On my last day on Maui, I accidentally did the drive up Mt. Haleakala. I MEANT to head to the Mt. Haleakala national park so that I could go to hiking through the bamboo forest. INSTEAD my GPS led me up the crater side. I read about this drive on Trip Advisor. Loads of people recommend doing this drive to catch the sunrise or sunset at 10,000 feet above the clouds.
Once I started driving and realized where I was, fear struck my heart. (I had debated the night before whether to get up at 2:30AM or not and decided not to. Not because I couldn’t get up, but the idea of this Illinois driver driving up a crater to 10,000 feet with sharp switchbacks, limited guard rails, and no street lights was terrifying. Couple that with the fact that since moving to the ‘Stan I haven’t really driven in 18 months I feel a little insecure about putting myself in challenging driving situations.) But I’m also stubborn. Once I realized what was happening, I figured, “how bad could it be?” and kept going. After I paid to get into the park, I figured I was committed. After I passed the Visitors Center, I looked at it as a character building experience. Masochist.
The drive up. I broke up the drive by stopping at the Visitors Center, where you can stop, talk to a ranger, go the washroom, and get acclimated to the altitude. There’s also a great picnic table and benches if one wanted to bring a picnic lunch up (or breakfast depending on when you decide to do the Mt. Haleakala drive).
The view from the Visitors Center picnic tables. Two hours later and after driving at an average speed of 20 mph, I got to the top. Before you get to the summit and observatory at 10,060 feet, you can stop off at the Sliding Sands trailhead where, on a clear day, you can see an amazing view of the Maui coastline and the Sands.
View of Maui from above.
The Sliding Sands Trail.
Heading down. After hiking to the second lookout, it dawned on me that I needed to hike back up. And this is what THAT felt like. 😦
A lot of people do this drive at sunrise or sunset and I can see how the sight of the sun “rising/setting” above the clouds must be amazing. But even during the day, it’s beautiful. So whether you go at the crack of dawn, as the sun is setting, or midday, it’s definitely worth the drive. (Side note, the drive down was way better. Popped the rental car into low gear and just coasted down with my hands clenched to the wheel. Whew.)