Haleakala Crater – My Hawaiian Diary (Part Six)   Leave a comment

Ahinahina (Silversword)

The road to the top of the world’s largest dormant volcano looms in front of us as we approach it from the northern side of Maui. On the fastest ascending road, we begin our trek up this majestic corniche going from sea level to 10,023 feet in just 38 miles and 90 minutes, all while navigating 33 switchbacks. There are numerous climate zones on this shield volcano; rain forest on the windward slopes (with annual rainfalls of 120-400”), dry forest on the leeward slopes and sub-alpine and alpine as you near the summit.

Our ascent takes us through fog one second, where we can barely see 30’ ahead of us, and out into brilliant sunshine the next. The higher we go, the cooler it gets and I’m glad I packed sweaters. Research shows the temperature at the summit can dip to below freezing, quite a change from the 30C we left at the base. We pass forests of `Ohi`a and Koa trees then suddenly we realise this isn’t fog anymore…we’re driving through clouds.

As we finally reach the summit parking lot I can see why so many people make the trek up here. After climbing the few steps to the Haleakala Visitor Centre, the first thing I notice is the rare Silversword plant, so named because of its’ silvery grey sword-type leaves, and purple flowers that can take anywhere from 4-20 years to bloom. An endangered plant, the Ahinahina grows only in this location. Walk slowly! the sign says, because of the altitude. Of course, we take no notice, anxious to see what awaits. To our right is Science City, a group of seven domes where scientists are busy probing the secrets of the universe but just a few more steps and then suddenly, there it is!

Haleakala Crater Summit

Another Summit View

The view is mind-blowing, unlike anything I have ever seen. This must be what landing on another planet looks like! A 19 square mile caldera that could easily encompass Manhattan Island. The cinder cones are a dazzling array of colours and sizes. The terrain, although smooth looking, is probably quite rough and the silence is deafening as everyone stands in awe. On a clear day, the view spans 100 miles out over the Pacific providing a view of the Big Island. Today is clear but the clouds that are hanging around block our view of the neighbouring island yet we can still see across the ocean. It dawns on me that I actually have my head in the clouds (no comments from the peanut gallery, please!) and I’m not in a plane……wow!

Jaclyn with her head in the clouds

Haleakala hasn’t erupted since 1790 and I hope it doesn’t decide to do so now. Talk about putting a rocket under ones butt! I’ve always wanted to go into space but that wasn’t quite the mode of transportation I had in mind! It’s 5C up here so a sweater and jeans is sufficient. Anyway, with what’s in front of us, I don’t even think we’d really notice the cold, but the wind…now that’s a whole other thing!

We stay for about 30 mins then begin our descent. It’s a bit faster going down but not much. You still have the switchbacks and also a lot of bikers to be on the look out for. We pass numerous groups of about 10 at a time – people who have been driven up to see the sunrise and who then bike down.

Heading toward the north-east coast, we soon find ourselves driving along a portion of the Hana Highway. With its’ 600 curves and 54 one-lane bridges it’s about 30 miles of cliff on one side and jungle on the other. Speed limits run from 10-35 mph due to the twisting terrain. The bridges are part of the experience of travelling on the road to Hana and we get a small taste of it as we make our way to Twin Falls. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the falls since it would have been a 20 min walk each way from the road and ‘we’ were all running out of gas and time. But the route here made me see why so many stores sell stickers that say “I Survived the Road to Hana”. Since we hadn’t, I couldn’t bring myself to buy one. Perhaps one day, I sigh, as we make a U-turn and head back towards the north shore.

Ho’okipa Beach


Ho`okipa Beach is windsurfing’s sweetest spot on earth. The place where world-class competitions are held in a monster surf that should deter those not considered the best at their sport. From high up on Ho’okipa Lookout, we bask in the glorious heat of the sun while watching the best surfers and windsurfers expertly manoeuver their boards from crest to trough.

We continue on through Kahului and Ma`alea then around the mountains to Ka`anapali. In Lahaina, there’s a wonderful little store with a gorgeous bronze statue of a hula dancer that I absolutely fell in love with. That’s it, I said, that’s my Hawaiian souvenir. Kilohinani, which means ‘Looking Towards Beauty’. She weighs a ton, but she’s coming home with me.

Next stop…The Big Island


Posted October 10, 2012 by Jaclyn in Holidays, Parks, Travel

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