Haleakala National Park: The Trip that Changed Everything

Everything has changed since our trip to Haleakala National Park in Hawaii…

Last updated: February 13, 2024

Ka'anapali Beach - Roads and Destinations
Haleakala National Park: The trip that changed everything

Haleakala National Park Journey that Changed My Travels

It was the longest night I’d ever had. The time seemed to freeze. Heavy silence, both inside and outside, was disturbed only by perilous waves, unceasingly crashing on the shore. Yet neither the chilling splashing nor pitch darkness were dreadful. 

Every time I reached for my phone that was laying on the floor next to my bed, my heart was filled with excitement and gratitude… and yes, disbelief, too. After tossing and turning for, what it felt like, hours, the large white numbers on the phone screen hardly changed. Only 12 minutes had passed since I checked the phone last time. 

Some other time, this slow passage of time would be unbearable. Tonight, I was grateful for it. With no sleep in my eyes, I ran through the experiences of the past two days over and over again. Nothing worked out the way we had planned. Every trip we took to explore the island of Maui was the opposite of what we, mainly I who was responsible for our itinerary, had anticipated. I felt like I let my family down.

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Mount Haleakala

After years of traveling to different parts of the world and having had a very similar experience on Kauai a few years before, I should’ve known better that when you could clearly see dense fog obscuring the tops of the mountains from a beach located miles away, there was no point to head there. 

Mount Haleakala was legendary by all means. The largest dormant volcano in the world, it made up a large part of the island. The imposing summit towered 10,023 feet above sea level and reached the depth of the ocean of nearly 20,000 feet below the surface. 

Reserving the greatest reverence for high mountains, native Hawaiians had regarded Mount Haleakala as a sacred site for centuries. Chief priests climbed the summit to meditate and receive spiritual wisdom. Religious ceremonies were carried out on the rim and inside the caldera. Even today some parts of Haleakala National Park were conserved for ceremonial purposes. 

Locally known as the “House of the Sun”, Mount Haleakala, however, was mostly famous for its glorious sunrise for outsiders like us. Seeing golden light rising above the volcano’s rim was said to be one of the prettiest sights.

Haleakala National Park, Maui - Roads and Destinations.
There was no point to go to Haleakala National Park with the mountains looking like this

The Journey up Mount Haleakala

I knew for a fact that our time on Mount Haleakala would be limited. My nieces were not hiking type girls. So we were left only with sightseeing from the top of the volcano. The absence of fog was not just wished for, but crucial.  

Yet the sky over Mount Haleakala didn’t clear even once in the past two days. One part of me was saying that we should’ve just skipped this trip. The other, the one that tried to cease every opportunity and see and explore as much as possible, dared to take a risk. 

We drove almost two hours from Ka’anapali to Haleakala National Park. The road became treacherous as soon as we left the coastal side of Maui behind. Narrow and extremely winding, it felt like a roller coaster. The conditions worsened with every mile. The fog as thick as a night curtain descended upon the mountain when we were halfway up. 

The logic was saying: “Return immediately!” The adventurous spirit was still hoping for a sudden clearing. 

We did reach the summit that was 40 degrees colder and so foggy that you could hardly see anything in front of you. Defying our hopes, the top of the volcano was a miserable place to be at that moment.

It was late afternoon when we got back to the sandy beaches and warm ocean of west Maui. We had only a few more hours of daylight and zero energy to make up for the lost time…

Read more: Why You Should Document Your Travel Experiences

Haleakala National Park - Roads and Destinations
Haleakala National Park was a cold, foggy, and miserable place to be

Everything Changed

The long, sleepless hours filled with the sound of the large waves breaking on the empty beach stirred up something inside me. Memories of our forlorn attempts to outsmart nature just a few hours ago daunted anew. But now instead of reliving the moments when I looked down at the hazy shield that covered the entire mountain below, I saw myself as a mere observer, rather than a participant. 

My intention was logical. The world was such a big and diverse place, with so much more to offer than we had time to explore. But often in this endless pursuit of new sights, we forgot to enjoy the journey.  

“Get in the ocean. Feel the salt water on your skin. Let the morning sun shower you with its pleasant warmth as you bury your feet in the soft sand. Embrace this capricious season and relish the simplest pleasures of the trip.” These words sounded loud and clear in my head that night. 

I’m not a swimmer. I can only float in water. So naturally the ocean has always been a place to observe from a distance for me. But that spring morning, when the gentle light of the sun rising over the Hawaiian islands unceremoniously broke the chains of the darkness, I found myself on the beach before the clock struck 6. 

I took a long stroll by the ocean. Then sat on a beach towel and watched the sky turning from purple to pink and finally gold. And yes, I did end up floating in the ocean that day and enjoying every second of this simple and now absolutely unpretentious adventure.  

Change Your Perspective – Change Your Travel Story

Although aspiring, finding the most unusual places and the rarest experiences is not always feasible. Sometimes it’s not even safe. 

Yet the self-imposed pressure of looking for pure authenticity in some of the world’s most beautiful, yet highly visited places paired with the desire to justify long hours spent on a plane or in a car raise our expectation of a trip way too high. Seeing most, if not all, of the landmarks and hidden corners of the place we travel to becomes a norm. 

No wonder many of us need a vacation to recover from our vacation. In reality, all we need to do is to be brutally honest with ourselves. If you like a bustling city life with plenty of shopping and dining options, hiking in the Rockies should definitely not be on your itinerary.  

Setting your priorities straight from the beginning, ideally before you hit the ground of a new place, helps create a space for travel and adventures YOU care about. Whether it’s climbing a mountain, taking a cooking class, or hiding within an old pottery studio with a chunk of clay to transform into a beautiful dish, we should always choose the experiences that make us feel alive.

Read more: 6 Tips to Have More Meaningful Travel Experiences

4 days on Maui in spring - Roads and Destinations
Create a space for travel and adventures you care about

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