Haleakala Highway

(November 1998)


Everybody who has rented a car on Maui will probably drive the Haleakala Highway once to the 10,023 ft (3057 m) summit of Haleakala. From Kahului it is about 37 miles to drive, at first on Road 37, then on Road 377 and finally the last 6 miles of switchbacks. Driving switchbacks is not one of my favourite activitis, but I found that it was not very difficult.

At the car rental we had to sign a small extra form which informed us that we had to chose a low gear when driving downwards, otherwise the brakes would fail.

At 8.00 a.m. we left the hotel in Ka'anapali and were on Road 30 heading for Lahaina ab. We passed Lahaina and took the direction to Road 380 for Kahului.

From here we saw the mountain in the distance behind sugar cane fields. It appeared rather flat, though it is higher than Germany's highest mountain.

From Kahului we chose Road 36 and then 37, which ascended as a four-lane road. Then we were on 377, which was more curvy and steeper.

We passed the Haleakala Ranch area, traffic signs "Watch for Bikers", signs with cattle and real cattle. In fact, it looked a little bit like Switzerland here.

The first bikers that we met did not drive, but one of them sat besides the street and seemed to be rather exhausted. As we just had passed the 2500 ft marker, we suspected that the remaining 7500 ft would get hard. At 3000 ft we passed another biker, but he was really fast on the way uphill.

Haleakala Highway is the most famous mountain bike tour on Maui, but in the downhill direction. You can chose one of the organized tours, you are brought together with your group to the summit in the early morning, and powered by gravity you rush down

At the Park Entrance near the 7000 ft marker (2134 m) we payed $10, the entrance fee for one week. At the Park Headquarters building was a place were two Nene goose lived and a small garden with the famous Silverswords, a rare plant from the National Park.

Now the street became steeper with still more switchbacks, but not difficult to drive. We stopped at Leleiwi Overlook (8840 ft or 2694 m) for a first view of the crater. We had to save Kalahaku Overlook (9324 ft or 2842 m) for later, as you can only turn off in the downhill direction.

We did not make any further stops and so we reached the summit short after 10 a.m. The Visitor Center on the upper picture is located underneath the summit.

From the shelter on the summit, we had a view on Big Island with Mauna Loa as well as Mauna Kea above the clouds.

The buildings of Science City house telescopes and radar antennas.

After we had looked around on the summit, we started a hike on the Sliding Sands Trail. We had planned a second hike in the National Park, but this was the last day without clouds, and so this visit to Haleakala remained our only one.