Makena Beach, also known as Big Beach, is one of the most popular beaches not just on Maui, but in all of Hawaii. This beach is often pictured in postcards and blazoned across other tourist memorabilia. So once you arrive at its shores, don’t be surprised if you already recognize many of its attributes.
You will find Makena Beach in South Maui, just south of the town of Makena and just off of Makena Road and within the Makena State Park. This signature beach spans for nearly a mile and a half around the point, which makes it one of the longest undeveloped beaches on the island of Maui and is part of why it earned that other moniker of Big Beach. When you’re relaxing on the golden sands here, you aren’t going to see any resort hotels or big commercial buildings. Rather, what you will enjoy is plenty of ocean blues, green islands dotting the horizon, and nature to either side and behind.
Makena Beach is nestled in a cove and between two massive outcroppings created by long-ago cooled lava. These outcroppings along with the beach’s physical location work together to protect the beach from heavy trade wind gusts and sustained blows. But while those on the beach itself are protected from heavy winds, offshore those trade winds work to create massive waves — especially in the spring and summer months.
During spring and summer, massive storms sweep along this part of the islands. Those storms generate huge shore break waves and powerful rip currents. These waves and the high surf conditions make Makena Beach incredibly popular among experienced surfers looking to catch big waves, but it is strongly recommended for everyone else to avoid swimming during such periods. In fact, lifeguards only infrequently patrol Makena Beach during these seasonal periods of high surf as visitors are advised to remain on shore. It is especially not recommended for kids to swim or even wade during these periods.
But with changing seasons comes changing surf conditions. During the autumn and winter months, when the storms subside, Makena Beach becomes teeming with visitors looking to enjoy the beautiful ocean water here. The shore break conditions become more forgiving and ideal for skimboarding and bodyboarding closer to shore. The state park will also frequently post lifeguards across multiple towers on the beach thanks to the calmer conditions being more welcoming for swimmers, snorkelers, and others of all skill levels. You are also apt to see plenty of pole fishers out here shore casting for ulua.
There are two parking areas for Makena Beach, with the entrance being $10 per vehicle and $5 per individual. You will find port-a-potties at both entrances as well as picnic areas and trash cans. There aren’t, however, any showers. On weekends and throughout the popular months, food trucks will often pull up to offer hot and fresh meals and snacks for visitors.
-A beach surrounded by nature is great for the eyes, but not always for the feet. Thorny keawe trees line both entrance areas and along paths to the beaches. Bring foot coverings when walking near them.
-Little Beach, just around the bend and walkable from Big Beach, is a small beach cove that never has any lifeguards. However, this beach sometimes is calmer than Big Beach, both in waves and in crowds. But it also happens to be often used as a nudist beach despite state park regulations against it.
-Do not swim during high surf seasons or when warnings are posted at Makena Beach. This point bears repeating. People have been seriously injured, some even fatally so for not following posted recommendations. The waves here, during those storm seasons, can rise 7 feet or more and when they crash down on an unsuspecting swimmer, they can cause very serious injuries. Some cite this as the most dangerous beach on Maui for that reason. So remember to stay safe and cautious by following on-the-ground recommendations.