Iao Valley State Park on Maui, Hawaii

Located in Central Maui, just a few minutes west of the town of Wailuku, you'll find `Iao Valley State Park. This historic state park is home to the iconic `Iao Needle.

Park gates are open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. There is a $1 entrance fee for walk-ins and $5 for cars.

`Iao Valley State Park on Maui, Hawaii

`Iao Stream in `Iao Valley State Park

John Fischer

The First Visitors to the Valley

A thousand years ago, Hawaiians gathered at `Iao Valley to celebrate and honor the bounty of Lono, god of agriculture, during the annual makahiki festival. More than a hundred years ago visitors began coming to witness the natural beauty of this valley.

A Spiritual and Spectacular Place

Today `Iao Valley is recognized as a very special place for both its spiritual value and spectacular scenery. The trails in the park are paved, but may be slippery when wet. The trail is also steep in places, so visitors should take their time.

`Iao means "cloud supreme", the bank of clouds that often sits over the valley. These clouds bring the frequent rains that feed the streams in the valley. It is these waters that carved this spectacular landscape over the past 1.5 million years.

The Hawaiian god Kane is the procreator and the provider of the life giving elements. He is the patron of wai (fresh water) and is often associated with clouds, rain, streams and springs.

From the highest peak of of Pu`u Kukui to the shoreline of Kahului Bay, the ahupua`a (land division) of Wailuku was a favorite place of ali`i (chiefs) and a ruling center of Maui. `Iao Valley is part of this ahupua`a.

As one of Maui's most important political centers, many battles took place here. Wailuku translates as the "waters of destruction" referring to its history of battles and floods.

Part 2: The `Iao Needle (Kuka`emoku)

`Iao Needle

John Fischer

History of `Iao Valley

`Iao is so sacred that the remains of the highest chiefs were entrusted to secret hiding places in the valley. Kaka`e, ruler of Maui in the late 1400's to 1500's, is believed to have designated this valley as an ali`i burial area.

The presence of Pihanakalani, a large heiau (temple) near the shore and along the `Iao Stream, denotes the religious significance of `Iao.

`Iao Needle

Commonly called `Iao Needle, the traditional Hawaiian name for the 2,250 foot peak that dominates the valley is Kuka`emoku. This peak is known as the phallic stone of Kanaloa, Hawaiian god of the ocean.

During periods of warfare, the peak was used as a lookout by warriors. It was here that some Maui warriors retreated from the forces of Kamehameha I during the battle of Kepaniwai.

Kuka`emoku is an erosional remnant. It is at the end of a ridge comprised of a denser dike stone. The softer rock around the dike stone was eroded by streams and waterfalls.

It is rare to find `Iao Valley State Park bathed in sunshine, but that is precisely what we found when we visited the park.

Source: Material for this feature was obtained from informational posters located in `Iao Valley State Park.