Are you looking for the ultimate guide to Iao Valley State Park on Maui, Hawaii? This guide from a Hawaii local has everything you need to know!
After Haleakala, Iao Valley is one of the most iconic landmarks on the island of Maui. Most people think it’s a quick stop – and if you don’t know everything that there is to do there, it will be. In reality though, you can spend hours there. Read on to find out everything you need to know about Iao Valley.
What Is Iao Valley?
To most people, Iao Valley is simply a lush, unique landscape. Officially known as Iao Valley State Park, Iao Valley actually has a lot of historical significance in Hawaiian history.
In 1790, Iao Valley was the site of the Battle of Kepaniwai. Maui’s army used the Iao Needle as a lookout point to look for King Kamehameha I’s invading army. Despite this advantage, King Kamehameha I’s army won the battle, allowing him to eventually unite all of the Hawaiian Islands and create the Kingdom of Hawaii.
Where Is Iao Valley?
Iao Valley is located in the city of Wailuku on the West side of Maui, or about 40 minutes from Lahaina and 20 minutes from Kahului.
There is a designated parking lot for Iao Valley, which costs $5 per person and an additional $10 per car. If you are a Hawaii resident, everything is free!
When Is the Best Time to Go to Iao Valley?
The best time to go to Iao Valley depends on your preference. If your goal is to get the best picture of the Iao Needle, then you’ll want to go in the morning. That’s when it’s least likely to be overcast, so you can try to get some prime lighting.
If you’re looking for an activity that’ll give you a break from the sun, head over in the afternoon, because it’ll be nice and cloudy.
What Do I Need to Bring to Iao Valley?
Because of the vast variety of activities to do at Iao Valley, what you’ll need to bring will heavily depend on the activities that you plan on doing.
The one thing you will need regardless of what you do at Iao Valley is bug repellent. Mosquitos love the wet weather in the area, and, if you don’t take precautions, you’ll get quite a lot of bites. There are both traditional and natural bug spray options for you to choose from.
A camera is a close second for the most-necessary item for a trip to Iao Valley. You won’t be able to help but take dozens of pictures of this stunning natural landscape.
There is a river at Iao Valley, and if you plan on getting in as many locals do, you’ll want to bring a swimsuit. If you want to support a sustainable local business, I recommend purchasing one from Sundaze Bikinis.
Use the code BORDERS15 on the Sundaze Bikinis website to get 15% off your order!
And if that doesn’t suit your style, there are loads of other Hawaii swimwear brands — for men, women, and children — for you to check out instead.
If you choose to take the hiking route rather than the swimming route, you’ll want a pair of athletic shoes. Even if you are just walking around on the paved paths to see the views as most visitors do, you won’t want to be walking around in slippers (a.k.a. flip-flops). There is quite an incline, and you should be more focused on breathing properly than keeping your shoes on your feet.
Washable, Reusable Bag
When you get in your car, you won’t want your muddy shoes to make your car all muddy too! So to avoid that problem, bring a reusable, washable one bag (a plastic bag also works) with you! Then, you can stick your muddy shoes in that bag and not worry about them until your done with your day of adventuring.
Flip-Flops (A.K.A. Slippers)
Now that you’ve shoved your muddy athletic shoes into a plastic bag, you don’t want to be going around on the rest of the day’s adventures barefoot! So bring a pair of flip-flops to change into!
If you want to support an amazing local Hawaii business, you can buy a pair of Olukai slippers for your adventure.
As I mentioned previously, there is quite an incline if you choose to walk around the valley. So remember to stay hydrated! Bring some water in a sustainable reusable water bottle.
Hawaii ID (Or a Friend with One)
While the parking attendants don’t always check, bring your Hawaii ID to get the aforementioned free parking. (This unfortunately doesn’t extend to free admission for friends of those with a Hawaii ID.)
What Can I Do at Iao Valley State Park?
Check Out the Iao Needle
The most iconic part of Iao Valley is the 1,200-foot Iao Needle. This thin mountain peak points straight up into the air, unlike any other mountain in the world (or at least any mountain that I know of).
However, remember that steep incline that I keep bringing up? You’ll need to walk up this steep incline to get the best view of the Iao Needle. So strap on your athletic shoes and take it step by step!
Admire the Plants
Somehow, Iao Valley has managed to make a wonderful, protected habitat for some of Hawaii’s rare, beautiful, and tasty plants! It’s really should be caled the Iao Valley gardens!
During your visit, you’ll be able to see a miniature taro patch, which is traditionally used by the native Hawaiians to make a sticky purple pudding called poi. There are also trees growing tasty strawberry guavas and others growing the bright red ohia lehua blossoms, one of the rarest native Hawaiian plants.
Go on a Short Walk Towards the River
There are two parts of this walk towards the river. One before the bridge and one after the bridge. The part before the bridge is very small, but this is where you’ll see the aforementioned taro patch.
After the bridge, if you go on the downward slope rather than the upward slope, you’ll feel like you’re going on a miniature hike. Eventually, you’ll reach a part right next to the river. Take a minute to listen to the relaxing sound of water flowing by before you continue on your walk.
Jump into the River
When you enter Iao Valley, you’ll cross a bridge over a river pretty early on. If you look on the left side of the bridge, you’ll notice that there are two rather large rocks on the side of the river. That is a favorite local spot for some cliff jumping! To get there, take the downward sloping path before the bridge starts. If you’re lucky, you might even see some local kids having some fun jumping into the river too!
Find the “Secret” Trails
There are actually a couple of secret trails located within Iao Valley. If you continue to the top of the path to get the best view of the Iao Needle, you can hop a small fence and get to secret trail number one. But let’s just say that’s not the only one in the valley.
If you’re a little too worried about following secret trails through the Hawaiian forests, Banana Bungalow’s free Monday tour actually takes you on this secret hike.
Have you ever been to Iao Valley? Tell me about it in the comments!
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