Haleakala Bike Tour - Maui
Descending Maui’s Haleakala Volcano by bike is a bucket list adventure for many travelers. Our blog post includes all the information needed to plan an Haleakala bike tour experience. The journey begins with a trip to the lunar-like summit. Then, from the bicycle-staging area riders glide down switchbacks until reaching fields of lavender, stands of eucalyptus, and small Hawaiian towns.
Haleakala or “House of the Sun,” is known for its astounding landscapes and skyscapes. It is one of the most popular locations on earth to watch the sun rise and set. Legend tells us that the demigod Maui lassoed the sun to slow its path across the sky from Haleakala’s rocky summit.
Mount Haleakala rises over 10,000' into the air. Bike riding down the dormant volcano often means beginning above the clouds and finishing below them. Riders experience a number of microclimates as the scenery morphs from lava, to scrub brush, to lush fields. Maui tour operators offer a variety of trips to the location. Our article is designed to help you choose the right Haleakala bike tour for you.
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All About Mount Haleakala
Haleakala is a dormant volcano that makes up about 75% of Maui’s landmass. The Haleakala National Park protects about 30,000 acres of this area. Within the park, Mount Haleakala rises into the air providing endless ocean views. At Haleakala’s summit there is a massive crater some 7 miles across, and 3000-feet deep.
The Haleakala Crater Road (Haleakala Highway) provides visitors with access to the Mount Haleakala summit. The 35-mile road surges to the world’s highest elevation in the shortest distance. The paved, two-lane road is shared by locals, park staff, and visitors. It has 32 steep switchbacks, many blind turns, and countless drop-offs.
At the end of the Crater Road is the Haleakala visitor center and summit. The peak’s dramatic landscape is often compared to that of Mars. On a sunny day, the volcanic rock looks even redder against a blue sky. The mountain draws many visitors from across the world who hike, bike, meditate, star-gaze, and picture-take on her slopes.
Things to Know About Biking Down Haleakala
The Highway: Haleakala Crater Road has no designated bike lane. Cyclists share the road with motorized vehicles. The road has many sheer drop-offs, hair pin turns, narrow shoulders, and few guard rails.
Safety: When biking, always obey the speed limits. Emergency medical assistance can take an hour or more to respond to the remote location. The bike ride is 98% downhill. Bikers must maintain a safe speed and have control over their bikes at all times. Bikers have died on the road in traffic accidents, and by going off-road. Only people who are comfortable biking should attempt this trip.
Weather: The temperature at the summit is often 20’ lower than the base of the mountain (and sometimes drops below freezing). At higher elevations the weather changes frequently. Expect to experience sun, clouds, and rain on your adventure.
Length of Day: This depends on what type of tour you book, but plan for a full 8 hour day. It is 2-3 hours to get to and from the Haleakala National Park from most Maui tourist hubs. From the bicycle-staging area to the trip’s end is typically 25 miles downhill. The ride takes about 1.5 hours. Then, add on time for photographs, eating, etc.
Clothing: Dress in layers and pack warm clothes. Wear closed-toe shoes appropriate for biking. Bring sunglasses and sunscreen (there is little shade along the route).
Food/Drink: Bring snacks and water. There is no food or water for sale at the Haleakala Visitor’s Center. Away from the park, there are restaurants along the Crater Road. Some tours include a stop for a meal along the route.
Restrooms: There are restrooms available at the Haleakala Visitor Center and the Headquarters Visitor Center.
Why Book a Haleakala Bike Tour?
In Haleakala National Park visitors are allowed to bike up and down the Haleakala Crater Road (for the park entrance fee). Unless you are an expert cyclist, however, this is not recommended. The steep 35-mile road up is too difficult for casual bikers.
There are many moving parts in transporting a bike to the top of the mountain, and riding down it. Booking a Haleakala bike tour with an experienced operator makes sense in terms of efficiency and ease. Included in the tour fee, Haleakala bike tour operators will generally provide guests with everything required for a ride down the mountain including transportation, equipment, and advice on navigating the road. A tour operator will also usually provide assistance in case of equipment malfunction, injury, or mishap.
Ask lots of questions when booking your tour to ensure these things are covered.
Types of Bike Tours and What's Included
A central question to your Haleakala bike tour will be to include, or not include, a visit to the summit (10,000-feet). Some tour companies contract with the National Park to include a visit to the Haleakala Summit in the bike tour; others do not. Whether or not a summit visit is booked, the bike tours all leave from the same bicycle-staging area (6,500-feet).
Haleakala bike tours will generally include transportation to the summit or staging area (either from the company’s bike shop or an area hotel). Provided equipment generally includes bikes, helmets, gloves, and rain/wind gear. Many operators provide maps, bike locks, backpacks, water, and snacks. Some include a meal at a local restaurant along the descent. Operators will typically have first aid kits and bike repair tools on hand.
To choose the right your for you answer these questions:
Do you want a tour that begins with a summit visit or one that goes straight to the staging area?
Do you want a sunrise tour, or one that starts later in the day?
Do you want to bike only; or combine the bike tour with zip lining or some other activity?
Do you want to ride in a guided group or do you want to be dropped off and descend at your own pace?
If you choose a guided group, do you want a small group or large group?
What to Expect on a Haleakala Bike Tour
Haleakala Sunrise Tour or Morning Tour: Be transported to the mountain. Enjoy a narrated ride on a bus to the Haleakala Summit (10,000-feet). Watch the sun rise and/or explore the crater viewing areas. Visit the small displays at the Haleakala Visitors Center. Be bussed to the staging center (6,500-feet). Make the guided/unguided bike ride to the end meeting point (usually a bike shop or other public meeting space). Time permitting, stop for lunch at a local restaurant along the route.
Non-Summit Tour: The same, minus the Summit stop.
Aloha from the House of the Sun, Laura and Randy
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