Beautiful ‘Iao Valley
Just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Kahului and Wailuku is ‘Iao Valley, or as Mark Twain called it, “The Yosemite of the Pacific.” When you get out of your car at the top of the long winding road you’ll be struck by the crisp mountain air, so different from the warm humidity you left just moments ago. It often rains in this valley, but forge ahead: the beauty of the park is apparent even in cloudy weather.
Stand at the foot of the famed ‘Iao Needle. This geological phenomenon is a 2,250-foot basaltic core that remained after water washed away the weaker stones surrounding it. In fact, what you see of the West Maui Mountains are the remnants of erosion over millions of years. Both sides of Maui began as domed shield volcanoes. The ruggedness of the West Maui’s shows their 1-million-year age, older than Haleakala.
After touring the paths of the upper park, take time to visit Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens in the lower park, which honors the diverse cultures that have immigrated to Maui.
For hundreds of years, Hawaiian chiefs were laid to rest in secret burial sites along the walls of ‘Iao Valley. The last documented burial was in 1736. In 1790, a fierce battle was waged in the Valley. So many Maui warriors were killed that their bodies clogged the streambed, thus the name Kepaniwai, or Damming of the Waters.
While you’re in the Valley, take time to visit the Hawaii Nature Center. Located just above the Heritage Gardens, the Center is a non-profit, educational organization that features innovative, interactive exhibits that are designed to enhance awareness of Hawaii’s unique environment and culture.
The center also offers programs, such as family hiking adventures. Reservations are needed for these events.
To reach ‘Iao Valley, take West Main Street in Wailuku to the end of the road. For more information, visit hawaiinaturecenter.org.
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