I have been a Maui resident for 22 years, and this past weekend I hiked down into Haleakala Crater for the first time! I had been at the summit several times, but never inside the crater. I don’t know why it took me so long to do that… I had no idea what I was missing.
We were a group of 10 people, all close friends, and we had permits to camp in 2 of the cabins (there are total of 3 cabins in the crater). You have to pack everything in and out of the crater, including your trash. We started at 8,000 feet from a trail called switchbacks, which is about 3 miles long and drops down about 1,000 feet. At approximately 1 mile into the hike down, you hit a scenic point that overlooks a portion of the crater and it absolutely takes your breath away! It truly made me feel like I was on a different planet. Once you get to the bottom of Switch Backs, you have a 0.9 mile hike in the flats until you arrive at Holua cabin. Our goal was to hike another 6 miles to Paliku cabin, but because of a shortage of emergency staff on duty due to a recent government shut down (Haleakala is a national park), we decide to stay both nights at Holua cabin. We were greeted with a beautiful rainbow upon our arrival to the cabin and rested our legs after hiking with heavy backpacks for a couple of hours. The weather was perfect! We had sunshine and mild temperatures for the most part. Temperatures can reach freezing levels in the winter and I have seen snow on top of Haleakala a few times. We were prepared for it though. 🙂
The next morning, we hiked through and incredible lava tube for about 20 minutes. Some chambers were 20 feet tall by 20 feet wide and you can clearly see a petrified lava river at the spot we exited the tube. What an experience! We took another 2.5 mile hike in the afternoon, this time heading towards the SE; at about 1 mile from Holua cabin, you hit an untouched desert, at approximately 7,000 feet altitude, and it feels like you are on Mars! We put a total of over 5 miles hiking that day, but it’s a lot easier without the heavy gear!
This has been an incredible adventure and it was great to disconnect from the grid for a couple of days. Cell phones turn into cameras in the crater. Please keep in mind that you are at high elevation and caution should be exercised while doing any kind of physical activity. Speaking of high elevation, if you like a cooler climate, you should look into Upper Kula area; it’s a beautiful rural area that offers a cooler climate, properties with more elbow room and panoramic views. Still, within about 40 minutes you can either be at a beautiful Maui beach or on top of the world at Haleakala Crater. I don’t know of any other place in the world where you can do that. Maui is the best!