The must visit lush, tropical Iao Valley

The must visit lush, tropical Iao Valley in Maui, Hawaii. | funkyjunkinteriors.net

Where did the week go?

Oh… of course! We’re now on week 4 of our Hawaiian journey, and yet again, things have changed.

When we first arrived, I was all about writing, and posting, and documenting. The words and images and feelings just wouldn’t stop!

But something magical happens when you hit around week 3. You stop being ‘busy’. The essense of this place saturates you, slowing time down.

Suddenly, no. You don’t want to go home and make stuff. You just want to pack up the car, and head to adventures unknown. Or just go to the beach and stare. Or find a new place to eat.

The sights, sounds, and climate are now second nature, yet if you pay attention, it can still feel brand new when you wake up each day. I think part of that is being hyper aware of your surroundings, taking NOTHING for granted. Like we do at home.

I’m also discovering new things about myself and how I relate to my son. If we aren’t getting the results we hope for in life, why keep trying the same things that don’t appear to work? So I’m tweaking how I handle things, and I do see some postive results. 

So anyway, I have some things I’d love to share with you, so I’d better get to it before I get home!

There is one thing that is a MUST on my list when I visit Maui. And it wouldn’t make a bit of difference if I came every year or even several times a year. I’d have to make a trip to the Iao Valley. (pronounced eee- owe)

The Iao Valley, or Iao Needle, is a mini tropical forest experience that you can get from the safety of a paved walkway, with only a short 30 minute drive from most popular resort destinations. I’m sure it doesn’t compare to the road to Hana, but this also doesn’t take 12 hours nor involve intense driving either! 🙂

I think the key to getting a full island experience is to get out of the resort towns. I’m never disappointed when I make the effort. Every time I return, my experience here has always been 100% enhanced, no matter what I do.

The must visit lush, tropical Iao Valley in Maui, Hawaii. | funkyjunkinteriors.net

The drive here is super easy. If you are a fan of the Maui Swap Meet, this drive is only an additional 20 minutes or so away.

You drive through the quaint village of Wailuku on your way, which is a treat in itself! p.s. Make sure you stop at The Farmacy on your way back through, for one of their amazing honey drizzled Acai bowls, or The Roaster sandwich. Oh my…

The drive right after Wailuku turns into lush, tropical growth quickly. There are very few to no places to stop to take pictures, so as soon as you do spot this open field part, don’t even think twice. Stop! 🙂

Iao Valley in Maui, Hawaii | funkyjunkinteriors.net

Iao Valley in Maui, Hawaii | funkyjunkinteriors.net-2

Once you get closer to the valley, you will drive past a paid parking booth. The fee is only $5 for non Hawaiian residents (free for those that live here), so it’s a no brainer. Pay and drive in. You can also park outside the pay area here and there, but I like getting inside if not too busy… because this place is usually always raining, and I don’t want to walk far.

The toll booth operator did say one thing. “If it isn’t too foggy, you should be able to see the waterfalls”.

I don’t even remember waterfalls last round…

The must visit lush, tropical Iao Valley in Maui, Hawaii. | funkyjunkinteriors.net

But as soon as I walked in, there they were! Oh, how I wish I could show you how spectacular they really were to see!

The must visit lush, tropical Iao Valley in Maui, Hawaii. | funkyjunkinteriors.net

I didn’t take pictures of every walkway, but you can capture more of the experience from my other post from 2014 HERE 

The must visit lush, tropical Iao Valley in Maui, Hawaii. | funkyjunkinteriors.net
The must visit lush, tropical Iao Valley in Maui, Hawaii. | funkyjunkinteriors.net

The must visit lush, tropical Iao Valley in Maui, Hawaii. | funkyjunkinteriors.net
This walk is a very quick one if you wish it to be. You can walk UP to the needle, then DOWN lower into the valley by the river, then DOWN AGAIN to a botanical type garden.

So here is what I do. If I can, I come at least once to this place by myself. Because it’s a totally different experience if you aren’t rushed.

I first walk through the entire thing for the camera’s benefit, then the next round is just for me.

The must visit lush, tropical Iao Valley in Maui, Hawaii. | funkyjunkinteriors.net
There is this one special spot I’ve deemed mine. When I reach it, I park my gear on the ground, and settle in for a good long sit and stare and think session. Many rounds of tourists make their passes, but once they leave, those magial gaps all to myself are what I wait for.

When I sit beside the rushing river, staring high up into the rainforest with not a leaf out of place, it gets me to the point of triggering tears. 

It’s magical. It’s the perfect movie backdrop. So quiet, much like that ‘perfect little beach’ thing, where it just feels like everything is right in the world.

I think when you go through tough stuff, these silent moments mean all the more. This is why I find it so important to go on my bike rides.

I always hesitate leaving here, because part of me thinks it’s the last time I will feel like that. 

But of course, that isn’t true… you can seek those spots in other places. But visiting a special spot is reminiscent to visiting an old friend. You can find more, but this one simply cannot be replaced. 

The must visit lush, tropical Iao Valley in Maui, Hawaii. | funkyjunkinteriors.net
The must visit lush, tropical Iao Valley in Maui, Hawaii. | funkyjunkinteriors.netThe must visit lush, tropical Iao Valley in Maui, Hawaii. | funkyjunkinteriors.net
This is my other favorite spot. Seriously… with every step forward, you just gasp. Even a fraction of an inch will dramatically change what your camera lens will capture. Imagine what it does to your eyes, loaded with peripheral vision!

The must visit lush, tropical Iao Valley in Maui, Hawaii. | funkyjunkinteriors.net

The must visit lush, tropical Iao Valley in Maui, Hawaii. | funkyjunkinteriors.net


The must visit lush, tropical Iao Valley in Maui, Hawaii. | funkyjunkinteriors.net
The Iao Needle does surface from time to time, if the fog isn’t too thick. It’s just that high up.

And below are some shots from the lower botanical park area.

The must visit lush, tropical Iao Valley in Maui, Hawaii. | funkyjunkinteriors.net

The must visit lush, tropical Iao Valley in Maui, Hawaii. | funkyjunkinteriors.net

The must visit lush, tropical Iao Valley in Maui, Hawaii. | funkyjunkinteriors.net

The must visit lush, tropical Iao Valley in Maui, Hawaii. | funkyjunkinteriors.net

 




Here are some tips when visiting the Iao Valley:

Carry $5 per car for parking. (it’s $1 each person for walk ins)

Expect rain! This place rains nearly all the time, so I generally wear a towel and a hat. Because I always forget an umbrella… Regardless, expect to get drenched, so easy to dry clothing / swimwear is perfect.

Wear shoes that can get saturated. If you stay on the walk, you’ll be ok, but if you like to walk a little off trail, you’ll get wet.

Wear a backpack to keep your camera gear dry.

Take your time. One round for the camera, then one round for your eyes only. Your experience will be dramatically different.

Stop at The Farmacy on your way back through Wailuku for a decadent acai bowl or warm Roaster sandwich. You will feel like some comfort food after being wet for so long.

I hope you enjoyed the tour!

P.S. The weekend link party may not run this weekend.

Visit more Hawaii 2016 posts HERE

I’m also sharing on Snapchat under ‘funkyjunkdonna’ and on Instagram HERE.

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  1. Donna- your pics are fantastic..glad to see you relaxing..yes, raising teens is hard, but in just a few short years he will be telling you that you weren’t as “dumb” as he thought you were..hang in there..

  2. Donna how I envy you the time you have gotten to spend with your son trekking around Hawaii! I guess I will have to live vicariously through you! <3

  3. so lush, adventures fill the soul! You could add more of these kinds of posts…your pictures and tips are great. travel tips also for around your home…for people that have never been to beautiful B.C.

    it took leaving for me to truly see the beauty of back home

    Have fun!

  4. Gorgeous pictures, Donna. My husband and I visited Iao Needle and also took the road to Hana. That was 25 years ago but it is a memory that stays vivid in your mind. I recommend both to anyone visiting Hawaii. So glad you enjoyed yourself. I think I’ll get the photo album of our trip out tonight and reminisce.

  5. Beautiful, breathtaking, I can’t imagine how amazing it is in real life! Thanks for taking a camera round for us. I think I could use one of your sit and stare and think sessions in this spot, my summer scorched grass is just not cutting if for me. 😉 Enjoy every minute! Maybe someday I will actually get to Hawaii, for now I will live vicariously through you and your awesome photos. 🙂

  6. Gorgeous Donna! Breathtaking! Hang in there with your son. The day will come when this will be past and you’ll be glad you did. Been there and done that. It surely tests a parent’s soul.

  7. Completely breathtaking photos, Donna!! Thank you for taking us along with you on your beautiful adventure!! 🙂

  8. Definitely on my Bucket List of places to visit now! Breath-taking, this is Garden of Eden Natural Beauty, Thank You for Sharing your Journey there! Blessings from the Arizona Desert… Dawn… The Bohemian