Iao Valley State Park
Learn The Significance of The Iao Needle and Valley
This valley is located above Wailuku and is a wonderful ½ day stroll on fully paved pathways and stairs. The stream is warm and shallow and a favorite for locals to cool off in on hot days. The stream may look inviting but be careful as every rock in the water is as slippery and unseen as black ice because of the mosses on the rocks that grow year around.
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At 1200 feet high this razor thin ridge stands apart from the surrounding vertical walls of this deep valley. There are several wonderful Hawaiian cultural examples within the park like a traditional Hawaiian thatched roof house (Hale) and Taro patches which are grown in ponds called loi. Taro, also known to Hawaiians as Kalo, is part of ancient Hawaiʻi’s creation story and poi is one of the world’s most nutritious superfoods. A famous battle took place here when Kamehameha I defeated Maui’s last army in the battle of Kepaniwai in 1790, thus securing his rule of the island. Many warriors died here and for Hawaiians it is a spiritual and sacred place that is rich in ancient history.
The entrance to the upper park is a foot bridge suspended above the stream which has stunning views of the ʻIao Needle. This park has several pathways that wind through a botanical garden including stairs with railings that lead to paths along the stream.
There are actually two parks in this valley. The first one is Kepaniwai Park (on the left headed up the valley). It has different types of cultural buildings which showcase some of Hawaiʻi’s different ethnic groups. This park also includes picnic tables and a nature center. The park at the end of the road is where you’ll see the ʻIao Needle. Both are worth a stop and these are great places to enjoy on your last day on Maui as checkout is usually around 11am in most resorts and condos. Iao Valley State Park can easily be seen in less than a 1/2 day.
This stunningly vertical valley is just minutes from the airport. Head up Kaahumanu Avenue through Wailuku and follow the signs which will lead to the valley above. This is a great place to use up some Maui time if you find yourself waiting for an evening flight. The airport is only about 20 minutes or so away.
Cultural practitioners took time to reflect upon the history and importance of the Valley as a sacred burial place of chiefs. Among those assisting in the protocol was Kyle Nakanelua who led a genealogical ʻōlelo recounting history of the revered place.
“It is not just a park to come and relax and cool off in the water,” said Nakanelua. “It exists as that, but it’s not only that. Above that area–that playground–is where the holiest of holies still reside to this day. The residuals of the essence of their being–the substance of their beings still exists here,” he said.
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