Iao Valley

The Iao Valley is a one of the older Maui attractions dating back one thousand years and awash with tremendous spiritual significance. The people of Hawaii used the valley as a gathering point to honor the god of agriculture during one of the most prominent events and festivals in Hawaii history called Makahiki.

Not much more than a decade ago Iao Valley State Park became a known highlight of Maui. Visitors clamor to witness the striking natural beauty of the region. It's a great place for those wanting to trek less arduous Maui hiking trails and also attracts people due to its moniker Yosemite of the Pacific, bestowed upon the valley by Mark Twain himself.

The biggest curiosity of the deep Iao Maui valley is the more then 2,000 foot high Iao Needle, a spire protruding from the valley floor. The natural pinnacle is bordered by the Pu'i Kukui Crater walls and presides over the Iao stream. It was born from basalt which eventually formed a plant laden pillar of stone in the valley.

The network of trails in the Iao Maui offer well-maintained paths through dense, jungle landscape replete with coursing brooks and streams and natural pools flanked by exotic plants and colorful flowers. Many locals frequent the area and swim in the fresh streams, lunging from the bridge or rocks, catapulting themselves into the cool water. When the mist rises after a rainfall the Iao Valley is blanketed with a magical haze and an ethereal quality.

Upon arrival at the lookout at the apex of the ridge in the Iao valley, hikers are granted a terrific view of Kahului Harbor and valley. Cloud Supreme is the literal translation of the word Iao. The name refers to the often thickly cloud-veiled valley. It's these clouds that bring untiring rains to the region, feeding the streams that have sculpted the landscape for more than a million years.

Iao Valley State Park has a history not all visitors know about. It was once the location of some of the largest blood baths in Hawaii. Battles raged on until 1790 when King Kamehameha I annihilated the army of Maui in an attempt to unify the islands of Kauai, Oahu and Big Island with Maui. Another greatly important aspect is that Hawaiian royalty is buried throughout the valley therefore hiking on the valley floor is forbidden.

Visitors must stay on the established trails in Iao Maui. Along the Iao Maui trails there are plenty of signs and information boards providing in depth history of the area. There's no need to opt for any Maui tours as the area is easily explored without a guide. Inside the park there are restrooms and a parking lot but no drinking water so be sure to bring some along.

Iao Valley State Park is only a few miles from the town of Wailuku. Wailuku is a combination of a bustling government center and charming town interesting to explore for a few hours. There are unique shops and restaurants and many historical homes and old, wooden buildings. Maui beaches in the area include Waiehu Beach Park if you're up for a swim.

Bailey House, Ka'ahumanu Church, the Maui Tropical Plantation and the galleries and antique shops of Market Street offer many things to do in Wailuku. Those with an interest in Maui golfing can try the challenging Waiehu Municipal 18-hole golf course, originally built in 1929 and complete with beautiful ocean views.

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