by Dean Christener
Maui Downhill Bike Ride Tour is a great adventure that I’ve been aware of my entire life living here on Maui. Growing up and driving up and down Haleakala (House of the Sun), our renowned Volcano that stands tall here on the island of Maui, I would always watch the many cyclists that participated in the Maui bike tours, speeding down the windy roads.
Haleakala, said to be less than a million years old, stands at over ten thousand feet, its highest point reaching 10,023 feet. Haleakala, although not quite as tall as its neighboring volcanoes on the Big Island – Manakea and Manaloa – would tower over even Mt. Everest if you were to measure it from the sea floor.
Haleakala is technically not an active or a dormant volcano, but an inactive one because it last erupted only about 200 years ago, in 1790. It exploded along the southwest rift zone forming the large lava deposits of the Ahihi Kina`u/La Perouse Bay area of South Maui, which today is covered by sharp black lava rock, with not much plant life growing there.
Hearing the ring in my ears from my iPhone, I quickly went to turn off the alarm only to see that it was 2:30am, and I had to be in town by 3:00 to meet for my Haleakala sunrise bike tour. Although this is not the usual way of getting to the check-in point for Maui Downhill, as normally you get picked up right from your hotel half an hour earlier than this and are taken straight there.
Nevertheless, arriving in Kahului, the main town of Maui, even though we like to think of it as our little city, we were escorted by tour buses up to the Maui Haleakala National Park where we would initiate our bike tour. Having been up to the crater, as we refer to Haleakala, several times, I think many of the people underestimated how cold it is up there, as they must have thought, “hey this is Hawaii, how cold can it actually be!” from the looks of what they wore.
But when we finally pulled up to the very top, and people awoke to cold air chilling their skin, boy were they in for a surprise. Seeing already glimpses of deep reds and oranges on the horizon, I could tell this was going to be a beautiful sunrise. You could see people huddling together over the railing that overlooked the large crater of Haleakala that stretched seven and half miles long and two and half wide.
The wind chill was definitely a big factor, as it seemed I just could not get the warmth I was looking for, even though I came quite prepared with heavy layered clothing. When the sun finally started creeping above the horizon, you could hear the people next to you gasp in amazement, as their expressions were left in awe. Having seen this a few times already, the sight really never gets old as I still found myself standing there stunned by the magnificent colors that the sun spurred out across the cloud cover.
Looking down into the crater, you could see the sunlight find every dark crevice as it crept from the east end and up the cliffs to where we stood. Cameras were heard clicking numerously amongst the people, and then as the sun lifted itself over the clouds, people could be seen scurrying back to the vans in preparation of the activities.
We headed back to our tour van that had, Maui Downhill Bike Tours written on it, and were told to fasten up and get ready for the activity we had all come to partake in. Heading down the windy road again to the Haleakala National Park entranceway, which has been there since 1960, we were given our bikes that we would ride down Haleakala. The blood seemed to still be flowing after watching the Haleakala Volcano sunrise, because peoples’ faces were lit up and ready to kick off.
Helmets on, windbreakers zipped, we were off and riding on the smooth road that winded through along the north face of Haleakala. Taking little breaks here and there, the ride went by quick as we were flying down the highway that hugged the cliff side. Watching the cattle go by on either side of us with the wind finding holes in my helmet, I was overtaken by the thrill of the ride.
Riding steadily for about 30 minutes, our group found ourselves at a little store in the Town of upper Kula, where we were able to briefly snack and take a bathroom break. The air was still chilly, but nothing when we started, so I sat in the grass eating a candy bar while enjoying the birds chirp around me.
Only a couple minutes later, however I found myself back on my bike again clutching the cold handlebars. The further down we rode, I noticed that the surroundings got denser with greenery, and the smell of Eucalyptus was ever more evident, giving a soothing smell and touch to the experience. Although we covered many miles of road, the activity went by fairly fast, but left everyone extremely content and happy with smiles on their faces.
I was definitely ready for a nap when it was all over, but I would do the Haleakala downhill tour in a second again, especially with Maui Downhill as they did an exceptional job leading us down the mountain as well providing us with a great service. Having now done this activity, I will tell others about it as well and how fun it is, as it is a must do whether living on Maui or just visiting!