There are a lot of terrific Maui beaches. Generally, regardless of where you stay on the island you are going to be close to an awesome spot. That being said, Big Beach Maui is special!
When people refer to Makena Beach, they are typically referring to Big Beach in Makena State Park. Since Big Beach is the biggest and most accessible in the park, by default it gets called Makena Beach.
The official name of Big Beach is actually Oneloa Beach, which in Hawaiian means “long sand.” The name is fitting but in my opinion not descriptive enough. The beach is made up of a long stretch of sand, but even amongst all the gorgeous Maui beaches it is known as one of the most beautiful.
- Makena Beach Quick Tips
- Where is Makena Beach located?
- Where to stay near Makena Beach
- Big Beach vs Little Beach Maui: What's the difference?
Makena Beach Quick Tips
- Sand & water color: Fine white sand (not rocky) and turquoise blue water
- Other names: Big Beach, Oneloa beach, Makena State Park Beach
- Best for: Surfing, skimboarding, bodyboarding, snorkeling and swimming.
- Known for: Large shore break
- Swimming conditions: Waves can get incredibly dangerous. Check conditions before going.
- Facilities: showers, picnic tables, restrooms
- Lifeguard: Yes!
- Cost: $5 per person
- Parking: Large paid lot for $10 per car or free street parking.
- Available tours: There are snorkeling tours, Turtle Reef Kayak tour (so cool!)
Where is Makena Beach located?
Makena State Park is located on the southwest side of the island of Maui. If you are coming from the main airport it is about a 40 minute drive to get here. If you are coming from the Kaanapali resort area the drive will take you about 1 hour to get there.
You get there by driving all the way down and close to the end of South Kihei Road. There are large signs marking the entrance to Makena State Park.
The best way to get here is to rent a car. If you don’t have a car rental you can rent a moped for the day, or take an Uber/Lyft. Uber/Lyft will be your most expensive option depending on where you are staying.
If you decide to explore the island by moped you can rent one here for up to two weeks at a time!
Makena Beach Parking
There are two options when parking. You can pay to park in a large lot right by the beach at a cost of $10 per car. You will also see that a lot of people choose to visit the beach without paying for parking, as there are cars just outside the park entrance along the side of the road.
We arrived in the middle of the day on a busy weekend and there was plenty of parking available.
Cost To Access The Beach
If you aren’t a Hawaii resident you are required to pay $5 per person to get onto the beach. While there isn’t a gate where you have to buy tickets, there was an attendant in the parking lot checking to make sure people purchased admission tickets from one of the kiosks.
What you can Expect at Makena Beach
Generally you will find an all-around amazing beach. The beach is famous for its soft, being non-rocky, and sparkling turquoise water.
The beach is also known for its great surf and large shore break. For those looking to play in the waves, go skimboarding, surfing, or boogie boarding this beach could POTENTIALLY be a phenomenal spot.
You have to check the conditions before going into the water! One of the times when we arrived at Makena Beach I could hear the thunderous waves crashing from the parking lot. I asked my husband, “is that sound the waves??” He responded with “I don’t think so since it is too loud to be the waves.”
When we actually got to the beach it turns out I was right, it was the waves! They were massive; literally the biggest waves I have ever seen. We soon learned that periodically the nice waves turn insane and unsafe.
Beware of The Insane Wave Days
When we got to the shoreline we saw that there were lifeguards all over the beach warning people not to get in the water. There were lifeguards at guard towers, some walking along the beach, and even a couple stationed in the water on surfboards.
All of them were letting visitors know that they should not be getting in the water and that it was dangerous to swim. We enjoyed watching the lifeguards on surfboards negotiating the massive waves and patrolling for people not following their directions.
I spoke with a local and she told me that when she was at there last year a woman got knocked over by a waves and died on the spot. She said, and I quote, “this beach is famous for breaking people’s backs.”
The state website warns that, “high surf, particularly during the spring and summer months and during southerly (Kona) storms, generates dangerous shorebreak waves and powerful rip currents at Big Beach.”
Calmer Waves At Little Beach (With A Catch)
The beach that sits immediately next door is around a little bit of a bend that protects it from the most intense waves. That being said, while Little Beach is just as beautiful you might not want to visit there since it is a pretty popular nude beach.
I was shocked when I got there since I was NOT prepared for the nudity. You can read more about accessing and what to expect on Little Beach here.
I have honestly never seen so many lifeguards on one beach. They were stationed in and out of the water. It’s like they were just waiting for disaster to strike.
There were so many lifeguards I couldn’t decide if it made me feel more or less safe. It had me thinking, why do they need so many lifeguards? Is my life in danger? LOL!
Lifeguards are on the beach between 8 am and 4:30 pm.
Makena Beach Snorkeling
On calm days snorkeling around the point separating the two beaches (Little Beach and Big Beach) will give you great chances of seeing some marine life.
Pole fishing is also popular at Big Beach for ulua or crevalle (See video below to see just how massive these fish are). These popular game fish may reach five feet in length and weigh over 100 pounds. Kinda nuts.
Pros and Cons
- Great quality sand
- Gorgeous blue water
- Lots of space to spread out.
- Waves can be a ton of fun.
- Not a ton of shade
- Waves can get too big. Not always suitable for swimming or snorkeling. Great if you know how to surf.
- Nude beach next door can make some families uncomfortable, though they are completely separated
Big Beach vs Little Beach Maui: What’s the difference?
There is a big difference between the Makena Beaches also known as Big Beach and Little Beach.
Put simply, Little Beach is a nude beach. I was shocked walking in because I had no idea ahead of time that most of the other visitors would be naked. It was interesting, but definitely not my jam.
Big Beach (Makena Beach) is not a nude beach. It is more of a family beach with great waves, beautiful sand, and sparkling turqoise water.
Big Beach and Little Beach are two of Maui’s most popular bodysurfing and bodyboarding beaches.
Things to do near Makena Beach
- Makena Cove – amazing ‘secret beach’ literally right next to Makena beach. Definitely worth checking out.
- Little Beach (also known as Oneloa Beach) – Nude beach in Maui
- Oneuli Beach – black sand beach
- Maluaka Beach
Conclusion: Is Big Beach worth visiting?
Yes! Absolutely, this was one of my favorite beaches in Maui.
What to Pack for Maui
- Quick Dry Travel Towel – This quick dry towel is amazing to travel with. It really will come in handy when you need extra room in your suitcase.
- Snorkeling gear – for obvious reasons.
- Hiking boots – I have two pairs of hiking boots that I love. My Columbia waterproof boots and my Salomon hiking boots. Highly recommend checking them both out!
- Sandals – LOVE these Teva’s! They are my new go to travel sandal. Shop my favorite Teva’s here. They are great to wear in the water snorkeling and also amazing for hiking in Hawaii.
- Dresses for Hawaii – Packing a few good dresses is essential for Hawaii. Dresses have become my go to on trips to help quickly put an outfit together. Revolve is one of my go to shops for beach dresses. ASOS also has great summer dresses.
- Shorts – Anyone who is traveling to Hawaii needs a good pair of shorts. Khakis are great for guys. For women, cute athletic shorts or denim shorts are perfect for a breezy summertime look. These Levi denim shorts are my current favorites! These high waisted athletic shorts have gone viral on instagram and for good reason, they are AMAZING.
- Sports bra – This SKIMS bra is the most comfortable sports bra you will ever wear! Trust me. I travel with 5 of them. Also, highly recommend checking out the SKIMS fits everybody bra is to die for as well.
- Agolde 90’s jeans – I actually can’t remember the last trip I have been on where I haven’t brought these Agolde jeans. I have them in multiple colors and sizes. Check out my full review here.
- Tank tops – Free people is my go to place to buy cute and affordable tank tops. I have this tighten up tank in almost every color.
- Hat – essential. Shop the newest hats at Nordstrom.
- Beach cover-up – Having at least one good cover-up is essential on any beach trip. I recommend ASOS, Nordstrom and Revolve as well.
- Tennis Shoes – I guess you could wear sandals hiking the trails in Maui but I would recommend tennis shoes or hiking boots. It can get narrow and slippery in parts. These New Balance shoes are amazing. Only problem is they sell out so fast! Blah. They look so cute with shorts too!
- Packing cubes – I always go to Urban Outfitters for my packing cubes. They have the cutest ones!
Planning a trip to Maui? Here are our best MAUI BLOG POSTS:
My husband and I have been to Maui a couple times and have written up more blog posts to help you plan your trip. These are my most popular blog posts and Hawaii travel guides to help you plan your trip. I hope it helps!
Maui general trip planning
- Guide to Visiting the Red Sand Beach– One of the best beaches in Maui!
- Hookipa Beach – (Best beach to see turtles in Maui)
- Makena Beach/Big Beach (One of my favorite beaches in Maui)
- Little Beach (also known as Oneloa Beach) – WARNING – nude beach.
- Oneuli Beach – Black sand beach
- Maluaka Beach – all around great beach
- Slaughterhouse Beach – (AKA Mokuleia Bay)
- La Perouse Beach (Bay) – great snorkeling tours here. Best if reached by boat.
Maui Hikes & Lookouts
- Sliding Sands Trail – (also known as Keonehe’ehe’e Trail) is one of the most unique hikes on Earth!
- Waihee Ridge Trail – Most Underrated Maui Hike
- Hoapili Trail – (Hike through lava fields in Maui)
- Dragon’s Teeth Hike
- Ohai Trail Loop – (Easy but Awesome)
- Leleiwi Overlook in Haleakala National Park – (Maui must see!)
- 6 Easily Accessible Maui Waterfalls – The Best and Most Easily Accessible Maui Waterfalls
- 7 Waterfalls in Maui That You Can Swim In – Must see!
- 13 WATERFALLS IN MAUI YOU CAN’T MISS