Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park climbs the slopes and includes the "crater" of Mt. Haleakala. The crater is actually an erosion-carved valley studded with cinder cones that result from minor eruptions. The environment in the crater is light-filled and dry, frequently described as otherworldly. Hiking here is a transcendent experience, making it easy to understand why this is one of the especially sacred places for native Hawaiians.
The 10,023-foot summit above is reachable by automobilea classic scenic drive. Along the way are breathtaking overlooks until you finally reach the top, the best overlook of all. The peak offers 3,600 views that on a clear day can include all of the other Hawaiian islands. The view down and out is magnificent, but many come at night to look up: Haleakala offers perhaps the most easily accessible high-altitude skywatching on the planet.
As Mt. Haleakala descends, the environment becomes wetter and hotter: a rainforest. The national park portion of the lower portion of the mountain is largely contained in Kipahulu Valley, which is possibly the largest tract of native Hawaiian vegetation on the islands. Much of the Kapahulu is a scientific reserve, but the part that isn't offers waterfalls, swimming in subtropical streams, and hiking.
Bird and wildlife watching are great at Haleakala. In fact, Haleakala National Park is one of a few places to see rare Hawaiian forest birds. Walk along Halemauu trail or through Hosmer Grove on your own or join our guided Waikamoi Hike offered on Mondays and Thursdays, from 9 a.m. until noon at Hosmer Grove. After dark, watch the treetops on moonlit nights for one of only two native mammals in Hawaii, the peapea, or Hawaiian Hoary bat. On summer nights stop at Leleiwi overlook and listen for the rare Uau, or Dark-Rumped petrel, calling for its mate along the cliffs below. During the winter months watch for Humpback Whales from the porch of the Kipahulu Ranger Station.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication