Coasting Down Haleakala


Maui’s terrain changes rapidly from frosty moonscapes on the volcanic heights of 10,023-foot Haleakala to sugar cane and pineapple fields near sea level. With a little planning, a pinch of courage, and about $150, you can take in this stunning scenery by coasting the 38 miles from summit to sea level on a cruiser style bike.

You must reserve ahead and come prepared for cold weather atop the dormant volcano (temperatures can drop to 30°). Cyclists travel by van from central and western Maui resort areas to the top of the crater, after a base camp stop to pick up gear and snack on hot and cold beverages and fresh muffins. You’ll be on top in time for sunrise—a sight that draws thousands of visitors each year. Dress in layers that you can shed as you cruise down to perhaps 80° at sea level (a day pack helps).

You’re fitted with a bicycle and given safety instructions; helmets, gloves, and windbreaker are also provided. Then you line up behind the trip leader and get going, with a support van following to control traffic. The group must pull over occasionally to let traffic pass, and there are frequent stops to take pictures. Halfway down the mountain, you enjoy a hearty restaurant breakfast or lunch.

Except for a few stretches, you needn’t pedal at all on the 3½–4-hour trip. Bicycles are geared very low and equipped with heavy-duty brakes. After the first few curves, you get the hang of leaning into the turns and can relax and enjoy the scenery.

A word of caution: cruising Haleakala involves some risk. There’s only one road to the rim of the crater—well surfaced and with gently banked switchbacks, but without a bike lane. You share the road with equestrians and motorists. And the heavy bicycles don’t handle as easily as 10-speeds.

Although tour leaders stress safety and comfort, this is not a trip for everyone. Prospective cyclists should stand at least 4’10”, be in reasonably good physical condition, and know how to handle a bicycle. Children under age 18 must have parental permission and the minimum age limit is 12 years.

Participants set out at about 3 a.m. for the “sunrise” tours, about 8 a.m. for the “midday” rides. Besides cycling equipment, tours included transportation, continental breakfast and park entrance fees.

Copyright © 1988 Sunset Publishing Corporation