BUCKET LIST: Biking Above the Clouds in Maui
Our journey began around 2am when we woke up to drive 35 minutes northeast from Kihei to Haiku, where we hopped a bus with 22 other weary tourists to be transported 38 winding miles (roughly 2 hours) through Haleakalā National Park to the top of the volcano, located about 10,000 feet above sea level.
A United Nations International Biosphere Reserve, the Park is comprised of numerous natural environments, ranging from humid subtropical lowlands to subalpine desert and everything in between. It is home to some of the most rare and diverse plant and animal species in the world.
You may be wondering why the early hour, we were too. But once we got to the summit, it was obvious—the sunrise. Seeing the sunrise from the Haleakala peak is one of life’s special moments, and although arguably touristy, the 2am wake-up was 100% percent worth the experience. It’s the most fantastic color show in slow motion. Even though it was 6:30am, we could see people’s faces come to life as the colors started erupting around us. It was so magnificent, in fact, that I even set down my camera for a beat to really take in the moment.
Once we had sufficiently satiated our sunrise-viewing desires, we jumped back on the bus and wound back downhill about 3,000 feet until we reached the bikes. We had the option to continue on a guided tour down the rest of the volcano or we could self-guide with the aid of a map. We chose to self-guide and enjoyed a few fun and worthwhile stops along the way.
Our first stop was at Maui Lavender Cafe, a roadside boutique and cafe offering hot drinks as well as pastries and a great selection of locally-grown lavender home and beauty products. We were still thawing out from the peak (it’s quite cold when you’re up that high!) so a warm cup of lavender cocoa was the perfect soul-warming treat.
Next, we stopped at Kula Lodge for breakfast (be sure to try their seasoned potatoes!) and a pineapple mimosa, of course. The lodge sits about 3,000 feet above sea level so is an ideal perch for sunsets (if you’re the type of traveler who prefers to start their day a little later) and is surrounded by lush, tropical gardens.
Adjacent to the lodge is the cozy cottage-like Kulala Day Spa . We were greeted by the owner Lisha Taketa, who offers 30-90 minute massages, gentle acupuncture, hot stone massage and other spa services. She was a delight and her treatments top-notch (and not just because we were in the middle of an intense bike ride). Be sure to visit the website to book a massage (we recommend sometime after 10:30am if you are on a bike tour, otherwise anytime your Maui stay permits).
As we continued our descent, we passed sprawling farm land (if I were to come back to earth as an animal, this is where I’d prefer to graze), honor-system roadside fruit stands, neighborhoods, and finally reached the small town of Haiku by about 2pm, where we said goodbye to our trusty bikes and headed to nearby Paia for a late lunch.
In conclusion… there are many ways to discover Haleakalā National Park but we love the bike tour as it catered to our adventurous side, allowed us to truly experience the impressively steep highway, and stop and start at all the yummy roadside attractions along the way. There are many companies that offer Haleakalā Park tours but we were pleased with our Bike Maui experience. (The Sunrise Special Trip costs $160 per person if booked at least 72 hours prior; $180 otherwise.)
A few notes as you prep for your ride: Be sure to dress warm, we went during the end of November and it was a mere 40 degrees on top of the volcano! Allow yourself plenty of time to explore on the way down—at least until 2-3pm. When you meet the Bike Maui crew at the lovely hour of 3am in Haiku, they provide you with a backpack, windbreaker, gloves and a helmet, but definitely bring layers of clothing, snacks and a water bottle. Happy riding!