Surrounded by the walls of Puu Kukui Crater, Iao Valley is a great place to hike near the Iao Stream with its natural pools surrounded by tropical plants.
Hawaii Nature Center
The Hawaii Nature Center offers educational programs and hikes. Open daily from 10 to 4, the Nature Center (located within Iao Valley) features an Interactive Nature Museum with more than 30 hands-on exhibits about Hawaii’s plants, animals and natural history. A lookout atop the ridge has great views of the valley as well as Kahului Harbor.
The 1,200-foot-tall Iao Needle stands at an elevation of 2,250 feet above sea level. Iao means “Cloud Supreme,” and ancient rituals were practiced at this prominent rock pinnacle in the sacred valley that was also the burial place of chiefs.
King Kamehameha won a famous battle in 1790 leading to the ruler’s ability to unite all of the Hawaiian Islands under a single ruler. The battle of Kamehameha’s forces against the Maui army began in Wailuku and proceeded deep into Iao Valley where the Maui army was prevented from escaping by the steep valley walls and a cliff at the head of the valley. Dead warriors from both sides were said to be so numerous they blocked the river and gave the battle its name, Battle of Kepaniwai (“The Water Dam”). Kamehameha was victorious and Maui came under his rule.
Directions to Iao Valley State Park: Follow Kaahumanu Road (Hwy. 32) west from Wailuku where it turns into Hwy. 320 leading directly to the park.