Bike Haleakala National Park
Haleakala dominates the Maui landscape--it’s hard to find a location on the island where you can’t see the dormant volcano. Known as the House of the Sun in Hawaiian, Haleakala soars 10,023 feet about sea level. The inside of the crater has an eerie, otherworldly quality to it, while the slopes are dotted with the endangered blooming silversword referred to in Hawaiian as ahinahina ("very grey").
Haleakala and the Myth
In Hawaiian legend, Haleakala is where the demigod Maui lassoed the sun. According to one version of the myth, Maui’s mother complained the sun rose and fell so fast it was impossible for her to dry her kapa, or bark cloth. Maui lassoed the sun with a rope made from his sister’s hair and forced the sun to agree to move across the sky at its present speed.
Haleakala Sunrises and Sunsets
The summit of Haleakala usually sits above the clouds and is one of the best places on the world to view a sunrise or a sunset. Watching the sunrise from Haleakala has become so popular the National Park Service requires all personal and rental cars make reservations, in addition to paying the park entry fee. It is well worth the cost.
The slopes of Haleakala provide the longest downhill bike experience on the planet. Tour buses take cyclists to the summit, then return to the park entrance at 6,700 feet above sea level. From there, cyclists coast down the slopes at their own pace.
Depending on the bike company, it’s possible to bike all the way to the ocean at Paia--a 26-mile trip. As you coast down the mountain, keep an eye open for the Hawaiian nene, an endangered species of goose that makes its home on Haleakala.
Bike tours typically start in the early morning, so participants have the opportunity to enjoy the sunrise at the summit, view the crater, and then bike in the cool morning air. Tours are available for later in the morning, but you lose the opportunity to experience the sunrise and the bike ride down is more likely to be unpleasantly hot.
Booking with a bike or tour company is the easiest way to reach Haleakala summit. If you plan to make the drive yourself, make a right turn on the Hana Highway (highway 36) onto Haleakala Highway (highway 37). Drive for eight miles to where the highway intersects with Haleakala Road. The highway will veer left. Continue on the highway for another six miles then turn left onto Crater Road. From there, it’s eleven miles to the summit.
Entrance to Haleakala National Park requires a $10.00 entrance pass. Once purchased, your pass is good for three days. The park is open year-round, except for important Hawaiian cultural events or severe weather.