Kalahaku Overlook

Experience The Haleakala Crater Like Never Before at the Kalahaku Overlook
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

The Kalahaku Overlook provides a breathtaking view of the expansive Haleakala Crater. This world-wonder-worthy dormant volcano is the site of Hawaiian lore about demigod Maui. Add to this the many plants, insects, and animals that call the environment home, and you will truly experience something amazing when visiting this location. 

- The HawaiianIslands.com Local Expert Team

Providing a spectacular vista of the crater valley and Hawaii island is the rocky Kalahaku Overlook in Haleakala National Park in Maui. Situated on the edge of the cliff, a simple structure allows you to look upon the expansive Haleakala Crater sprawled out in front of you, including 14 hills, and the famous Silversword, a rare plant found only in extremely localized areas. This overlook is an area you can reach by walking 0.1 miles, which gives you noticeably different views than are noted at the nearby visitor center. 

The mountain of Haleakala is a sacred place, with an ancient history spanning generations. Haleakala Crater, one of the world’s largest dormant volcanoes, takes up three-quarters of Maui’s 727 miles. Amazingly, site visitors who attempt to trek the area are taken through six of the world’s 14 climates through the ascent process. In addition, the depression of the crater or its lowest point has been named the quietest place on planet earth by many acoustic experts. 

Although Haleakala is not considered one of the world’s seven wonders, there are many who believe it is worthy of this moniker. In fact, even the famed Mark Twain called the location a place of “incomparable grandeur,” which presented “the sublimest spectacle.” According to Hawaiian legend, the volcano, which is frequently called the “House of the Sun” by locals, is the very spot in which demigod Maui ensnared the sun. It was said to be freed only after it promised to linger in the sky a bit longer. 

In terms of its geographical history, Haleakala emerged from the ocean floor more than a million years ago, when the Pacific Plate drifted over plumes of super-heated rock, called a hot spot. Over time, erosion from rain and wind created the distinctive shape that the crater presents today. Though called a crater, it is worth noting that it is actually an erosional depression created from the merging of two valleys. Of course, this practical explanation isn’t nearly as interesting as the demigod origin that makes up local legend.  

The structure situated on the Kalahaku Overlook, which provides the very best views of the Haleakala Crater wasn’t the only building to exist in that very area. In fact, originally, there was a rest house constructed on this site in 1894 by architect Charles W. Dickey, called Craigielea. For many years, the only way to experience this view was either to climb up on foot or via horseback, so the rest house was just that, a place for weary travelers to experience some relief from the elements and to rest from their trek. Later in 1914, there was another shelter constructed by the Maui Chamber of Commerce designed to accommodate site visitors and to counteract the vandalism that had been plaguing the area. In 1957, this structure was once again rebuilt due to the high volume of use and overall wear and tear. The modern structure you will visit today was designed in Mission 66 style. This means it is a low-cost structure utilizing glass and steel material. 

In addition to the amazing views you will enjoy from the Kalahaku Overlook, the area is also a nesting ground for the dark-rumped patrel, a native seabird of Haleakala. These birds only lay one egg per year, so they are especially sensitive to disturbances. While to our eyes, the landscape that they call home is just a bunch of rocks, native plants, animals, and insects all thrive in this environment. Therefore, it’s important when visiting the area to remain on designated walking areas to avoid disrupting a nesting ground or damaging delicate plant life. 

Insider Tips:
-There is a marked Silversword Area where you can see Silversword. This plant used to be abundant in the region but due to the overall rain decrease, their numbers are way down, making their existence in the crater that much more important. 
-Haleakala measures 28,000 feet, which makes it 675 taller than Mount Everest!