If you’re a hiking enthusiast, your Maui experience should include the trails of ʻĪao Valley.
This centrally located valley just outside of Maui’s Wailuku town offers a chance to be completely submerged in nature. Upon entering the ʻĪao Valley State Monument Park, the ʻĪao Needle or Kuka’emoku towers overhead at 1,200 ft. as an ambitious destination. But don’t let its grandeur intimidate you. Visiting hikers can enjoy a variety of trails accessible to all skill levels.
Whether you choose to hike the short Nature Loop Trail or take a mile-long walk by the ʻĪao Stream, make sure to pause and enjoy the scenery. The trees and plants along each trail contain unique functions. Some are edible while many are medicinal. Expect to see everything from coffee and lilikoi (passion fruit) to exotic tropical flowers. And if it’s a hot day, take a dip in the nearby river. The stream water is refreshing and a perfect place to float while reflecting on life as you take in the massive beauty of this valley.
While there’s no denying the extraordinary appeal of ʻĪao’s rustic landscape, the area’s significance in Hawaiian history makes this place ever more captivating. ʻĪao Valley is most famously known as the location of an epic battle, where King Kamehameha I defeated the Maui army in his continued effort to unify the islands. This battle was so intense the site was named Kepaniwai (the damming of the waters), referencing the bloodshed that resulted from the historic fight. While this battle is often associated with ‘Īao, the valley also served as a location of peace during the annual Makahiki season. Every year, Hawaiians would gather at ʻĪao to celebrate Makahiki, a time of peace, fun and games. It was a time to celebrate their deity Lono, the god of agriculture, and enjoy a life of peace and abundance. And, most importantly, ʻĪao Valley is home to ancient burial grounds for Hawaiian ali’i (chiefs). Remember to be respectful when walking and adventuring in the park.
Preparing for your hike:
1. Expect to be walking in water and on wet rocks. So be prepared by wearing proper shoes and being cautious.
2. Be on the lookout for lilikoi, also known as passion fruit. You’ll find them hanging from trees and they are delicious!
3. If you bring snacks, remember always to leave no trace. No littering!
4. Keep track of time. Remember how long you hiked in? You’ve got to hike the same distance back.
5. Visit The Hawaii Nature Center and stop by the Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens. The nature center provides guided walks and is home to an interactive museum. Both areas are great for families and children.