This is the place to SWIM WITH TURTLES! The cutoff to Makena landing is six miles south of Maui Vista. Watch for the sign on the right-hand side of the road to Makena. It’s hard to miss. Head downhill and turn right as you get to the ocean. There’s on-street parking as well as a small county park with additional parking, restrooms and showers a little farther on. The beaches are sandy well out into the water – an easy put-in for snorkeling.
There’s no guarantee, but you may see turtles just about anywhere at Makena Landing. In fact, around the bend (to the right of Makena Landing as you face the water) is what the snorkel boats call “Turtle Town.” You’ll see boat after boat tie up to underwater buoys during the morning. They’re stopping near two underwater lava tubes extending perpendicular from the shore. There are caves in these tubes where the turtles like to rest. Every now and again they come up for air.
Turtle Town is a long swim from shore but it’s not necessary to go that far to see turtles. You can often see them near the shore in both directions from Makena Landing. In fact, if you stay on the high ground near the parking lot, you may see them swimming just below you. You don’t even have to get wet!
If you’re a good swimmer and accomplished snorkeler, the coral between Makena Landing and Maluaka Beach is very nice. You’ll see plenty of fish and I’ve literally had to keep out of the way of turtles feeding on the rocks in some of the coves between the Landing and the Beach. It’s a long swim. If you don’t want to do it twice, you can walk back by the road.
The south end of Maluaka Beach has good snorkeling as well. I’ve only seen a few turtles there, but the coral is nice.
Parking for Maluaka Beach is opposite the old stone church (you can’t miss it). You’ll find restrooms and an outdoor shower there as well. It’s a short walk to the beach and the old stone church (established 1832!) is worth a visit. Click here to read more about the old stone church.
Remember, the turtles are not afraid of people and it’s sometimes possible to get quite close to them. They are gentle creatures and they won’t hurt you, but please DON’T TOUCH THE TURTLES or HARRASS THEM IN ANY WAY. Sadly, you may see some of them infected with parasites. The growths look like tumors. That’s not the fault of humans (as far as I know) but it is usually fatal.
For a little extra sigthseeing as you leave Makena Landing, head north on the road you drove in on. It will take you through a very swank neighborhood and back to the main road. Rumor has it that behind one of those gates on the Makai (i.e. “toward the ocean”) side is one of Tiger Wood’s homes. Another is said to belong to Jennifer Aniston. Ho hum, celebrities everywhere.