Iao Valley State Park is one of the wettest places on earth. It’s fascinating to drive into the valley to see the landscape change from drier parts of the island, and it makes you wonder just what dictates the weather patterns in Hawaii.
The moisture in the valley gives rise to life. It’s verdant, lush and tropical; a snapshot of your dream Hawaiian landscape. And inside the park, you’ll find one of Maui’s most iconic features -- the Iao Needle.
Get your camera ready. You’ll find the park easy accessible, and a well-paved pathway will lead you from the parking lot at the visitor’s center to the needle lookout point. You’ll be gazing upon the main attraction in no time.
The needle looks like it crawled out of the movie “Avatar.” It’s a massive 1,200-foot spire that is covered in greenery, and the moisture in the valley will likely cloak the spire in mist to add to the visual drama. It looks like a guard tower looking after the safety of the valley below.
And that’s exactly how ancient Hawaiian’s used the needle. In fact, the lookout was used during a great battle back in 1790. The revered King Kamehameha I entered the Iao Valley with his troops in an effort to unite the islands. The local Maui forces saw the hoard coming from the top of the needle, and an epic battle ensued. King Kamehameha was victorious, and the battle helped shape the history of Hawaii as we know it today. And Hawaiian history is American history. After all, these eight islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean are America’s 50th state.
You’ll find an interesting little visitor’s center in the valley that offers up bathroom facilities, but you won’t find much else in the Iao Valley. Hiking trails here are limited because local authorities like to limit tread in this sacred place. You won’t spend much time here in Iao Valley, but you also won’t forget the needle anytime soon.