Little Beach, Maui: A Complete Guide to Makena’s Hidden Gem

Little Beach Maui blog cover image.  Text overlaying an aerial image showing Little Beach tucked at the base of the Makena Caldera, with Big Beach to the right and turquoise waters.

Little Beach, also known as Puu Olai, is a golden-sand oasis hidden between the Makena caldera and the Pacific Ocean along the Wailea-Makena shoreline of South Maui.

While it was closed for a brief period due to “illegal activity by beachgoers”, assumedly relating to the Maui Sunday Drum Circle that used to take place there, Little Beach reopened on March 13, 2021. The Sunday Drum Circle has since moved to nearby Chang’s Beach.

The tree-lined beach is accessible only via an overland trail that connects it to the larger and more popular Big Beach. Because there is no direct parking or visibility, many visitors overlook this hidden gem. In fact, it is considered one of the Top 10 secret beaches of Maui.

Learn more about Little Beach including how to find it, what to expect, facilities available, and more in this complete travel guide.

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Little Beach Maui Overview

Looking directly at Little Beach from high above, with Big Beach stretching out to the right.
Looking directly at Little Beach from high above, with Big Beach stretching out to the right.

HOURS & FEES

As of April 2021, parking at Big Beach / Makena Beach is now $10 per vehicle. In addition, there is a $5 per-person entry fee. These fees only apply to non-residents.

While the parking gates of Makena State Park are open daily 7am-7pm, the official opening hours of Little Beach vary depending on the day of the week:

  • Saturday & Sunday: 5am – 4pm
  • Weekdays: 5am – 7pm

Both the entry fees and hours are cause for confusion as they are in conflict with state law mandating all beaches in Hawaii are public. The state is well within its rights to manage the parking area however it sees fit, but the ability to enforce fees and hours regarding the beaches themselves is controversial.

SERVICES

  • Nearest Town: Wailea
  • Parking: Parking lot at Big Beach 1
  • Public Bathrooms: Portapotties available at Big Beach 1 parking area.
  • Picnic Benches? No.
  • Showers? No.
  • Grills? No.
  • Lifeguard? Not at Little Beach, but there are some at the other Makena beaches.

DESCRIPTION

Looking down into the Makena caldera from high above the Makena Beaches.
Looking down into the Makena caldera from high above the Makena Beaches.

At the base of the Makena caldera is a row of gnarled trees surrounding soft golden sand that collides with the turquoise waters of the Pacific. Lava rock frames the shoreline at both corners.

Little Beach is one of the two beaches that comprise Makena State Park. The other, Big Beach, is divided into three parts with their own parking areas. No distinguishing features separate the three portions of Big Beach or Makena Beach, but a chunk of land with an overland trail divides it from Little Beach.

The 0.3-mile trail from the parking lot is uneven and requires walking over lava rock in some parts, so ensure you have some sturdy beach shoes.

Due to its secluded nature, this has long been a popular clothing-optional destination for free-spirited locals and tourists alike. It was once the home of the Sunday Drum Circle, which has since moved to Chang’s Beach further north.

However, because of issues relating to this drum circle, the beach was closed for a short period in 2021. It has since reopened but now features signage officially forbidding nudity, the use of alcohol, fires, and other illegal substances.

The shore break at Little Beach is gentler than that at Big Beach making it more suitable for swimming and bodyboarding. Make sure you also pack your snorkel gear as it’s a great spot for snorkeling when the water is calm.

How to Get to Little Beach

Satellite view of the Makena region of Maui.
The red pin indicates its position relative to the Wailea-Makena coastline.

With Navigation: The closest parking can be easily found by inputting “Big Beach Parking Lot” into Google Maps. It is located within Makena State Park. From there, walk to the beach and find the overland trail to your right that connects the beaches.

General Directions: Drive south along Makena Rd and look for the roadside sign for Makena State Park on your right. Turn here and park, then walk to the beach and turn to your right. The beach runs into a spit of land with an access trail to Little Beach.

This aerial photo shows the overland trail that connects Big Beach to Little Beach.
This aerial photo shows the overland trail that connects Big Beach to Little Beach.

When to Visit

The best time to visit Little Beach is in the evening for sunset. Whatever crowds there ever were tend to thin out as the golden light shines brightly into the hidden cove. As the view from here is due west, it is also one of the best places to watch sunset in Maui.

With that said, it officially closes at 4pm on weekends and 7pm on weekdays following the reopening of the beach. Legally, any strip of sand next to the ocean is open 24 hours/day in the state of Hawaii, though the parking lots, trails, and facilities may not be.

Little Beach shines in afternoon light in this aerial photo above Makena.
Afternoon light shines onto the beaches in this aerial photo taken above Makena.

The afternoon is a better time to visit than the morning. Makena caldera casts a long shadow in the earlier parts of the day. By the afternoon it is high and far enough over to shine into the cove.

Little Beach Maui FAQs

Is Little Beach Maui open?

Little Beach reopened on March 13, 2021 following a 2-month closure due to illegal activity by beachgoers.

While the parking gates of Makena State Park are open daily 7am-7pm, the official opening hours of Little Beach vary depending on the day of the week:

  • Saturday & Sunday: 5am – 4pm
  • Weekdays: 5am – 7pm
When is Little Beach open?

The parking gates of Makena State Park are open daily 7am-7pm, however, the official opening hours of Little Beach vary depending on the day of the week:

  • Saturday & Sunday: 5am – 4pm
  • Weekdays: 5am – 7pm

While all beaches in Hawaii are public and therefore legally open 24 hours, the parking lot, trails, and facilities are not.

Why is Little Beach closed?

The beach is no longer closed, reopening on March 13, 2021. It was closed the previous two months for “reckless and illegal behavior.” The primary cause for concern was the risk of spreading coronavirus during the Sunday Drum Circle following a Facebook post showing over 400 maskless attendees.

How do you get to Little Beach?

Park in the Makena State Park lot and walk the 0.3-mile overland trail from Big Beach parking lot to Little Beach (it is an obvious trail to your right as you face the ocean.)

What happened to Little Beach?

It was shut down for two months following a social media photo showing over 400 maskless attendees during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. It has since reopened with new, limited hours and signage forbidding nudity, fires, and the consumption of alcohol or illegal substances.

The Maui Sunday Drum Circle has since moved to nearby Chang’s Beach.

Do you have to pay at Little Beach?

There is no fee for visiting the beach itself as all beaches in Hawaii are public. However, non-resident parking at Makena State Park is $10 per vehicle and there is an additional $5 per-person entry fee.

Other Relevant Maui Guides

Sophie Clapton on the shores of Red Sand Beach in Maui.
Check out our guide so you don’t miss any of Maui’s best secret beaches, including Kaihalulu above!

Before you go, you may want to skim some of the titles for other relevant Maui guides below to ensure you do not miss any epic beaches, sunset destinations, or noteworthy things to do during your visit to the Valley Isle!

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