Makena Beach State Park

Three distinct, undeveloped beaches and a dormant volcano crater form this scenic southern region of Maui.

Makena Beach State Park is a wilderness area with three beaches that are excellent for bodyboarding: Makena Beach, Puʻu Olai Beach and Naupaka Beach. Each has its own personality and attracts different types of visitors. Presiding over all three beaches is the volcanic Pu’u Ola’i (Earthquake Hill). This is a dormant cinder cone which stands 360 feet (110 meters) high.

Makena Beach, more often called “Big Beach,” is one of Maui’s largest beaches and has a steep foreshore. It is about 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) long. Its name means “abundance” and it’s true that its waters have plenty of marine life to see when snorkeling. Lifeguards are usually present. The kiawe trees offer pleasant shady spots while you enjoy the views of the Molokini atoll, a partially submerged volcanic crater that you can tour by boat.

Stroll north and climb over the lava rocks to reach Puʻu Olai Beach, nicknamed “Little Beach” because it is just 660 feet (200 meters) long. This cove is famous for being a nudist beach. As this is one of the few beaches in Hawaii that permits naked sunbathing, it can get crowded. This is especially so on Sunday afternoons, when traditional Hawaiian drumming goes on from mid-afternoon until sunset.

Naupaka Beach, also known as One’uli, is a black-sand beach formed by ground lava. It’s located on the Wailea side of the volcanic cone. Naupaka is less suitable for sunbathing or walking, but snorkeling and scuba diving conditions are excellent due to the nice coral reef nearby. Be careful to avoid the hard, sharp lava which starts abruptly at the water’s edge.

From Naupaka Beach, follow a trail that leads to the top of the Pu'u Ola'i cone. It’s best to attempt this quite strenuous hike in the cooler part of the day and remember to take plenty of water. From the top, you can enjoy views of the stunning Makena coastline.

Makena Beach State Park is south of Wailea. The car park is open during daylight hours, and admission is free. Watch out for the shore break, as the waves can be powerful.


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