We drove about a half an hour into the center of the island to Iao State Park, arriving just after 9 am. When we arrived, there were still parking spots available in the small parking lot, however when we left about an hour later cars were waiting for people to leave, so I recommend arriving early! It costs $5 to park but there is not an entrance fee.
There was a nice paved path from the parking lot into the valley. There is a short path to descend, taking you past many beautiful plants. The ascent up to the viewing platform of the Iao Needle gives you a beautiful view of the valley below as well as the Needle. This is a great photo op, as everyone stops to take photos here.
The park was gorgeous, a surprise for all of us. The beautiful verdant mountains and deep valleys are haloed in clouds and are so dense and pretty. The Iao Needle, the centerpiece of the park, juts straight up almost 2200 feet in the middle of the valley. It has important connections to Hawaiian history, too, as it was the location of the battle between King Kamehameha and Maui's army in the late 1700s in his quest to unite the Hawaiian islands. He won!
After an hour we headed back to the car and back to the resort for more swimming and sunning! We grilled again, this time delicious hamburgers, yum!