Learn about Iao Valley State Monument in Maui

Iao Valley State Monument

This 6.2-acre state park is located at the end of Iao Valley Road (Highway 32). This serene 4,000-acre, 10-mile-long park in Central Maui is home to one of Maui’s most famous sights, the 1,200-foot Iao Needle. 

The Iao Needle, a state park landmark, is a vegetation-covered lava relic that rises 1,200 feet above the valley floor or 2,250 feet above sea level. When viewed end-on, the “needle” is a sharp ridge that appears to be a spire.

This renowned green-mantled rock protrusion overlooks Iao brook and is a wonderful location for simple trekking and sightseeing. The needle is an extension of the West Maui Mountains, an extinct volcano, and is surrounded by its cliffs. 

A well-marked, paved walking pathway takes from the parking lot to the Iao Needle, and the ridge-top observation offers spectacular views of the valley. You can enjoy a rainforest walk here along with your friends or family. 

The Battle of Kepaniwai took place in 1790 in Iao Valley between the Army of Maui and Monarch Kamehameha I. The king prevailed, and this forever changed the history of Hawaii.

How to get there?

Iao Valley State Park is located at the extreme end of Iao Valley Road in Central Maui. Take Highway 32 (or Kaahumanu Road) west from Wailuku or Kahului until it turns in Highway 320, which leads immediately into Iao Valley State Park.

You can either hire a bike and cycle on the highway to Iao Valley State Monument or take a taxi from Kahului to Iao Valley State Monument. The majority of visitors choose to rent a car and drive around Maui. This freedom allows them to go wherever they want and completely explore it. 

Best time to visit 

Iao Needle

 The best time to visit the Iao Valley is usually in April or May, when the weather isn’t too hot, the people are fewer, and the possibilities of seeing bluebird skies are extremely high. Iao Valley is Hawai’i’s second wettest location. Winter months offer more rain, so carry a rain jacket if you’re visiting Iao during the winter. 

Things to do in Iao Valley

  • With the abundant greenery in the area, you can observe a variety of Hawaiian plants and trees. The majority of visitors come to the park to see the best views of the Iao Needle, which can be reached by a lookout after a paved pedestrian path to the top of a ridge.
  • If you’re already at the parking lot and you’re done parking your car, look to your left for Kahawai or Iao Stream, which is famed for its fast-flowing water and muddy, rocky shoreline.
  • You can also choose to hike the 133 steps to the summit, which will reward you with the greatest view of the Iao Needle.
  • One of the nicest options about Iao Valley State Park is the ease with which hiking paths may be found. Although the park is around ten miles long and covers thousands of acres, the official hiking paths only cover a few kilometers. 
  • The paved walking track takes hikers to an observation point from which they can observe the breathtaking panorama of the Iao Needle, and then it passes through the ethnobotanical garden.
  • Camping is not permitted within the park; campers can visit a couple of adjacent campsites to enjoy Maui’s distinctive natural settings. This is a great opportunity to unwind and witness the beauty of the place. 
  • You can go to Camp Olowalu, it is a privately owned solar-powered campground located right off Honoapiilani Highway. There is also Papalaua Wayside Park, it is one of the island’s most conveniently accessible campgrounds.

Fees 

Just like other spots in Hawaii, the Iao Valley also has its fees. The park is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. each and every day. Non-residents must pay $5 for walk-ins and $10 for automobiles, however citizens of Hawaii with a valid Hawaii ID are free. Toddlers are free of charge also. Be sure to check the official site for the latest hours and pricing.

Tips when visiting 

  • Parking area – Parking directly outside the gates and walking in will save you money.
  • Rain gears – Bring with you your raincoats and umbrellas. Also be prepared with your rain shoes. Because Iao Valley is noted for its rain and accompanying cloud cover, visiting earlier in the morning is more likely to get excellent views from the overlook.
  • Signages – Always read signages. Do not be ignorant when visiting other places that you’re not familiar with. 
  • Stops – You can always have stops along your trip for you to explore more the place. 
  • Comfort rooms – The restrooms are rarely open; however, they normally supply portable facilities when the permanent restrooms are unavailable.
  • Foods – You can also bring with your food and drinks. 
  • Insect repellant – Bring also some mosquito repellant to protect you from these insects that might irritate you. 
  • Be early – Go to the park early for you to experience the best view. 
  • Respect – Respect the place and the locals. 
  • Observe – Be observant of the beautiful surroundings. 

Wrapping it up

If you enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking trails, swimming, and chasing the best views, the Iao Valley State Monument is a must-visit. Surely, you’ll have a great time there. There’s also a lot of history here, so it’s an excellent educational visit to learn about the Battle of Kepaniwai.  

It’s a child friendly place since is offers short hiking trails. It will not be exhausting for them to have a short walk and enjoy the view while learning about some history of the Battle of Kepaniwai. Just be sure to arrive early so that you have enough time to explore the place. 

Weather is unpredictable so it is also advised to be prepared especially if you have your kids with you. During the afternoon, clouds tend to roll in. However, it is a pleasant hike at any time of day. Make sure also to capture every moment since there are few selfie worthy spots along the path to the top of Ian Needle.  Just remember to be careful and always show respect to the place and the locals.