When you land on Maui and are looking for some immediate exploration beyond Maui’s beautiful beaches, rent a car and drive to Iao Valley State Park (you might also want to stop by an ATM as the entrance fee is cash-only). The park is a great place to acclimate to Maui’s slower pace (and intermittent showers), and is a hot spot for casual tourists and locals to take in beautiful sights, meditate, and honor the history of the valley. In our opinion, there’s no better way to quickly connect with the land and start learning about Hawaiian culture and history.
The road to Iao Valley State Park is both winding and interesting. Keep your eyes open for exotic flora and a few roadside vendors en route. It’s also worth noting that there are a couple turnouts for trails and attractions along the way. Oh, and it’s a great idea to go the speed limit – the roads are gnarly.
Exploring Iao Valley State Park
On arrival, there are well marked paths that lead to the different areas of the Iao Valley State Park observation area. There are also information signs along that way that tell the story of the valley, and explain the historical significance of the area (for more info before you travel, check out the Battle of Kepaniwai).
For the more adventurous, there’s a less traveled path beyond the lower cement paths past the ‘do not enter’ sign. The path is easy to spot as it’s worn from frequent use. In-fact, when we were there, there were plenty of ‘trespassers’ making their way through the more rugged area. The attendant explained that the ‘right’ path is treacherous, as it leads straight up the mountain over wet muddy terrain (apparently barefoot is the best way to tackle the climb). The ‘left’ path weaves around dense vegetation parallel to the river / stream. After you spend time in the heat and humidity of the rainforest, take a second to relax near the sparkling clear mini falls before heading back to the parking lot.