Visiting the Sacred Iao Valley and Needle

International Travel, Musings, Nature, Photography

In the central Maui Mountains, just west of Wailuku, is the Sacred Iao Valley. In ancient Hawaii, this valley was a burial ground for royalty. Their bodies were buried in secret locations all over this valley.

It was here, where the Battle of Kepaniwai  was fought in 1790. Despite using the Iao Needle as a lookout point, Kalanikupule and Maui’s tribal army were defeated by Kamehameha the Great who was determined to unify the Hawaiian Islands. The history of the Hawaiian Islands was forever changed, in what was probably one of the bloodiest battles ever fought there. It is difficult to imagine that this really happened here, while hiking through this serene area.

To get there, the narrow and winding Iao Valley Road takes you through a deep valley of lush, dense rainforest with the Iao Stream rushing noisily along and enormous towering clouds often hiding the mountain tops.

The actual state park covers about 6 acres of beautiful scenery, but the valley is approximately 10 miles long. The tropical rainforest here receives around 386 inches of rain fall on average per year at its highest peak. Paved trails lead through different parts of the park: the Iao Needle Lookout Point, the ethnobotanical garden loop, and paths snaking through tropical forests and along the Iao Stream.


Even though there were quite a few visitors, it didn’t feel crowded. Most of the people seemed to only venture a few steps beyond the parking area. The view of the valley towards Wailuku and the “needle” from that area was certainly great, but venturing farther out was easy and so worth it! The main attraction, the “Iao Needle” looks like a moss-covered needle-like mountain, rising straight from the valley floor.  This needle rises 1200 feet straight up from the valley floor (2250 feet from sea level), and is taller than the Eiffel Tower! It is however, is an optical illusion! The needle is really a sharp ridge, which looks like a spire only when viewed end-on.

Illusion or not, this place is simply breathtaking! I explored all the trails and stopped to enjoy the sounds of the Iao Stream gurgling and cascading over boulders through this most enchanting park.

This park should be on everyones list when visiting the island of Maui!


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If you plan on visiting this park, come early! Parking spots are at a premium almost everywhere I went on the island. The entrance fee for a passenger vehicle was $5.00 and I was happy to pay it to help maintain this natural treasure!


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My passions in life are vegetarian cooking, gardening, photography, writing, good books, traveling and nature. Thanks for stopping by, Sabine

13 thoughts on “Visiting the Sacred Iao Valley and Needle”

  1. Z.D. McGee says:

    Like looking for a needle in a ….. jungle? I get the point. Nicely done.


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