Big Beach

Big Beach is also known by the names Makena Beach and Oneloa Beach

Makena Big Beach

Big Beach is long, wide, beautiful, and extreme.

Rating: ★★★★★

In a nutshell: Big Beach is a beautiful, long, wide, undeveloped sandy beach. Impressive, with huge views and a large shore-break. Big Beach is a must-see.
Minuses: A wicked shore-break exists here when the surf is up that can be dangerous for the inexperienced.
Sound-bite: [monster crashing wave]

Video credit: filmed by my buddy Everett Peacock

One of the most outstanding beaches in Maui. Big Beach is well over a half a mile long, and is also uncharacteristically wide by Maui standards. That means loads of real estate to stake out your claim, and this beach, while always drawing lots of people – is never so crowded as to be packed.

Big Beach is not the official name of this beach – but it is the name which it is most well known by. Other names for this beach are: Makena Beach and Oneloa Beach

Let me start by saying this: don’t let the warnings below scare you off – even if you don’t swim well, this is not a beach to miss from sightseeing standards alone.

ign on the lifeguard stand warns people not to go in unless they are experienced using this beach.

Sign on the lifeguard stand warns people not to go in unless they are experienced using this beach.

Big Beach has a significant on-shore break that can be downright brutal when there is a large south swell. This is never a beach that is safe for small children or inexperienced swimmers. Adults might want to think twice during high surf, as well.

Lifeguard stand


In recent years three lifeguard stands were added. If any beach on Maui should have had lifeguard stands, this is it. This is one point glossed over in most guidebooks, and is very important that visitors know: the waves here are often big, and powerful. The shore break crashes right at the water’s edge, and you should always enter the ocean here cautiously. If in doubt, consult a lifeguard.

Yeah, this guy stuck the landing. 10.0!

Yeah, this guy stuck the landing. 10.0!

When the surf is up, you’ll also be front-row to the most extreme boogie boarding you’re likely to see during your visit. The photos below were taken during the tail-end of a receding south swell.

Break time

“Break time”

There are also a handful of food vendors that operate out of trucks inside and just outside the park. Jawz Tacos is usually in the parking lot and you really can’t do wrong with them, they’re particularly ono.

Access to Little Beach, perhaps the most famous nude beach on Maui, is from Big Beach. (see the Little Beach page, which also has a nice helicopter-shot video of both beaches.)


Video: Ocean Kayak POV

Key Info:
Location: Makena Alanui Rd., (4 Mi S of Grand Wailea Resort)
GPS Coordinates: 20.631901,-156.447265
Facilities: Bathrooms, lifeguards, picnic tables, parking is $5 for non residents.
Get directions

View Makena Big Beach in a larger map

  1. I visited this beach every year for five years running on holiday with my family in Maui in the 90s. We were usually in Maui for 2-3 weeks every January. I was swimming by myself in this water at eight or nine years old. My mom was a lifeguard and we were all strong swimmers. We knew you had to be very careful getting in and out and pick your moments. We also knew to dive into the base of a wave. We were never there during particularly large swells, I think. We loved it. I went back in 2010 finally and had a similar experience to my childhood. No problems at all. But this one tourist got slammed that day. He was swimming right next to me for quite a while. I think he got hurt while trying to get out of the water. Have things changed there since the 90s? Or is the issue just people who are inexperienced with this beach not understanding how to stay safe? I’m reading all these horror stories online, but I literally spent hours and hours in this water as a kid with no problems.

  2. EddyBoyFromDaBeach says:

    #1 rule of the ocean! If In doubt, don’t go out! Non locals be aware. This is a Hawaiian waterman telling u, there’s no lifeguards present, and u will drown if u don’t know what your doing! Experience is necessary when it’s pumping?808Braddah hood??. ????‍♂️ Yesssahhh Blessahhh, No stresssah?????? U have been warned Kooks!

  3. Jody says:

    I just went to Maui, decided to try to snorkel here our first day…..bad idea, water drops off fast and waves strong.
    I am not a strong swimmer and haven’t snorkeled in many years. The waves slammed me into the sand and I was lucky to walk out with a bruise only.
    My husband almost drowned while out as well.
    As everyone says, a beautiful beach but can be deceiving.

  4. This beach has a shore break. Basically the waves can hit pretty hard and close to shore. The safest way to navigate a shore break it to go toward an incoming wave and dive under it as close to the sand as possible. You will pop out the backside of the wave. It is the best way to stay safe. People automatically want to run and get out of the ocean as quick as possible and they get smashed. Big mistake. Face the wave, go toward it, and dive under.

  5. I was here in 2000; the people I were with were snorkeling about 40 feet away out in the water. I had on my snorkel gear and next thing you know I was in an undertoe. It felt like I was in a washing machine… I had no idea which way was up or down. I had been under a long time and came to the conclusion I was going to drown… a strange calmness came over me and I “remembered” to “swim parallel to the shore”.. I tried a few different ways (since i had no idea of direction), and got out of it after being under the water for at least three minutes. I realized at that point I had lost all my snorkel gear but I wasn’t about to go back in the ocean to get it! I am a really good swimmer but I wouldn’t suggest anyone to go swimming here.
    Super scary

    • I got knovked over and got bruised but what was scary is i had no control over where i was landing. Very dangerous and not for kids. But a must see for sun bathing just no wave hoping.

    • J. Spicoli says:

      Sorry Apryl, undertow absolutely does not exist. I have been surfing since the 1960’s and undertow is impossible–the laws of physics forbid it. A current of water flowing beneath another current flowing in the opposite direction does not even make intuitive sense. Riptide or rip-currents exist in abundance. A good surfer will look for a riptide’s distinctive signs and jump into it. It can save a lot of paddling effort.

      The word undertow and whatever folks believe or think about it, needs to go away forever. I do not like “riptide” but I can live with something that actually exists.

      A Gnarly Wave and a Righteous Buzz

      -J. Spicoli

      • Never swimed , swam, Swum, in my life says:

        -J. Spicoli . You sound ridiculous.

  6. First day of our vacation here, my wife almost broke her neck and ended up in the emergency room. She bruised her spinal cord and has burning pain that runs down her arms that fortunately will go away. I watched the wave that hit her and almost killed her. It was disturbing. It could have been worse, it could have been my son that got hit by that wave. Not only is she lucky to be alive, she’s lucky that she didn’t get paralyzed from the neck down. There were no lifeguards on duty, and I really feel that this place needs more signs and warnings for those of us that are coming from out of state. We went to Makena Beach by the recommendation of a friend but ended up at the wrong part. That is too easy of a mistake for someone coming from the mainland and who’s never been here before. This beach is a death trap and it needs to be properly posted.

    But, I will add that it is a gorgeous beach and definitely worth walking on.

    • I survived Hurricane Lane says:

      I am pretty sure the was a hurricane that week, probably the wrong time to be out.

  7. Maria A says:

    Just came across the comments now. Big beach is a beautiful beach but dangerous.. The waves are huge and be extra careful when in the water. My husband suffered a spinal cord injury from this beach in 2013 as he was knocked down by the wave and was pushed to the oceanfloor. He was paralyzed from neck down. From an active middle aged man to now a disabled man. He ended up in Maui ICU for almost 15 days and that’s where we practically spent our holidays then. Be extra careful in this area.

    • Never swimed in my life says:

      Wowwww sorry that happened to your family. Thanks for the info. Take care.

  8. Winter says:

    I almost drowned on Big Beach back in about 2000. There were no lifeguard towers then. Besides my family and a couple boogie boarders, the place was empty. For most of the day, the waves were about 3-4 ft and super fun. My friend and I turned our backs on the thing we knew, there were like 20 footers coming at us from behind. My dad got a lot of it on camera..until he realized that the situation had become dangerous. It was insane. My friend and I were about 2 ft apart..he was standing in the water and my feet were about 5 feet above his head because I was on the crest..The waves kept breaking further out..Eventually, we both caught a wave in at the same time but that was after about 10-15 minutes of being thrown around, having my bathing suit ripped off, and being pinned on the ocean floor a few times. Nobody told us how dangerous the beach could be until after we almost drowned..but it was a beautiful beach. I’d go back.

  9. Shredulato says:

    Been to beaches all over Maui, this beach with a swell can be a killer. The beach is quite steep just where it enters the ocean, as such when a waves breaks on it literally pulls you down, slams you and pulls you out . Other breaks that have a more gradual entry into the water do not seem to have this effect. Those breaks hit you but there is ample time to get up and walk out because it’s a gradual incline..Be extra carefull here folks.

    • Yeah, you’re totally right. In Brazil we call those beaches “praia de tombo”, something like “fall in beaches” and big waves form and break in shallow water, not as big as in Hawaii, but they do. People think the only risk at the ocean is getting drowned, but waves like that in shallow water are dangerous than in deep water, even to the best swimmer. For someone who can swim, I may say deep water is always better, because if you get hit by a big wave, you won’t be slammed on the sand and break your neck 🙁

  10. NEVER turn your back to the surf here………I did for a moment and a large “sneaker ” wave knocked me down and broke my ankle……I did not let that spoil a great vacation! An ace wrap and a cane and I was good til I got home!
    Tough lesson learned…,,,.At least it was relatively minor injury compared to some stories I’ve heard about Big Beach!

    • Yes Mary, the way to get to Little Beach is a path over the rocks from the north end of Big Beach. It is such a popular place that you are sure to see people coming or going on the trail when you visit, so just walk to that end of the beach (right end of beach if facing ocean) – by the time you get to the end of the beach you will likely have seen someone come or go!

  11. Tom Wachal says:

    Why isn’t that sign placed at entry points near parking, etc. ? Ask staff at Maui Memorial hospital what they think of Big Beach.

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