Holiday in Hawaii #7
The rugged West Maui Mountains form a dramatic backdrop to the never-ending beaches and tropical gardens of Maui.
To get a closer view of the grandeur of the mountains, we venture inland to ʻIao Valley State Park, where ʻIao Stream has carved a deep valley between the densely forested slopes.
Most people come to the park to see Kuka‘emoku, a volcanic ridge which ends in a sharp bluff rising 370 metres from the valley floor. Also known as ʻIao Needle, this volcanic formation, sacred to Hawaiians, is best viewed from a lookout at the end of a 300 metre walking track.
We begin our ascent to the lookout up a staircase cut into the mountainside before crossing ʻIao Stream. Icy water tumbles down the steep slope over large volcanic boulders and, although there are signs warning of the dangers of flash floods, daring swimmers try their luck.
We continue upwards, stopping along the way to read about the historic Battle of Kepaniwai, which took place here in 1790 when the invading forces of King Kamehameha I defeated the army of Maui.
ʻIao Needle and the surrounding mountain peaks are often enveloped by cloud; ʻIao means “cloud supreme” in Hawaiian. Today is no exception; when we reach the lookout the needle is clear while the mountains are obscured. But as we admire the scenery the cloud lifts, and we have a perfect view of the needle and the mountains set against the deepening blue of the afternoon sky.
On our return journey, a detour off the main path leads us on a circuit into the rainforest, along the bank of ʻIao stream and up the side of the mountain again. Looking down we spot the bright orange flowers of African Tulip Trees high in the canopy.
Another detour takes us further down the valley to the Ethnobotanical Garden, featuring plants brought by the native Hawaiians when they first settled these islands. Just as they would have been 1700 years ago, banana trees and taro plants are watered by ʻIao Stream.
It’s the heart of the valley, giving life and creating the spectacular scenery we’ve enjoyed on our walk today.
ʻIao Valley State Park is open daily. Entry costs $1 for walk-ins and $5 per car. There is no fee for Hawaiian residents.