The Best Things to See at Iao Valley State Park

Featuring 4,000 acres of tropical rainforests, flowing waterfalls, and looming mountain peaks, the Iao Valley (ʻĪao Valley) in Maui, Hawaii, is one of the most breathtaking and sacred places on the island. Once the site of various battles, burials, and other historic events, the Iao Valley is now a National Natural Landmark and is a popular destination for visitors from all over the world. Just a 10-minute drive from the Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono, guests can enjoy an afternoon of hiking, sightseeing, exploring, and more at Iao Valley State Park.

History of the Iao Valley

As one of Maui’s most important political centers, the town of Wailuku was once home to many battles, including the renowned Battle of Kepaniwai in 1790. It was in the Iao Valley that King Kamehameha I defeated the Maui army in his quest to unite the islands and changed the course of Hawaii’s history forever. After the battle was over, the streams of Iao were said to have been red with blood and blocked by bodies, which inspired the name Kepaniwai, or “the damming of the waters.” Today, the Iao Valley is a peaceful, serene destination where visitors can learn about Hawaii’s history and explore a variety of attractions and facilities. Here are some of our favorites.

The Iao Valley Needle

Rising 1,200 feet from the valley floor, the Iao Needle (Kūkae-moku) is one of Maui’s most iconic landmarks. This lava remnant is taller than the Eiffel Tower and was once used as a lookout for Maui warriors during periods of warfare. Today, visitors can take a short hike on the Iao Needle Lookout Trail and climb 133 steps to the top for a stunning panorama of the Iao Valley and Wailuku. Because the needle is sometimes covered in clouds, we suggest heading out early in the day for the best views.

Hawaii Nature Center

Since its establishment in 1981, the Hawaii Nature Center has worked to educate visitors about the importance of appreciating and preserving the environment and has locations on Oahu as well as the Iao Valley. Here, guests can enjoy a wide variety of interactive exhibits and programs including weekend activities, nature excursions, rainforest walks, and environmental restoration projects that focus on connecting with the natural beauty of Hawaii.

Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens

Also located within Iao Valley State Park are the Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens, a beautiful collection of memorial gardens and displays that celebrate the different cultures who played a role in Hawaii’s history. Guests can enjoy strolling among waterfalls and ponds fed by the Iao stream and view traditional homes of people who came from Portugal, China, New England, Japan, and the Philippines.

Come Home to the Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono!

When planning your trip to the Iao Valley, be sure to book your stay at our Maui bed and breakfast! Our beautiful rooms and suites is the perfect place to relax after a day of exploring, and a delicious homemade breakfast the next morning will leave you feeling refreshed and ready for another fun day ahead. We can’t wait to hear about what you discover in Iao!

Photo Credit: HideAnna | Thinkstock