Lush, natural surroundings, peace and quiet, and perhaps even a towering waterfall – how peaceful does that sound? If you’ve ever been to the Iao Valley on Maui, you know the peace that a place like we’ve described brings, and if you’re making a trip to the island and have never been to the Iao Valley, finding this location is not hard at all.
Located about 3 miles from Wailuku, the Iao Valley and Iao Valley State Monument is a dense rainforest that is a popular destination for vacationers to Maui. Featuring dense, lush vegetation and notable landmarks, the valley is a place that you just have to see. One of the most prominent sites within Iao Valley is the Pu’u Kukui Summit, towering more than a mile above sea level, this is one of the wettest spots in Hawaii, receiving an average of 386 inches of rain per year. Though you will not be able to get to that height, just the sight and the surroundings of the valley are incredible.
The history of Iao Valley is as deep as the streams that run through it. Former Hawaiian kings are believed to be buried here as the site was formerly only for Hawaiian royalty, and one of the bloodiest battles in Hawaiian history took place here, pitting King Kamehameha against Kalanikupule in the Battle of Kepaniwai. That battle, with King Kamehameha eventually claiming victory, brought the rule of Maui under the great King, eventually uniting the Hawaiian Island under one king. This battle was so bloody that bodies blocked the stream, creating a damn, and giving the battle site its name kepaniwai – or “the damning of waters” in Hawaiian.
Now, the valley is a much quieter place, where many go to retreat and enjoy the beautiful weather and views. The most prominent feature of the area is the Iao Needle, the peak of a 1200-foot mountain that has been eroded over millions of years and is viewable from the observation deck. It was designated as a National Historic Site in 1972.
Though you will not spend an entire day in Iao Valley, it is definitely worth visiting. You’ll be able to pull in, or take a tour, enjoy the lush valley and its natural beauty, and be on your way. A drive to the valley in the morning will have you back in plenty of time for another activity, perhaps your authentic Maui luau, and you will have seen one of the must see sites of the island.
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