainy side of the island, and arrive earlier in the day to avoid the crowds.

A view of Haleakala in the distance. credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

Kīpahulu Campground 

  • Year-round
  • Reservations Required
  • 20 tent sites, no RVS
  • No Water or Showers,  Vault Toilets only
  • Limited to 3-night stay in 30 days

Junior Ranger Program

The Junior Ranger Program is the go-to program for families to learn about a National Park Service site. It’s free and takes about two hours to complete. My kids love the badges the Rangers present them with after they complete their booklet.

Kids can pick up a booklet at the Visitor Center. Remember, anyone can earn a Junior Ranger badge.

Animals of Haleakala National Park

As the most remote island chain in the world, it is home to some unique animals.

  • Hawaiian Nēnē
  • Hawaiian ‘Ua’a

Details for Visiting Haleakala National Park

Haleakala National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. However, because it is remote, data coverage is limited. 

The Haleakala National Park pass is required for both districts, regardless of the time of day. A vehicle pass is $30 for three days and includes all occupants. For pedestrians, there is a $15 NPS pass, which is good for three days as well. Visitors can also use an America the Beautiful pass. 

As the top attraction on the island of Maui, Haleakala National Park offers visitors the opportunity to see the sunrise from its summit. There is hiking in the landscape that looks like a moonscape. The other part of the park is a rainforest with waterfalls and a bamboo forest. Top Things to do at Haleakala National Park | Where to go hiking on Maui #NPS #Maui

Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a pair of 100-year-old houses. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

Write A Comment