From the tropics to the moon! Two hours, 38 miles, 10,023 feet—those are the unlikely numbers involved in reaching Maui’s highest point, the summit of the volcano Haleakala. Haleakala Crater is the centerpiece of the park, though it’s not actually a crater; technically, it’s an erosional valley, flushed out by water pouring from the summit through two enormous gaps. The mountain has terrific camping and hiking, including a trail that loops through the crater, but the chance to witness this unearthly landscape is reason enough for a visit. Another section of the park, Oheo Gulch in Kipahulu, can be reached only via the Road to Hana.
Exploring Haleakala Crater is one of the best hiking experiences on Maui. The volcanic terrain offers an impressive diversity of colors, textures, and shapes—almost as if the lava has been artfully sculpted. The barren landscape is home to many plants, insects, and birds that exist nowhere else on earth and have developed intriguing survival mechanisms, such as the sun-reflecting, hairy leaves of the silversword, which allow it to survive the intense climate.