Without a doubt, we’ve all heard the saying: ‘No rain…No rainbows.’ On Maui that’s overwhelmingly true. Our 2022-2023 Winter season has been a steady flow of moisture, especially impacting Maui’s windward and traditionally rainier areas. Pu’u Kukui, in the heart of ʻĪao Valley and Maui Nui, is one of the wettest peaks on the planet for a reason! Unfortunately, as most of us also know, winter storms are sometimes relentless, and unfavorable to work around. As such, after a series of large local precipitation events, the restoration project at ʻĪao Valley State Park has been prolonged, and the re-opening officially delayed to April 15, 2023.
Without question, this is unfortunate news. ʻĪao Stream and its many surrounding trails are some of our very favorite spots on this island…in Hawai’i, thoughout the Pacific, or wherever else this Earth! The depths of ʻĪao Valley are beyond special. A stunning landscape capped by ascending sky-scraping peaks, winding waterways with natural pools, and native flora abound with hidden secrets; a literal bedrock of Maui history. Island generations spoke of old legends that truly run culturally deep. The Battle of Kepaniwai in 1790 is a story that will forever enchant these parts. A moment in history that cemented the Hawaiian Island Kingdom.
Find Zen in Kepaniwai Gardens
OK, enough history. So we know ʻĪao Valley State Park is technically closed for a couple more months. But, I’m here to let you know, there is definitely plenty of reason to visit the area. Especially the lesser known Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens, located just before the State Park’s entrance. Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens encompasses a sprawling locale full of trails, pagodas, vistas and history. A place to lose yourself, or reconnect with the past. Also a place where locals like to bring family, friends, pets… and maybe even the house hibachi grill.
The Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens were created in the 1950s to honor the diverse cultural heritage of the people who have inhabited Maui throughout its colorful history. These grounds feature several sections that represent different ethnic groups, that were essential in plantation life. Japanese, Filipino (pictured above), Portuguese, Korean, Chinese all mixed with Native Hawaiian communities to create a rich and unique cultural melting pot.
In these gardens, each section is landscaped with plants and structures that reflect the cultural traditions of the represented group. The Chinese section (pictured above) features a replica of the famous Tang Dynasty Bridge, while the Japanese section has a traditional teahouse, koi pond, and bronze statue (pictured below) honoring Maui’s pioneer agricultural workers.
The Filipino section includes a replica of the Banaue Rice Terraces, and the Portuguese section has a statue of Queen Isabella of Portugal. Locals and visitors alike visit the gardens to take a leisurely stroll through the different sections. There are also informational plaques throughout the park that provide historical context and background information. Keep attention and learn about the customs and traditions of each culture that provide the backbone to modern local culture and tradition.
To conclude, Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens is a unique and fascinating attraction that offers both visitors and residents alike a glimpse into the rich cultural history of Maui. Whether you’re interested in ancient Hawaiian culture, mixed farming practices, early Plantation life history, or just looking for a peaceful place to relax, the gardens are definitely worth a visit.
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Dano Sayles R(B)