By Jeanne Cooper
Haleakala National Park has been on a triple mission of late to protect its delicate ecosystems, Hawaiian heritage and visitors’ health, through crowd reduction and other safety measures.
As of a year ago, visitors who came to see sunrise at the 10,000-foot summit of dormant Haleakala needed reservations to park in one of the 150 available spaces between 3 and 7 a.m. Beginning this year, only four tour companies (down from 16) are authorized to drive in the park: Haleakala EcoTours, Polynesian Adventure Tours, Skyline EcoTours and Valley Isle Excursions. In the park’s Kipahulu District, reached via the renowned winding road to Hana, the tempting Pools of Oheo are closed through April for rockslide repairs.
Be sure to reserve a parking space for sunrise in the Summit District, says Polly Angelakis, the park’s chief of interpretation and education.
“I worked up there the first day of reservations and it was, no pun intended, like night and day from before, when we weren’t educating people,” she recalls. “Now it was sacred, it was respectful and reverent — everything a sunrise at Haleakala should be.”
Permits ($1.50) are available up to 60 days in advance on recreation. gov. The good news for procrastinators, Angelakis notes, is that 40 permits for parking spaces are withheld until 4 p.m. two days before sunrise.
FOR REPEAT VISITORS
The park no longer offers guided tours of the pristine Waikamoi Cloud Forest “out of an abundance of caution” to prevent the spread of rapid ohia death, a disease affecting the longtime native flowering ohia lehue tree, but you can see similarly lush, albeit nonnative, vegetation in the Kipahulu District, Angelakis says.
“I highly recommend staying overnight in Hana, where there are gorgeous places to stay, so you can come out to Kipahulu in the morning, when it’s a lot quieter,” she adds. The park admission fee of $25 is good for three days in either (or both) districts.
ADVICE FOR ALL
When visiting the summit, “people need to be prepared by dressing in layers, bringing water, sunscreen, and snacks, and wearing proper footwear,” Angelakis says. “People don’t expect to be cold on Maui, but we’re at least 20 degrees cooler than it is at sea level, and you will get cold.”