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Haleakala Crater during the day with blue sky and white clouds surround the mountain peak

Haleakalā has long been a wondrous sight for kama’aina and visitors alike. It is one of the highest peaks in the Pacific Ocean. Only about 5% is visible above sea level, but if you measure Haleakalā from its base, it measures taller than Mount Everest. For over 1,000 years, before those early missionaries climbed the mountain, Haleakalā was considered sacred by Hawaiians. Visiting Haleakala National Park and the Haleakala Crater is spectacular, awe-inspiring, and something to be done with a certain sense of reverence. So, what makes this place so significant and noteworthy?

Haleakalā National Park

Peak of Haleakala Crater witih blue sky and white clouds in the sky

Haleakalā National Park is the reason many visitors to Maui wake up well before sunrise to see one of the most stunning sunrises on planet earth. When the sun crests the mountain peaks, graceful swirls of light and color perform a dance across the sky that words cannot adequately describe. The same can be said of the incredible sunsets at Haleakalā National Park. However, all hours of the day here have something worthwhile to offer. There are more than 30,000 acres of awe-inspiring landscape ranging from lush waterfalls and streams to Mars-like red deserts and rock gardens. Many hiking trails offer scenic views and ways to see the natural beauty of Haleakalā. 

The History of Haleakalā

The Haleakalā Crater is quite unique compared to other craters formed by volcanic activity. The size of this crater is so massive because it was formed over billions of years due to erosion of the volcanic mountaintop. Then smaller lava flows filled in the eroding valley and built up the floor of what we now know as the Haleakalā Crater. The more recent eruptions can be seen as pu’u, multicolored cinder stones created during a volcanic eruption when gas gets trapped in the lava. When the lava erupts like a fountain, this hot lava falls all around the base and pu’u is formed. 

Haleakala crater landscape

The Cultural Significance of Haleakalā 

It was known by ancient Hawaiians as Alehe-la, a word eventually becoming Haleakalā, meaning “house of the sun.” Hawaiian legend tells us that the demigod Maui traveled to the top of Haleakalā and waited til the sun awoke, which he then lassoed. Maui agreed to let the Sun go, but only if the Sun agreed to move across the sky more slowly, making the sunny days longer. 

The Mauna, or mountaintop, is culturally significant to the kama’āina and is considered a sacred place of worship and elemental connection. Religious ceremonies have been held at the rim of the summit, known as wao akua, or “realm of the gods.” Haleakalā’s summit is still a place to visit to cleanse, give pule (prayer), and to seek answers from one of the two ahu, or stone altars, at the summit. 

Dos and Don’ts When Visiting Haleakalā

It is important when visiting Haleakala Crater to be respectful and follow a few simple rules.

  • Don’t Leave Any Trace: as the saying goes, “take only pictures and leave only footprints.” While this area may be popular for tourists, it should be treated as the sacred area that it is for kama’āina.
  • Do Follow Signs: Be aware of any signage posted throughout the park and be sure to read and follow the directions. 
  • Don’t Veer Off Designated Paths: There are plenty of trails and paths for visitors to walk on and explore the area. Going off-path may be dangerous or you could get lost.
  • Do Listen to Tour Guides: If you take a guided tour to Haleakalā Crater, always listen to the instructions of your tour guide. 

Take a Haleakalā Sunrise Tour with Valley Isle Excursions

Sunrise over Haleakala National Park and Haleakala crater

To ensure you have the best experience visiting Haleakala Crater, book the Haleakalā Sunrise Tour with Valley Isle Excursions. This tour begins bright and early so visitors can see the unforgettable Haleakalā sunrise. You will be provided with all-weather hooded volcano blankets for use at the summit. Our tour bus is equipped with USB seat ports, overhead storage, 3-point seatbelts, and ADA options. After sunrise, you will be treated to a full island-style breakfast. Your professional and knowledgeable tour guide will educate you on the animals, plants, and rocks in the area, along with cultural and historical information, to ensure you get the most out of your trip. Book online and get ready to be immersed in the sacredness of Haleakalā’s summit.

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