Saturday, July 13, 2013

Maui day 6: ʻĪao Valley—Tropical Gardens of Maui—Big Beach

After two days spent on the road driving to and from Hāna, we decided to stick a little closer to home today. Our first destination was ʻĪao Valley just outside of Wailuku, the administrative seat of Maui County. ʻĪao Valley (pronounced “EE-ow”) is stunningly beautiful; the mountains with their almost vertical sides remind me of the Nā Pali Coast on the island of Kauaʻi.

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Here is a satellite image of ʻĪao Valley. It shows this area’s topography very well.

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The best place to enjoy the scenery is from ʻĪao Valley State Monument at the end of the road. Admission is free but parking is $5—well worth it. The signature view is of the ʻĪao Needle rising 1,200 ft. from the valley floor. Most people think the best spot to see it is from the bridge across ʻĪao Stream, but in my opinion the vista is even better from the viewing platform at the top of the stairs.

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A small botanical garden focuses on plants used by the Hawaiians who settled here.

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Here you can see ti (Cordyline fruticosa), taro (Colocasia esculenta), bananas (Musa x paradisiaca) as well as a number of trees useful to the ancient people.

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Red ti (Cordyline fruticosa) and taro (Colocasia esculenta)

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Taro (Colocasia esculenta)

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Taro (Colocasia esculenta)

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Taro (Colocasia esculenta)

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Bananas (Musa x paradisiaca) and taro (Colocasia esculenta)

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Koa tree (Acacia koa)

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Bananas (Musa x paradisiaca)

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Hawaiian screwpine (Pandanus tectorius)

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Hawaiian screwpine (Pandanus tectorius); from this perspective it reminds of the dragon trees (Dracena draco) we saw at Lotusland in Santa Barbara this spring

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Hawaiian screwpine (Pandanus tectorius)

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Hawaiian screwpine (Pandanus tectorius); good view of their stilt roots

As we were heading back to the parking lot, I saw this guy getting ready to jump into the stream. He looked like an actor in a movie about Polynesia, so I had to take a picture.

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Right by the path is a small stand of lobster claw (Heliconia bihai). The park service has cut down the tall banana-like leaves so the inflorescences are easier to see. Not exactly botanically correct, but still a nice touch.

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Lobster claw (Heliconia bihai)

Adjacent to ʻĪao Valley State Monument is Kepaniwai Park & Heritage Gardens, established in 1952 to showcase the diversity of modern Hawaii. The park contains buildings representative of the major ethnic groups in Hawaii (Hawaiian, Portuguese, Japanese, Caucasian and Filipino). The main focus here is on architecture, not on plants, but it’s still a worthwhile stop.

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Japanese Garden

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Japanese Garden

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Japanese Garden

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Chinese Garden

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Filipino Garden

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Korean Garden

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Massive banyan tree sheltering a large part of the picnic area

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Banyan tree

Less than two miles down the road from Kepaniwai Park is Tropical Gardens of Maui, a 4-acre private botanical garden and nursery ($5 admission).

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The nursery was a disappointment—small selection, mostly orchids and palm seedlings—and the botanical garden has definitely seen better days. Still, there’s a lot to see and like here. I will cover Tropical Gardens of Maui in more detail in a separate post, but here are some teasers.

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In the evening we went back to Big Beach (Makena Beach State Park). While not as deserted as during our previous visit, it was still anything but crowded. After all, it’s 1.5 miles long and 300 ft. wide so there’s plenty of room. The photos below should give you a good idea of how serene and beautiful this spot is.

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3 comments:

  1. After all of the jungly, tropical lushness, the buildings at Kepaniwai Park were a nice change -- gave the eye some lines to focus on.

    As much as I love the plants, it's the beaches that call to me, and your last photos are perfect!

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    Replies
    1. I love sitting on the beach looking at the waves and at the people. I wanted to jump in so badly but hadn't put my swim trunks on, stupid me.

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  2. I loved looking at all your Maui pictures. The ocean is pretty, but the flowers and plants are what I enjoy most when I go back home. I haven't seen a silversword up close since I was a kid,as I still get carsick. Unfortunately for me the road to Hana is definitely out of the question! Thank you for the beautiful pictures of what I like to look at best. =)

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