Iao Valley State Park is located in central Maui, and is somewhere people of all ages can do a bit of hiking while enjoying stunning views. This magical landscape was a sacred place for the Hawaiians, and it’s easy to see why once you walk around. It was of such importance that the remains of many chiefs are hidden throughout the valley.
This 4,000 acre park is home to the famous Iao Needle – a 2,250 ft high peak that has a very distinct shape. The Hawaiian name for this peak is Kuka’emoku. It is an erosional remnant that is at the end of a ridge made up of a denser stone. The soft rock around the dense stone has been eroded away – leaving the Iao Needle. During wartime, the peak was often used as a lookout to spot incoming armies.
Due to its strategic location, the site is also where the historical Battle of Kepaniwai happened in 1790.
In the 1700’s King Kamehameha was on a mission to unite all of the Hawaiian islands. By 1790, Kamehameha’s war canoes landed on the shores of Maui. The Battle of Kepaniwai was said to be one of the bloodiest battles in Hawaiian history. In the end, the guns and cannons that Kamehameha’s side had proved to be too much for the Maui warriors.
Iao Needle Trail
The Iao Valley hike is an easy one that can be enjoyed by people of all skill levels. The trails are fully paved, and the total elevation change is only 133 steps. Even if you go very slowly it will only take about 30 minutes to get to the top.
Along the Iao Needle trail, there is a nice garden, a bridge with a great view of the Iao Needle, and also a lookout area at the top. Be sure to stop on the bridge to take a picture of the needle as it offers a fantastic panoramic view!
There are also stairs that will take you down to a stream where you can swim, or relax on a rock and dip your feet into the water.
Pro Tips for Visiting Iao Valley State Park
Don’t use the official parking lot. You will get charged an entry fee, and there is no guarantee that you will get a spot as the parking lot is really small. We recommend parking along the side of the road just before the payment booth. There should be plenty of space, and the payment booth is basically at the entrance of the parking lot.
Use the washroom in the parking lot before starting the hike. There aren’t any washrooms along the trail so make sure you use the facilities before you start the hike!
Plan on spending about an hour here. There isn’t a crazy amount of stuff to see so an hour should be plenty of time unless you’re also planning on swimming in the stream.