Iao Valley, a gorgeous display of lush green peaks, is a must see destination in Maui. The journey begins on the drive to the state park, which sits at the end of Iao Valley Road, or Highway 32. Keep the windows down and your eyes peeled on the towering mountains to get views of the historic part you can’t see from inside the park. Stopping to take photos along the drive is recommended.
Once you make it to the park in Central Maui, which is west of Wailuku, a peaceful 4,000 acre, the 10-mile long park is waiting for you. It is home to one of Maui’s most popular landmarks, the 1,200-foot Iao Needle. The emerald rock outcropping overlooks the Iao stream.
Iao Valley is considered sacred to Hawaiians because of its historical significance. In 1790, Iao Needle served as a lookout point for the Maui army, led by King Kalanikūpule, during the Battle of Kepaniwai against King Kamehameha the Great. The battle saw two days and two nights of fighting until King Kamehameha broke the Maui army, causing them to flee through the valley west to Olowalu and north to Lahaina. While the Battle of Kepaniwai is considered to be one of the bloodiest in Hawaiian history, it also served as a turning point for King Kamehameha’s quest to unite the Hawaiian Islands under a single ruler.
The well-marked, paved path makes seeing these remarkable valley views accessible for all types of hikers. Going early in a day is the best way to avoid clouds covering the needle, but despite the weather, the outlook will surely take your breath away.
More experienced hikers will be interested in exploring areas off the paved path. While the park doesn’t recommend this, our editors found themselves alongside experienced hikers climbing through the tropical paradise to see a lesser known view of the stream, pictured below. If your adventure partners for the day don’t mind getting a little dirty and are wearing appropriate hiking gear, make a right turn off the paved path toward the stream and trek your way to this beautiful, less-often-seen spot.
If it is raining or you aren’t up for a more advanced hike, traipse down the paved path through an ethnobotanical garden and check out the Hawaii Nature Center, which offers rainforest walks and interactive exhibits.
This state park has restrooms and stays opens daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
There is no fee for Hawaii residents and a $5 fee per car for nonresidents.
There is not drinking water on site, but there are trash cans.
Camping is not permitted at the park.
Dogs are not allowed on the trail.