February “Spotlight On Maui”: How Cold Is Haleakala Crater?

“Spotlight On Maui” is a monthly series written for VacationRoost, an online accommodation site helping you find your perfect rental.

Haleakala Maui House of the Sun

Just because “Haleakala” means “House of the Sun”, don’t let the name fool you into thinking it’s warm.

Most February visitors to Maui come to the island with expectations of sun, warmth, and working on their tan, and the last thing they expect on their tropical vacation is to encounter a place with subfreezing temperatures. At 10,023 ft. above sea level, however, Haleakala isn’t exactly the place to break out the coconut oil. It gets cold up here, and visitors need to be prepared for that.

So just how cold does it really get?

Let’s take a look at a random screen shot taken from the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy webpage, and at the time when this was written (7:18 a.m. HST), we can see that it’s 39.7° with a wind chill of 30.3°.


30°?! That’s freezing! That’s almost cold enough to snow!

Believe it or not, about every five years or so Haleakala will actually get a good dump of snow (6-8 inches) that leaves the summit blanketed in the white stuff. Here is a photo snapped from a recent storm in January of 2008 where island residents awoke to a snowcapped Haleakala.

Haleakala snow

Now before you start canceling your plans and deciding you no longer want to visit Haleakala, understand that snow is exceptionally rare, and even though the temperature is often in the 30’s during the winter  months, by the mid-morning to afternoon hours the temperature has usually risen into the 50’s or 60’s, and it’s a comfortable temperature for hiking in shorts and a tshirt. This, of course, is during the winter, and summer temperatures will usually range between 40° at the lowest to highs which push above 65°.

For most visitors, however, the most popular time of day to visit Haleakala is at sunrise, a time of day when the temperature is at its lowest. While everyone should experience a Haleakala sunrise at least once in their lifetime, be prepared to visit with long pants, multiple layers, a beanie, closed toed shoes, and preferably some gloves. Didn’t pack all of that for your tropical vacation? That’s ok. In a pinch you can pull the comforter off of your hotel bed (although be sure to keep it clean and return it when you’re done).

Haleakala Crater Maui

If the thought of waking up at 3 a.m. just to shiver in the dark doesn’t sound like your type of vacation, consider skipping the sunrise and opt for a visit in the middle of the day. The hiking in Haleakala Crater is some of the best on the island, and if you decide to hike down into the Crater via Sliding Sands or Halemau’u Trail, chances are that you’ll be peeling off layers and working up a sweat as opposed to wishing you had another jacket to put on.

Or, for what is probably the most underrated Haleakala spectacle, consider visiting Haleakala Crater for sunset. There are only 20 people up here as opposed to 2,000, the panoramic light display is just as breathtaking, and the temperature is often warmer than during the early morning hours (although the wind can sometimes be stronger).

Haleakala Crater at Sunset

So even though Haleakala Crater can be cold at the top–particularly during the month of February–don’t let it dissuade you from visiting; simply be prepared. It’s also a good idea to pack a rain jacket in the event some showers decide to fall, and on your way back down the mountain, be sure to stop in at Hosmer’s Grove at the 7,000 ft. level and take the short nature walk that skirts the edge of the forest. Whereas the summit of Haleakala feels like the surface of the moon, Hosmer’s Grove, with its pine trees and dense foliage, is more akin to a hike in Northern California.

Plus, it’s warmer down here, although you shouldn’t be scared of a little tropical cold.

Want to visit Haleakala Crater? Check out VacationRoost for affordable vacation rentals and housing options during your stay on the island of Maui.

Photo Credits: [Haleakala Snow: belindah via Flickr]

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ruth February 12, 2013 at 12:11 pm

I think I will prefer to see the sunset from the top of Haleakala. It feels weird to go to Hawaii armed with winter gear. ;0)

Milton Atay December 2, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Where else can you go and have both cold and hot like climate at the same time.Awsome

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