As you probably gathered from my posts the last 2 weeks, I just returned from a fabulous family vacation in Hawaii. One of the highlights of our Maui trip was the Sunrise Bike Ride Down Haleakala. I’m going to give you a little glimpse of our one of a kind experience.
Our driver from Bike It Maui picked us up from our hotel at 2:15 AM. Yup my kids were not happy about that one. I was banned from taking any pictures at that hour as well. I am sure you can imagine the 4 of us standing in the lobby waiting for the van to collect us. We picked up some other passengers for a total of 13 of us, the driver and the bike guide and headed up to Haleakala.
“Haleakala National Park is the most visited part of East Maui. The Hawaiian name Hale-a-ka-la (lit., house of the sun), is now nearly synonymous with the entire shield of East Maui volcano. Early Hawaiians, however, applied the name only to the summit area, the site where the demigod Maui snared the sun and forced it to slow its journey across the sky.” (source)
Because the summit of Haleakala is one of the most popular places to visit on Maui, there is a ton of traffic to get up there in time to catch the sunrise. It took us about an hour and a half to reach the entrance to the National Parka and about another 30 minutes to get through the gates and park. We arrived to secure our preferred viewing spot around 5 am.
We were told it was freezing at the summit (about 10,000 ft above sea level) and it was! Our guides quickly handed out winter coats, gloves, hats and water proof pants to our group. We lined up in the dark to wait for the sun to come up. Very fashionable don’t you think? I felt like an Oompah Loompa.
Slowly you can start to see the sky brightening before your eyes. A large cloud unfortunately appeared right as the sun was peeking out but we had spectacular views none the less. It is really so serene and at the same time majestic to watch the sun rising before you from the summit of a volcano.
We could see the vast crater beneath us and the summit in front of us as we felt the cool air surround and awaken us.
We spent about 30 minutes watching what many of us take for granted each day. I rarely stop to appreciate just how beautiful the sunrise can be.
Some of the flowers and plants that our guide pointed out to us only grow on the summit of Haleakala and nowhere else in the world. The Silver Sword is protected as an endangered species and revered by the locals. We were lucky enough to spot one. It only blooms once before dying and thus very rare to spot up here.
We headed back to van for instructions and to gear up for the bike ride. The guides were very good at explaining that we would be going down hill the entire time at around 20-30 miles per hour. We would basically need to be on our brakes the entire time in order to stay in a single file line to descend the 28 miles. This was the route we took down the mountain.
I am not used to coasting down for 28 miles without pedaling at all! It took some time to get used to the heavier mountain bikes and the braking system. I literally had to squeeze the brakes the entire time. We were given instructions on how to stay in a single file line to descend safely and avoid the cars as much as possible. I was a little nervous that my son might take a header off of the mountain but thankfully, he survived all in one piece. There is definitely an adrenaline rush as you fly down the mountain and navigate the twists and turns of the road.
As we descended the mountain we stopped a few times for pictures and to shed some layers. Slowly the temperature went from the mid 30’s back to the mid 70’s. We traveled through different micro climates where it was freezing and misting ending with sunny, warm breezes. The van followed our group down and allowed us to throw our layers off.
Biking down the mountain, we could see the other islands off in the distance including Molokini, Kahoolawe, Lanai, and the West Maui. We could also smell the eucalyptus trees and lavender as we descended making it a feast for all the senses.
The 28 mile bike ride literally “flew” by and it was over before we knew it. I definitely was surprised when our guide told me we were at the finish. Note to self: biking downhill is so much easier that biking uphill 🙂
My husband and I had done this same adventure 20 years ago on our honeymoon and it was such a great opportunity for us to be able to do it again as a family. Certainly one of the highlights of our trip!
Have you visited Hawaii? Prefer to bike uphill or downhill?
It’s time already for the July Ultimate Coffee Date this Saturday the 4th. Hope to see you there!