No, even though I was on a bicycle, I didn’t bike down Haleakala mountain in Maui – I braked down Haleakala mountain. There is very little pedaling required when coasting down a 10,000 ft. mountain. However my hands did get a workout as they squeezed the brakes all the way down.
I took the Haleakala Express Tour – via the Haleakala Bike Company. This bike down Haleakala self guided option was a perfect opportunity to do it your way (woohoo!) – take as much time as you wanted and brake down the mountain. Once you are outfitted in bikes and gear, you hop in the van and are driven up the mountain to a starting point. Our driver, Fred, explained the route on the way up and provided us with a map that we could refer to on the way down. On the drive up Fred entertained the whole van pointing out places to stop and take photos as well we places to stop for a break or lunch. He kept saying that no one had ever gotten lost – but as we were taking right and left turns I wondered if I would be the first. Then again – the best advice he gave was to just keep coming down the mountain. If you are going up then you are going the wrong way.
On the Haleakala Express Tour you don’t actually go all the way into the National Park, instead you start near the entrance. The park no longer allows commercial companies to conduct convoyed descents. If you wish to bike downhill from the summit of Haleakala, off road, or on the road, then you must rent your own equipment and take it into the park yourself – which I wasn’t prepared to do. So this Express Tour option was perfect for me.
Our ride only took only about 1 ½ to 2 hours to get down – but it totally depends on how many stops you make. There’s no time limit, no timetable, no people to follow, no lines or convoy to keep – and this was the part I loved the most. I liked the independent feel to this tour and the ability to pull over wherever you wanted to take pictures, rest, eat, or soak in the view or the smells. As I braked down Haleakala, I saw other tours in lines following each other I realized just how great this independent option was.
I had already taken pictures of the summit and sunrise on Haleakala, so now it was time to photograph the rest of the mountain commonly referred to as upcountry. Not only did it have spectacular views, which beckoned you to stop and take photos, but it was also a ride that ignited your senses. You started above the clouds and consequently rode through a number of clouds too. Due to the altitude and the descent, you experienced the change in temperature against your skin, and eventually when you got low enough the road wound through fragrant eucalyptus forests. Shortly after the eucalyptus you descend down into a lavender farm along the way that you can stop at and have a snack or walk around the gardens.
The road also took you through ranch land with green fields, lots of horses, and open spaces. Make sure you stop in Makawao – a little cowboy town that seemed more shopping town that cowboy town to me – but it was a super spot to get off the bike and walk around a bit. Plus – there are a number of places to stop here for lunch. We stopped at to Polli’s Mexican restaurant for some margaritas and burritos. After all, I had worked up quite an appetite braking down the mountain.
Eventually you coast back on down to the town of Haiku where you started, turn in your bikes, and look back up at the mountain to marvel had how far you and your braking hand had come.
Haleakala Express Tour – $68
Equipment: Includes – Helmet, backpack, gloves and rain/wind gear.
Bikes were geared for going downhill and the brakes were the most important part – hydraulic disc brakes – they worked like a charm.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Maui Visitor Bureau for this trip. However all of the opinions expressed here are my own. I was able to choose my own activities that were of interest to me and my style of travel.