It takes a spectacular mountain, and will power too, to get me off the sunny exotic beaches of Maui and up to the stark, remote, and cold summit of Mount Haleakala. But I have found the beauty and sacredness of this mellow mountain call me up every time I visit this Hawaiian Island.
With an elevation of 10, 023 feet, this volcanic mountain (only three eruptions in the past 900 years) holds a beauty and elegance all its own. Haleakala National Park consists of the crater and its environs, and many wilderness areas. Haleakala Highway, the road that leads to the summit, is well-paved with many hairpin turns and switchbacks, and boasts flora, fauna, and astonishing views. There is a popular tourist event involving a bike ride down from the summit at sunrise, so the road is often peppered with biking tourists. It is best to allow a full day for going to Haleakala, including the long drive up and back; and I recommend bringing food, water, and clothes for all seasons. At the summit there is a visitor center and spectacular views as pictured here.
I go to Haleakala to look for birds. The native forests of all the Hawaiian Islands have had a troubled past. The predominant ecological theme is native versus non-native of birds, mammals, and plants. Small island ecology is different than large land masses, because of the land limitation. Despite the dedicated efforts of Hawaii’s finest scientists and naturalists, there are many problems with preserving the native wildlife. As a result, many native Hawaiian birds are either extinct or nearly extinct, and what remains can only be found in the mountains and forests at higher elevations. This is why birders head for the mountains.
Everyone I know who goes to Maui has never been to the mountains. There’s no snorkeling, diving, whale watching, boogie boarding, burgers, or umbrella cocktails up there. That’s exactly why I go…for a special taste of native Hawaii. Aloha!
Photo credit: Athena Alexander