When planning a trip to the Hawaiian island of Maui, I knew I wanted to schedule a Maui volcano tour. I always thought I wanted to do the sunrise bike tour that seems to be on every traveler’s bucket list, but when I reached out to Valley Isle Excursions, they recommended their Haleakala Maui Tour, which is the newest tour on their lineup. (They are best known for their Road to Hana tour.) After passing the sunrise bike tour on our way up the mountain, I can confidently say I made the right choice. It didn’t look fun at all, as the bikes are sharing the narrow, winding road with cars driven by tourists. No thanks!
Haleakala Tour Pickup
Prior to the day of my Haleakala tour, I was given a hotel pickup time of 6:40am, and on the day of the tour, the driver was waiting outside my hotel. After picking up the other guests on the tour, we stopped at a local country club for a light breakfast buffet, which is included in the price of your Haleakala tour. The breakfast is very light, fruit and muffins, so if you need a hearty breakfast, you might eat a bit beforehand, or bring along some snacks. Valley Isle explains, in response to a TripAdvisor review, that the breakfast is intentionally light due to the winding roads that all of their tours take. If you get carsick, keep this in mind as well.
After breakfast, we piled into the van, where our guide, Junior, gave us an overview of the day. We each received a map and were able to follow along with all of the stops we would make during the all-day Maui tour. As a map fanatic, I loved having my own map to follow along throughout the day, as well as take notes on places I’d like to return. Our first stop was a viewpoint just outside of Kahului, where we had a great view of the entire Haleakala volcano. Junior explained to us different Polynesian customs, one of which is to seek permission from the mountain before approaching. He then brought out a ukulele, and offered up a song before heading up to the summit of Haleakala.
Throughout the day, Junior was a wealth of knowledge about the island, Hawaiian history and Polynesian culture. Guides like this are the reason I prefer tours over self-guiding. I had a rental car and could have easily driven myself to the Haleakala crater, but I would have missed out on so much knowledge and background! Plus, if I’m not driving, I can safely gawk at all of the amazing scenery!
Haleakala National Park
Our Haleakala tour included many stops in Haleakala National Park, including two visitor centers and a few scenic overlook stops. The crater and summit are over 10,000 feet elevation, so be prepared for wind and cool temps! I wore a long-sleeve shirt and brought along a rain jacket for wind protection and was fine with shorts and sandals for the short periods we were out walking around. When we visited, it was cloudy and we quickly drove through and above the clouds. The landscape at the summit is so different that it looks like you are on the moon! We were in a rush, though, to beat some of the clouds rolling in, which you can see in the photos.
One of the most interesting things I learned on this Haleakala tour is that the crater is not made from a volcanic eruption, but from erosion. Of course, the mountain is a volcano, but there are different natural forces at work here, as opposed to the Big Island’s volcanoes, which are still active!
Maui Lavender Farm
After visiting all of the crater viewpoints and the summit, we made our way back down the mountain to our lunch stop at a lavender farm. Lunch was provided by Valley Isle Excursions, and we were free to wander the property while Junior got our BBQ chicken lunch ready. As usual, I was carry-on only for this trip and my luggage was bulging, or I would have spent a ton of money in the gift shop at the lavender farm. Lavender is my favorite, and they had so many great products. I did walk away with some dryer sachets and a lavender scone, though!
‘Iao Valley State Monument
The next stop on our Haleakala tour is ‘Iao Valley State Monument, after driving through several small towns and through Kahului. At the I’ao Valley, we had the chance for a short hike up to a viewpoint and it was well worth the 100 steps up! Maybe it was the clouds or rain this day, but the fog hung in the area, giving everything a mystical feel. The scenery is straight out of Jurassic Park, and reminded me of pics I’ve seen of St. Lucia.
Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge
After a bit of hiking in the rain at ‘Iao Valley, we set off for our last stop of the day, Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately, when we arrived the visitor’s center had just closed, so we missed out on some of the exhibits. The ponds, though, were still open and we started off on a walk around the ponds to see some of Hawaii’s bird life. What we saw instead was a very large black boar, which was blocking our path to hike around the ponds! Despite this hiccup, we were still able to view some of the birds before boarding the bus back to our hotels.
All told, the Haleakala Maui tour is about 11 hours, and the tour price ($141.99 online) includes breakfast and lunch, plus water and soft drinks throughout the day. It’s a great option for those who want to see the Haleakala crater, but also would like a tour of the island of Maui. If I get back to Maui again, I would definitely join Valley Isle Excursions for their popular Road to Hana tour!Headed to Maui? See the Haleakala Crater with Valley Isle Excursions - @hanamauitour Click To Tweet
Have you been to Maui? What was your favorite part of the island?
I was a guest of Valley Isle Excursions. These are solely my personal opinions and I was not financially compensated for this post.