Iao Valley

Īao Valley (Hawaiian: Ī-ao: "cloud supreme", pronounced similar to "EE-ow") is a lush, stream-cut valley in West Maui, Hawaiian Islands located 5 km (3 mi) west of Wailuku. Because of its natural beauty, it has become a popular tourist location.

Īao Valley State Monument

The state park is located on 6.2 acres (2.5 hectares) at the end of Īao Valley Road (Highway 32). The Īao Needle (Kūkaemoku) is a famous landmark in the state park, a vegetation-covered lava remnant rising some from the valley floor (365 m, or 2250 ft/685 m measured from sea level). The needle is surrounded by the cliffs of the dormant volcano, the West Maui Mountains. One can take a short trail (Īao Needle Lookout Trail and Ethnobotanical Loop) to a windy overlook. Park hours are from 7 am to 7 pm.


Īao Valley is considered to be the second wettest spot in the state, after Mount Waialeale on Kauai. The upper reaches of the valley and the surrounding Puu Kukui summit area of West Maui can receive more than 400 inches (more than 10,000 mm) per year, much of which ends up flowing into the Īao Stream. Trails in the State Park run alongside Īao Stream and through the forest, making it a nice place for a short hike, if you don't mind the chance of getting wet.


The Hawaiian god Kāne is considered to be the procreator and the provider of life. He is associated with wai (fresh water) as well as clouds, rain, streams and springs. Kanaloa, the Hawaiian god of the underworld, is represented by the phallic stone of the Īao Needle.

It was here that Kapawa, the king of Hawaii prior to Pili, was buried. During the late 15th century, Īao Valley was designated as an alii burial area by Kakae, the ruler of Maui. The remains of the chiefs were buried in secret hiding places in the valley. In 1790 the valley was the site of the Battle of Kepaniwai. It was the battle in which Kamehameha the Great defeated Kalanikūpule and the Maui army during his campaign to unify the islands. The battle was said to be so bloody that dead bodies blocked Īao Stream, and the battle site was named Kepaniwai ("damming of the waters").

Kepaniwai Park's Heritage Gardens

Since 1952, Kepaniwai Park's Heritage Gardens have memorialized the multicultural history of Maui. Scale models of ethnic buildings and gardens representing the immigration of Hawaiian, American missionaries, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Korean, and Filipino cultures are the highlight of the park. The gardens were restored in 1994.


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