Makena Beach (Big Beach) in Maui

Makena Beach in Maui
Makena Beach at Makena State Park in Maui

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.

Where to stay near Makena Beach

Best Option* Aston Maui Hill Hotel – If you want to stay near Makena Beach I recommend the Aston Maui Hill Condo hotel. The location is ideal. Only a 6 minutes’ walk from Kamaole Beach Park III (another incredible beach in Maui).

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!

There are boat tours & kayak tours that take off from Makena Beach and snorkel in the area, but you can access amazing sea life directly from the shore as well.

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.

Swimming Conditions

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 Maui
Lifeguard at Makena Beach in Maui

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. 

Little beach and big beach in Maui, Hawaii
Little beach and big beach in Maui, Hawaii

Things to do near Makena Beach

Conclusion: Is Big Beach worth visiting?

Yes! Absolutely, this was one of my favorite beaches in Maui.

What to Pack for Maui

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!

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Hey there! I'm Claire, the founder of & While spending 4 years completely bedridden and miserable from an unexpected illness I decided to begin writing about my past travel adventures and now the rest is history. Thank you so much for visiting the website. I hope you enjoy it!


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