Iao Valley State Park is situated 5km from the quiet town of Wailuku. This unartificial area on Maui island has a splendid history and of great beauty. This park is viewed as a National Natural Landmark for typical rainforest environment with a humid climate and frequent rainstorms.
Iao Valley is well-known for its incomparable beauty. In the past, this was the holy ground for royalty and warrior classes of Maui. Till today, it is still a top favorite among travelers. The valley is an etched caldera in the West Maui Mountains, an arena where four streams gather together. The main feature of the valley is a distinct rock formation called the Iao Needle, which is 360 meters high but not available for climbing. A track beside the needle leads to a botanical garden which was created by native Hawaiians before the European immigrants. The lower part of the valley is a great farm land for a big population even without the help of modern techniques. There is a wide floor, fertile soils and abundant supply of water from the streams. As a result, this place was the political and religious center in Maui history. At the stream outlet, you can find Haleki’i and Pihana, two large heiau platforms that remained in the area. The Haleki’i heiau was believed to be a compound for chiefs, which has ki’i statues as the guards. The other heiau is known as the gathering place of the ali’i with a luakini type. Those heiau in the upper part of Iao Valley were the most significant locations for ancient Hawaiians, as they were the places where the infamous human sacrifices were carried through to appease the gods.
In the 17th and 18th century, a series of warfare was taken place on Maui, originally between the local tribe, then between the forces of Oahu and Hawaii. The most fateful battle in Iao Valley’s history was the bloody battle between the Kahekili and King Kamehameha the Great in 1790. The overall strength of both sides was almost in equality, but Kamehameha had brought along a cannon named Lopaka. Because of the incomparable power of the cannon, Iao Valley became a slaughter yard for Kamehameha’s forces. The battle was called Ka-`uwa`u-pali (clawed off the cliff) and Kepaniwai (damming of the waters), became the dead bodies of Kahekili warriors had blocked the Iao Stream. The town Wailuku (meaning the bloody river) was named from the battle, too. As you are appreciating the natural beauty, don’t forget the bloody history.