The dry, red barren upper slopes of Haleakala are otherworldly in the context of the green leafy tangle of plants so characteristic of Maui generally. At 10,000 feet above the warm and dreamy Pacific, Haleakala stands in sharp contrast to the balmy lowlands. Volcanic blasts that created the valley on top of Haleakala have been reduced to the occasional lava flow and cinder cone, but the mountain remains an impressive reminder of the geological upheaval that laid down the Hawaiian island chain long ago.
Outdoor-enthusiasts with cramped legs can enjoy 27 miles of trails that wind around and down from the summit, through rainforest and out to rugged bluffs overlooking the sea. A hike down into Oheo Gulch leads to pools perfect for a quick dip or a leisure afternoon picnic. Bring your binoculars and watch for rare Hawaiian forest birds near Hosmer Grove, or simply lay back and watch the play of clouds and rainbows spinning by overhead. In summer, star-gazing vies with the sunset/sunrise extravaganza for attention. Bring warm clothes and your best gaze for any of the above.
If a day seems too short to do the park justice, pitch your RV or hook up your tent at one of the drive-in campgrounds. For a less civilized adventure, pack your dinner in to the wilderness campgrounds at Hola and Paliku. Pick up permits before you set off and leave the firewood at home as there are no open fires allowed. There are also three wilderness cabins for those who don't fancy a night in the elements.
When you've worn out your walking legs, take a bike ride—most people choose to bike down from the top of Haleakala rather than up, so rack your bike for the road to the top. Indulge your inner cowboy/girl with a half-day ride horseback down Sliding Sands Trail to the floor of Haleakala Crater or take a shorter trip across Haleakala Ranch for spectacular views.
Try taking the Haleakala Skyline Tour for a view of the region from a zipline if you're after an unusual Tarzan-style jungle adventure.
Haleakala National Park is 61 miles from Lahaina and 38 miles southeast of Kahului.