Makena Beach

Nov 4, 2020 | General Information

Table of Contents
Makena Beach is considered by many to be the very best beach on Maui. Makena Beach is the beach furthest to the south of all the main beaches on the island. It is located just south of Pu’u Olai which is also known as Red Hill. This extinct cinder cone marks the south-west corner of the island and Makena beach is located at the bend of the island with its shores facing squarely south toward the Big Island of Hawaii (on extremely clear days you can see the tops of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea on the Big Island). Makena Beach actually consists of two beaches, both of which are beautiful. The first that you come to is the largest of the two and is appropriately referred to as “Big Beach”. Just to the west and requiring a small trek over a lava pathway is the second beach at Makena, much smaller than the first and once again appropriately named “Little Beach”.

Big Beach at Makena
Big Beach is very long, close to two-thirds of a mile, and it is extremely wide with over one-hundred feet of sand in many places from water’s edge to the vegetation line. The sand is beautiful being a truly golden color. The sand is also very clean giving you the sense that it was just laundered by the waves that often crash along its shoreline and its granules are somewhat larger than any other beach on the island. The sand is soft and deep and simply invites you to find a place to lay down and luxuriate in the warm sun which is generally ample in the area.

Clear Water at Makena Beach
The beach itself is usually incredibly clear and from the cliffs above Makena Beach you can often see straight down to the sand bottom like you were looking through glass.

Riding the Shore Break at Makena
The waves here are very often quite powerful and they provide a mighty shore-break. This makes them very fun for skim boarders, body surfers and boogie boarders but it also makes them unbelievably dangerous. So many people have been seriously injured here with broken necks and broken backs that it makes you wonder if the thrill of the ride is worth the risk. It certainly is not for anyone who is not skilled in these activities and it happens more than you would believe that you see visitors to the island walking down to the sand as the waves suck from the bottom only to be knocked off their feet by an inescapable next wave that comes crashing in. The lucky ones can laugh it off as they regain their footing but they need to know that they just dodged a big bullet.

Skilled and capable swimmers can swim outside the break
For those who are skilled at making their way through the waves to the ocean beyond you can often swim in relatively calm water up and down the beach. You just need to know that at some point you have to go back to shore and make your way through the breakwater once again. This is not the very best beach for snorkeling because of the shore break but a better option might be the beach next door, Little Beach.

Climbing to Little Beach
Little Beach requires a walk up and over an ancient lava wall precipice from Big Beach and this is the only means of entry. Once you arrive at the secluded Little Beach at Makena you will be awed by its beauty. It is a small crescent shape stretching perhaps an eighth of a mile tip to tip and it is protected on both sides by lava flows. The sand is similar to that on Big Beach but there is much less room to lay-out. The waves here are quite different then at Big Beach as they are usually not a shore break but a more even break over the coral. This beach is a magnet for boogie boarders and long rides can be had. Surfers also find the east side of the beach to be suitable for riding and on good days it can be exceptional.

Little Beach at Makena
The one thing you should be totally aware of before going over to Little Beach is that for all intents and purposes it is a “nude beach”. The moment you arrive you will immediately notice that most of the people walking up and down the beach, playing Frisbee on the sand, swimming, boogie boarding and sunbathing do not have any clothes on. Being nude on the beaches of Maui is not legal but it seems that the powers that be very rarely enforce these laws at Little Beach but those that take their clothes off here do so at their own risk. The beach itself is a gem, as is Big Beach, and most days there have glorious weather.

Makena Lifeguard Tower
As far as amenities at Makena Beach, there are three separate and paved parking lots at the beginning, middle and end of the beach. The first beach entrance is the most popular and has the largest expanse of sand. As you work your way down to the second and third parking area you will generally find less people. If you plan to make the trek to Little Beach the closest parking area will be the first one. There are no public restrooms at Makena but they do have portable toilets (none at Little Beach) and there are no showers at all. There are one or two picnic tables but not enough to guarantee that you will have one when you arrive. There are no barbecue facilities. Big Beach, but not Little Beach, does have a lifeguard tower and on some days they do have their work cut out for them.

Ocean Caution
Please be advised that all beaches and ocean locations in Hawaii can be potentially dangerous including this location. Be completely aware of the ocean conditions prior to entering the water and of course, never turn your back on the ocean when you are on the shoreline. It should also be noted that all shorelines and beaches in Hawaii, including this one, can be frequented by sharks, jellyfish and other sea creatures which can provide potential harm to people entering the water.