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Canoeing & Kayaking

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Makena Landing to Turtle Town and Big Beach, Maui HI
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Copyright 2000 Alfonso Vazquez-Cuervo - See Terms of Use

Our Route Summary

  • Submitted by: Art Littlefield, Village Outfitters, Cocoa FL
  • Date Submitted: 9/2000
  • Email:
  • Location: Makena Landing to Turtle Town and Big Beach, Maui HI
  • Class: ocean water with wind chop. This route is best paddled early in the morning to avoid the unpredictable winds in the afternoon.
  • Distance Paddled: 4 miles round trip
  • Water: salt
  • Wildlife: Green Sea Turtles, Parrot Fish, various Hawaiian fish, humpback whales (in spring)

Entry and Exit

  • Directions: From Kahului Airport in Maui, take 380 to 350 (toward Kehei) about 9 miles. Turn left onto 31 Pi'ilani Highway and follow it until it ends at Wailea Alanui. Turn left and continue to 2 or 3 miles to Makena Road. Turn right and go up and down hills for a mile or so to Makena Landing on the Right.
  • Fee: none
  • Description: dark sand beach adjacent to showers and restrooms
  • Parking: large paved parking lot near the put-in
  • Facilities: There are full men's and women's restrooms and outdoor showers at this state facility

What We Saw

This route is best paddled early in the morning to avoid the unpredictable winds in the afternoon. The south west side of Maui is largely sheltered from the trade winds which blow in from the east. But these winds wrap around the huge Haleakala volcano and by afternoon, they can pick up in the Makena, Wailea, Kehei area from either direction, alternately pushing you along or blowing you backward, or dying out altogether only to pick up again. To avoid these unknowns, start early when the wind is calm.

Launch at the short beach at Makena Landing and paddle south across historic Makena Bay which used to be a port for commerce in Maui's earlier times. Once past the bay, the expansive Maui Prince Hotel, the southern most resort in this part of Maui, comes into view. You can see Molokini isle, a small extinct crater out in the channel which is a crescent shaped marine preserve. Do not yield to the temptation to paddle out to it. The current and wind would prohibit your return. All beaches in Hawaii are public access.

Malu'aka beach and the beach in front of the Maui Prince have good snorkeling. But the best snorkeling is around the point of lava which separates the Maui Prince hotel from the dark sand of Oneuli Beach to the south. This point is known to snorkelers and divers as "Turtle Town" for the sea turtle colonies that can always be found here. You may spot some turtles surfacing for air as you paddle by, but if you stop and put on mask and snorkel, a whole world of beauty awaits you below.

Land your kayak at the dark sand beach just south of the point (take care in the shore break) and take time to enjoy this place. After snorkeling at Turtle Town, continue south around the large brown volcanic crater jutting out into the ocean. On the other side of this crater is Little Beach and Big Beach. Do not attempt to land at either of these due to the strong shore break. Big Beach, also known as Makena Beach and officially called Oneloa Beach is two thirds of a mile long with clear blue water and not a building in sight. It was a well known hippie colony back in the '60s and '70s.

Little Beach is the smaller beach at the base of the crater. Protected by lava outcroppings on both sides, it is still the local nude beach. Return the way you came. The west Maui mountains, constantly topped by clouds, are seen to the north west on the way back. More snorkeling can be found on the way back, but don't forget to return before the wind picks up, which can be anytime after noon.