Iao Valley State Park

#10 in Best Things To Do in Maui
Iao Valley State Park picture
Wildroze/Getty Images

Key Info

End of Iao Valley Road

Price & Hours

$5 per vehicle
Hours vary seasonally

Details

Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
4.0scorecard
  • 4.5Value
  • 3.0Facilities
  • 4.5Atmosphere

Like Haleakala National Park, Iao Valley State Park offers visitors the chance to admire something other than the beach. This 4,000-acre, 10-mile-long park in Central Maui boasts a verdant landscape and striking rock features  the most famous of which is the Iao Needle. Rising roughly 1,200 feet into the air, the Iao Needle (known in Hawaiian as "Kukaemoku") was formed by erosion and is now dressed in the island's tropical foliage, leading it to appear green. In addition to the stunning landscape, Iao Valley visitors will be exposed to the park's legendary history: It was here that Maui's tribal army lost to the forces of King Kamehameha I during the Battle of Kepaniwai in 1790. It was the victory at this battle that allowed King Kamehameha to unite the entire Hawaiian archipelago under his rule.

Iao Valley State Park features numerous hiking trails, many of them leading to or offering excellent views of the Iao Needle. The most popular path is the 0.6-mile Iao Needle Lookout Trail and Ethnobotanical Loop, a paved walkway that leads straight to the iconic rock formation and through a botanical garden. Even if you don't plan on exploring beyond the Iao Needle Lookout Trail, travelers recommend bringing plenty of water; although the park has restrooms (located at the beginning of the Lookout Trail), there is no drinking water or other refreshments offered on the grounds.

From Oct. 1 to March 31, the Iao Valley State Park is open from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; from April 1 to Sept. 30 it welcomes visitors from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. You can access the park from Highway 32. There is a $5 parking fee (though Hawaiian residents can leave their cars for free). For more information on the park, check the Division of State Parks website.

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#1 Road to Hana

To find excellent views of Maui's beautiful coastline, all you need to do is drive. The Road to Hana is a scenic highway (Highway 360) that twists through the lush rainforest and past the cascading waterfalls that line the island's eastern shore. Most people start their trip in Kahului (home to Maui's main airport) with the intention of motoring 55 miles to Hana. The trip isn't always easy: The route often surprises unfamiliar drivers with hairpin turns. But those who decide to step on the gas aren't sorry they did. Despite all the hype and mental preparation, travelers are regularly surprised by the drive's beauty.

The Road to Hana might seem short, but traveling it will most likely take all day given the number of scenic lookouts and other places to stop. Those who have driven the Road to Hana highly recommend taking your time and stopping as often as possible. Reviewers also recommend starting your drive early in the morning, as the road grows congested as the day progresses. If you'd rather let someone else do the driving, there are several tour companies that offer tours in luxury vans, including Valley Isle Excursions and Temptation Tours. Though pricier than driving yourself, taking a tour allows you to focus on the incredible scenery while someone else focuses on navigating the winding curves.

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