Most Popular Maui Attraction Goes Paid For Tourists Only

A true showcase of Maui’s unique natural beauty among the Hawaiian Islands, the second most popular Google-rated Maui site for visitors and residents alike, is about to reopen following nearly a year of repairs. In doing so, it will be the latest Hawaii state park to require advance reservations for non-residents only.

The Iao Valley State Monument is renowned for its scenic beauty. The lush valley is most famous for the ʻIao needle (Kukaemoku), one of the peaks which sit 1,200 feet above the valley floor below.

The site is one of significance for Native Hawaiians and was the place where Maui army warriors battled against the invading King Kamehameha in 1790 at the battle of Kepaniwai.

Today the valley near Wailuku town offers visitors hiking trails, swimming, and the ability to explore the unique Maui rainforest. The park is regularly maintained, including its walkways, picnic areas for picnic lunch, and multiple viewpoints. There is also the Iao Stream, waterfalls, and the ability to hike the iao valley lookout trail to near the needle summit, also known as Kuka`emoku, for spectacular views of the valley below.

Iao Valley State Park is without a doubt one of Maui’s best gems.

ʻIao Valley is a lush valley, cut by a stream in West Maui. It is found about 3 miles west of Wailuku. It became a National Natural Landmark in 1972 and is part of the West Maui Mountains, an extinct volcano.

The valley is covered in rainforest and its summit area receives nearly 400 inches of annual rainfall. It is Hawaii’s second wettest location, following Kauai’s Mt. Waialeale.

When the park reopens on May 1, a new reservation system will be implemented that is intended to reduce congestion and diffuse parking and crowding issues.

Four state parks now require visitors to have paid advance reservations.

Diamond Head State Monument, Oahu.

Haena State Park, Kauai.

Waianapanapa State Park, Maui.

Iao Valley State Monument, Maui.

Iao Valley will join the other three locations in requiring advance-paid reservations for visitors. Residents, on the other hand, are able to visit these without a reservation or any fees.

The biggest issue with this system reported by visitors, especially at Haena State Park, is the lack of availability of reservations. They are accepted starting at midnight 30 days in advance, and are usually sold out within minutes.

$50 Hawaii “green fee” is still in the planning.

The state is still intending to implement a “green fee” which will be based on visiting any of the state’s natural resources, such as these. Therefore, it would appear that these fees may morph over time as that green fee comes to pass and is actually implemented. You’ll recall that some of the proposals suggest a five-year moratorium prior to actually charging the green fees.

It’s worth noting that other state parks will soon be implementing similar systems, such as Makena State Park on South Maui.

The Iao valley access has been restricted or closed entirely over the last few years for repairs necessitated first by intense flash flooding in 2016 that required additional slope stabilization. The work has been an ongoing process since then.

The state is in the process of setting in place systems, vendors, and workers. DLNR said, “The reservation systems in many ways are meant to manage people and enhance the visitor experience, and the ones who benefit the most from them are locals.”

When implemented, two third of the parking at Iao Valley will be for visitors and the remaining parking will be for residents who are free to come and go at will. With over 1/2 million annual visitors, the monument has struggled to manage facilities and access.

How much are the current state park fees?

At present the fees are as they have been for the past 13 years, although that is expected to increase significantly. The cost for visitors is $10 per vehicle plus $5 per person. DLNR reports that the money is earmarked “to pay operating costs and to reinvest in the park system.”

Park hours are expected to be as before, which is 7 AM to 6 PM every day. The last vehicle entry is at 4:30 PM.

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59 thoughts on “Most Popular Maui Attraction Goes Paid For Tourists Only”

  1. i got the Diamond Head pass but couldnt for parking. i figured no problem. I can drop off family and park further out. Other than a small crowded parking lot nearby, there was nothing remotely close. unless you can get a parking pass or someone gives you are ride, dont waste your money. It was frustrating seeing tons of available parking set aside.

  2. The increased park fees and reservation system on Kauai are justified as there are a tiny number of residents in Haena who share their one road with thousands of visitors traveling between Haena/Hanalei/Princeville/the rest of Kauai. When the floods hit in 2018, the state had to rescue locals And visitors equally with helicopters and other rescue equipment around the damaged road.

    The Kauai access fees not only go to the state, but also to Kauai county AND to a native Hawaiian non-profit that stewards the park, taro fields, and community.

    Like Hanauma Bay, the reservation + fee system makes sense. If people lived IN Diamond Head, more managed access would make sense.

    Maybe Hana should think about a reservation+fee+toll system…

    1. Have you tried to make reservations at Hanauma Bay? It’s impossible. I figure the tour companies grab all the spots. I want to go with my son and daughter, who are residents, and I can’t get even one slot. The website is userUNfriendly. I don’t mind the fee, but the reservation system is awful. Soon visitors will only be able to access Hawaii via commercial operators. 😢

      1. That does seem to be the gameplay. Limit visitors to specific enclaves (all-inclusive resorts), provide tours from there by bus/van. Essentially control access and mobility. That model probably pays more into the economy than do-it-yourself visiting.

  3. Fees help fund state parks that have always been underfunded and in dire need. The reservation system is another thing altogether. It is there to limit the number of people using specific parks that were not designed or have the capacity to hold cars and people in the current and future numbers on a daily basis. Even National Parks are turning away people at peak times.


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