Feel the Mana at ‘Iao ValleyMaui
Hawaiians use the word mana to describe all manner of divine power. There are places on Maui where a sense of mana is almost tangible. ‘Iao Valley is one of them.
This 10-acre park, four miles west of Wailuku, is crowned by an ancient 2,250-foot rock pinnacle and defined by the events of its storied history. Known as an important political center in ancient Hawai‘i, it was the site of many battles, and the bones of hundreds of warriors were scattered here. For hundreds of years, Hawaiian chiefs were laid to rest in secret burial sites along the walls of the valley.
One of the most important battles of Maui’s history was fought here. In 1790, King Kamehameha I conquered Maui’s warriors in a fierce battle that resulted in the eventual unification of the Hawaiian Islands. It is said that when this battle was over, the ‘Iao streambed was littered with the bodies of fallen warriors.
Ancient Hawaiians named this valley ‘Iao (Supreme Light) in honor of the god Io, and people came to the site to pay tribute to this important deity. The strange rock pillar that rises outof ‘Iao Stream, and is now called ‘Iao Needle, was once used as a natural altar. Swathed in green, it stands in the shadow of Pu‘u Kukui Mountain, which is the highest peak of West Maui.
‘Iao Needle has survived millions of years of erosion and remains the focal point of this lush, green valley.
A popular tourist destination, ‘Iao Valley is just a short drive from Kahului and Wailuku in central Maui. It’s a great place to take a leisurely hike and the ridge-top lookout offers a fantastic view of the valley and Kahului Harbor. To get a good look at the pinnacle, follow the paved pathway along the stream leading from the parking lot.
The park also features Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens, which honors the diverse cultures that have immigrated to Maui, and Hawai‘i Nature Center, an interactive educational center located just above the Heritage Gardens.
To reach ‘Iao Valley, take Highway 32 (Ka‘ahumanu Road) four miles west of Wailuku to the end of ‘Iao Valley Road (Highway 320). Or be mindful of the environment; book a ride with a tour bus company and save gas.