Driving the Haleakala Highway to the House of the Sun

The literal high point of our Hawaii trip was a drive up to the top of the Haleakala volcano that makes up the south end of Maui. Most people make the drive up in the middle of the night to catch the sunrise while others believe that sunset is almost as good and comes without the sleep deprivation. If Maui was our first stop in Hawaii we might have considered a sunrise trip to take advantage of the time zone change but as we had already been on island time for a week there was no way we’d be waking up the kids at 2am to make the 3 hour drive from Kaanapali.

Elevation sign at Haleakala Maui

We opted for a mid-day visit to the House of the Sun because we had a nice 6pm dinner planned at Mama’s Fish House for our last day in Hawaii. After a morning kayaking tour we had lunch in our room and made sure to pack some long pants and sweatshirts because we knew it would be chilly at the top even at midday.  As much as the kids are interested in volcanos and geology they were not excited about leaving the beach and pool for a long car ride.  

The drive to the Haleakala Highway wasn’t too long and once we started gaining altitude there were plenty of animals for the kids to look at. We also kept looking at the giant cloud that we were climbing towards and talked up the idea of driving through the clouds.

Twisty Haleakala Highway Maui

The mid-day traffic was very light and we made great time up the twisty Haleakala Highway. After breaking through the clouds we were greeted by the alien Mars-like landscape at the top of the volcano.

Rockscape at Haleakala Maui

When driving to the top of the mountain don’t be fooled by the first big parking lot that you see. That’s the visitor center and main viewing area for the volcano but if you keep driving to the right you’ll get to the peak where they’ve built a nice shelter to protect those who arrive or leave in the cold of night as well as those who are unprepared for the cool high altitude air.

Shelter at the top of Haleakala Maui

Once at the top it’s a unique view to be above the clouds without an airplane. The air is cool, crisp, and clean which is why they’ve built Science City [ifa.hawaii.edu] way up there to house telescopes and other astrophysics tools that peer out into space.

Science City at Haleakala Maui

Despite their initial concerns, the kids were happy to have been to the top of a volcano and I highly recommend this trip for anyone. You’ll have to pay a $10 per car entry fee to go into the national park [nps.gov], but it’s good for 3 days and well worth it day or night!

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7 thoughts on “Driving the Haleakala Highway to the House of the Sun

  1. I ended up getting altitude sickness at the top of Haleakala, so we had to head down after 20 minutes instead of eating a picnic lunch up there as I had planned. Plus, I got carsick on the twisty road. But I’m still so glad to see the other-worldly view from up there. One of my friends got to go to a wedding at Science City.

    • I’m sorry to hear that you had a bad experience. It sounds like your friend must have had an amazing wedding, though. Science City isn’t usually open to the public. There was an amateur astronomer we saw taking pictures of himself on his hands and knees in front of the telescopes. For a chance to go in there I’m sure he would have given up whichever arm he doesn’t use to hold a telescope!

  2. It looks like a fantastic outing. We’ve not made it there, but last year hiked to the top of Diamond Head in Honolulu. The views were absolutely spectacular and I’d recommend it to anyone staying long enough to spend a morning or afternoon there.

  3. We loved Haleakala and my kids enjoyed driving through the clouds too. It was one of the most memorable trips and that summit landscape was just surreal. I’m with you, we couldn’t make it through the sunrise or stay late enough for the sunset. Glad your family had a wonderful visit. Were you lucky enough to see the Nene (Hawaiian goose)?

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