The cinder cone Pu’u Ola’i means “earthquake hill”. Mo’olelo (oral hawaiian history) speaks of this cinder cone’s explosive formation happening in less than a week, estimated to have taken place sometime in the mid 1700’s, making it the next to last place Haleakala volcano erupted. The last eruption was just south of here above Ahihi Kinau Reserve and La Perouse Bay.
Pu’u Ola’i is at the edge of the Maluaka Wetlands and a restoration projects of the North Pu’u Ola’i Wetlands is under way. The project includes restoring the fishpond not far from the beach. Signage has been installed in the parking area explaining about the protected area and the endangered birds you may see here.
Pu’u Ola’i cinder cone is also part of a Hawaiian legend about the volcano goddess Pele. The story is about a Mo’o, which is a giant guardian lizard from ancient Hawaiian mythology. A female Mo’o is said to have fallen in love with Maui’s King Lohiau. Unfortunately for her Pele also favored the handsome king and in a fit of rage cut the Mo’o in half and turned the pieces into stone. The head of the Mo’o became Pu’u Ola’i and the tail became Molokini Crater.
Oneloa – Makena (Big Beach)
Known on the island as “Big Beach”, Makena is the largest continuous stretch of beach on the island at over a mile long and over 100 feet wide (this is quite wide by Maui standards). Narrow roads lead to three parking areas that are at both ends of the beach with one in the middle. The first parking area is closest to the cinder cone Pu’u Ola’i who’s lava outcropping here can be climbed over to access “Little Beach” – Maui’s remote nude beach.
There is not much in the way of snorkeling at this mile long beach as the bottom is sand and the rip current is strong. The sand drops steeply into the water here making for a brutal shore break as the waves jack up and close out onto bare sand. This is never a beach that is safe for small children or inexperienced swimmers. Even if you are a good swimmer you may want to think twice about swimming here during high surf. Many broken necks and bones have occured here over the years, even among the experienced locals.
If you venture up and over the outcrop to little beach at the far northern (right side) of Big Beach you may find some great snorkeling at the edges of this cove on calm surf days. Rock outcroppings on either end of this beach have beautiful coral heads with lots of marine life living in this undeveloped and remote part of Maui’s waters.
It’s also quite entertaining to watch resident kids play in the shorebreak at Big Beach. Skim boarding and boogie boarding are popular here but keep in mind the locals know how to kick out of these waves before they become smashed into the sand. The beach is so large that there is plenty of space to spread out even on what looks like a busy day.