Iao Valley

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Iao Valley
ʻĪao Valley
Mountainside seen from within Iao Valley
ʻĪao Valley is located in Maui
ʻĪao Valley
ʻĪao Valley
ʻĪao Valley is located in Hawaii
ʻĪao Valley
ʻĪao Valley
ʻĪao Valley (Hawaii)
Floor elevation1,000 feet (300 m)
Coordinates20°52′51″N 156°32′42″W / 20.88083°N 156.54500°W / 20.88083; -156.54500Coordinates: 20°52′51″N 156°32′42″W / 20.88083°N 156.54500°W / 20.88083; -156.54500

Iao Valley (Hawaiian: ʻĪao: "cloud supreme", pronounced similar to "EE-yow") is a lush, stream-cut valley in West Maui, Hawaii, located 3.1 miles (5 km) west of Wailuku. Because of its natural environment and history, it has become a tourist location. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1972.[1]

Iao Valley State Monument[edit]

Photo of vegetation-covered lava promontory
The Iao Needle. Rising 1,200 ft (370 m) from the valley floor, it is taller than the Eiffel Tower.

The state park is located on 6.2 acres (2.5 ha) at the end of Iao Valley Road (Highway 32). The Iao Needle (Kūkaemoku), a landmark in the state park, is a vegetation-covered lava remnant rising 1,200 feet (370 m) from the valley floor or 2,250 feet (690 m) above sea level. The "needle" is a sharp ridge that gives the appearance of being a spire when viewed end-on.[2] The needle is an extension of and surrounded by the cliffs of the West Maui Mountains, an extinct volcano. There is a short trail (Iao Needle Lookout Trail and Ethnobotanical Loop) to a windy overlook.[3]


Iao Valley is covered in dense rainforest, most of which consists of introduced vegetation on the valley floor. The Puʻu Kukui summit area at the valley's head receives an average 386 inches (9.8 m) of rainfall per year,[4] making it the state's second wettest location after The Big Bog, slightly wetter than Mount Waiʻaleʻale.[5] Much of this rainfall ends up flowing into the Iao Stream. Trails in the State Park run alongside Iao Stream and through the forest.

Above the Iao valley is a native cloud forest of 'Ohia and Koa. This forest is home to many native species including 'I’iwi, 'Apapane, And 'Amakihi.


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 Iao Needle.

Kapawa, the king of Hawaiʻi prior to Pili, was buried here. Maui's ruler Kakaʻe, in the late 15th century, designated Iao Valley as an aliʻi burial ground. The remains were buried in secret places. In 1790, the Battle of Kepaniwai took place there, 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 Iao Stream, and the battle site was named Kepaniwai ("the damming of the waters").

Kepaniwai Park and Heritage Gardens[edit]

Established in 1952, the Heritage Gardens in Kepaniwai Park recognize the multicultural history of Maui. Tributes and structures celebrate the contributions of Hawaiian, American missionary, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Korean, and Filipino cultures. The gardens had become overgrown and were restored in 1994.[6] The Hawaii nature center, just outside the gardens, has a museum and children's education about Hawaii and conservation.[7]


  1. ^ "I'ao Valley". National Natural Landmark. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2011-10-16. Retrieved 12 December 2012.
  2. ^ "The trail of the Ancients - the Iao Needle effect". Waialeale Base Camp. Archived from the original on 2013-05-15. Retrieved 2012-10-30.
  3. ^ "Iao Valley State Monument". Hawaii State Parks; Maui. Department of Land and Natural Resources. Archived from the original on 2009-05-24. Retrieved 2009-03-14.
  4. ^ "NOAA Hawaiʻi rain gauge summary". Pacific Islands Water Science Center. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2009-02-20.
  5. ^ "May 2010 Precipitation Summary". National Weather Service Forecast Office Honolulu, HI. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. June 7, 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-15. Most of the gages in Maui County had below normal totals for 2010 through the end of May. Puu Kukui’s 99.90 inches (57 percent of normal) led all totals county wide and ranked second highest in the state.
  6. ^ Kepler, Angela Kay (2007). West Maui: A Natural History Guide (1st ed.). Mutual Publishing. ISBN 1-56647-823-5.
  7. ^ "Hawaii Nature Center". Retrieved April 12, 2013.

Further reading[edit]