A Trip of a Lifetime

In 1993 my husband received the Circle of Excellence award for his company which included a week-long trip to Maui, Hawaii for the two of us. With the help of my in-laws, we were able to spend our first vacation without children since becoming parents while knowing our little boys were well cared for back home.

My husband’s company saw to it that we were wined and dined like royalty while at the Wailea Grand Hyatt. We snorkeled, biked down Haleakala (an inactive volcano), sunned by the pools, attended a luau and grand parties, and in general had a blast.


Excursion Choices

As an award recipient, my husband and I were able choose from a variety of company sponsored excursions. Choices included golfing, deep sea fishing, sailing, snorkeling, and enjoying a Haleakala sunrise with a bicycle descent. As I mentioned, we chose snorkeling and the bike ride.


Similar Tours are no Longer Available

We were lucky that at the time we visited Maui, we were able to bike from the top of Haleakala, the world’s largest resting volcano. In February 2023 organized tours were banned from Haleakala’s peak down Crater Road, limiting tour companies to keep their tours between mile markers 3 and 9.5.

In 2007, the National Park Service temporarily suspended biking down the mountain after a third person was killed within a one-year period. Several additional tourist and one tour guide had been injured in a variety of other accidents while descending the mountain.

Of course, it’s still an option to catch a ride up with a friend or climb Haleakala by bike before descending. It’s just organized tours that are held to the new regulations.


Bikes with Big Brakes

We had been fitted for our bike rentals the day prior to our zero-dark-thirty hotel pickup. During our fitting, the dude (picture a typical 20-something beach bum) at the bike shop supporting the tour company told us to avoid a hale-ollie-akula. When asked what that meant, he said, “Try not to fall.” To this day, my husband and I use hale-ollie-akula when referring to a fall.

Our rentals were sturdy steel bikes built to withstand the abuse that comes with being a rental that’s constantly thrown in the back of a van along with a bunch of identical bikes. They were heavy, but we were heading downhill so that was an asset as long as we didn’t mind a little extra speed. With 10,032 feet of descent, effective brakes were of high importance. Rather than today’s typical disc breaks we had rim brakes which were absolutely huge. So huge, that it made a lasting impact on both of us.


Ride Overview

At the time of our trip there was no Ride with GPS to plan a route, and Garmin was in its infancy suppling GPS to only those in the marine and aviation fields. As we descended the mountain we didn’t have a route loaded into devices mounted to our handlebars, we just pointed our bikes down the mountain and rode. Here’s a similar ride from a current Ride with GPS user…

  • • Ride Name: Haleakala Descent to Paia
  • • Location: Kahului, HI
  • • Start/Finish: Haleakala to Paia
  • • Course Type: Point-to-point
  • • Distance: 35.5 miles
  • • Elevation Gain: 69 feet
  • • Elevation Decline: 10,032 feet
  • • Ride with GPS: Link to turn-by-turn navigation cue sheet
  • • Course Map:

Full course

Crater view with switchback segment enlarged


Watching the Sunrise from Maui’s Highest Point

From near sea level at the Wailea Grand Hyatt, we were bused up to 10,023 feet to the top of Haleakala in Haleakala National Park. At the still dark summit, we stepped out into the cold crisp morning air, thankful for the heavy coats, pants, and gloves supplied by the bike outfitter.

After watching a beautiful sunrise illuminate our surroundings, we peered into the vast crater of the inactive volcano. The barren landscape was quite the contrast to the lush valley we’d just left behind.


Although they were toasty warm on the cold mountaintop, there was nothing aerodynamic about our bright red bike kits which we took off in pieces as we descended to warmer temps.


Descending the Volcanic Mountain on Bikes

After a pre-ride briefing our ride leader pulled ahead instructing our group to stay behind him at all times. We started out slowly at first as we tested our breaks with the wind in our faces, growing stronger as we picked up speed. We were instructed to be respectful of the 30 switchbacks, something I didn’t need to be told twice.


The van stopped a couple of times as we made our way down the dormant volcano, allowing us to regroup and shed any clothing necessary as the temperature rose. By the time we got to the valley we were back in our summer clothes enjoying the warm breeze .

Once in the valley, not only did we ride past the expected pineapple fields, but past fields of hay dotted with deciduous trees, similar to farms we’d see back in Virginia. Flowers sprang up along the highway adding color to our view as we zoomed by.

Near the end of the ride, I even got to experience at least one local insect when a bee stung me on my shoulder. Our ride leader was very concerned that I might be allergic even though I’m not allergic to bee stings (I was fine). Not quite the ending I was expecting to such an epic bike descent off the inactive volcano…


  • • Have you visited Hawaii? ~ This was my first and only trip to Hawaii.
  • • Which two excursions would you pick from golfing, deep sea fishing, sailing, snorkeling, and a Haleakala sunrise with a bicycle descent? ~ We chose snorkeling and the sunrise/bike ride.
  • • When on vacation, do you do the touristy excursions? ~ No because most of our vacations are planned around hiking in national parks or touring on our bikes