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The Magic Behind Makena Beach

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For visitors making a trip to the tropics, images of white sand beaches and sparkling turquoise waters are often huge selling points. And one of the first activities travelers look forward to doing is soaking up some serious sun and splashing in the sand and surf.

When visiting the island of Maui, one of the best places locals like to “holo holo” (a local slang for “to go”) for sunbathing and bodyboarding is Makena Beach. Fondly nicknamed “Big Beach” by the kamaaina (locals), “Oneloa Beach” or Makena Beach State Park is (not surprisingly) the largest beach in South Maui stretching more than 1,100 yards. Thought to be one of the best on the island, Makena Beach stretches more than 1.5 miles long and is over 100 feet wide, making it the perfect setting for an assortment of aquatic activities from swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing, to body surfing and SUP-ing (stand up paddleboard). And with the “Makena cloud” stretching from the top of Haleakala to Kahoolawe, looking down over the shoreline, the sand is often kept cool for sensitive soles.

Photos by Neal Kido

A short stroll north of Big Beach is its smaller counterpart, “Little Beach” and also known as “Pu‘u Olai Beach.” Separated by a lava outcropping which was formed by a lava flow and earthquake in 1790, Little Beach and Big Beach are connected by a path. The beach is a mere 660 feet long, making it appear crowded at times, but what this secluded shoreline is best known for is being one of the few places in Hawaii where nude sunbathing is tolerated by the police.

Sunset waves, Makena Beach – MauiLocated south of Wailea, Makena Beach provides a more sheltered option to Maui’s more popular (read: more crowded) beaches in Kaanapali and Lahaina. The beach is located between two black-lava outcroppings, providing protection from the trade winds while offering spectacular views of Molokini and Kahoolawe off shore.

Makena Beach State Park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and offers picnic facilities and public restrooms.

Disclaimer: The beaches in Hawaii can be extremely dangerous and unpredictable. Please use extreme caution before entering the ocean and it’s a good idea to speak with the lifeguards beforehand. There’s a rule in Hawaii that the locals adhere to: If in doubt, don’t go out!

Photos by Neal Kido