By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 11/15/2019
Posted: 5/18/2011
Topics/Keywords: #WestMaui #IaoValley #Maui Page Views: 1307
Jason and I spend our final full vacation day exploring West Maui.

The island of Maui is shaped like a dumbbell. The larger, eastern half is formed from the volcano Haleakala. The smaller, western half is an eroded, ancient volcano. I had never been to the western half of Maui (except for Papalaua Park, where we spent last night). Now, on this, Jason's and my final full day on Maui, we determined to visit Iao Valley State Park.

We awoke to find we had Papalaua to ourselves, as far as we could see.

The camper at Papalaua Park.

I got up to go to the bathroom and, when I returned, I found Jason was still asleep.

The Angel Jason asleep in the camper.

Soon he stirred too and we closed up the camper and headed for a simple, fast food breakfast. We had a lot to see, and didn't want to have to rush any of it.

From the coast of West Maui.

We were following a guide book, and came upon an idea snorkeling spot, if we'd had any actual snorkeling gear. The water was as clear as crystal, and the lava reef was surely teeming with fish.

A snorkeling spot on West Maui.

A little further on, we got an awesome view of a sea arch, a natural formation in which lava has been eroded by the waves and time to form a bridge.

A sea arch on West Maui.

As on East Maui, we took some photos from the camper; for others, we parked and hiked short distances.

Jason in West Maui.

West Maui has some amazing sea cliffs.

Sea cliffs on West Maui. Warning: Hazardous Cliff

Jason and I had noticed with some amusement that Maui seemed laden with warning signs, all predicting dire straits if unheeded. I started taking pictures of them for this blog.

My leg was continuing to improve, day by day, as the exercise of our short hikes helped me to regain my strength. After all, I'd lain in a hospital bed for nearly three months.

And, thanks to the guide book thoughtfully included in our camper, we knew where the trails were and how challenging they were likely to be. Obviously, I intended to take it easy so as not to injure myself or become a burden to Jason. But there were a number of short, level trails that led to spectacular views, and we walked many of them.

One led past some enormous plants. Note Jason's relative size as he stands in front of them.

Jason in front of some really big plants.

As we drove along Highway 340, we began to notice a huge, triangular-shaped formation that grew and grew as we approached. It's called Kahakuloa Head for no adequately explored reason.

Kahakuloa Head in West Maui.

Shortly beyond Kahakuloa Head we came upon the remote Old Kahakuloa Village, which was preceded by signs advertising "Julie's Banana Bread" which claimed to be the "Best On The Planet!". So, of course, we had to stop there. Julie, as well as the other folks in the village, raise their own crops, for themselves and their roadside stands.

Old Kahakuloa Village.

In addition to Julie's Banana Bread (which was the best on the planet, as far as I know), we got some toasted coconut candy. Neither Jason nor I were coconut fans, except for Haupia Ice Cream; but now we had to add this candied coconut to our list, as it was unbelievably tasty. We had planned to bring some home but the container was empty before the day was out.

So, finally, having circumnavigated West Maui, we entered the Iao Valley State Park, a place I'd wanted to see since my first visit. Iao (pronounced "EE-ow") is a lush, stream-cut valley, best known for its singular, 1200-foot-high Iao Needle. Despite its height it looks short because everything around it is even higher.

Iao Needle

The park is filled with natural, brightly-colored vegetation.

An Hawaiian Bird-of-Paradise. Danger: Falling Rocks

And, of course, there were the continued reminders that we were in deadly danger.

The park is not large but is crisscrossed with paved walking trails. Iao Valley is covered in dense rainforest, most of which consists of introduced vegetation on the valley floor. The Puʻu Kukui summit area at the valley's head receives an average 386 inches of rainfall per year, making it the state's second wettest location after Mount Waiʻaleʻale on Kauai. Much of this rainfall ends up flowing into the Iao Stream. Trails in the state park run alongside Iao Stream and through the forest.

We found clouds building up overhead; Iao Valley is usually thus shrouded so we weren't surprised. And, indeed, they just made the skies more dramatic.

Iao Valley. Jason and Paul (your blogger) in Iao Valley.

There was a long staircase leading to a lookout. I took a deep breath and attempted it…and got to the top! It was long but not really that steep and I took frequent stops to catch my breath.

The Iao Needle is a lava remnant of the extinct volcano now called the West Maui Mountains. This volcano is so ancient and so eroded that it doesn't look much like a volcano anymore. Yet, what is left of it comprises almost half of Maui.

The Iao Valley and even the Iao Needle can be seen from a great distance away if you happen to be along a narrow viewpoint that allows one to look into it. So, from the lookout, we could see (and photograph) the Maui isthmus.

View of Maui from Iao Valley. Warning: Flash Floods!

After resting a bit, we continued down the stairs to check out the lower reaches of the park. That's where the streams are located; so of course there was the requisite dire warning.

Interestingly, there was no warning such as, "Warning: Steep Steps! Take it easy, walking steep steps can result in heart attack or falling, serious injury, or death."

Steep steps in Iao Valley State Park.

The bottom of the valley was lush, cool (appreciated as the day was warming up) and riddled with streams rushing down from the heights.

Jason contemplating a stream in Iao Valley. Jason jumping rocks in Iao Valley.

At my encouragement, Jason jumped from rock to rock for both of us.

Iao Valley State Park turned out to be a bit of a surprise to me. I had expected a busy, touristy place and, to be sure, Jason and I did not have the park to ourselves. However, it was big—bigger than it looked—and not at all crowded. Moreover, with no T-shirt shops or stores of any kind, and with no sounds coming from the other strollers, the area had the feel of a meditation garden.

Jason overlooking a stream in Iao Valley.

Sometime in the future, I would love to return here and spend a day, just relaxing in the sun and shade.

A stream in the Iao Valley floor.

But this time we wanted to check out the north shore of the Maui isthmus. So we left the park to its permanent guardians, the ever-present wild chickens.

Wild hen and her children at Iao Valley.

We returned to the coast north of Iao Valley, where we found several picturesque beaches.

A picturesque beach on Maui's north shore.

Notice that, as beautiful as this spot is, there were no other people in mid-afternoon on a Wednesday. There are certainly popular, relatively crowded beaches on Maui. But there is also no shortage of beautiful, romantic, isolated beaches as well.

Jason overlooks a deserted beach on West Maui's north shore.

At the same beach, from a different angle, we could see Haleakala on East Maui, across the isthmus.

A pristine beach view of Mount Haleakala.

We drove back through Kahului (where the airport is located), stopping for some fresh-baked Krispy Kreme donuts, then continuing along in search of another beach where Jason could swim. We found one, Baldwin Beach, with a outdoor shower and a plethora of Kite Surfers.

Jason watches kite surfers at Baldwin Beach. Kite Surfers at Baldwin Beach, Maui.

Although Jason didn't have a kite or a surfboard, he couldn't resist the inviting water.

Jason in the water at Baldwin Beach, Maui.

After enjoying the beach for an hour or so, Jason and I each showered; Jason changed the dressing on my leg and we drove off to find dinner. It took us awhile to find what we wanted, a Japanese tepanyaki-style steakhouse. These are the ones where the chef cooks your meal at your table…on your table!

The table seats eight, so if you show up as a party of two the restaurant normally fills the remaining seats, or as many as possible without making you wait too long. Three other people came to our table: A mother and daughter, and a woman who apparently sells tickets to touristy things on Maui. She got a discount on her meal, and when she found out what luau we had attended the night before, criticized it. "Imagine not having Kalua pig at a luau!"

But, by coincidence, the other two diners had attended the very same luau. "You were the honeymooners, weren't you?" the mother asked. "That's so wonderful! Did you get married in Hawaii?"

"No," I replied. "It's still not legal here. But you know what? We don't need a government to give us permission to love and commit to each other."

"Hear, hear!" the mother applauded.

So, our meal was fabulous and, when we were done, we drove back to Papalaua Park for our final night in Maui. After setting up the camper, we again sat on the picnic table on the beach for an hour, enjoying the soft ocean breeze and the distant lights across the harbor. Tomorrow would be a long, hard travel day, tedious with a 9-hour flight back to Los Angeles and another, shorter flight to Phoenix. But for now, we were still camped on a beach in Maui, alone together, and apparently ready and eager to spend the rest of our lives together.