The "House of the Sun"

According to ancient legend, Haleakala got its name from a clever trick that the demigod Maui pulled on the sun. Maui's mother, the goddess Hina, complained one day that the sun sped across the sky so quickly that her tapa cloth couldn't dry. Maui, known as a trickster, devised a plan. The next morning he went to the top of the great mountain and waited for the sun to poke its head above the horizon. Quickly, Maui lassoed the sun, bringing its path across the sky to an abrupt halt. The sun begged Maui to let go, and Maui said he would on one condition: that the sun slow its trip across the sky to give the island more sunlight. The sun assented. In honor of this agreement, the Hawaiians call the mountain Haleakala, or "House of the Sun." To this day, the top of Haleakala has about 15 minutes more sunlight than the communities on the coastline below.

The Lay of the Land

Scientists believe that the Haleakala volcano began its growth on the ocean floor about 2 million years ago, as magma from below the Pacific Ocean floor erupted through cracks in the Pacific Plate. The volcano has erupted numerous times over the past 10,000 years. Though the most recent eruption is thought to have occurred about 1790, Haleakala is still considered an active volcano. You'll pass through as many ecological zones on a two-hour drive from the humid coast to the harsh summit of the mountain as you would on a journey from Mexico to Canada, and the temperature can vary 30 degrees from sea level to summit. Haleakala is home to more endangered species than any other national park in the U.S., and the park was designated an International Biosphere Reserve in 1980. Among the rare birds and animals you may see here:

Nene (Hawaiian goose) [Branta sandwichensis]: A relative of the Canada goose, the nene is Hawaii's state bird, standing about 2 feet high with a black head and yellow cheeks. The wild nene on Haleakala number fewer than 250, and the species remains endangered.

'U'au (Hawaiian petrel) [Pterodroma sandwichensis]: These large, dark grey-brown and white birds travel as far as Alaska and Japan on two-week feeding trips. Their status is listed as vulnerable; it's estimated that fewer than 1,000 birds are nesting on the Haleakala crater.

Kike koa (Maui parrotbill) [Pseudonestor xanthophrys]: One of Hawaii's rarest birds, it has an olive green body and yellow chest. Its strong, hooked, parrot-like bill is used to pry chunks of koa bark as it searches for food.

'Akohekohe (Crested honeycreeper) [Palmeria dolei]: Listed as a critically endangered species, this bird is native only to a 22-mile-square area on the northeastern slope of Haleakala. It has primarily black plumage, with bright-orange surrounding the eyes and nape, and a furl of white feathers sprouting over the beak.

For more information on visiting Haleakala, click here.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.