Your Destination Guide to Maui

Destination Guide Maui - Your Destination Guide to Maui, HI

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Big Beach

Big Beach
Big Beach

© Jamie Ewing

Some call it Oneloa Beach, others call it Makena Beach, but most call it Big Beach – and it is just that. At more than 100 feet wide and the better half of a mile long, this miraculously undeveloped crescent of yellow sand provides a classic example of Hawaiian Paradise.

From the large and often crowded parking lot, you'll hear the crash and swoosh of waves rolling ashore, beckoning you to partake in a little piece of mind and a whole lot of beauty. Stroll through the patch of Keawe trees (and be careful not to step on their fallen thorny branches); then kick off your sandals (or "slippahs") and sink yourself into the grainy yet smooth golden sand. You'll never feel overcrowded at this vast South Maui hotspot.

On a clear and sunny day, you'll see Molokini and Kaho'olawe straight ahead, seemingly floating atop the brilliant blue sea that fades to turquoise along their shores. Thanks to the lack of development in and around this state park, Big Beach offers some of the most luxuriously clean swimming on the island; however, beware the powerful shore break, undertow, currents, and steep drop-offs. The state recently introduced lifeguard stands, thus increasing the beach's water safety while perhaps compromising its once untouched natural beauty. Reluctant swimmers find enjoyment in watching local boogie boarders back flip and barrel through the waves.

Haleakala's most recent eruption in 1790 formed the large hill at the north end of the beach, called Pu'u O'lai or "Earthquake Hill." Climb it for a postcard-worthy snapshot of Big Beach and continue down the path to find Little Beach, the island's unofficial clothing optional beach. Although it's illegal to sunbathe nude in Hawai'i, more open-minded residents and visitors crowd this relatively teeny pocket of sand and sea to lounge, swim, snorkel, and surf. Visit on a Sunday afternoon for a lively sunset drum circle worthy of a 1970s rainbow gathering. Continue past Little Beach for trails that lead to great snorkeling spots and exquisite vantage points.

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