Maui - Īao Valley State Park


Where? :  Central Maui, just west of Wailuku at the end of Iao Valley Rd.

Google Map Link


What? : Historic and state park, located at the deep gorge of the Iao river, home to iconic Iao rock needle, high mountain, standing wall cliffs covered with lush jungle vegetation.


Due note 1: The mountain above is the rainiest place in Maui, do expect to have rain showers during your visit. Usually there is less chance of rain at the morning hours so try to visit here early as you can.


Due note 2: Parking fee: $5.00/car.


Due note 3: If you are planning to hike the un-official trail bring walking shoes, this trail is muddy and flipflops are not recommended.

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My thoughts: I must admit the visit here was less rewarding than expected. Nice place to see the steep mountain cliff covered with jungle vegetation. Very short official trails (there is a “hidden” trail that is officially closed to the public, see below). Unlike many others I do not see this as a must visit location. Good place to visit if you want to have an 1 hr visit and you are nearby.



The visit:


As you are approaching Iao state park there is a Kepaniwai Park on your left. Not a lot more than picnic area, not sure it’s worth the stop.


The park is at the foothill of the Kahalawai mountain, an old extinct volcano that over the last million years eroded by water to create a deep river valley surrounded by steep mountain cliffs. The 1200-foot-tall Iao Needle is the remaining of a mountain ridge stand-alone from the main mountain body.


Iao Valley State Monument also has historical importance as the site of the battle of Kepaniwai where Hawaiian Kamehameha army defeated the Maui army in 1790 and as of result unified Hawaiian kingdom was created.


From the parking lot there is a short 0.6-mile paved pedestrian path leading to a Iao Needle viewpoint and the surrounding mountain ridges. After crossing the the bridge, you can take the rainforest walk near the river below or explore the small gardens.

Official park trails are very short. Not a whole lot to do for most hiker visitors after you’ve seen the main point of interest.


As said, this park does not offer a lot of things to do except the short-paved trail to the viewpoint and trail near the river below.


Waihee Ridge Trail:

There is an un-authorize “secret” trail that leads to an open viewpoint at the ridge above the park. Although this is clearly marked as closed area, many visitors are hiking this trail …. I must discourage you from attempting this hike.

This is 2.5 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail with 800f of elevation, plan for at list two-hour round-trip hike. The trail is probably not maintained by the park and can be very muddy in some sections (this is the rainiest place in Maui), other than that most of the trail except the last climb is in a good condition.

The trail starts right at the left side of the viewpoint at the end of the stairs, jump over the guard rail and follow the clear trail.

It is somewhat challenging trail steeply climbs the narrow ridge finding it way in the dense jungle vegetation. From the trail viewpoints along your hike you will enjoy the landscape of the valley below and surrounding mountains above.

Near it’s end, the trail becomes steeper and muddier where you need to scramble your way up. We finished our hike before this point and did not reach the end of the trail.


Take into consideration that in many days, especially in the afternoon, you can have low clouds and fog covering completely the landscape view, not to mention the rain they bring with them.

I must admit that hiking section of this trail was the most fun part of our visit at Iao park so without the hike this is just a short 30 min visit to the Iao Needle viewpoint.