Maui Chillin’: Big Beach

Also known as Makena Beach, Big Beach is a beautiful, golden-white stretch of sand in south Maui. At almost 2/3 mile long and 100 yards wide, the beach deserves its name.

Why Maui?

Of all the Hawaiian islands, Maui has the nicest beaches. That might be a matter of opinion–we’ve certainly devoted well over a dozen trips to all the islands in the pursuit of deciding just which one is our favorite. The thing about Maui is that it has something for everyone. Want a fancier experience with big hotels and sugary beaches? Head up to Kaanapali or Lahaina on the West Coast. Feeling a more down-home, local surfer vibe? South Maui is for you. Had enough sun and want something greener? Seriously? Well, there’s Hana on the east side. And of course, Haleakala looms in the center of the island, for those wanting a different experience altogether.

The other thing about Maui is that it’s such an easy island to enjoy. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve traveled between Kihei and Lahaina, gotten off the road, parked the car under the trees by the shore, and tumbled out into the sand for a swim break. We’ve stopped at the same area at night to stargaze while listening to the waves. When we start going stir-crazy in gloomy Seattle and just need a sanity weekend, Maui is generally our choice.

just another maui beach

One of the random swim breaks we took off Highway 30. Photo by Silvain Alarilla.

There are many, many beaches on Maui, particularly along the south of the island. Since we typically stay in the Kihei area, we’ve checked quite a few out, among them Big Beach.

Big Beach

There’s a lot of room on Big Beach, and though it’s rarely possible to feel alone here, it’s also rare to feel overcrowded.

big beach boogie boarders

Boogie boarders waiting for the next good wave.

The thing about south Maui beaches–it gets windy on this part of the island. Being face- and body-slapped by a hundred grains of sand is an interestingly painful experience. Big Beach is a little iffy in the sense that there’s not a lot of tree cover close to the water (100 yards is pretty wide), so there’s nowhere to hide from wind and sun.

Not only that, but the surf can get pretty rough out here. There’s nothing for the waves to break on further out, so they can crash pretty hard onto the shore. Boogie boarders love it!

Big Beach has lifeguard stands, Port-a-Potties, and even some food trucks in the parking lot. There’s also a lot of parking available.

big beach west

Followed the west end to its edge and over the rocks…

Because David and I are always looking for solitude, we went to the western edge of Big Beach. There’s a pile of rocks there, and I would strongly advise not attempting to cross them when the tide is high. But it was on its way out when we were there, so we picked our way through and made it to a tiny pocket of sand. Unlike Big Beach, the waterfront here was pretty rocky and not suited for swimming, but it did allow us to have a few moments to ourselves. We also took this awesome photo.

big beach sunset1

We had this sunset to ourselves off the west edge of Big Beach!

Little Beach

Along the eastern edge of Big Beach is a trail that leads up through the hill. This can be a tough trail to climb, but it’s only five minutes or so, and the view of Big Beach from the top of it can be amazing.

big beach aerial

Big Beach from Makena Point.

If you follow it down to the other side, you’ll find what locals call Little Beach. It is smaller, but the beach is the same quality. However, because it’s off the beaten track, people often go nude here. It has a hippie vibe and can be quite crowded. We checked it out, stayed for a minute to assess the situation, and then climbed back out. Not that I mind skinny-dipping, I was more turned off by the density of people compared to Big Beach.

little beach

Little Beach. Smaller beach, occasionally more people.


If you’re looking for a beach fix, Maui’s hard to beat. And Big Beach is definitely a solid choice. Come for the waves, stay for the sunset!

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