Makena State Park – Pu’u Olai

Pu'u Olai as seen from Charley Young Beach

Pu’u Olai as seen from Charley Young Beach

Pu’u Olai is a 360 foot tall cinder cone in the middle of Makena State Park. A dominant feature on the southwest coast of Maui, Pu’u Olai is visible from almost everywhere in west Maui and as far north as Olowalu on the road to Lahaina. If you want to get to Makena, just drive toward Pu’u Olai.

Big Beach is on the south side of Pu’u Olai; Little Beach on the west side, and Black Sand Beach is to the north.

Numerous trails lead to the summit of Pu’u Olai. It’s a short, but sometimes steep, hike. We took a trail that starts from the road to Black Sand Beach, maybe 50 yards from the parking lot at the end of the road. Most of the trail is entirely exposed, so go in the morning before it gets hot. Take water and enjoy the view. Hiking shoes, tennis shoes, or (at minimum) strap on sandals are recommended. Parts of the trail are composed of loose gravel – not a problem going up, but potentially hazardous coming down.

On a clear day you can see Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea on the Big Island, the uninhabited island of Koho’olawe, Molokini (where the snorkel boats go), Lanai, Molokai, and, of course, Mt Haleakala, the West Maui Mountains, and most of Maui.

Big Beach as seen from Pu'u Olai

Big Beach as seen from Pu’u Olai

View toward Wailea from Pu'u Olai

View toward Wailea from Pu’u Olai

Makena State Park – Little Beach (no pictures please)

Little Beach is located just north of Big Beach

Little Beach is located just north of Big Beach

In case you don’t know, Little Beach is south Maui’s clothing optional beach. While public nudity is illegal in Hawaii, it’s tolerated (at least most of the time) at Little Beach and a few other places on the island. While quiet during the week, according to other posts, Little Beach can get pretty raucous on the weekends – especially Sunday afternoon and evening when there may be hundreds of people on the beach with drum circles, dancing, and various substances consumed.

Little Beach is a small sandy cove located on the west side of the cinder cone that dominates Makena State Park. It’s separated from Big Beach on the south, and Black Sand Beach on the north, by portions of the cinder cone that extend into the ocean. This is not a place that you (or your children) are going to stumble upon by accident.


Trail from parking lot to Big Beach

Trail from parking lot to Big Beach

Drive south through Wailea to Big Beach and park in the northernmost parking lot. Take the trail from the parking lot and keep heading north (to your right) when you come to the beach.

The north end of the beach appears blocked off by an ancient lava flow extending out from the cinder cove. On closer inspection, you’ll see a rough trail leading up and over the rock to Little Beach. Shoes or strap on sandals are advised.

Climb over the rock to get to Little Beach

Climb over the rock to get to Little Beach




Little Beach is a primitive beach with no water, restrooms, or lifeguards. There is also little shade on the beach. Take what you need, and don’t forget the sunscreen!


Makena State Park – Black Sand Beach

Black Sands Beach

Black Sand Beach

Makena State Park’s biggest and most popular attraction is Big Beach. Less well known, and certainly much less used, is Black Sand Beach, located on the north side of the cinder cone that defines one end of Big Beach.

A tiny parking lot at the end of a very bumpy, but mercifully short, dirt road can hold maybe ten cars. Despite this, as the nearly deserted beach in the picture above suggests, there’s usually plenty of parking space.

In addition to its quiet serenity and unusual color, Black Sand Beach has excellent snorkeling. Find a place where it’s easy to enter the water (there’s one almost directly below the parking lot) and swim out 20 or 30 yards to the coral. Swim as far as you want parallel to the shore and next to the cinder cone. You’ll see lots of fish and coral and maybe turtle or two.


Drive south through Wailea toward the big cinder cone that separates Big Beach and Black Sand Beach. With the cinder cone square on your right, look for a dirt road with a white crossbar gate (open during daylight hours). There is usually a Jawz Taco truck parked just beyond the gate on the opposite side of the road (great tacos!). If you get to the entrance to Big Beach, you’ve gone too far.

Entry to Black Sands Beach

Entry to Black Sands Beach

NOTE: Black Sand Beach is a primitive beach. There are no restrooms, water, or lifeguards. If in doubt, don’t go out.

Makena State Park – Big Beach

Pu'u Olai as seen from Charley Young Beach

Pu’u Olai as seen from Charley Young Beach

Makena State Park is a 20 minute drive south of Kihei. It’s most prominent feature, the volcanic cinder cone Pu’u Olai, is visible for miles from almost everywhere in west Maui and up country.

There are three beaches at Makena State Park: Big Beach, Little Beach, and Black Sands Beach. This post is about Big Beach.

Big Beach is well named. It is BIG.

Big Beach looking east

Big Beach is very popular with locals. Probably because of its location and lack of common amenities (showers, dressing rooms, drinking water, and real toilets) there are far fewer tourists at Big Beach than in more developed parts of the island. There are, however, lifeguards, two large parking lots, porta-potties, picnic tables, and (usually) a food truck selling great tacos.

The beach has great sand and sun but a deceptively strong shore break. The water gets deep fast and the surf can be powerful. It’s great for experienced body boarders but not for amateurs. Note and heed the signs: “If in doubt, don’t go out.”

To get there, drive south through Wailea and Makena. Look for signs to “Big Beach” as you pass the Pu’u Olai cinder cone. If the first parking lot is full, there’s a second lot a little farther down the road.

Secret Beach – AKA Makena Cove

Makena Cove

Secret Beach as seen from the west

About a 20 minute drive south from Maui Vista is a small (and not very secret) beach that is a popular site for weddings. While small, it’s never crowded. There are usually lots of turtles off the rocks to the right and left of the beach. Not a great place to swim, but wonderful for relaxing in a beautiful spot. A word to the wise: there are  no facilities at Secret Beach (no water, no showers, not even a porta-potty).

To get there, drive south through Wailea and past the two entrances to Big Beach at Makena State Park. A low lava rock wall starts near the east end of Big Beach. The wall quickly grows in height so you can’t see over it to the presumably lavish residences on the other side. When you see a small break in the wall (see picture below), you have arrived.

Entrance to Secret Beach

Entrance to Secret Beach

Dale Zarrella Completes Another Statue

The blessing of the finished statue

The blessing of the finished statue of St. Marianne Cope

Dale Zarrella’s sculpture of Saint Marianne Cope received a traditional Hawaiian blessing and a blessing by the priest from the local Catholic Church on June 14, 2015.

Mother Marianne came to the leper colony on Molokai as Father (now Saint) Damien was dying. She cared for Damien until his death, then assumed his ministry to the residents of Kalaupapa. Her ministry was particularly directed at women and girls. Saint Marianne was canonized in 2012.

The model for the young girl beside Mother Marianne was Dale Zarrella’s granddaughter. She and her younger brother are in front of Dale in the photo above.


The life sized statue was cared out the trunk of a monkey pod tree.

The statue was carved from this monkey pod tree

The statue was carved from this monkey pod tree

Dale began the work by making a half sized statue from clay. This was then cast in plaster. He then used giant calipers to translate the major dimensions of the half sized study into the full sized statue.

Half size plaster study of Mother Marianne and child

Half size plaster study of Mother Marianne and child

The first rough cuts are done with a chain saw. The last touches are with 2000 grit sandpaper.

First cuts

First cuts

Surfing Goats and Ocean Vodka

GoatThe Surfing Goat Dairy and Ocean Vodka Organic Farm and Distillery are more or less next to each other in an out of the way place upcountry off the lower Kula Highway. The Surfing Goat Dairy makes great goat cheese, and the Ocean Vodka Distillery makes a great vodka. Both have tours, although one is more suitable for families with small children and the other for adults. You can probably guess which is which.

Surfing goat signSurfing Goat Dairy has three types of tours: Casual ($8 for kids, $12 for adults), Evening Chores and Milking Tour ($14 for kids and $17 for adults), and Grand Dairy Tours ($28 per person). Check their website ( for details. We did the casual tour. It might be okay for small children, but $12 for adults is WAY overpriced. You can get close to some cute goats, sample a little cheese, and see their small-scale operation without taking the tour.

A surfing goat

A surfing goat

The Ocean Vodka Organic Farm and Distillery is right around the corner from Surfing Goat Dairy. Their tour is $10 for anyone 12 and over. Adults get a sipping sample and an Ocean Vodka shot glass at the end of the tour. There’s also a tour with lunch that costs $25. See their website (www. for details.

The store at the Ocean Vodka Organic Farm

The store at the Ocean Vodka Organic Farm

Ocean Vodka

The easiest way to get to Surfing Goat and Ocean Vodka Distillery is by way of the lower Kula Highway (Highway 37). Look for signs for the Omaopio Road between mileposts 9.5 and 10, head downhill and follow the curvy road until you see signs for Surfing Goat Dairy. Stop there or keep on the road for about a quarter mile until you see the driveway for Ocean Vodka. You can return the way you came or continue downhill. If you do the latter, Omaopio Road soon intersects and becomes Pulehu Road. This is a shorter return trip, but it takes you past the land fill which is briefly stinky. Take your pick.

Wailea Coastal Walk – Ulua Beach to Polo Beach

Wailea Coastal Walk revisedIt’s an easy mile and a half stroll on a paved path from Ulua Beach to Polo Beach. Of course, unless you take two cars, it’s a mile and a half back. At a leisurely pace, it takes about 35 minutes each way without stops.

On the other hand, you probably will stop. The views are beautiful. You’ll see turtles bobbing near the shore. The beaches have great snorkeling, swimming, boogie boarding, and sunning. Wear your swimsuit, take a backpack chair, bring snorkel gear. Make a morning or afternoon of it. Bring water and sunscreen.

The walk starts at Ulua Beach on the pathway in front of the exclusive gated community, Wailea Elua Village. As you walk, you’ll pass most of the major Wailea resorts and several condominium complexes.

Start at Ulua Beach

Beginning of paved walkway

2 Ulua Beach

Ulua Beach (great snorkeling)

3a Approaching the Mariott

Approaching the Mariott

4 Approaching Wailea Beach

Approaching Wailea Beach

5 Wailea Beach

Wailea Beach

6 Wailea Point

Wailea Point

7 Approaching the Fairmont

Approaching the Fairmont Kea Lani

8 Polo Beach

Polo Beach

There are public restrooms and outdoor showers at Ulua Beach. Polo Beach has restrooms, showers, and picnic tables at the public access point.

When is the best time of year to come to Maui?

There is no best time of year to come to Maui, but different times of year have different opportunities, costs, and somewhat different weather. Let your preferences be your guide.

One of the great attractions on Maui is whale watching. The whales start arriving in late October and November and are present in their thousands sometime in December. The most spectacular displays are usually in January, February and March. You can see impressive sights from shore, and even more amazing views on a whale watching cruise.

Whale calendar with dates

High Low SeasonThe HIGH season runs from a few days before Christmas until spring vacations for schools and universities. Most accommodations, including ours, are more expensive during high season. An even higher premium is charged for the days around Christmas.

The spring and fall tend to be quieter times. There is more room on the beaches, in restaurants, and at tourist destinations. There are more families with children in the summer.

Avg Rain and Temp on MauiThe average high and low temperatures near sea level vary by less than 10 degrees over the course of the year, but the extremes in summer are hotter than those in winter. You’ll see local school kids waiting at the bus stop bundled up for the “winter” weather when morning temperatures are in the 60s. Water temperatures change even less: the average low water temperature is in February and March at 74 degrees Fahrenheit; the average high (in August/September/October) is 79/80 degrees.

Rainfall is a different matter – both by time of year and location. Every month the average number of days of rainfall is less on the south coast of Maui (Kihei, Wailea, Makena) than in the northwest by Kaanapali and Kapalua.

Dale Zarrella – the Eye of an Artist

Dale Zarrella’s next project is a statue of Mother (now Saint) Marianne of Molokai. Mother Marianne arrived at Kalaupapa (the leper colony) on Molokai in 1888 after Father Damien contracted leprosy. She tended the dying Father Damien then took over his work for the remainder of her long life. The statue of Marianne will join Dale’s life-size statue of Saint Damien in the Father Damien Museum in Honolulu.

On the left is the Monkey Pod tree trunk that will become Dale's next statute. The image on the right  shows Dale's plaster study for Marianne superimposed over the tree trunk. The half-size plaster study is enlarged here to give an idea of what will emerge from the wood.

On the left is the Monkey Pod tree trunk that will become Dale’s next statue. The image on the right shows Dale’s plaster study for Saint Marianne superimposed over the tree trunk. The half-size plaster study is enlarged here to give an idea of what will emerge from the wood.

Click here, here, here, and here, to see other examples of Dale’s work.