In the booming days of this once-heavily populated area, retired Captain James Makee owned and operated a massive sugar plantation in nearby Ulupalakua. In its heyday, around 1865, it was exporting enough sugar straight out of Mākena Landing Park to assert itself as the third largest producer in all of Hawai’i – an impressive feat during a time that sugar was a heavy focus for the most influential businessmen around.
Years later after the captain’s death, the land was converted into a cattle ranch renowned for its beauty and hospitality. The port flourished with the export of cattle, and the small town persisted in its thriving. Then, the community was dealt a fatal blow when Kahului Harbor across the island began to make major structural improvements, effectively slurping up business once privy to Mākena. Slowly, the town dwindled until World War II hit, barracks and training grounds were constructed, and the historical pier was scrapped. Though many returned at the war’s end, it has never quite succeeded in regaining its charm.
Now, the long, meandering shoreline offers a reprieve from the bustle of Lahaina and other tourist hot spots. Though excellent snorkeling and quality scuba diving bring quite a few commercial boats near the shore every day, the sandy, windswept beach and small grassy area are typically surprisingly uncrowded. Still, arrive early to secure yourself a spot in the small parking lot — snorkeling is typically better in the morning anyway. Clean restrooms and showers are located on-site.