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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Getting to Know Hawaii: 'Iao Needle


The Need to Knows:
  • The 'Iao Needle is located within the 'Iao Valley State Park at the end of 'Iao Valley Road in Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii.  Its exact location is here:
  • The park is open from 7AM to 7PM daily.
  • There is a fee to enter here, which is $1 for each walker, $5 for each car, and free for kama'aina.
  • There is a 0.6 mile long paved path from the parking lot to a ridge top lookout with signage along the way describing some of the plant types and historical background.  However, since there are numerous steps, I wouldn't describe it as stroller-friendly.
  • If you plan on doing any hiking or light exploration off the beaten path, I would definitely recommend sturdy shoes, especially if it's been raining, and bug spray since this is a wooded area.  
  • If you stay on the paved path, I'd budget maybe one hour or so here.  It's short and there isn't too terribly much to see.  But if you opt to wander around and even hike, give yourself a couple of hours (or more) to fully digest the grounds.
  • I also recommend going first thing in the morning (we arrived at about 8, I think).  This way, you can at least attempt to beat the clouds before they begin hovering over the West Maui Volcano and blocking your views!




When Mr. L and I visited Maui last month, we had to scramble a little to change our plans.  You see, we were traveling right smack dab in the middle of the government shutdown and many of the things we'd planned to do involved Haleakala National Park, which was obviously closed.  Fortunately for us, Maui is awesome with or without the national park (albeit more awesome with it!) and we were able to find other things to do to fill our time, like visiting the 'Iao Needle.



The 'Iao Needle is a pretty famous landmark on Maui nestled on the side of the West Maui Volcano, close to Kahului.  It's Hawaiian name is Kuka'emoku and it stands at around 1,200 feet tall.  It may look like a pointed mountain, but it is in fact actually the back of a ridge extending off the volcano.  Also, another fun fact: it's considered to be the phallic stone of Kanaloa, the Hawaiian god of the ocean.  Interesting, huh??  Haha :)

A traditional Hawaiian building with the Needle in the background
Traditional Hawaiian offering we found at the start of one of the trails
I personally liken visiting the 'Iao Needle to visiting Waimea Valley, a place on Oahu I wrote about a while back.  Seeing the 'Iao Needle and the grounds and trails around it is a relatively relaxing experience.  You're definitely not getting some thrilling adventure here, but if you're into nature, beauty, and possibly even a bit of exercise, I would recommend you check it out, especially if you're already doing something over in this area -- for example, Mr. L and I took the opportunity to combine visiting the Needle with a trip to the Maui Ocean Center on the same day.

Some of the stunning mountain views
Collection of the many sights we saw along the path
There are four general areas along the path -- a lovely little garden featuring Hawaiian plants like taro, a bridge facing the Needle, the lookout, and the stream.  Mr. L and I probably spent close to an hour and a half or two hours enjoying ourselves.  We stayed on the main path for a little while and then explored some of the trails.  The stream that runs nearby is very pretty and I definitely recommend you walk over, sit down on a stone, and just soak in the beauty.

Don't be fooled, that water was CHILLY!
One of my attempts at long exposure photography!
Hiking trail
Overall Mr. L and I both enjoyed visiting the 'Iao Valley State Park and the Needle.  It was a great last minute addition to our itinerary and a great, low key way to spend one of our mornings!

View of the parking lot and valley below
Do you have any favorite relaxing gardens or outdoor areas near you?

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