Happiness High above Haleakala
It’s hauntingly beautiful, immensely geographically and culturally significant, and home to more adrenaline-boosting activity options than you could cram into a week. The massive Haleakala volcano is Maui’s highest peak and makes up 75% of the island’s landmass — Haleakala is Maui, in so many ways. Hiking through the Haleakala National Park was one of the undisputed highlights of my first trip to Hawaii, so I couldn’t have been happier when my first order of business on my first morning of this trip to Maui was flinging myself off of the top of it.
Paragliding off Haleakala
Photos courtesy of Captain and Clark
I’ve actually been itching to try paragliding for a while now — my many attempts in Peru were thwarted by bad weather, and then scheduling conflicts kept me on the ground in Ecuador. But now I realize that that was all part of the plan. It was meant to be; the universe wanted me to try paragliding for the first time in the capable hands of the team at Proflyght Paragliding alongside my dear, special fabulous friends Chris and Tawny. (Who, by the way, made a fabulous video of our adventures that you can watch here!)
Unlike that time I jumped out of a plane in Hawaii, I had absolutely no fear about running off a cliff and flinging myself into the sky. Maybe it was the thorough safety briefing we received, maybe it was the friendly accent of the Brazilian instructor I was tandem flying with, maybe it was the views that just melted me.
The instructors asked us who wanted to go first and I generously volunteered Chris.
Watching him take off, I started to feel butterflies. But I didn’t have too long to reflect, because it was time to run. And this is where things got comical. My instructor kept yelling for me to “Run, run!” and I kept yelling back “I’m trying!” Because here’s the thing — we had a bit of a height difference, and at this point my feet were not even a little bit touching the ground. So I was basically running in place like some kind of cartoon character on an invisible hamster wheel while my instructor carried me off the cliff.
All was pretty soon forgotten once we were airborne. I gasped and gaped at the views, all while fumbling with my GoPro and trying in vain to capture what it felt like to be flying. Needless to say, it was pretty magical.
I watched as Chris and Tawny bobbed in the distance, and gave a gleeful affirmative when my instructor offered to do an aerial roller coaster ride. As we twisted and twirled, I let out a few shrieks for good measure, and thankfully did not throw up.
Landing was a comical repeat of our taking off experience. My instructor screaming “run!,” me flailing my floating legs, both of us out of breath from laughter.
Photos courtesy of Captain and Clark
I cannot more highly recommend conquering Haleakala by paraglide. It was safe, it was fun, and it showed me the best views of Maui I’ve ever seen. But my adventures on the volcano were far from over — the next day, we found yet another creative way to make our way down the mountain.
Biking Down Haleakala
If I can explore a place by two wheels, I am always in. I’ve taken bike tours everywhere from Reykjavik to Bangkok, and so when I had the opportunity to sign on for Maui’s most famous ride, I gave an enthusiastic thumbs up.
Biking down Haleakala can be done a multitude of ways — you can be led by a local expert of dropped off and for a self-guided ride, you can go hardcore or take it slow, and you can wake up in the middle of the night to catch sunrise or you can leave at a normal human hour. We chose a non-insane wake up call, a guided ride, and full speed ahead.
As Maui Easy Riders team Billy and Billy (true story) collected us from Paia Town Beach for the long crawl up the mountain, I warmed to them immediately. They were basically the definition of laid-back island bros and I loved exchanging notes with them on our various travel and adventure experiences. They didn’t bat an eye when I introduced myself as Chris and Tawny’s blogging sister wife (long story), or when I announced that I was basically terrified of going downhill at a speed faster than 5mph.
I got over that fear real quick.
The slightly later departure had the benefit of not just not waking up in the middle of the night, but also the roads being a lot less crowded. So without the fear of cars we whipped down the winding turns at gleeful speeds, stopping occasionally for photos or water.
Eventually we stopped for a spin around the town of Makawao, upcountry’s most adorable wild west movie set. Just kidding. It’s real. Between Makawao and my beloved Paia, I think I can safely declare Upcountry Maui my favorite part of the whole island. And since it’s fairly underrated, I get to have whole lots of it to myself.
My highlight of the day? Meeting this guy, who was crawling in the road in front of us and was saved from impending tire-smooshing-doom thanks to the keen eye of Billy 1. I strongly considered bringing him home as the ultimate souvenir but the logic of my fellow riders won out and he was returned to his rightful home along the slopes of Haleakala.
Believe it or not, I actually had a third Haleakala adventure planned — a helictoper ride over the volcano! It was cancelled due to bad weather, which I’m actually not too bummed about because it’s yet another reason to return. But it is a good reminder to book weather-dependent activities early in your trip so you have plenty of time to reschedule if necessary.
Regardless of which method you choose, you’d be missing a big part of Maui if you skip Mount Haleakala — a full 75%, in fact.
Which way would you explore Haleakala — hiking, biking, helicopter riding or paragliding? Or maybe all four?
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Many thanks to the Maui Visitors Bureau for hosting me and showing me so much aloha. As always, you receive my honest opinions regardless of who is footing the bill.
This sounds awesome! I feel like I’ve done a lot of adventure activities, but paragliding off a mountain (and not a boat)? YES, please. Great post – and I chuckled OUT loud imagining this height difference…and you running in air…hehe.
I always get them confused but I’m pretty sure paragliding is free flying off something like a mountain or building, and parasailing is from the back of a boat and you are tethered. I’ve done both now!
I also laughed out loud at the description of your attempt to run off the mountain haha.
I would love to go paragliding there- such beautiful views!
Seriously! I’m so glad I saved both this and skydiving for Hawaii, because I can’t imagine more stunning views anywhere.
Get strapped to a Brazilian man, jump off the side of a volcano, and fly over the mountains and beaches of Maui? Where do I sign up!
Ha… at Proflyght Paragliding, of course! 😉
All four! I stupidly/was too busy recovering from the night before missed out paragliding in Medellin to celebrate my birthday. I WILL make up for it next time round though. Looks like you had an absolute ball Alex, would love to make it to Hawaii one day, I reckon it would suit me down to the ground!
Ah, that’s why you need to party the night OF, not the night before 😉
Your paragliding pictures are incredible! You got so lucky to have such a clear day! The West Maui mountains look gorgeous!
I know! Our biking day was much cloudier which was nice from a not-sweating-repulsively standpoint but not as nice from a great views standpoint.
All four sound good to me! I know paragliding would slightly terrify me, but it’s definitely something I will try one of these days. Those views are just spectacular. My sister did that same bike ride when she was in Maui and she absolutely loved it. It all looks like so much fun. Even your new little lizard friend!
My cousin has done the bike ride like five times, ha. It’s super popular, and for good reason! Overall I think I prefer bike rides that get my muscles sore, but it’s just a must have experience.
Paragliding appeals to me. I’ve done parasailing before and was surprised how peaceful it was once I was up there. I just kicked back and enjoyed the view. A helio ride over some lava would be pretty epic too.
Did that on the Big Island 🙂 There are so many aerial adventures to be had on the Hawaiian islands!
i have been wanting to try paragliding too!! perhaps i’ll follow in your footsteps? & i LOVE a bike trip, esp. a case for this maui, ms. wanderland.
oi, looks like my response was garbled. i think it’s supposed to say
“i love a bike trip, esp. downhill. you’re making a good case for this maui, ms. wanderland.”
Ha! I must speak Becky, because I totally got it.
We are headed to Maui for our third time this Christmas, and I think you may have just convinced me to try Paragliding 🙂
Do it do it do it! I’d definitely recommend booking it early in your trip in case of weather drama, like I mentioned in the post. They are super safe and won’t go out if there’s the slightest hint of risk. Enjoy!
So impressed you did paragliding – def a little too much adrenaline for me, but it looked super fun! And I love the selfie-stick photos, haha.
Also, SO SAD YOU DON’T HAVE A PET LIZARD NOW. Maybe you can visit him on your return trip?
Ugh, I know, but unfortunately I’ve learned most pets don’t like to fly as much as I do (Tucker loves traveling by car though, if only I did road trips exclusively!).
I really enjoyed those pictures, but WOW, they made me sort of dizzy. I don’t know if I’m as brave as you are!
Ha, apologies for the dizziness inducing 🙂 The bravery comes when you need it, I think!
This is soooo cool I want to go paragliding so bad! Looks like a lovely trip, nice photos too! 🙂 xo
Thanks Aimee! You should give it a try sometime!
Um, did you find a baby triceratops? That thing is awesome.
Bad weather also got in my way for paragliding in Peru, maybe I’ll try it in Hawaii if I ever make it there!
Ha! That is what it looks like! Honey I Shrunk The Dinosaurs!
We drove to the top of Haleakala for the amazing sunset. I would love to bike down it next time – after doing the Death Road in Bolivia it should be a piece of cake!
I desperately want to go to Bolivia someday soon but the Death Road thing will torment me. I’m terrified of it but know if I don’t do it I’d be annoyed at myself. Can’t win!
You have complete control on the Death Road and can go as slow or as fast as you want so don’t be scared!
Wow paragliding looks awesome! A little scary though 🙂 You’re brave 🙂 A helicopter ride over the volcano sounds amazing as well, too bad we wont get to see the pictures 🙂
You definitely will — as soon as I go back 😉
Ah! Paragliding is so on my list. I’ve been wanting to try it! My family lives in Colorado, so I need to make it happen on one of my visits. I’m so excited for you that you were able to do it in Maui!
Thanks Susan! Beautiful Colorado sounds like it would be a gorgeous spot at well. Hope you get the chance soon!
I’d love to visit Hawaii one day! Looks like you had an amazing time! 😀
As much as I want to keep it all to myself, Maui should be on everyone’s list. Magical island!
Wait, what IS this guy? He’s so cute!
Also, like you, my paragliding attempts have always been foiled by bad weather so I’ve yet to go. Maybe I’ll get to do it in Maui sometime! (One can dream.)
One of my commenters on Instagram told me what it was and even that she had had one as a pet! But obviously I didn’t quite retain the information. He was so darn cool though.
Aaaah, your paragliding adventure looks super duper awesome!!!
Thanks Ailene! It was pretty badass!
After my scary non-paragliding experience in Turkey, I can never even attempt another try. Glad I got to live vicariously through you, although, not gonna lie, just reading about the run! run! made my heart race.
Aaaaaaaaaaaand I’m off to check your blog for this story!
Epic. I’ve always wanted to do a half-skydive float around the mountains like this.
I’m surprised you haven’t tried it yet with all your adventuring!
I’m sorry, but the last photo is my favorite. 🙂 Looks like an amazing trip you had!
Might be mine too 🙂 Thanks Juno!
The paragliding looks awesome! And I love your description of being in an invisible hamster wheel 🙂 Ha!
It was fairly entertaining 🙂 Thanks ladies!
Omggggg paragliding looks like soo much fun! Bucket listing!
It was totally on mine — feels great to check things like that off (though obviously I only want to do it again now!)
Oh my goodness, I was getting dizzy just looking at your paragliding photos. That is seriously high! :-/ I love the photo of the little chameleon. What a cute little fella!
He was such a cutie! So glad he was spared!
Ahh the paragliding looks AH-MAZING!
It was! Totally worth the wait.
Paragliding looks amazing!! Would love to try that one day! 😀
You should! And you could stay at the Banana Bungalow Maui when you do 🙂
We did a 4-hour horseback riding tour to visit the wonders of Haleakala.
Many people on the way implied we were lazy bitches but oh well, the views were amazing and I don’t regret it at all!
I love horseback riding but have yet to try it in Hawaii. I am dying to do it on the Big Island, home of the paniolo cowboy culture!