My goal is for this to evolve into the definitive bike up Haleakala web page on the 'net, partly because I like to encourage people to explore places by bicycle, and partly because it gives me an excuse to go back again to make sure my info remains accurate! --Mike--

06/29/10- Hey Mike,

The Sunrise market went out of business about two months ago, so the last market is about a mile down the hill, called Kula Marketplace, just before you turn onto the Haleakala Highway/Crater Road. Sent from Andrew's iPad

05/03/13- Hello Mike, I used your valuable website in the planning of my Haleakala Bicycling Adventure and I would be pleased and proud if you linked my slideshow there. Have a look:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9cWn3pHTGA Like you I want to inspire and share. Thank you! Tom


It's just a hill, in the grand scheme of things. Only different. Not because it's 10,023ft at the summit, but because this is one of those rare mountains that you can literally start at sea level... well, not just sea level, but actually at the sea! You don't have to do the ride that way though; you can start at the base of Highway 37 (near the airport), and pretty much eliminate the chance of taking a wrong turn and adding another 1700ft to the climb. But what's the fun in that?

So, with a customer's admonition that I had no choice to but literally start at the Ocean, my wife & I got up at 6am (thankfully, that's 8am California time, and we had just arrived the night before) and drove out to Paia. From Kihei (South Maui), it's only a half-hour drive, so after showers, breakfast etc., we got to Paia about 7:45am. Some say that's getting too late a start, but not really sure why; the sun isn't too bad yet, and to try and beat the temp & humidity you'd pretty much have to start in the dark.

On the other hand, you're looking forward to an unbroken 38 miles of climbing. Totally unrelenting, with the only opportunities to rest being those you make for yourself. And you really don't know how long it will really take. You've read everything you can find on the Internet about the mountain, and find that the record is something just under 3 hours, and that pretty strong riders typically finish in about 5, with many taking a full 8 hours to get up there.
Elevation profile, heart rate & temps along the way...

Yeah, I know, skip the pictures and descriptions, what you really want to see is a printout showing the particulars of the climb. How long, how steep, that sort of thing. Well, truth is, were it not for the missed turn I took, the graph would be pretty darned boring! Haleakala, as you can see in the graphic on the right (which will enlarge quite nicely if you click on it) just goes up... and down.

Still, you can get an idea what the effort's like by checking out my heart rate during the climb, and noting the relatively-natural places you can choose to break the ride up into psychologically-manageable chunks.
Sunday, November 20th, 5:31pm. My first glimpse of Haleakala comes from the plane as we head into Honolulu, where we caught a connecting flight to Maui. My bike made it without a scratch.   Monday, 7:50am. According to John L, one of our customers, you're not allowed to start this ride anywhere but at the ocean, and it must include a mandatory toe into the sea. Guess that's what a ride from "sea level" is all about? Got to admit my bike liked that beach; you can see how happy it looks in the photo! Was it worth sand in my socks and fouling my Speedplay cleats for? Definitely.
7:58am. Downtown Paia, a good place to start this ride. Why? Because it sits right on the ocean. Otherwise it didn't look that interesting to me.   8:37am. This is your first opportunity to get confused, in the town of Makawao, 7.1 miles into the ride. At the intersection with the Mexican food stand, continue straight.   8:44am. 8.12 miles into the ride. This is where you turn right, onto Hanamu! Please study the detail map at the bottom of this page. Very important!
8:44am. IT'S STEEP, AND IT'S THE WRONG WAY!!! If you encounter a 10% grade, you've made a wrong turn.   9:23am. If you screwed up, you end up here.  Dead End Road. Nearly 4 extra miles and 1700ft. Yeah, I screwed up.   9:29am. Nice view coming back down, and a reminder that this was far steeper than anything else on this ride.
    Sunrise Market photo by Karl Schilling
9:38am. Back where you started from, having wasted nearly an hour and adding 1700ft to the climb. You're not feeling good about making it to the top right now.

For the rest of the ride, you'll be thinking that you could have been 1700ft further up the hill than you are. I (gasp) even thought about giving up and trying again on a different day!
  10:18am. Back on-route, having passed through the small town of Kula and about to make the left turn onto Crater Road. There is no possible way to mess up now, unless you forget to stop at the Sunrise Market

(8/4/12 Andy sent this email- The Sunrise market went out of business about two months ago, so the last market is about a mile down the hill, called Kula Marketplace, just before you turn onto the Haleakala Highway/Crater Road. ) It's just a couple minutes after making the turn onto Crater Road, and I used the opportunity to try and collect my wits and pretend that those extra 1700ft were no big deal. It was a good opportunity to take a break from riding; 25 minutes worth in fact. Downed a Pepsi, a bag of Hawaiian potato chips and took apart & cleaned my Speedplay cleats (they didn't like their encounter with the sandy beach).

10:47am. Back on the road again, the 3500ft sign being just past the Sunrise Market. Do remember to stop there; it's not worth the risk of running on empty.   10:57am. 4000ft sign, and for the first time, you're going to directly encounter the weather. Pretty low-hanging cloud, not what I expected!   11:46am. Too bad I didn't have the presence of mind to take photos of the zillions of switchbacks making their way up the hill behind me.
11:50am. Yes, you'll see quite a few people "cruising" down Haleakala, in big fluffy jackets on cheap mtn bikes & cruisers. For this they pay $90-$120, getting up at 2am to watch the sunrise.   11:55am. Heading down the hill with trail-a-bikes in tow? Not my idea of a good time! The descent, I'd later discover, is almost mind-numbing in length. In a way, it's easier going up than down!   11:59am. 6500ft. Where did all the other elevation signs go? Still, 2500ft in one hour isn't too bad (normal pace would be 3000/hour), so I'm thinking I'm OK. Delusion setting in already!
12:05pm. Cattle guards, normally no big deal, somehow seem more annoying than they should when hit on a long climb! Fortunately there are only three of them.   12:05pm. At last, there's hope! The park entrance, where a woman with a strong Wisconsin accent awaits your $5 fee. Yes, even for bikes.   12:15pm. 7000ft, 33.03 miles. Well, only 25 miles for those of you who don't miss the turn! The clouds take on a life of their own, moving close & away from the mtn.
12:15pm. This is the first ride where my HAC4 has been significantly off. We're reading 6742ft instead of 7000, and by the top we're off by 456ft. Don't know if it's weather related or my computer's getting goofy.   12:18pm. The ranger station made a great (20 min) pit stop, with a rest room big enough to bring your bicycle into! However, I saw no sign of anything (food or water) to buy, contrary to what the woman at the entrance station had said.   1:02pm. 8000ft, 36.64miles (28.5 for you slackers who didn't do the extra loop!) into the ride. Trees are gone; you didn't notice it happen, probably because you were in a fog, both figuratively and literally.
1:03pm-1:26pm. You're now completely above the reach of the clouds, and if you look way up the hill, you think you might be able to see... nope. Almost the entire route seems designed to keep you from seeing the top. Doesn't matter; what you can see is spectacular.   1:32pm. 9000ft, but I'm reading 8580 on my HAC4. 5:36 total time since leaving the ocean. Heart rate's been tough keeping down to a sustainable level.
1:33pm. At 9000ft I stop for the final time before the top. What I've found is that I climb a lot faster, ironically, if I stop and get my heart rate back down. It's frustrating because your pulse just gradually climbs back toward the red zone, and once there, seems like no matter how much you throttle back, it doesn't came back down. But the 12 minutes I spent here were well-used, munching a powerbar and admiring the view.   1:46pm. The sign ahead says "Summit 2 miles." You're wondering, is it a cruel joke, or simply cruel? It's the ultimate "So near, and yet so far..." At 9175ft, there's still another 850ft to go!
2:01pm. About 9700ft, and the end is now in sight, at the upper-right of this photo. Some liken the end of the climb it to the final part of Mt. Diablo, but it's not even close to that steep.   2:04pm-2:07pm. The quarter-mile between these photos isn't easy, as the grade kicks up to around 8% leading into the summit parking lot. The views are spectacular, but first there's business to attend to- at the far end of the parking lot is the paved walkway to the very top. Then you can rest and admire the view!
2:09pm. Finally at the top! 6hrs 13 minutes from the bottom, including the extra  1700ft and 7.75 miles that I rode just so I could say I did the "tough" version of the ride, instead of the wimpy little run up the hill. 11,844ft total climbing, 43.23 miles so far. Normally you'd be at 10,023ft of climbing and 35.5 miles. By this time I'd entirely forgotten what an idiot I was for missing that turn at mile 8.
2:15pm-2:30pm. Pretty unbelievable how spectacular the views are up here. I couldn't have asked for a much nicer day for the ride, and am very glad I didn't wait a day or two, as rain began to move into the area Tuesday evening. My guess is that, with a four-day window to ride, you'll probably get at least one very nice day. Don't miss it!
2:30pm-2:37pm. The sign in the left-hand photo says "High elevation, walk slowly." Doesn't say anything about riding though! Truth be told, the altitude didn't seem to be an obvious factor, or at least not bothersome. The middle photo shows the old Haleakala crater, and to the right is my first encounter with the native Nene, a bird that you see signs everywhere warning you not to run them over, but the birds themselves? Nowhere to be seen... except at the top of Haleakala. (6/11/07- Dick H sent me an email that the bird in fact is a Grouse)
2:37pm. On the way down, I finally saw a few cyclists also clawing their way to the top. They were actually having a pretty good time, laughing and joking around. Sign of oxygen deprivation?   3:13pm. Let me be the first to tell you, the descent is not a whole lot of fun. Fog sometimes cuts visibility to near-zero, and it's not steep enough to get any real speed. Truthfully, the climb was more fun!   4:20pm. Back in Paia! No, I didn't dip my toes into the water this time, but I did get into a shower as quickly as I could back at the hotel! 11,844ft of climbing, 78.69 miles, 8 hours, 19 minutes start-finish.

Click on the map above for the Google Maps routing (Google Maps didn't exist at the time I put this together).

If you click on the map above, you'll get a Google Maps link showing you the extra part of the ride, the part you do not want to do!
Final observations & words of wisdom-

Allow yourself a 4-day window for doing this ride.
Rain is common in Hawaii, but over any 4-day period, it's likely you'll have at least 1, and probably 2 nice days. You may not have a choice but to experience nasty, cold conditions at higher elevations (from about 6500ft up), but your ride will be a whole lot nicer if the first 2-3 hours aren't in rainy conditions. Sure, it will be a relatively warm rain, but if you have a choice, choose a dry day. Here's the link for weather at the base of the climb (Paia)- http://www.srh.noaa.gov/data/forecasts/HIZ020.php?warncounty=HIC009&city=Paia

Haleakala isn't very steep, with the exception of a brief piece just past the town of Makawao (shown on the map above) and the final stretch at the very top.
It doesn't take an incredibly-strong rider to handle the hill, nor does it take exceptionally-low gears. What it does take is patience... a lot of patience, since this thing just goes and goes and goes... and an ability to pace yourself and maybe take a couple of rest stops, even though back home you'd throw yourself off a cliff before stopping on a hill. Breaking this ride up into chunks (of approximately 3500ft each) makes it seem a lot easier. The "extra" stop at 9000ft can be excused just because it's so darned beautiful up there.

There is no food available anywhere past the Sunrise Market (#7 on the upper map), on the lower section of Crater Road. Do not pass up the opportunity to buy a drink, maybe some food, and take a breather there before you continue! It's still over 6500 feet of climbing from there to the top, and 3500ft to the Ranger Station.

Most likely you won't need to stop before you get to Sunrise Market, especially if you don't take a wrong turn like I did!

Water is available at numerous places below Sunrise Market, but from there-up, only at the Ranger Station, so be sure to carry two full bottles with you. You'll probably go through water more quickly at the lower elevations, due to heat & humidity, but the faster breathing at higher altitudes also requires much more water than you'd otherwise need.

The ride back down the mountain is going to take a lot longer than you'd think, partly because the road isn't very steep, and partly because the corners of the switchbacks are "flat" (not banked). It's really not much fun, especially when you have to pedal hard to keep up enough speed so that cars stay behind you. You hear about people seriously injuring themselves on the downhill cruiser runs; my guess is that they must get bored and fall asleep! On the other hand, the weather got quite a bit gloomier across the middle of the mountain on the way down, and that might have affected my thoughts about it, especially since I had to put on a jacket that was flapping about in the wind.

This just in- there is a weather report for the Haleakala summit, via NOAA. Check this link- http://www.srh.noaa.gov/data/forecasts/HIZ022.php?warncounty=HIC009&city=Haleakala+National+Park. This site will actually give you weather information anywhere in the US, if you feed it precise latitude & longitude info. We've also got a link to current weather at the summit- http://banana.ifa.hawaii.edu/Weather/current.html. There's also a web cam at the crater.

For clothing, you should have-

  • Long-fingered windproof gloves, or, at the very least, waterproof external gloves that fit over your standard ones
  • Tights or leg warmers
  • Base layer
  • Waterproof windbreaker

You won't need much, or possibly any of these for the climb up, but the top can be very, very cold, and the descent through the clouds will be much more pleasant if you're prepared.

In addition, you should bring-

  • Cash. $5 for the park entrance fee (in 2005; it could be more by the time you read this), plus whatever you might buy at Sunrise Market. Since it's always possible you could run into trouble (due to weather or whatever), carrying a couple 20s might not be a bad idea in case you had to bribe someone for a ride down the hill, or food or water.
  • Lots & lots of food. Some bring sandwiches, but it seems like I'm reading quite a few reports of people who thought a couple of PB&Js (peanut butter & jelly) would do the trick, but didn't. I brought along 7 or 8 powerbars (actually, my preference runs to Cliff Mojos and Powerbar TripleThreats) and ate maybe 5 or 6. There's no reason to take a chance on running out of fuel!
  • Cytomax (or whatever sports drink works for you). Plain water might not be enough to keep cramps away, especially on a climb as long as this one. Ideally something you like the taste of, since that will encourage you to drink more. I brought along enough for 4 extra bottles (beyond the two I started with), easily done by scooping out the appropriate amount of dry Cytomax mix into 4 separate plastic baggies.
  • Heart-rate monitor. Not a bad thing to consider, since it will help you to keep from overdoing it, and allow you to recognize signs of trouble. I've used a heart-rate monitor for several years, but this was the first time I've ever needed it for regulating my effort on a long climb. I'm very glad I had it with me.
  • Camera. You'd be killing yourself to know you left it at home if it's a nice day up on top. Heck, I was wishing I had my full-blown DSLR rig (and very briefly considered it bringing it with me in a backpack, but thank goodness common-sense prevailed, and I brought my Fuji F10 instead).
  • Tylenol, Advil, or whatever your painkiller-of-choice. Some people get headaches at altitude, while others may simply need something to dull the pain from all that time on the saddle.

Where to stay on Maui-

The most bang for the buck, in a reasonably-nice setting, is probably Kihei in "South" Maui. On the upper map, it's on the lower-left side. You can often get a combo air/hotel package that costs less than the air alone; that's what we got through United Vacations. We stayed at the Aston Maui Banyan (which has now become ResortQuest Maui Banyan; thanks to Jim in Portland for that update!) , which I would suggest to be a great choice for cyclists. Our family had a two-bedroom unit with pretty large living room, full kitchen, washer & dryer, plus daily maid service. The main bedroom had a single queen, while the other had two almost-queen beds. In addition, there's a sofa bed in the living room. This sort of room goes for about $230 via Travelocity etc., but is even a better deal as part of a package, as mentioned.

Kihei is only 30 minutes away from the airport (and only a few minutes further from Paia). If you want to spend a whole lot of money for something fancy, consider Lahaina (further north), but that will add maybe 20-30 minutes travel time to either the Airport or the base of Haleakala.

Additional information on 1/25/08 from Dusty-

However, Lahaina doesn't have much, though Kaanapali and several points just (five-ten miles) to the WEST of Lahaina do. Much closer to Kihei are Wailea and Makena. These towns are just EAST of Kihei, in fact border Kihei and use a Kihei post office. They have lots of beautiful resorts, newer and fancier even then the West Maui (Lahaina, Kaanapali, etc.) resorts. And they will only only add five or ten minutes to your morning drive. Also, less likely to have traffic issues than coming across the Pali from Lahaina. Besides which, "it never rains in Kihei" and that includes Wailea and Makena!

Car rentals-

You're going to need a car to get around, and the best deal I found was through this website- http://discounthawaiicarrental.com/. The pricing may be the same as the deals offered on the car company's own sites (or it may be a fair amount less), but it includes a few no-cost extras, such as no additional fee for a second driver (normally $7/day). I was originally going to book a Minivan through Thrifty, at pretty reasonable cost, but by the time I got around to it, the price had gone through the roof. Through Discount Hawaii Car Rental, I got the lower price, and no hassles picking up the car (except, of course, for the guy who says he's almost sure that AAA insurance doesn't cover anything in Hawaii). Why a Minivan? Smaller cars are much less expensive, but it's difficult to transport a boxed bike to the airport in anything smaller than a minivan or SUV.

Bikes on planes-

Do be aware that airlines charge extra to carry bicycles; United, for example, charges $85 each way (Not any more!!! As of September 2009 United is charging $185 each way!). You can rent bikes on Maui, but I figured my bike wanted to go to Maui almost as much as I did, and besides, there's something about not just riding somewhere special, but riding on your own bike. Shared memories.

Road-Bike Rentals-

http://www.bikemaui.com/rental.html (about 12 miles towards Hana from the airport)
http://www.islandbikermaui.com/rentals.asp (Airport area)
http://westmauicycles.com/ (Lahaina)
http://www.stirflux.com/smb/ (South Maui Bikes in Kihei)
http://www.gocyclingmaui.com/index.html (Not just equipment but fully-organized rides, including food & support vehicle. If I'm reading this page correctly, it appears a trip up Haleakala would run $180... not bad for all it includes)

Want to RACE up Haleakala? http://www.cycletothesun.net/ has info not only on the race, but quite a bit about the climb in general. Pretty discouraging to learn that the race was won in 2005 in a time of 2:51 and that it did, indeed, start in Paia...

Other useful Haleakala web pages for cyclists-

Gordon Himachi's excellent page on his 2004 ride, which I consulted prior to my own. His page includes additional helpful links.
Brian DeSousa's page, another one which I read beforehand, and warned about taking the wrong turn.

Best book on Maui-

No contest. Maui Revealed by Wizard Publications. If you're going to any of the Islands, you have no choice but to pick up the relevant "Revealed" book. They are honest, accurate, and contain "secret" info you won't find anyplace else. They also review just about every place to stay. You'll save money & time too. They're available at bookstores everywhere. I've used them for The Big Island, Maui and Kauai.


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