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.
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.
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").
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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