Hawaii August 03, 2016
Everyone In Hawaii Needs To Visit This One Incredible State Park This Summer
While we love Maui’s Halaeakala National Park as much as the next person, there’s a state park hiding on the island that is equally as amazing: Located just south of the West Maui Forest Reserve and near Wailuku is Iao Valley State Park, a lush, 4,000-acre valley with miles of hiking trails, stunning vistas, and the famous Iao Needle.
The Iao Needle is the park’s crowned jewel, and its beauty will not only leave you speechless, but it is also an important historical site.
The fern covered lava formation rising 1,200 feet from the valley’s floor was formed from millennia of erosion of the softer rock surrounding the peak, and is deeply rooted in Hawaiian culture.
The valley is considered sacred, and was once kapu (off limits) to all but Hawaiian royalty. In the late 15th century, Maui’s ruler, Kaka’e, designated Iao Valley as an Ali’i burial ground, and in 1790 Kamehameha the Great defeated Kalanikupule and the Maui army during his quest to unify the islands during the Battle of Keaniwai.
The lush, green valley is the second wettest place in Hawaii - the first being Mount Waialeale on Kauai - receiving an average of one inch of rain each day. Most of this rainwater flows into the Iao Stream, and is drained by a giant diversion that Wailuku Water takes off just outside of the breathtaking park.
The park is easily reached via car, and features paved walkways, stairs, and signage with pertinent historical information.
While easily accessible by anyone, many don’t spend a whole lot of time at the park after seeing the main attraction, but that’s too bad, because while many of the trails aren’t official, there is much to explore in this beautiful 10-mile long state park.
When you enter the park, you can either cross the footbridge to view the Iao Needle, or descend into an exhibition area where a model of what the greater valley just outside the park once looked like. In addition to a thatched-roof hale, the area is also home to various plants that were once cultivated in pre-contact Hawaii.
Taking the high road after the bridge will lead to the Iao Needle Observation deck, while the low road will take you to the stream below and a short nature loop, with access to many of the park’s unofficial trails.
Whether you stop for 20 minutes just to see the Iao Needle or stay a little longer to explore, you will not regret visiting Iao Valley State Park - regardless of if you live on Maui, are visiting from another island, or are on vacation from the mainland.
Also on Maui, don’t forget to check out the infamous Hana Highway.