Haleakala downhill bike ride

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One of the most popular tourist attractions on Maui is Haleakala, a large dormant volcano whose slopes are the heartland of Maui. While tons of people ascend to the summit each morning to watch the sunrise, the lucky ones get to follow it up with a downhill bike ride from summit to sea.

In my opinion, biking down Haleakala is one of the best ways to experience the crater and Upcountry Maui while getting a little dose of excitement (van tours can be sooooo boring!). You don’t even need to be in great shape to do the bike ride…it’s all downhill! When I’ve done it, I probably pedaled less than about 10 rotations the entire time (this might vary depending if you’re ending in Paia or Haiku).

Haleakala downhill bike ride

There used to be dozens of companies that offered some version of a sunrise/bike tour down Haleakala, but in efforts to minimize the impact of visitors to the National Park, starting in 2018 only four companies where awarded permits to operate road tours within the park.

So while many companies used to take you up to the summit in a van so you could see sunrise, and then put you on your bike at the entrance to the National Park (no bike rides are available WITHIN the park), the options are now much fewer. There’s only one company that offers sunrise tours at the summit with the option to bike down. There’s another company that offers the same but it also includes ziplining. And there’s also the option of going with a company that will take you up midmorning (no sunrise), and put you on bikes just outside of the National Park entrance. Depending on what you’re looking for (and what your budget is), all three can be good options. I’ll detail the three companies I recommend below, but first I would caution to look out for companies who promise sunrise at Haleakala with a bike tour but don’t have a permit. If you go with them, you’ll be watching sunrise from about 6,700 feet (outside the National Park entrance), not the summit. And if you’re going to go through the trouble of getting up that early and trekking all the way up there, you really ought to see it from the top.

RELATED: Not very familiar with Maui? Read up on the lay of the is(land) and where to stay plus my favorite beach resorts, budget hotels, condos, honeymoon resorts, family friendly resorts, luxury resorts, and boutique hotels plus my area specific guides (including where to stay, eat, and things to do) for Wailea, Ka’anapali, the north shore, and upcountry plus my review of staying at the Four Seasons Maui.

Haleakala downhill bike ride

Bike Maui: Bike Maui is the only company that has a permit to offer van tours to the summit for sunrise in conjunction with a bike ride down. They’re pretty much the easiest route if you want to see sunrise (as a tour) and bike down. They have options for either self-paced or group tours. For me, I knew I didn’t want to ride down the mountain with a pack of people and be confined to where the guide chose to stop and their time constraints. So I definitely prefer a self paced tour. Many people pick the group led tour because they think they’ll be on their own if something happens along the way on a self-paced ride. Don’t let that be a deciding factor. Bike Maui will provide you with DETAILED instructions for how to contact them if you need roadside assistance (this covers everything from a flat tire to being too tired to finish to having one too many margaritas at lunch). They’ll also provide you with everything you need (i.e. full-face helmets, rain suits, backpacks, locks, and maps). I would suggest bringing water, sunscreen, and a jacket (especially if you’re doing the sunrise tour, in which case you’ll want PLENTY of layers). The only thing I dislike about Bike Maui is that on the self guided tour you end your ride in Haiku instead of Paia. It’s a cute little town on the north shore (more inland), although not as walkable and appealing as Paia. Guests must be at least 12 years old for this tour. Pickup from resort areas in West and South Maui is included in guided tours and is an additional $25/person for self guided tours. Self guided sunrise tours can be booked starting at $160/person (with an online early booking discount). Guided tours (with stops at Kula Marketplace and Paia) can be booked starting at $200/person. Read more reviews and search for discounts here.

Haleakala downhill bike ride

 

Skyline Eco Adventures: Skyline Eco Adventures operates the same way as Bike Maui (van tour to the summit for sunrise and then you get on your bike at the entrance to the National Park and bike down) however you only bike as far as their zipline facility, which is only about 8 miles from the National Park entrance. Honestly this isn’t a bad tour if you’re looking to experience several different “mini adventures” in one easily organized way. You won’t get the full experience of biking through the upcountry, but it might be enough to satisfy you if ziplining is also on your bucket list. I also like that they provide jackets and gloves for guests to use at the summit. You know, so you don’t have to bring your snowsuit all the way to Hawaii ; ) Guests must be at least 12 years old for this tour (although only need to be 8 to book the version that just includes sunrise and ziplining). Pickup from resort areas in West and South Maui is included. The sunrise/bike/zipline tour is $240/person. Read more reviews and search for discounts here.

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RELATED: 15 Things to Do on Maui

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Maui Sunriders: Maui Sunriders does not operate within the National Park (no sunrise tours at the summit), but they have my favorite bike ride set up on the island. So if you’re going to do sunrise at Haleakala on your own (it’s easily doable in a car) maybe so you can stay around past sunrise to do some hiking in the crater, then this is a great option. Their tour starts at the shop in Paia at 9AM (yay no 2AM start time!) and they take you up in a van (you’ll get a narrated tour of the area) and set you up on bikes outside the National Park entrance at about 6,500 feet. From there you’re free to ride down at your own pace stopping as you wish (as long as you’re back at the shop by 4PM). Guests must be at least 9 years old (and comfortable on a bike) for this tour. Children who are over six (but under 80 pounds) can ride on a trailer behind the parents bike (like a tandem bike with no steering or braking responsibilities). This tour is $67/person.

Haleakala downhill bike ride

I did this exact tour with my family and we had a blast! I planned my downhill bike ride to coincide with a visit from my parents so there were three of us on our Haleakala adventure. Sunriders owners’ Paolo and Dani have been on Maui for decades and they truly embody the aloha spirit. They were so kind and made my mom (who was very nervous about the ride) feel very comfortable.

During our hour ride to the drop off point, our tour guide gave us an amazing narration of all the sights we passed and she knew an incredible amount on information on the local culture, customs, history, and nature.

We got dropped off right outside the national park (elevation about 6,500 feet) and once we got comfortable on our bikes, we began coasting down the switchbacks on Crater Road.

The first stop we made was at the lavender farm on Crater Road where there was a cute little café. After some lavender iced tea, we were back on our bikes and off on a beautiful ride through ranch land, eucalyptus forests, rolling meadows, cacti fields, and jacaranda trees. We stopped for lunch in Makawao at Polly’s (Paolo recommended it and even offered to come and pick anyone up who had too many margaritas!) and did some shopping.

We rode the last leg of our trip from Makawao to Paia along a twisty, tree-lined road and arrived back at the Sunrider shop tired but excited from our adventure. After we dropped our bikes off we spent some time knocking around Paia Town checking out some of my favorite shops and stopping in at the local coffee shop.

Biking down Haleakala is such a cool way to experience Maui’s Upcountry and it’s really a “don’t miss” Maui experience.

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