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The Ultimate Guide to Haleakalā National Park — Best Things To Do, See & Enjoy!

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Amar Hussain
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Amar Hussain

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Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
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Keri Stooksbury

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Haleakalā National Park is one of Hawai‘i’s 2 national parks. This park is on the island of Maui, the second largest island in Hawai‘i’s chain of islands. The park is centered around the dormant volcano Haleakalā. From the peak of this volcano, visitors can see majestic views of the landscapes that make up this national park. Each year, over 800,000 tourists visit Haleakalā National Park to explore the wonder of this mesmerizing national park.

How To Get to Haleakalā National Park

Where Is Haleakalā National Park?

This national park stretches over 30,000 acres of rainforest, mountains, and beaches. It is divided into 2 regions: the Summit District and the Kīpahulu District. Each district has its own entrance, and a road does not connect these 2 areas. 

Nearest Airport to Haleakalā National Park

There is only 1 airport option for flying to Haleakalā National Park, and that primary option is Kahului Airport (OGG). This airport is Maui’s main airport and is the second busiest airport in Hawai‘i. Kahului Airport is 28 miles from the park. It takes a little less than an hour’s drive to get to the park’s entrance from this airport. 

This airport offers nonstop flights to many U.S. and Canadian cities, including Los Angeles, New York City, Salt Lake City, and Vancouver. Kahului Airport services several well-known airlines, including Air Canada, Alaska, Delta, Hawaiian, Southwest, and United.

There are several services to choose from once arriving at Kahului Airport. From airport shuttle service to taxis to car rentals, airport staff is happy to help you find an option for continuing on the last leg of your journey. 

With its proximity to the park and top-notch amenities, you will be delighted with Kahului Airport’s services.

Driving to Haleakalā National Park

Driving to Haleakala National Park
Image Credit: William Zhang via Unsplash

Haleakalā National Park is divided into 2 separate districts that do not interconnect. Route 37 to 377 to 378 is the course you will take for visitors wanting to go to the Summit District. For those coming to the Kīpahulu District, Route 36 to 360 to 31 will get you to the entrance. 

Getting Around Haleakalā National Park

The best way to get around Haleakalā National Park is by using a private vehicle. This park has many miles of scenic roads that cut through the 2 districts. The districts are not connected by road, but the easiest way to get around is by car. The National Park Service offers several types of maps to help you plan your itinerary. 

What To See and Do in Haleakalā National Park

Haleakalā National Park has an abundance of opportunities for exploring and discovery. There’s something for every visitor at this national park, from stargazing and stunning sunrises to informative guided programs and hiking spectacular trails.

Hiking

Hiking Haleakala National Park
Image Credit: Tuva Hoyer on Unsplash

Exploring Haleakalā National Park on foot is a fantastic way to discover the beauty and wonder within its boundaries. This national park has several areas with dozens of miles of hiking trails waiting for you to traverse. The park is broken into 2 districts: the Summit District and the Kīpahulu District. 

Summit District

The Summit District has over 30 miles of trails ranging from short 10-minute hikes to multi-day overnight trips. Exciting features of Summit District hikes include ancient lava flows, rare plants, and hills where eruptions have occurred. You will also likely see various wildlife species in this area, including endangered animals.

Kīpahulu District

The Kīpahulu District is remote and only accessed by the Hana Highway. This area of the park is hot, humid, and rainy. There are 2 waterfalls, campsites, cultural demonstrations, and exhibits to view along the way. Another fantastic feature of the Kīpahulu District is the ʻOheʻo Gulch. The pools in this area, with the scenery surrounding them, are a sight to behold. There are also archaeological sites, streams with endemic fish species, and stunning ocean views that can be admired in this area.

Bottom Line:

No matter your ability level when it comes to hiking, setting out on one of the many trails throughout Haleakalā National Park will leave you with a deep appreciation for the grandeur of this beautiful place on Earth. 

Ranger Programs

Haleakalā National Park offers a variety of ranger-led programs and guided activities regularly. These activities range from guided hikes to sunrise orientations to geology hikes. No matter what you are interested in or want to learn about, there is something for every visitor with these programs.

The purpose of the guided activities at Haleakalā National Park is to understand this region’s cultural and environmental makeup. Park rangers offer hikes, talks, and special events throughout the year where visitors can interact and learn about the park.

A favorite program at Haleakalā National Park is the Junior Ranger program. This program was designed for kids of all ages. They can complete various activities and locate places throughout the park while documenting in an activity booklet. Once they complete the activities in their booklet, they can submit their completed list and earn a badge and the title of Junior Ranger. 

The National Park Service offers a calendar of events that features these ranger-led programs and guided events. Special programs are offered multiple times each week; check out this calendar to see if there are any programs you would like to participate in when visiting this national park.

Ranger programs are a great way to learn about the park. The park rangers are one of the most valuable resources in the park, and they are happy to share their knowledge with each and every visitor. 

Sunrises and Sunsets

Sunrise at Haleakala National Park
Image Credit: Kaydn Ito via Unsplash

Sunrises and sunsets are phenomenal at Haleakalā National Park. Taking in the sunrise or sunset from the summit of Haleakalā is a popular activity.

A reservation must be made in advance if you want to see the sunrise over the park. Another exciting way to experience the sunrise is to take a sunrise bus tour that will take you to the best viewing points without stressing over planning and driving in the wee hours of the morning.

If you want to see the sunset, you will not need a reservation, but you should plan to arrive early as the parking lots fill up quickly. The park’s website offers a list of sunset times throughout the year to help you when preparing for this activity.

Watching the sunrise or sunset from the peak of Haleakalā will create beautiful memories that will last a lifetime. 

Stargazing

Haleakalā National Park is an incredible place for stargazing. Due to its high elevation points and immaculate dark skies, breathtaking night sky views can be enjoyed from this amazing place on Earth.

The park is free of light pollution and has a clear atmosphere allowing night sky views that can’t be found just anywhere on the planet. The sky in this region is a perfect canvas for stellar views of constellations, shooting stars, and planets.

Watching the sky showcase its wonders from Haleakalā National Park is an experience you won’t forget. This activity should definitely be one of the top items on your must-experience list.

Visitor Centers

There are 3 different visitor centers at Haleakalā National Park. These visitor centers are excellent starting points for setting off on your park excursions. 

The Haleakalā Visitor Center is set above a volcanic valley. This visitor center has park staff available to answer questions and map out your park adventures. There are several displays teaching about the history of the mountain. Other features of this visitor center include a bookstore for purchasing souvenirs. 

Other visitor centers include Headquarters Visitor Center and the Kīpahulu Visitor Center. Headquarters Visitor Center is a mile past the Summit District entrance. The other is found on the coast in the Kīpahulu District. These visitor centers have displays teaching about the park’s cultural and natural history. There are also artifacts from the native people of the area. There is staff available at each center to answer any questions you may have about Haleakalā National Park. 

Bottom Line:

The visitor centers at Haleakalā National Park are the perfect place to start your park adventures. With so much to see and rangers to chat with, it is a valuable tool for planning your time in the park.

Best Times To Visit Haleakalā National Park

A trip to Haleakalā National Park is a chance of a lifetime, no matter when you plan to go. There are some times during the year that may be better than others if you are hoping to participate in a specific activity or event.

Best Time To Visit Haleakalā National Park for Warm Weather

The warmest month to visit Haleakalā National Park is in August. Mid to late August receives temperatures with a high of 89.5 degrees and lows at night reaching 71 degrees.

This warm time of year offers excellent opportunities for enjoying the cool waters at the pools and waterfalls throughout the park and comfortable nighttime temperatures while camping. If you are someone who enjoys warm weather, you will want to book a trip in August for sure.

Best Time To Visit Haleakalā National Park To Avoid the Crowds

Best Time to Visit Haleakala National Park
Image Credit: Elise St. Clair via Unsplash

If you hope to visit Haleakalā National Park and avoid crowds, the best time to plan a trip is in June. Data shows that visitors are least likely to visit in the month of June, which means it is a perfect time to enjoy a solitary trip. Plan a June trip for a relaxed visit with no crowds, and enjoy the sights and adventures at your own pace.

Best Time To Visit Haleakalā National Park for Wildflowers

If you hope to see the beautiful wildflowers and other flowering plants, early spring is the best time to come. April is an excellent time to get a glimpse of the vibrant colors of blooms in Haleakalā National Park. Another great aspect about visiting in early April is that the peak season still hasn’t begun, making it a less crowded time at the park. 

Planning a trip during April will help you to enjoy the park with great temperatures, fewer crowds, and magnificent views of the blooming plant life.

Cheapest Time To Visit Haleakalā National Park

The cheapest time to visit Haleakalā National Park is June. This is when there are the fewest visitors throughout the year and you can save lots of money on lodging and flights.

Annual Events in Haleakalā National Park

Haleakalā National Park offers programs regularly throughout the year where visitors can learn all about the park’s history and land. There are a few events that take place on an annual basis.

National Park Week

National Park Week takes place at each national park in the U.S. in the month of April. During this week, all entrance fees are waived. Haleakalā National Park offers spectacular activities, including daily walks, demonstrations, and talks led by park rangers, volunteers, and Maui natives. This is a great time to visit to save money and learn about the area’s rich history. 

Solar Festival

The Solar Festival takes place each year in March. Haleakalā National Park partners with the National Science Foundation’s National Solar Observatory to provide a multi-day event for visitors who want to learn about astronomy.

Visitors have multiple opportunities to learn about our planet’s closest star, the Sun. Some of the activities that take place during the Solar Festival include solar telescope observation, hands-on discovery activities at the Discovery Table in the Headquarters Visitor Center, and science talks with solar scientists.

Bottom Line:

There’s no better place to learn about the Sun than Haleakalā National Park, which means House of the Sun in the native language. 

Where To Stay In and Near Haleakalā National Park

There are several options for accommodations when visiting Haleakalā National Park. If you are hoping to camp inside the park, your only option is to camp at one of the campgrounds. There are several towns near the park with incredible lodging facilities if you want to stay outside of the park’s boundaries.

Inside the Park

The only option for lodging in Haleakalā National Park is to camp in a designated camping area, and a permit and reservations are required. There are 4 options for those who want to camp in the park, which include 2 campgrounds, wilderness camping, and wilderness cabins.

Hosmer Grove Campground

Hosmer Grove Campground
Image Credit: NPS

Hosmer Grove Campground is a beautiful campground that is in the cloud belt of Haleakalā. This campground is located at nearly 7,000 feet in elevation. 

This campground has 6 campsites available for tent camping. These sites are in an open, grassy area close to the forest and shrubland of Hosmer Grove. Each campsite features a picnic table, a barbecue grill, and access to water. There are pit toilets in the parking lot. 

If planning to camp at Hosmer Grove, it is essential to be prepared for temperatures that can change drastically. Daytime highs usually range from 50 to 65 degrees, and evening temperatures can drop to freezing.

Hosmer Grove Campground is a great place to set up camp and enjoy the gorgeous scenery and views from a higher elevation. 

Kīpahulu Campground

Kīpahulu Campground is just a short walk from the Kīpahulu Visitor Center. This campground has 20 sites, including 5 walk-in sites, 15 drive-in sites, and 1 group site. Campers and tent camping are permitted at this campground.

Each campsite features a picnic table, and vault toilets and water stations are nearby. Drive-up sites feature a charcoal grill, while walk-in sites require personal propane stoves. This campground does not have showers or electrical outlets.

Near the campground, visitors will find historic rock walls and archeological sites. These attractions will take you back to historic Hawaiian times. There are also 2 general stores in a nearby town called Hana where you can purchase camping supplies, food, and water.

Kīpahulu Campground overlooks the ocean and cliffs and is a short distance from ʻOheʻo Gulch. This is a great place to appreciate the water and enjoy sunrises over the ocean. 

Wilderness Cabins

Haleakalā National Park has 3 historic cabins that are accessible by the Kapalaoa Trail, the Palikū Trail, and the Holua Trail, which range from 3 to 9 miles. These cabins, often called Crater Cabins, must be reserved in advance. They were built in 1937 by carpenters with the Civilian Conservation Corps. Today visitors can enjoy a primitive cabin experience while staying at Haleakalā National Park.

Each cabin has 12 padded beds, a wood-burning stove, and a small kitchen with a table for dining. Lodging in these wilderness cabins allows visitors to enjoy a secluded, quiet visit and take in the beauty of the nature surrounding them. 

Wilderness Camping

Haleakala National Park Wilderness Camping
Image Credit: Lyle Wilkinson on Unsplash

Haleakalā National Park has 2 camping areas for primitive wilderness tent camping. These campsites are only accessible by the Holua and Palikū Trails, must be reserved in advance, and can accommodate a maximum of 5 people and 2 tents. There are group sites available for up to 10 guests and 4 tents. 

It is crucial to pack all you may need when wilderness camping, as there are no accommodations for these campsites. The park also asks that you keep the Leave No Trace motto in mind and keep the camping areas in pristine condition to not upset the ecosystem.

Wilderness camping is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the daily grind, become one with nature, and appreciate everything this park offers. 

Towns Near Haleakalā National Park

Several towns near Haleakalā National Park would make a great place to set up a base camp while visiting. Some towns are as close as 30 miles from the park, while others are a bit further.

Hot Tip:

Check out our ultimate travel guide to Maui and our guide to Maui’s best beaches.

Hana, Hawai‘i

With its proximity to Haleakalā National Park and an abundance of activities for recreation, Hana — a quiet town on the eastern shore of Maui — makes an ideal location for setting up a home base. This peaceful town is 35 minutes from the park and has plenty of places for lodging and dining.

The town has a variety of accommodations, including family-owned bed and breakfasts, cottages, and historic resorts. Whether you seek luxury amenities or a quiet retreat, you can find precisely what you need in Hana. 

There are incredible restaurants in this town. From small roadside stands to authentic cultural foods, this town has no shortage of dining options. 

There are historic churches, beach parks, and tropical botanical gardens to explore for recreation. A favorite activity is driving the Hana Highway, which has 59 bridges and 620 curves. This highway takes visitors through rainforests near waterfalls, pools of water, and gorgeous seascapes. 

Kīhei, Hawai‘i

Kīhei is about an hour from Haleakalā National Park. This town is a bright coastal area that features 6 miles of incredible beaches and is known for being the sunniest, driest part of Maui. Visitors have plenty to choose from when it comes to dining, lodging, and recreation. 

There are many types of accommodations, including condominiums, cottages, and small hotels. These accommodations are affordable and in excellent locations for enjoying all the town has to offer. 

The hardest part of staying in Kīhei is deciding where to eat daily as there is multitude of restaurants to choose from. Popular dining options include gourmet food trucks, fresh sushi bars, and local seafood joints. 

For recreation, the most popular activities are centered around the beaches. Some favorite activities are beach volleyball, swimming, surfing, snorkeling, and kayaking. Kīhei has great viewpoints for whale watching and incredible fishing excursions, birdwatching, and hiking opportunities. Kīhei is a beautiful choice for setting up a home away from home during your Haleakalā National Park vacation. 

Wailea, Hawai‘i

Wailea Hawaii
Image Credit: Alan Rodriguez on Unsplash

Just over an hour from Haleakalā National Park, Wailea is located in south Maui, 35 minutes from Kahului Airport. 

Wailea is known for its 5 stunning beaches and fantastic golf courses. There is a luxury resort community that showcases breathtaking ocean views and brings in lots of tourists. This town only has 5 hotels, including Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort and Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort. There are also private rentals available for those who seek a quiet stay. 

For outdoor adventure, the beaches provide a host of entertainment. Visitors enjoy swimming, snorkeling, walking, and jogging along the beaches. The courses have made Wailea a famous location for golfing. Other popular activities include hiking and visiting the lava fields. 

The town has incredible restaurants ranging from local cuisine to gourmet dining rooms. The variety of restaurants in this town is impressive. No matter what you crave, you will find the perfect hunger solution in Wailea. 

Staying in Wailea is a great idea for visitors who want to set up a base camp near Haleakalā National Park. There’s something to draw in every traveler. 

Where To Eat Near Haleakalā National Park

Haleakalā National Park has no dining options within the park’s boundaries. Check out the top-ranked restaurants near Haleakalā National Park to see which ones you’d like to try during your vacation. 

Grandma’s Coffee House

Grandma’s Coffee House is open daily for breakfast and lunch. This restaurant is located 4 miles from Haleakalā National Park and is a popular dining spot for locals and tourists alike. 

This family-run restaurant prides itself in its Maui organic coffee that has been roasted and blended in-house by 4 generations. Not only does Grandma’s Coffee House feature exceptional roasts of coffee, but it also has original homemade recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation. 

Diners rave about the outstanding coffee. Some of the most popular dishes include French toast, the BLT sandwich, the larger-than-life pancakes, and the burgers and fries. This restaurant also has options for vegetarians and vegans.

Grandma’s Coffee House is an exceptional place to stop and fill up before or after adventures at Haleakalā National Park. You will want to make sure to add this restaurant to your itinerary for a meal you won’t forget. 

Kula Bistro

Kula Bistro is located a mile from Haleakalā National Park in the city of Kula. This restaurant is open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

It serves an impressive menu of gourmet specialties made with fresh, local ingredients. Customer favorites include the crab cakes, the mahi-mahi sandwiches, smoked salmon Benedict, and the caramel chocolate turtle pie. 

There’s something that appeals to every palate at Kula Bistro. Be sure to stop by and see why this is a top-ranked restaurant near Haleakalā National Park.

Kula Lodge Restaurant

The Kula Lodge Restaurant is located 2 miles from Haleakalā National Park. This restaurant is on the slopes of Haleakalā and offers indoor and outdoor seating, spectacular views, and unique culinary specialties.

This restaurant offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner and has a menu inspired by Hawaiian culture. Favorite menu options include the BBQ pork pizza, the watermelon salad, the malted Belgian waffle, and the Korean-style BBQ. An extensive drink menu also consists of a fine wine list, signature cocktails, and top-shelf liquors. 

The Kula Lodge Restaurant has something for everyone, including options for gluten-free diners, vegetarians, and vegans. Add this stop to your Haleakalā National Park itinerary for an outstanding meal with spectacular views.

Maui Bread Company

Maui Bread Company is located 9 miles from Haleakalā National Park. This restaurant serves breakfast and lunch daily. The menu at Maui Bread Company ranges from sweet and savory breakfasts to artisan bread and options for vegan and gluten-free diets.

There’s even a lovely array of treats and cookies. This is a delightful place to stop for a quick breakfast or lunch or get all the fixings for packing a picnic to enjoy at Haleakalā National Park. Customers enjoy the coconut biscotti, pretzel croissants, cronuts, and piping hot coffee. 

Haleakalā National Park National Park Facts

Haleakala Hawaii
Image Credit: Liberty Jay on Unsplash

1. A New National Park

President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill on August 1st, 1916, establishing Hawai‘i National Park as America’s 13th national park. This original park comprised 3 volcanoes: Kīlauea and Mauna Loa on the island of Hawai‘i (now Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park) and Haleakalā on the island of Maui. In 1961, Haleakalā was made into a separate national park. 

2. What’s in a Name?

Haleakalā is a native Hawaiian word that means house of the sun when translated. An ancient legend tells the story of the demigod Maui that stood at the volcano’s peak and lassoed the sun to make the days longer. Visiting this national park will definitely make you feel close to the sun when admiring the stunning sunrises and sunsets offered in the area. 

3. Original People

The first people who settled in the Hawaiian Islands were Polynesians. This people group settled from 1000 to 1200 C.E. They were very good with navigation and depended on nature to survive and thrive. Today, Haleakalā National Park makes a great effort to preserve the history of this people group. Several guided tours, talks, and exhibits share the story of these first people all around the park.

4. Endangered Species

Haleakalā National Park has more endangered species than any other park in the National Park Service. Some of the endangered animals in the park include the po’ouli bird, the Maui parotbill, the Hawaiian hoary bat, and Blackburn’s sphinx moth. This park also has several endangered and threatened plant species, including Haleakalā silversword and waihoi beggarticks. 

5. Staggering Heights

Haleakalā stands at 29,704 feet from the base on the ocean floor to its summit. This incredible height bypasses Mount Everest, Mount Kilimanjaro, and Mount McKinley. 

6. An International Biosphere Reserve

In September of 1980, Haleakalā National Park was designated an International Biosphere Reserve. This park supports ecosystems that thrive in a volcanic landscape. The park works diligently to protect and preserve these valuable resources and educate others about their importance. 

7. Science City

Haleakalā National Park has an astronomy observatory that is found right on the summit of Haleakalā. This observatory is called the Haleakalā High Altitude Observatory, lovingly nicknamed Science City. It was built in 1958 so visitors could enjoy exceptional views of the shield volcanoes. The park has practically no light pollution, which leads to stunning views of the night sky and the park.

8. Hawai‘i’s State Bird

The nēnē (Hawaiian goose) makes its home in Haleakalā National Park. This bird was extinct in Maui at one point, but they were re-introduced to the park in the 1960s and 1970s. Today, these incredible birds can be seen frequently around the park.

9. Celebrity Status

Many major blockbusters have been filmed at Haleakalā National Park. Because of its gorgeous tropical environment, it makes an incredible backdrop for movies. Some movies that have scenes set in the park include the 1993 “Jurassic Park,” “Die Another Day,” and “The Hulk.”

10. Diverse Ecosystems

Haleakalā National Park has several different ecosystems represented in the park. Alpine aeolian, subalpine shrublands, rainforest, dry forest, and the ʻOheʻo stream ecosystems are all found in this park.

Because of the diverse ecosystems represented in this park, there are several different zones where the weather is drastically different than other areas. The diverse ecosystems bring unique plant and animal life to each zone. When visiting Haleakalā National Park, you will feel like you are visiting multiple places worldwide.

11. Highs and Lows

The highest elevation point in Haleakalā National Park is the dormant volcano Haleakalā. Its summit reaches 10,023 feet in elevation. The lowest point of elevation in the park is at the Pacific Ocean, which measures 0 feet in elevation. 

12. Record Size

Haleakalā is one of the planet’s largest dormant volcanic craters. This crater was formed by erosion and measures nearly 20 miles in circumference. 

13. National Register of Historic Places

The Crater Historic District encompasses the cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Other buildings in this historic district are employee housing, administration facilities, utility structures, and visitor service facilities. In November of 1974, Crater Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

14. Eruptions

Most people get nervous when they hear that Haleakalā is a volcano and instantly wonder if and when it will erupt. There’s no need to worry about eruptions when visiting Haleakalā National Park. The most recent explosion is believed to have happened between 1480 and 1600 C.E. This volcano is dormant, meaning it has not erupted in a very long time. It may erupt in the future, which is why a GPS instrument and seismometer continuously monitor it.

Final Thoughts

Haleakalā National Park is an incredible national park with so many sights and activities to enjoy. From sunrises on the peak of Haleakalā and stargazing in the incredibly clear night sky to hiking through diverse ecosystems and camping in the great outdoors, this beautiful park has no shortage of adventure. Book your trip to Haleakalā National Park today and discover what brings so many people from around the world to this magnificent park. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to enter Haleakalā National Park?

Haleakalā National Park charges a fee of $30 per vehicle for entering the park. This fee is valid for 3 days of re-entry. For those entering the park as a pedestrian, the fee is $15 per individual and is valid for 3 days. Youths age 15 and under may enter the park free of charge.

How many days should I plan to visit Haleakalā National Park?

One full day at Haleakalā National Park is plenty of time to see the major sights and attractions at the park, hike a couple of the trails, participate in a guided activity, and see either the sunrise or sunset. If that sounds like a lot to accomplish, you may want to extend your trip to 2 or 3 days.

Can I bring my dog to Haleakalā National Park?

Pets are permitted in many places throughout Haleakalā National Park. They are welcome in parking lots, drive-up campgrounds, and along paved pathways and roads. Pets must be on a leash at all times, and pet owners must clean up after pet waste. They are prohibited on hiking trails.

What is the weather like throughout the year at Haleakalā National Park?

The weather conditions differ throughout Haleakalā National Park. Mornings at the summit of Haleakalā can reach freezing or below, with an afternoon warmup in the 50s or 60s. The Kīpahulu District is very warm and wet. Both areas of the park receive frequent rain.

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About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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