Maui – Touring the Ioa Valley Where Kamehameha Conquered the Island
This is one of a continuing series of posts from a trip to Hawaii’s four main islands that Alison and I took a few years ago. It has been updated for accuracy as of 2021. On the two previous days we had played golf at the Royal Kannapali course and the Kapalua Plantation course, so it was time for a day off from the links. Today we’ll visit the Ioa Valley and some sites associated with King Kamehameha’s conquest of Maui. Please join us.
Years before on my first visit to Hawaii I had taken a ridiculous one day tour of the islands by plane. It landed at Maui, Kauai and the Big Island with about two hours at each place. The only thing I remembered about Maui was being bussed to a park with a large rock pinnacle as the principal attraction. I figured out it must have been the famous Ioa Needle so that was our first destination today. It would have been great to have followed coastal road 30 past Kapalua and around to Wailuku, but portions of that road are apparently so rough that rental cars are not allowed on it. So it was back along the coast to Maalaea and a left turn towards the dreaded Kahului, but thankfully the route we needed turned left again towards the much nicer little city of Wailuku which is the county seat for Maui. From Wailuku it was a pleasant drive up a dead end road that ended at the parking lot for Ioa Valley State Park. Even though it was still pretty early the parking lot was almost full and there were tour buses as well, something that we hadn’t really seen anywhere else. I had to wonder if one of the smaller ones wasn’t for the suckers who paid big bucks for the one day tour of Hawaii. We paid the admission fee and entered the park.
Ioa Valley State Park, Maui
The Ioa Valley is a sacred place for Hawaiians for a number of reasons. First of all it is a place of great beauty; the valley walls are covered with vegetation while the Iao stream and others cut their way through the valley in a series of rapids and cascades. The presence of the Ioa Needle, a basaltic remnant of an ancient volcano, gives the valley a unique appearance compared to other nearby valleys. Not surprisingly early Hawaiians believed it was inhabited by gods and the kings of Maui were buried in secret locations in the area. That all came to an end in 1790 when our old buddy King Kamehameha showed up and defeated the Maui army here in what apparently was a great slaughter, the streams literally dammed up by the dead bodies and the water running red for days. We had seen the place in Oahu where he had driven his foes off a cliff and now we saw what his wrath had wrought on Maui. No wonder the King of Kauai surrendered without a fight.
There was a very short path up to the viewing area for the needle and it was impressive, but I have to say, “If you’ve seen one basaltic remnant, you’ve seen them all”.
After viewing the needle we took the short path down to the Ioa stream where there were a number of Hawaiian women with children swimming in the pools. It was an idyllic sight, especially as the area is a botanical garden as well. If you ever wanted to imagine Eve and her children in the Garden of Eden this would be the place that would come to mind.
Our next stop was the Bailey Mission in Waluku which we had passed on the way to the needle. It is one of the oldest western buildings in the state, dating from 1833 and was built inside what had been the royal compound of the last king of Maui. The whitewashed stone exterior was what drew our attention on the way up as it literally stood out like a sore thumb amid the more traditional dwellings in the area.
It was a good decision to stop as this is a very well run and interesting little museum with exhibits ranging form early Hawaiian history to a collection of tree snails to a 1919 surfboard that belonged to Duke Kahanamoku, but what really caught our eye was the collection of paintings by Edward Bailey, the founder of the mission. They were by no means masterpieces, but did depict life in Hawaii in the 1800’s in simple non-pretentious manner that was very pleasant to view. Here’s an example I borrowed from the museum’s site.
It didn’t seem like we had done that much, but by the time we got back to Kaanapali it was mid-afternoon. Condo supplies and sundries were required so we headed to a mall in Lahaina where we could pick up what was needed. I was lounging on a park bench outside a restaurant called LuLu’s Lahaina Surf Club and Grill which sounded pretty pretentious for a restaurant tied onto a mall, even if it was in an old cannery. Out of curiosity I looked at the menu and it looked surprisingly interesting. When the rest of the gang showed up I asked it they were interested in an early supper and they were game.
The decor was typical island – lots of faux fish, surfboards and outrigger canoes. There appeared to be a fair number of locals at the bar watching three March Madness games on the tvs. Overall it was a pretty laid back place.
When we asked our waiter what the fish special was he said he didn’t know, but said that we should trust him and order it no matter – once he found out what it was he would let us know. Turns out this was not as goofy as it sounds. We had arrived just before five and at 5:30 the restaurant’s daily special is selected by the chef. He knew it was going to be mahi mahi, but how to prepare it is a last minute decision. Relying on these assurances two of us went for the unknown special while I ordered loco moco.
Loco moco seems to differ at every restaurant. In this version the eggs were over a fresh grilled hamburger patty with Maui onions in the gravy. I have to confess that I love this kind of artery clogging comfort food – just not every day. It did live up to its billing as a local favourite and I have no hesitation in recommending LuLu’s version..
When the mahi specials arrived they were beautiful to look at and even better to the taste. The preparation was simple; moist and perfectly grilled, sitting atop garlic mashed Yukon gold potatoes, surrounded by a medley of sautéed fresh brussels sprouts, maui onions, peppers and shitaki mushrooms, drizzled with a gorgeous light golden mushroom teriyaki sauce. The plates were returned to the kitchen scrapped clean, without so much as a scrap of vegetable left. One my two companions claimed it was the best fish she had since we arrived in Hawaii 3 weeks ago and we had eaten a lot of fish since then.
When we called for the check the waiter informed us that the entire meal was discounted by 25%. Apparently if we had arrived after 5:30 we would qualify for the nightly one hour discount between 5:30 and 6:30. However, since we didn’t even know about this and arrived well before 5:30 it was a very pleasant surprise – they could have just said nothing and charged us full freight as I am sure most places would have. We would have been none the wiser.
The total bill for four with three beers and two glasses of wine was $85.00. Quite deservedly we left a very good tip.
UPDATE: Sadly Lulu’s is no more, but this type of experience is typical of what you can find in the most unexpected places in Maui.
Back at the condo we put things away and spent the rest of the evening enjoying our ‘supplies’. Aloha.
Tomorrow we are going to snorkel Molokini, Maui’s best place to see tropical fish. Please join us.