Haleakala is a giant shield volcano, encompassing the full eastern border of the island of Maui. According to Hawaiian legend, the tremendous basin at its summit (massive enough to hold Manhattan Island) was formed when the demigod Maui captured the sun. Maui only released the sun after it agreed to travel more slowly across the sky. This sun saga is what gave the volcano the name Haleakala, or "House of the Sun." The following is an overview of some of the other fascinating facts and sights of the much sought-after Haleakala Crater.
A Stairway From Earth to the Heavens
From sea to summit, Haleakala offers a unique climb to the highest elevation in the shortest distance; it takes drivers a mere 38 miles to find themselves 10,023 feet above the sea. Yet, that short vertical ascent covers very diverse landscapes.
Start amid lush, tropical forests and end in a near-barren and otherworldly crater, featuring fauna and flora so rare they can't be found anywhere else on the planet. Here, your eyes can go even further to seek out other planets and stars with a trip to one of the summit's three astronomical observatories.
Born Amidst Smoke and Salt
No, Haleakala is not featured in George R. R. Martin's sweeping fantasy, but its creation was no less fantastic. This mountain was built up from thousands of lava flow eruptions spanning hundreds of thousands of years and slowly layering up from the floor of the Pacific Ocean. In fact, Haleakala is technically 675 feet taller than Mount Everest if you take into account the 19,680 feet of its base that hides underneath the ocean, along with the 10,023 feet towering above the sea.
About 300,000 years ago, these volcanic eruptions slowed down, and the world experienced a climatic shift that brought a series of extended torrential rainfall. These heavy rains created massive rivers pouring down the summit and long, deep channels along the mountain's slopes. The Haleakala Crater was created where those river valleys met at the mountaintop. When volcanic activity began again, lava streamed down into the valleys and formed unique tubes and cinder cones in the water-carved basin.
Seeing It for Yourself
Haleakala is one of those places that needs to be seen in person to appreciate its beauty. Book a helicopter tour to experience Haleakala's towering magnificence and acknowledge the magnitude and uniqueness of the mountain's varied landscapes.