Puʻu Ōlaʻi at Mākena on Maui Reopens with Adjusted Weekend Hours
Earlier Saturday-Sunday Closings Aimed at Stopping Large Gatherings
Puʻu Ōlaʻi sometimes referred to as “Little Beach” in Mākena State Park on Maui’s south shore, will reopen tomorrow, Saturday, March 13, after being closed for several months.
State officials say the earlier weekend closing times support safety and regulatory concerns following a closure prompted by reports of beach parties with drum circles, nudity, illegal alcohol and other illicit substances. There were also COIVD-19 safety concerns raised as reports included “hundreds of mask-less people in close contact with one another.”
“We appreciate the community’s patience as we grappled with both COVID-19 and resource management challenges for Puʻu Ōlaʻi, said DLNR Division of State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell.
“The so-called drum circles after dark, with as many as 200-400 people, created issues for DOCARE trying to clear the park. Illegal substances, fire dancing, coupled with darkness and a challenging trail warranted the need to close early to prevent these activities,” department officials said.
“It is unfortunate that certain people feel it is okay to violate the rules and engage in weekly “rave” like parties. These gatherings are promoted by social media and an in one case, by a company that advertises and provides transportation for out-of-state visitors to and from what they bill as ‘Maui’s biggest jam.’”
Cottrell added, “These are events that would warrant special use permits which require conditions for protection of resources and participant’s safety. There are no restroom facilities at Puʻu Ōlaʻi, so large groups contribute to the decay of what should be a cherished resource, not just a beautiful venue for a free party.”
Officials from the DLNR Division of State Parks and Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement spent the closure time developing a plan for the popular beach section. The plan is focused on “enjoyment for all park users and enhanced management and protection of cultural resources.”
The department reports that DOCARE officers will enforce all laws, rules and ordinances and reports that the division is “legally obligated to respond to any reported or observed behavior or activities at Puʻu Ōlaʻi that are contrary to, or violate state laws, administrative rules and county ordinances.”
New regulatory signs in the park detail prohibitions against drug and alcohol use, nudity and fires.
New park hours for Puʻu Ōlaʻi on Saturdays and Sundays, are now from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oneloa “Big Beach” and Oneuli “Black Sand Beach” also open at 5 a.m. and will close at 7 p.m. On weekday’s, all three beach areas within Mākena State Park will open at 5 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Parking lot gates open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. daily.
During the temporary closure, State Parks, with support from the Division of Forestry and Wildlife’s Nā Ala Hele Trails and Access Program crew, performed deferred park maintenance, including cutting back kiawe and brush from behind the beach. Additional signs will be installed or posted to inform park users to respect archeological sites. A recent Cultural Impact Assessment for Mākena State Park recognized Puʻu Ōlaʻi, its surrounding slopes and beach as significant cultural resources.
Future actions include making the informal access trail connecting Oneloa and Puʻu Ōlaʻi safer for beach users and first responders.
State Parks officials will be working with area lawmakers, the visitor industry, lineal descendants of Mākena and interested Maui citizens on future plans for Puʻu Ōlaʻi.
Larry Pacheco, Maui District State Parks Superintendent, said, “We hope people will respect this place, pay attention to all current local rules regarding COVID-19, and abide by all state laws and regulations. We’ve been forced to close Puʻu Ōlaʻi twice, for extended periods of time over the past year, because of unlawful and inappropriate behavior – largely associated with pandemic safety protocols. We are cautiously optimistic that all park users will honor the rules and be respectful of DLNR staff who are tasked with enforcing them, and the resources that we should all be protecting. The Division of State Parks does not want to have to shut down access again due to the perception that reopening will enable these weekly gatherings to be re-established.”