We woke one day during our Maui vacation with no set plans except to relax so after breakfast on our lanai overlooking the ocean, we decided to head to Iao Valley State Monument near Wailuku in central Maui. I had read about this park in some of the travel guides, learning you could easily explore in a few hours so we figured we’d get a hike in, then swim in the pool or ocean. Ah, island life.
The drive on Iao Valley Road is pretty as you leave the city sights of Kahului to transition into a rain forest. Lush, green landscapes surround you. The 6-acre state park is in a beautiful canyon. The park is the site of the Kepaniwai battle where troops of Kamehameha I conquered the Maui army in 1790. The Iao Needle is a spire that climbs 2,250 feet above sea level (Iao means ‘cloud supreme’). Guards climbed the spire as a lookout to ensure enemies weren’t approaching. How anyone climbed (and stayed on) this tall piece of nature is unknown to me!
There are two trails to explore. A short 0.6-mile trail takes visitors across a bridge and up to the viewing platform to see the spire and gorgeous views of the area below. A six-mile (mostly paved) loop lets visitors explore more of the park.
You can walk through a botanical garden and see various housing structures from Hawaii’s heritage, including a Hawaiian hale, Chinese pagoda, and mission house. A koi pond and Portuguese garden also greets visitors. There are numerous exhibit signs to give visitors a background on the history of the location.
The loop goes along a river, where several people (including Justin) waded in to cool off from the humid heat. Ferns, banana trees and many other exotic plants line the area. Maui certainly has some beautiful plants and flowers on the island. So many vibrant colors and amazing scents.
We really enjoyed our visit to the Iao Valley State Monument. It wasn’t on our original ‘list of things to do’ so I’m happy that we discovered it. I love that our adventures often take us on unexpected journeys!
The park is open daily from 7am-7pm; admission is free. As a bonus, there’s nearby fun for geocaching enthusiasts!