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

Keawala’i Congregational Church in Makena

Founded in 1832, the Keawala’i Congregational Church is one of the oldest churches on Maui. The lava stone structure that still stands was built in 1855 using a mortar made of coral. It replaced the original house of worship made of pili grass. Over the years the three foot thick walls have been repaired and the wooden roof and bell tower replaced, but the bones of the 1855 church remain.

Sometimes referred to locally as “the old stone church,” the Keawala’i Congregational Church is located on a small sandy cove between Makena Landing and Maluaka Beach about six miles south of Maui Vista. From Highway 31, follow the signs pointing to “Makena Landing” and “Keawala’i Congregational Church.” Turn left as you get to the bottom of the hill. The church is just up the road on your right. You can’t miss it. Park across the street in the Maluaka Beach parking lot and look around.

If the doors are open you can look inside at the simple handsome interior. Hymnals are provided in both English and Hawaiian and the church owns an early 19th century bible written in Hawaiian. Two services are held each Sunday – one in Hawaiian.

The son of a friend of ours was married in the Keawala’i Church in 2010. If you’re interested, you don’t have to be a member to arrange for a wedding, reaffirmation of wedding vows, baptism, or funeral/memorial service. Contact the church for details.

The church’s small graveyard by the sea is worth a visit. It has old and newer headstones.

At the far end of the graveyard is a simple and dignified grave for the remains of a woman from pre-missionary times. Her bones and a comb were found with the remains of a buried canoe when one of the large hotels was constructed in Wailea.

While you’re in the area, enjoy the beaches. Both Makena Landing and Maluaka Beach are great for snorkeling, swimming, and relaxing. Check out our post on Makena Landing to learn about snorkeling with turtles.

Weatherwise Kihei No Ka ‘Oi

Whether you’re escaping the bitter cold of Canadian winters or the sometimes brutal heat of the American southwest, the climate of Hawaii is a welcome relief. But if you’re from the Pacific Northwest like we are, there is one meteorological phenomenon that you most want to avoid:  rain.

Every Hawaiian island has its microclimates and Maui is no exception. From the daily downpours in the West Maui Mountains (up to 400 inches per year!) and the lush jungles on the road to Hana to the parched cactus lands in the rain shadows of Mount Haleakala and the West Mauis, there is enormous variability. The dryest part of inhabited Maui is the southwest coast including Kihei, Wailea and Makena. The entire area is shielded from the rains that make Hana so green by the 10,000 foot Mount Haleakala.

In this dry corner of Maui, the dryest place is Kihei – which is why we say Kihei No Ka ‘Oi (Kihei is the best).

Everywhere on Maui the wettest months are December through March. The best months to avoid rain are May through September. But hey, this is Hawaii – even if it rains, as long as you’re not on the mountain top, the rain is warm.

What’s up with Oprah and Maui?

As can be expected with anyone so wealthy and famous, lots of stir is created by Oprah’s presence on Maui. Here’s what we can piece together based on newspaper and magazine articles.

Oprah owns three properties on Maui. The first property she bought is 1,000 acres near the rainy town of Hana. That’s right….the town that’s about 65 slow miles from us at Maui Vista 2418. The second property is about 300 acres in the up-country outside Kula which is on the slopes of Mt.Haleakala and looks down over Kihei. We can see “her road” from our front door as shown by the red arrow in the photo below. This road is controversial because Maui County approved Oprah’s private road which would save all of us from many miles of driving to get to Mount Haleakala National Park and other up-country destinations. Many Mauians wish the county would have built the road instead. At almost $5 per gallon of gasoline, it would have spoken well for sustainability!

Oprah’s most recent purchase is reportedly a waterfront home in the posh Makena neighborhood just a few miles south of Maui Vista 2418. The homes in that area are incredibly expensive. For example, we know of someone who paid $14million for a non-waterfront lot!

When we were at Grandma’s Coffee House in Kula the lady who works there reported Oprah having been in the restaurant a few times. Other than that, Oprah is known for being very private and is not able to saunter around the island on foot like many other stars such as Steven Tyler, Willie Nelson, Mick Fleetwood and Kris Kristofferson. My advice: don’t go to Kula for the chance to see Oprah.