Haleakala National Park: Things To Do at the Summit and Kipahulu District


You have to visit Haleakala National Park if you’re visiting Maui for a vacation. With so much to see and do, you’ll be amazed at how much this park has to offer.

We loved every minute of our adventures at this national park. Pablo and I explored the Summit District for one whole day and then the Kipahulu District on a separate day. Here’s how to make the most of your time.

About Haleakala National Park

Kipahulu District Haleakala

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Haleakala National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Hawaii. Haleakala means “House of the Sun” in native Hawaiian.

The park, which covers an area of 30,183 acres, is home to a variety of unique plants and animals. It is a designated International Biosphere Reserve. The park offers a variety of recreational activities, such as hiking, star gazing, and camping.

Of course, the main attraction in Haleakala National Park is Haleakala itself. It is a shield volcano with the highest peak at 10,023 feet. The summit offers stunning views of the surrounding area. It is the world’s largest dormant volcano.

The part consists of two different districts: the Summit District and Kipahulu District.

What is Kapu? Kapu is an ancient Hawaiian code of conduct that governs all aspects of life. The word Kapu means “forbidden” or “off-limits.” When hiking and exploring in Hawaii, please respect native Hawaiian culture and Kapu signs.

The Summit District

The Summit District is home to some of the most stunning scenery in the world, including a volcanic crater. The high altitude and harsh climate can make it a challenging place to hike, but the views are awesome.

Haleakala National Park Summit District Things To Do

Haleakala Summit
Haleakala Summit Overlook

Below, we’ll talk about all the things to check out in the Summit District.

1. Check Out the Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees

Driving to the Summit District, keep your eyes peeled for the rainbow eucalyptus trees. You will see them on the side of the road on the way to Crater Road (a.k.a. Haleakala Highway).

2. See the Haleakala Crater

If you’ve ever wanted to experience a volcanic crater, Haleakala is the place to go. A 10-mile drive will take visitors to the top of the crater. The scenic drive is paved, long, windy, and has many pull-offs.

Haleakala Crater is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Maui, and for a good reason – the views are amazing. The drive up to the main overlook is definitely worth it but be prepared for a lot of wind. It can get pretty chilly at the top. Wear warm clothes.

Once you’re up there, make sure to take some time to explore everything that the summit area has to offer. There are plenty of trails and viewpoints to check out. If you’re an avid hiker or just looking for a scenic view, Haleakala Crater is totally worth a visit.

3. Explore the Haleakala Visitor Center

The visitor center is small and quaint. Check the national park website before you go for hours of operation. It sits on the crater rim at 9,740 feet.

4. Watch a Haleakala Sunrise

For an unforgettable sunrise adventure, catch the sunrise above the clouds at the summit. The views are breathtaking, and it’s a sight you don’t want to miss. You can catch the sunrise from the lookout areas at the top of the summit parking areas.

Reservations are required to enter the park for sunrise from 3 am to 7 am. You can make reservations up to 60 days in advance on recreation.gov.

Pack plenty of warm clothes because it gets chilly up there! And be prepared for crowds. It’s one of the most popular attractions in Maui.

5. Haleakala Observatory

Haleakala high altitude observatory

Though the Haleakala Observatory is not open to the public, you can see it off in the distance when you’re at the summit — which is pretty neat.

6. Stargazing

The park has dark skies with no light pollution, making it the perfect spot to see stars, planets, and constellations. If you’re interested in astronomy or just want to check out fantastic views, Haleakala is worth visiting. You can stay at the summit after dark to watch the stars from the trails and your car.

Summit District Hiking Trails

If you’re looking for challenging hikes with stunning views, the Summit District of Haleakala National Park is worth exploring. The Summit District is home to some of the most difficult trails in the park, so be prepared for a tough workout. But the views at the top are worth it! You can see all the way down to the coast and across to Maui’s sister island, Lana’i, from the high points.

For off-the-beaten-path hiking adventures in Maui, check out the two trails below.

7. Sliding Sands Trail

Sliding Sands Trail in Maui
Sliding Sands Trail into the crater

The Haleakala Sliding Sands Trail is an out-of-this-world experience hiking in a volcanic crater. This hiking trail winds its way through the most beautiful scenery on the island and offers hikers a chance to explore a unique and geologically fascinating area. If you’re up for a challenge and want to see remarkable scenery and breathtaking views, be sure to check out the Haleakala Sliding Sands Trail.

  • Distance: 11 miles out-and-back
  • Trailhead location: Park at the Haleakala Summit Visitor Center
  • Elevation gain: 2,795 feet
  • Time to hike: 5 to 7 hours
  • Level of difficulty: Hard
  • The trail is open year-round.

Why We Loved This Hike: Hiking in this area, we completely forgot we were actually on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It will take your breath away.

8. Halemau’u Haleakala Overlook Trail

Haleakala Halemauu Overlook Trail
Halemau’u Overlook

The Overlook Trail begins from the Halemau’u parking area, which is located off Crater Road on the way to the summit of Haleakala. It is a moderately easy hike to the overlook. From the overlook, you can keep going, but the trail switchbacks and gets steep. The trail leads hikers to the Hōlua cabin, which sits at the base of the crater wall near Koʻolau Gap. The Halemau’u Trail also connects to more backcountry trails and the Haleakala Wilderness Area.

  • Distance: 7.6 miles out-and-back
  • Trailhead location: Halemauu Trailhead
  • Elevation gain: 2,375 feet
  • Time to hike: 5 to 6 hours
  • Level of difficulty: Hard
  • The trail is open year-round.

There are wilderness cabins to stay at when hiking in the backcountry.  A reservation is required.

Why We Love This Hike: This is one of our favorite hikes in Maui! The views from the overlook are spectacular and worth the effort to get there. The hike back down is easier than going up, so be sure to take advantage of that (or keep it in mind).

Keep your eyes peeled for endangered Nēnē, the Hawaiian goose. We didn’t see any.

Kipahulu District Things To See and Do

The Kipahulu region is known for its rugged coastline, scenic waterfalls, lush rainforest, and cloud forest. Hiking and camping are popular activities.

It takes roughly 3 to 3 1/2 hours to get to the Kipahulu District from Lahaina without any long stops along the Road to Hana.

The Kipahulu District on the island of Maui is the place for everyone who wants to see more of the island’s wild, untamed, and natural spaces. Below are the best things to check out

9. Pipiwai Trail and the Bamboo Forest

For a fantastic hike that will take you through a bamboo forest, the Pipiwai Trail should be on your Maui bucket list. The trail is about 4 miles long and can be completed in about 2-3 hours, depending on your fitness level. Plus, the views along the way are incredible. You’ll want to bring your camera along for this one. The hike features a 400-foot waterfall, Waimoku Falls.

  • Distance: 3.8 to 4.0 miles out-and-back
  • Trailhead location: Kipahulu Visitor Center
  • Elevation gain: 908 feet
  • Time to hike: Roughly 2 hours
  • Level of difficulty: Moderate
  • The trail is open year-round.

10. O’heo Gulch

O’heo Gulch, located on Maui’s lush east coast, is a popular spot for tourists and nature lovers. The rainforest-lined stream and waterfalls are breathtaking sights, and the well-maintained trail system provides an easy way to explore the area.

Some people like to swim here (we did not get in the water).

11. Kipahulu District Coastline

The beautiful mix of green and blue water against the stark black rocks is something special to see. It is not recommended to swim over here because the water is turbulent. Still, it is a great place to take photos and enjoy the ocean.

12. Kipahulu District Visitor Center

The visitor center is small and quaint. There are nice restrooms to stop at before or after hiking that are open 24 hours a day, which is great since the surrounding area is rural.

Our Experience Visiting Haleakala

We visited Maui’s national park at the end of January.

Before our trip, we purchased Maui Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook by Andrew Doughty, and it helped us plan our trip. The guidebook is totally worth the cost and shares all the best things to do and secret spots to explore. This is the best thing we bought to help plan our trip (seriously).

The weather in January was warm enough for us to hike in shorts and a long-sleeved t-shirt. We were also glad to have a light windbreaker because it was super windy when we explored the summit area.

We did not catch the sunrise when we visited the Summit District because we decided to hike the backcountry trails instead. Starting the hikes early meant there were no crowds as we descended into the crater. Next time we visit, we plan to wander deeper into the wilderness area and explore more of the backcountry trails. We’d love to check out the Cinder Cone someday.

If planning to hike the longer backcountry trails, plan to be self-sufficient. Bring all of your hiking gear, food, and snacks. All of the trails are well-marked.

Read more about what we did in the Kapahulu District! You don’t want to miss hiking the Pipiwai Trail through the Bamboo Forest.

We were also super glad we brought our National Park Pass with us on our trip since it covered our entrance fees. Don’t forget to bring yours (link to buy online from REI).

Maui Hawaii Travel Information

Here is where we stayed and other Maui travel information.

Where to Stay: We stayed at The Kulakane and seriously LOVED it! We will be back.

Flying to Maui: Fly into Kahului Airport (OGG). Book your tickets on booking.com.

Renting a Car: Rent a car – 6+ months ahead of time. We got a jeep to rent SUPs and drive the Road to Hana.

Travel Insurance: We ALWAYS buy cancel for any reason travel insurance. We use Travel Insurance Master. You can pick the exact coverage you need.

Final Thoughts on Visiting Haleakala National Park

Haleakala National Park is a must-see destination if you love hiking and nature. The park has stunning landscapes and incredible views. So whether you’re looking to explore the trails or just take in the amazing scenery, make sure Haleakala National Park is on your list of places to visit.

Maui is one of our favorite Hawaiian Islands. Have fun out there.

Ashlee & Pablo

More Maui Articles:

We try as much as possible to “travel like locals” when we visit Hawaii. We hike the trails, support small businesses, and get recommendations from the people who live there and a guidebook to plan adventures.

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Ashlee Fechino

Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation and travel writer sharing the best-kept secrets that aren’t in your typical guidebook. Her goal is to inspire people to travel with a sense of adventure by sharing hidden gems across the U.S. and beyond. She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo. They camp in their Aliner often and love wandering the world. Follow their latest adventures on Instagram @thehappinessfxn.


  1. Erin from Pina Travels on May 4, 2022 at 3:10 pm

    I’ve always wanted to visit Hawaii, and Haleakala National Park sounds like it’s right up my alley! Sunshine, hiking, and beautiful landscapes. Thanks for this detailed guide, I’m saving it for a future trip to Hawaii.

    • Ashlee Fechino on May 4, 2022 at 3:59 pm

      Hi Erin – thanks for reading our Haleakala National Park guide. We have you have the best time.

  2. simplyjolayne on May 4, 2022 at 2:41 pm

    I have yet to visit Hawaii, but you can be sure that when I do, my husband and I will find some awesome hikes and views. The sunrise view would be something to get up early for for sure.

    • Ashlee Fechino on May 4, 2022 at 3:59 pm

      Hi Jolayne – you two will have a blast visiting Maui and seeing the sunrise over Haleakala!

  3. Kyra on May 4, 2022 at 2:30 pm

    I’ve been to Maui a couple of times but have yet to go to Haleakala – clearly that needs to change! Waimoku Falls looks especially gorgeous!

    • Ashlee Fechino on May 4, 2022 at 3:58 pm

      Hi Kyra! Yes, you have to see Haleakala next time. It is insanely beautiful.

  4. Megan on May 4, 2022 at 11:04 am

    It has been so long since we did Haleakala. We woke up SO early to see the sunrise, and because of that we were so tired and just got a ride back down. But I’d love to go back and do some of these trails!

    • Ashlee Fechino on May 4, 2022 at 12:29 pm

      Hi Megan – I bet that was just an amazing experience! Hiking in Haleakala National Park is out of this world!

  5. Burt Randall on May 1, 2022 at 1:44 pm

    Maui sounds fun, you’guys !! When are you going back ?!!

    • Ashlee Fechino on May 2, 2022 at 12:20 pm

      Hi Burt! Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂 We aren’t sure when we are going back. Someday soon! Haha