There are so many incredible things to do in Haleakalā National Park. It is one of the most unique national parks in the United States and the world being Maui’s sole park.
Far from the mountains, deserts, plains, and forests of the continental US parks, you’ll find a plethora of memorable things to do in the lush tropical rain forests and vibrant volcanic landscapes tucked in a remote corner of the vast Pacific Ocean.
Here you can journey to the house of the sun and discover ancient volcanoes steeped in legend, rugged mountains, dense rain forests, hidden beaches, and the last wild home to spectacular wildlife.
About Our Travels to Haleakalā National Park
We visited Haleakalā for the first time back in 2016 as part of a small film crew and it’s vibrant and at times rugged island beauty has been etched in our minds ever since.
From the harrowing drive along the Road to Hāna, to the pristine beaches, to the roaring waterfalls and dense rain forests, Haleakalā will blow you away with it’s other-worldly sights.
It may be difficult to reach, but once there you’ll come to appreciate it’s remote beauty and island tranquility.
We spent several weeks in the park visiting all of the main attractions and filming them to bring you the best things to do and see in the park.
This remote island paradise is teeming with adventure opportunities and we’re excited to share them with you.
Interesting Facts About Haleakala National Park
What does Haleakala mean?
“Haleakala” means “House of the Sun” in Hawaiian. The legend goes that a demigod named Maui, with help from his grandmother, seized the sun slowing its journey through the sky which lengthened the day.
What kind of Volcano is Haleakala?
Haleakala is a gigantic shield volcano. Most folks don’t realize that it actually accounts for more than 75% of the island of Maui!
When did Haleakala last erupt?
While there are many different theories about when exactly Haleakala last erupted, the current general consensus is that the last eruption took place sometime between 1480 – 1600.
Things to Know Before You Visit Haleakala
$30 per vehicle OR if you plan to visit more National Parks within the next 12 months we suggest you go ahead and purchase the America the Beautiful Pass (available at the park entrance gate). The pass gets you into all National Parks, Forests, Monuments, and more including 2,000 sites for free after a one time $79 fee.
Use it. Lots of it. We happen to like this one because it works AND its reef safe meaning it’s not full of a bunch of chemicals.
Leave No Trace
We’re big fans of Leave No Trace, here at MTJP. Want to learn more? Read about the seven principals of Leave No Trace here.
We carry around an Eco-Friendly Insect Repellent with us, especially in the redwoods, as mosquitoes can be a bit crazy in the parks.
Cell service is pretty spotty in the park, particularly in the forests. Higher elevations without tree cover provide better coverage, you can also find service in Hāna.
Best Time to Visit
Best Time to Visit Haleakalā National Park is in the Winter. Temperatures are warm and pleasant and the park’s roads are devoid of the traffic one might find in the summer months.
Pickings can be slim for food in Haleakalā so you’ll want to plan ahead of time and bring plenty of snacks. That being said, there are a select few great spots to grab a bite near the park.
Where to Stay
Check out these options for full listings of where to stay near Haleakala National Park:
Things to Do at Haleakala National Park
20. See a Sunrise from Kipahulu
Located just behind the Kapahulu visitor center, past the O’heo Gulch, is a beautiful view point which is perfect for catching a spectacular Haleakala sunrise.
This sunrise, while much different from the sunrise you’ll see at the crater, is really magnificent on the right day.
The combination of stunning blue water, radiant golden light, and lush green bluffs makes for a photographers dream.
Getting to this point requires about a half mile hike and is very easy to access.
19. Drive the Pilani Highway
Most folks who travel to Maui have heard of the Road to Hana but not nearly as many people know about the stunning Pilani Highway.
The Pilani Highway actually turns into the Hana Highway just after the Alele Bridge, (more on that below) pretty close to the site of Charles Lindbergh’s grave.
For folks who travel the loop route to the Road to Hana often don’t realize this is part of the route. Depending on what time of day you drive this road, the views can be absolutely magnificent.
18. Chase Rainbows
Among the most memorable things to do at Haleakala National Park is seeing the vibrant rainbows Hawaii is known for. If you spend even just a few days on the island of Maui you are bound to see your fair share of these stunning natural phenomenons.
One of the most reliable places to see them in Haleakala National Park is from Kukui Bay behind the Kipahulu visitor center off of the Hana Highway.
17. Soak in the Tropical Foliage
One of my favorite things to do in Haleakala National Park is simply soak in the incredible tropical foliage. For those of us not lucky enough to call Maui our home, the native plants found here are a real treat.
One of my personal favorite sites is the vibrant Heliconia featured in the image below which can be found on the Pipiwai Trail along with many of the others located off of the Hana Highway.
Another really cool site for mainlanders like myself is seeing bananas growing in the wild. I’ve noticed some growing on the Pipiwai Trail every time I’ve hiked it.
16. See Alele Falls
A lesser visited waterfall in Haleakala National Park is Alele Falls located just inside of the park boundaries off of the Hana Highway. These falls are massive and much easier to access than the more famous Waimoku Falls.
To get to these falls simply follow the Hana Highway for another 3 miles past the Kipahulu visitor center until you reach Alele Bridge. Immediately after crossing the bridge you’ll see a left turn toward a small beach where you can park your car.
From the parking area simply follow the creek back toward the center of the island for a few hundred feet until you reach the falls.
Note: This area is considered sacred by some of the residents on the island so tread lightly and practice leave no trace.
15. Go Camping
Haleakala has two front country campgrounds located outside of the crater and a series of backcountry campgrounds located inside the crater.
The front country campgrounds are Hosmer Grove Campground and Kipahulu Campground.
Hosmer Grove Campground
Hosmer Grove campground is located in a Eucalyptus Grove along the road up to Haleakala Crater. There are no designated campsites at Hosmer Grove, rather a field where campers are free to pith their tents wherever.
Hosmer Grove is a great spot to make base camp if you’re planning on seeing the epic Haleakala Crater sunrise.
From Hosmer Grove to the Haleakala sunrise spot is roughly a 25 minute drive.
Note: It rains very frequently at Hosmer Grove Campground so be prepared to get wet.
Kipahulu Campground is located near the Pools of O’heo and the Pipiwai Trail on the other side of the park, off of the Hana Highway.
This campground has 21 designated campsites which can be reserved through recreation.gov. For those staying here, be sure to catch a sunset from the Kukui Bay (more on that below) behind the campground!
14. Hike the Trails Behind the Kipahulu Visitor Center
Another one of the great things to do at Haleakala National Park, especially for folks who plan on driving the road to Hana, is hiking the network of trails behind the Kipahulu visitor center.
These trails are not named on the map but take visitors from the visitor center toward the ocean where you can sometimes spot sea turtles in the surf if you’re lucky.
These trails connect with the Pipiwai Trail, the O’heo Gulch trail, and the Kipahulu Campground.
13. See the Mountainous side of Haleakala
Most folks don’t realize there’s another side to Haleakala, separate from the crater and the waterfalls hike. Keep driving past the Pipiwai Trail hike on the Road to Hana and eventually you will reach a stunning mountainous region of the park.
The Road to Hana or the Hana Highway eventually turns into the Pilani Highway. Looking up toward the crater from here reveals the more mountainous views on the backside of Haleakala crater.
While there are not many trails here, the views alone are worth the drive.
12. See a Sunset from the Observatories
Any time you can see from the same vantage point as an observatory you know you’re in a pretty cool spot. This was an easy addition to our list of the best things to do in Haleakala National Park.
While you can’t go all the way up to the observatories as they are fenced off, you can get pretty close.
I recall my last time watching a sunset from this view point was absolutely magical and easily one of the most memorable things to do in Haleakala National Park for me.
Starting a the bottom of the drive it was warm but cloudy. On the ascent the fog set in pretty thick making me believe that the drive would all be for not. Then, at the last mile of the drive we broke through the clouds into the vibrant red, purple, and orange hues of sunset.
Making it to this spot is not hard. Just route yourself to the Haleakala crater and then keep driving past that parking lot to the final one. You can’t miss this spot.
11. Find a Rainbow Eucalyptus Tree
While I feel this photo does not adequately capture their beauty, these trees are absolutely gorgeous in person and thus round out our top 10 things to do in Haleakala National Park.
The aptly named rainbow eucalyptus trees are a rare sight in the park but mesmerizing to see.
I have spotted them off of the road to Hana in a few places, most memorably in a pasture near mile marker 7. I *believe* are some places where they exist in the park as well!
10. Catch a Sunset at Kukui Bay
Kukui Bay is a great spot to catch a sunset in Haleakala National Park and one of the more stunning things to do in Haleakala National Park. The bay is most easily accessed from the Kīpahulu Campground near the Pools of Oheo.
From the campground, you can follow a trail down toward the ocean where there are numerous great spots to catch the sunest.
Note: Do not venture too far out on the rocks as random waves can easily sweep you off the rock and out to sea. This almost happened to me!
9. Spot (but don’t touch!) a Green Sea Turtle
Green sea turtles are abundant on the island of Maui but are a bit tricky to spot in Haleakala National Park as there is limited space for them to come ashore inside park boundaries. With that being said, spotting one is one of the most memorable things to do in Haleakala.
Sometimes they can be spotted near the Alele Bridge off the Hana/Pilani Highway and on the trails behind the Kipahulu visitor center.
Note: Do not touch the green sea turtles and give them their space. These are federally protected animals and the penalty for touching them is steep!
8. See the Haleakala (Pipiwai) Banyan Tree
Located on the Pipiwai Trail, this massive banyan tree draws folks in from all over the world.
Estimated to be over 100 years old with branches that stretch over 60ft long this tree was the highlight of the hike for me.
The tree is situated about 3/4 mile down the trail and is impossible to miss!
Please do not carve into the tree or deface it in any way. If you see someone doing so please report it to a park ranger.
7. Stargazing at the Haleakala Crater
There’s a reason that several observatories are positioned at the top of the Haleakala Crater.
The stargazing here is world class. On a clear night, you can an unfathomable amount of stars making it one of the to things to do in Haleakala National Park.
Note: Make sure to pack a jacket as it gets cold here at night. Even if it’s 80+ degrees at the beach, the temperature can be 30 degrees or more colder at the crater.
6. Explore the Bamboo Forest
About 1 mile in the Pīpīwai Trail gives way to a boardwalk that cuts through the heart of a vast bamboo forest. I’ve seen the famed Arashiyama bamboo forest outside of Kyoto, Japan and I can confidently say the Haleakala bamboo forest is more beautiful.
For many people (my wife included), this is their favorite thing to do in Haleakala National Park.
The bamboo reaches soaring heights and hearing the rustle of the chutes in the wind is quite a treat. We definitely recommend it.
The trail is typically muddy and wet and it can be easy to lose your footing and end up tumbling down a gulch if you’re not careful.
Note: The mosquitoes can be pretty savage along this trail no matter the time of year so be sure to bring repellent and dress appropriately.
5. See the Pools of ʻOheʻo
Commonly referred to as the Seven Sacred Pools, this series of pools fed by cascading waterfalls is a widely popular tourist attraction going back decades. The beauty of these pools alone brings it into the top 5 of our list of best things to do in Haleakala National Park.
Located in the beautiful Oheo Gulch, it is recommended to view the pools from a safe vantage point rather than trying to physically access them.
The Oheo Gulch area is not recommended for swimming as violent flash floods or rock falls can occur at any time.
Most areas are extremely difficult to access both for visitors and emergency responders.
Do your research before venturing to the pools and be prepared for serious crowds, especially in the summer months.
It’s advisable to consult the park staff before planning a trip to the pools as conditions vary greatly.
4. Discover Waimoku Falls
Cascading some 400 feet down to the forest floor is the beautiful Waimoku Falls in the Kīpahulu area of the park.
As the most beautiful waterfall on the island of Maui, hiking to Waimoku Falls is one of the best things to do in Haleakala National Park. The falls can be accessed 2 miles into the 4-mile roundtrip Pīpīwai Trail.
This trail which provides hikers with beautiful views of various waterfalls, streams, and various other natural features.
The Pīpīwai Trail
Distance: 4 miles round trip
Time: 2-3 hours
Flash floods and rock slides are common here and can occur with little to no warning.
The area is typically muddy and wet and it’s easy to lose your footing and end up tumbling down a gulch if you’re not careful. You’ll also likely want mosquito repellent.
To learn more about this hike check out our Waimoku Falls post.
3. Drive the Road to Hana
The Road to Hāna, also known as the Hāna Highway is a narrow, one-lane, winding, scenic road that takes drivers through some of the most beautiful areas of Hawaii.
Driving the road to Hana is one of the most memorable things to do in Haleakala National Park. So long as you drive carefully, it is sure to be a highlight of your trip.
The road is definitely not for the faint of heart as it’s as famously narrow and dicey as it is beautiful.
If you’re renting a car and feel confident enough you just have to brave the Road to Hāna as it’s something you’ll be telling friends about for years to come.
The Road to Hāna will take you along Maui’s southeastern coast and provides access to Oheo Gulch, the Pools of ʻOheʻo, Waimoku Falls, the Pīpīwai Trail, as well as Kīpahulu Campground on the coast.
The best time to drive the Road to Hāna
The best time to drive is in the winter when the road has much less tourist traffic and you can take in the views without the added pressure of lots of cars.
We should also note that the best time to drive the Road to Hāna is when the weather conditions are favorable.
Flash floods and rock slides are a common occurrence and should be avoided.
2. Hike into Haleakalā Crater
The Crater hike in Haleakalā is one of the top things to do for visitors to the park.
Most hiking is done via the Keonehe‘ehe‘e Trail which travels all the way down to the crater floor. The multi-colored volcanic landscape is unlike anything you’ve seen and definitely worth exploring.
Haleakalā Crater Trail Hike
Hiking the crater can involve just a short hike from the rim to view the spectacular area or a more involved backcountry hike down to the crater floor and beyond.
The park has three wilderness cabins available to backpackers upon reservation which can make for a really unique visit to the park.
Distance: 3.9 miles one-way to crater floor
Time: 2-3 hours
Hiking up here is very strenuous and not recommended for beginners or pregnant women.
The lower levels of oxygen near the summit area can cause altitude sickness and pose real danger to those unprepared.
Bring plenty of water and proper clothing to prepare for the cold temperatures the area usually experiences.
Lastly, check the park website for the latest information before going and have fun!
1. See the Haleakalā Summit Sunrise
As far as the best things to do in Haleakala National Park go, its nearly impossible to beat this epic sunrise.
When we say the summit we mean the summit. Atop Haleakalā is an observatory, parking area, and a few trailheads.
From this area at sunrise or sunset you can take in some of the most spectacular views in the entire national park system.
Perched high above the clouds the Haleakalā Summit offers a commanding view of the island of Maui and the pacific ocean far below.
On a good day a sunrise or sunset at the Haleakala Crater will be one that you’ll never forget.
Traveling to the summit for sunrise requires an advance reservation. This is a recent requirement the park has added to control traffic and overcrowding. Be aware that it is strictly enforced.
We recommend sunset from the summit as there are no reservations required, fewer crowds, and the same stunning scenery.
Planning a trip to Haleakalā National Park? Learn how to do it right with our comprehensive Haleakalā National Park Guide that covers what to see, campgrounds, lodging, dining, seasons & weather, and so much more.
Haleakalā National Park Guide
Map of Things to Do in Haleakala National Park
A quick map listing all of the locations mentioned in this article.
Watch the Award-Winning Video of Haleakala National Park
We created this short video based on our travels to Haleakala National Park. If you plan on visiting the park you ought to give it a watch!
HALEAKALA 8K is the culmination of several weeks and multiple trips to the remote outer reaches of the island of Maui in the Central Pacific. Journey with us to the house of the sun and discover ancient volcanoes steeped in legend, rugged mountains, dense rainforests, hidden beaches, underwater worlds, and the last wild home to spectacular wildlife.
For this film we hiked every trail in the park and spent multiple seasons on the island of Maui. Haleakala is only one of six “tropical” National Parks in the system. The others are: Virgin Islands, Key Biscayne, American Samoa, Dry Tortugas, & Hawai’i Volcanoes.
Haleakala is unique because of it’s mix of ancient volcanic features in Haleakala Crater & it’s rugged, tropical coastline.
Two standout locations in the park are Haleakala Crater which features one of the most beautiful (and popular) sunrises in the entire National Park system and the Pipiwai Trail which is one of the most beautiful hikes in the entire system.
Getting to Haleakalā National Park
Getting to the park is a little different from the other parks to say the least. Unless you live in Hawaii getting to this tropical paradise is going to require hopping on a plane for more than a few hours.
Flights to Hawaii vary in price throughout the year and many domestic airlines offer some very competitive rates so you don’t have to break the bank to make this happen.
Flying to Honolulu might be your best bet for the most affordable rate, from there you can hop over to Maui on a number of local Hawaiian airlines.
If you’re able to, flying in to Kahului Airport (OGG) on Maui will simplify your travel plans quite a bit. From there you can rent a car and be on your way to Haleakalā in no time.
The Summit District
Getting to the Haleakala summit takes between 1.5 – 3 hours driving.
The following are the driving distances and times from other locations on Maui:
- Kahului: 38 miles – 1 hour 15 minutes
- Kihei: 45 miles – 1 hour 15 minutes
- Wailea: 50 miles – 1 hour 30 minutes
- Lahaina: 60 miles – 1 hour 45 minutes
- Ka’anapali: 64 miles – 1 hour 50 minutes
- Hana: 70 miles – 3 hours
The Kīpahulu District is located off the Road to Hana on the southeastern side of Maui.
The following are the driving distances & times from different locations on Maui, via the Hana Highway:
- Hana: 35 minutes – 11 miles
- Lahaina: 3 hours 30 minutes – 84 miles
- Ka’anapali: 3 hours 45 minutes – 89 miles
- Wailea: 3 hours 20 minutes – 76 miles
- Kihei: 3 hours – 70 miles
- Kahului: 63 miles, 3 hours
Summary of the Top 10 Things to Do in Haleakalā National Park
- Haleakalā Summit
- Haleakalā Crater
- Road to Hāna
- Waimoku Falls
- Pools of ʻOheʻo
- Bamboo Forest
- Stargazing at Haleakala Crater
- The Pipiwai Banyan Tree
- Spot a Sea Turtle
- Sunset at Kukui Bay
- Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees
While You’re on Maui…
- Check out this Maui sea turtle & snorkeling guide
- And this helpful Maui guide for all things on the island
- And our Haleakala guide
Helpful Related Articles
Haleakala NP Guide: Expert Guide to Haleakala National Park
Things to Do Hawai’i Volcanoes NP: 17 STUNNING Things to Do Hawaii Volcanoes (Photos + Helpful Advice)
Hawai’i Volcanoes NP Guide: Expert Guide to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii National Parks Guide: Expert Guide to the Hawaii National Parks