“A short scenic tour of the historic Iao Needle, waterfalls, and a lovely stream.”
— Megan W
This popular spot offers a lot of varied things to see in a very compact geographic area, so be prepared to share it with others. The trail is pretty mild and do-able for most folks willing to climb a handful of stairs.
Features: River/Creek — Views — Waterfall
Need to Know
$5 fee for extremely limited parking. Come early (before 10am) or prepare to wait. Paved, but can become slippery in the rain/fog. Folks often wade in the stream, but swimming is not recommended- it is very rocky with swift water. Flash floods can occur here.
Very crowded with tourists. Not a great run.
This short trail is tucked at the bottom of a lush green valley hemmed in with towering sharp ridges. The end of one of these ridges forms the Iao Needle, a striking pinnacle that gives its name to this area. The needle is said to represent Kanaloa, the Hawaiian God of the Ocean.
From the parking lot, head uphill past the restrooms. Soon you'll cross a bridge and be presented with some of the best views of Iao Needle. Wait your turn to take the obligatory photo. Continue along the trail, taking the right-hand fork towards the Iao Overlook. A series of mini-steps twist uphill to a small viewing shelter and some interpretive signs which explain the fascinating history of this valley. Retrace your (tiny) steps back to the trail split but instead of going back to the parking lot, keep right and go down the (normal sized) stairs into the jungle and towards the rushing stream.
The trail reaches stream level and cruises under thick tropical foliage. This pleasant area has rock outcrops if you'd like to linger. There are also places where you can gingerly pick your way down to the water itself. Back on the trail, follow the handrails and steps uphill for a short ways along the thrashing Kinihapai Stream. The valleys forming the headwaters of these streams are the second wettest in Maui! Rejoin the trail at the western end of the bridge and then head back to the parking lot to complete this worthwhile loop.
If you're curious: Another (extra credit) short path winds through a garden of native Hawaiian plants below the bridge on the way back to the parking lot.
History & Background
Ancient Hawaiians celebrated agricultural festivals here and the area still has special spiritual significance. The root vegetable taro was grown in this area to sustain the large population base on Maui. In 1790, an important battle was fought in this valley by Kamehameha in his efforts to unite all the Hawaiian Islands under his rule. The fight was so brutal it was named "the damming of the waters" because the profusion of dead bodies were said to have blocked the stream. Warriors used the peak as a lookout.