Iao Valley: Keeping Cool Beyond the Beach

Iao Valley has always been popular with residents and tourists alike. Its lush natural beauty, steep peaks, and history are all big attractions. The Wailuku River, formerly known as Iao Stream, is extremely popular during late spring through early fall when Maui experiences its “dry season.” Sweltering heat, scorching sun, and high humidity send people in search of shade and cooler temperatures. There’s nothing as invigorating as swimming in cool, fresh mountain water when you are literally dripping in sweat.

Iao Valley riverbed upstream from Kepaniwai Park

In September 2016, a 100-year flood passed through our beloved valley and changed the river forever. Trees, boulders, earth, cars, and homes were moved by the angry waters flowing downstream. People were evacuated from their homes and both Iao Valley State Park, and Kepaniwai Park (Heritage Gardens) closed to repair flood damages.

Thankfully, after extensive repair work to the parking lot, Heritage Gardens re-opened in May 2017. Iao Valley State Park is still closed and undergoing repairs but is anticipated to re-open the first week of August 2017. “Uncle Bully” is the security guard placed at the locked gate leading up to the State Park and Iao Needle. His job is to keep people safe from trespassing into the construction zone, but he usually advises disappointed tourists to try other near-by hikes or directs them to Kepaniwai Park. You’ve got to love security with aloha.

“Uncle Bully,” security with aloha!

In the 2 months since Heritage Gardens re-opened, people have lovingly rebuilt swimming “pools” along the newly remodeled river bed. River rocks are gathered to build dams and swimming pools of various sizes and depths. It’s very common for people to be talking story in the river, remove a rock from underwater, and place it on the dry-stacked rock dam. All part of our kuleana or responsibility to maintain the pools.

Kids enjoying man-made “swimming pools”

The newly remodeled Kepaniwai Park is being enjoyed by many since its re-opening. Uncle Bully says you can barely find parking or an available picnic pavilion on weekends.

Picnic pavilions at the river’s edge in Kepaniwai Park

If you have the chance, plan a trip to the river as you would a trip to the beach. I think you’ll be in for a very pleasant surprise. Don’t forget snacks, bug spray, and as always, swim at your own risk. Watch out for flash flooding, falling rocks, and bacterial contamination. Most of all, don’t forget to enjoy. See you at the pools!

If you have any questions about Maui real estate or otherwise, please feel free to contact me at any time.

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