As the population center for South Maui's original inhabitants, Makena is heavily steeped in ancient history and culture. And although much of modern Makena has been developed with waterfront resorts and homes, this history is still evident at places such as Keawala’i Church—a Congregational church established in 1832—where sermons are still held in the Hawaiian language. Similarly, at the end of the paved road in Keone’o’io Bay (La Perouse Bay), the trailhead begins for the ancient King’s Highway, a rocky path that once wrapped around the entire island.
Makena is home to some of Maui's best beaches, including Big Beach—one of the only stretches of Maui's shoreline that has been entirely protected from development—and nearby Little Beach, which is known as the island's clothing-optional outpost and hosts drum circles led by sun worshippers. Snorkeling is also especially popular in Makena, and pods of spinner dolphins have been known to frequent the waters of Keone’o’io.
Although Makena is only a 10-minute drive from the mega-resorts of nearby Wailea, it manages to retain a rural charm that draws everyone from hikers to hippies and surfers to sightseers. It’s a dry, volcanic stretch of rocky shore where travelers can still catch glimpses of the island’s past along the southern coast.