Of the many multi-colored conder cones, called pu’u in Hawaiian, is the volcano’s highest point, Pu’u Ulaula Summit. Commonly called Red Hill, this mountain is surrounded by chunks of lava as large as five feet, which skyrocketed in the air during Haleakalā’s creation and hardened on the ground in the alpine air.
Barren and Mars-esque—with a porous, rocky surface—Haleakalā’s depression brings “immensity” to a new level: S-shaped, and formed by landslides, water, wind, and erosion, it measures 3,000 feet at its deepest and two and a half miles wide at its widest. And get this: filled with lava tubes, the aforementioned pu’u, and jagged outcrops, the depression was once twice as cavernous. Successive eruptions, however, partially filled the enormous hollow with lava flows and cinder cones. Its “growth” isn’t reserved to its valley, either: Between 1981 and 1991, Haleakalā rose .23 feet per year, which scientists hypothesized as being due to “magma (lava that has not erupted yet) deep under the sea floor or as a reaction to the ongoing eruptions on Hawaii Island,” the National Park Service reports, as the Big Island’s constant eruptions and added mass have caused it to sink, “forcing Maui to rise up as a reaction, similar to when a person sits next to you on a couch and causes your cushion to push you up a bit.” (How’s that for a posture contest?)
One the most memorable, popular and highly recommended experiences you simply cannot miss when traveling on Maui is a guided sunrise tour of Haleakala with Skyline Hawaii. Not only will you be picked up in a vehicle with large viewing windows and comfortable seating to make the winding drive above the cloud line, but you’ll be treated to fascinating local information about the area’s fauna, flora, historical and cultural information along the way. Once at the summit, you’ll be given a warm jacket and gloves to remove the sting of the surprisingly chilly weather, with plenty of time to watch as the sky begins to change colors for sunrise. Make no mistake, starting your day above the clouds at the summit of the world’s largest dormant volcano is as epic as it sounds! The tour also includes plenty of stops for photo opportunities on the way down, as well as a delicious breakfast with a view at the historic Kula Lodge. Best of all, after all of this activity, you’ll still make it back to your accommodation around noon!