Deep in the heart of a Jurassic Park-like jungle, you will find the 2,250 foot ‘Iao Needle, famous for gracing postcards all over Maui. On Mondays, you will also find a roaming pack of Banana Bungalow travelers enjoying their free hiking tour to the valley. Unfortunately, the timing didn’t work out for me to join the Bungalow’s tour, but luckily a few of the staff offered to join me on their day off. After hitchhiking the short distance from Wailuku to the entrance of the park, we were off.
‘Iao Valley, like so many tourist-famous sites on the islands, is sacred to Hawaiians. In historic periods of warfare, the high peak of the ‘Iao Needle was used as a lookout by warriors while battles waged in the valleys below. Today, tourists roam the looped trails that travel between viewpoints, short stretches of jungle, and the babbling ‘Iao Valley stream.
We had a different destination in mind. At the top of the cement path, we slipped under a guard rail and passed a sign warning us not to stray beyond paved trails and set off along a narrow dirt path. Soon, we were in a beautiful, untouched jungle, far from the camera-toting crowds. Had it not been for the good old Banana Bungalow crew, I would never have known this path existed.
As I couldn’t find reference to this trail in any guidebooks or anywhere online, I can only guess as to the distance or the incline. I know that it took us, a group of four fairly-fit twenty-somethings, about two hours round trip. Along the way I paused frequently to catch my breath, a move I disguised by taking photos of unusual flowers, fruit, and leaf-wrapped stones — a traditional offering.
Soon, we reached the end of the line — literally. Short of scaling down the sides of the ridge into the valley, we could go no further. So we sat and rested, soaking up the beautiful vistas and the good company.
Eventually we started our descent, this time meeting a few other intrepid hikers along the way. Through the valley we could see all the way to Wailuku and down through to the ocean.
Back in paved civilization, we cooled off in the chilly ‘Iao Valley Stream. Well, I cooled my feet — it doesn’t matter if I’ve just spent the last few hours hiking, I don’t like swimming in freezing water! I’m what divers call a warm water wussy, through and through.
Every visitor to Maui should make a scenic stop at ‘Iao Valley. Even on a cloudy day, it was clearly one of the most beautiful spots in Maui’s lush interior. And if you’re feeling brave, try to find the hidden path — it’s back there somewhere! Or even better, check into the in time for Monday’s free tour!
Anyone else try to find secret path’s while hiking? Where was your favorite?