What it is like visiting Maui after the fires, and how one can assist Hawaii recuperate

Hawaii needs you to go to.

Regardless of what you will have heard within the aftermath of the devastating Maui wildfires, Hawaii wants vacationers to return. That is the message not simply from these operating tourism boards however from those that reside there.

I’ve simply returned from a visit to Oahu and Maui to see firsthand what it is like because the individuals of Hawaii recuperate from what state leaders name the worst pure catastrophe in its historical past.

No less than 97 individuals have been killed, and almost your entire historic port of Lahaina burned to the bottom, however regardless of the horrific catastrophe on that a part of the island, most of Maui is bodily untouched. Emotionally, in fact, the catastrophe has impacted your entire island. Nonetheless, at this level, tourism staff, native residents and Hawaiian officers all advised me they want vacationers to return to stabilize the already-battered financial system of Maui and the broader Hawaiian Islands. When you can by no means put a worth on the destruction the hearth dropped at individuals and lives, analysts estimate the fires precipitated a lack of between $4 and $6 billion to the state’s financial system.

On the bottom, I discovered Maui little modified exterior of the devastated Lahaina area, with the key caveat that vacationers ought to keep out of fire-burned areas.


Guests are welcome in Hawaii, together with Maui

“The Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority is supporting residents who work within the hospitality trade and enterprise homeowners who depend on guests by encouraging conscious visitation to the island,” Ilihia Gionson, public affairs officer on the Hawai’i Tourism Authority, stated. “One of the simplest ways to assist Maui’s restoration is for vacationers to proceed with their Maui holidays — do not cancel these journeys.”

Jeremy Kaialiilii, who helped ship aid provides to impacted households via his Epic Ministry church group, stated he and different locals need individuals to return again, however simply to be respectful. He advised me that the Wailea space is raring for individuals to return. He additionally stated the fires have made the neighborhood stronger. “I feel the neighborhood is coming again collectively.”

“Please come nonetheless,” Noa Kamalu stated throughout our November 2023 go to. He works doing ocean actions at one of many main resorts in Wailea, and he was born and raised on the North Shore of Maui. He continued, “We wish you right here. Simply respect the world and the place you’re going … our island does want tourism, and when individuals have been saying ‘do not come, do not come,’ numerous [us] have been like, ‘No, we’d like you to return.’ Our island survives off tourism.”

The reality is that there have been certainly combined messages relating to tourism within the aftermath of the fires and never simply referencing quick visits. Some locals stated that guests ought to keep away to respect the individuals who had misplaced a lot. Nonetheless, that message acquired unfold a bit of too nicely or endured maybe too lengthy for some small companies and residents who depend on tourism {dollars} for his or her revenue.

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Tourism is down for a lot of Hawaii, in accordance with the Hawaii Division of Enterprise, Financial Growth and Tourism.

It is particularly unhealthy in Maui. Based on the most up-to-date statistics from the Hawaii Bureau of Enterprise, Financial Growth and Tourism, “In October 2023, there have been 132,909 guests on Maui, down considerably in comparison with October 2022 (-42.3%) and October 2019 (-44.2%).”

Customer spending was down greater than $100 million from final 12 months and down 14% from pre-pandemic 2019.

Keep away from the Lahaina space altogether

There have been issues with catastrophe tourism in Lahaina, sadly.

Kamalu stated numerous vacationers are “being actual nosy. They are not giving the individuals the area that they might need. Numerous the native residents simply need them to make their means via Lahaina, if they are going to Kaanapali, to their inns, they do not need them to cease as a result of it is actual exhausting for among the individuals there nonetheless, and they’re having a tough time simply attending to their homes as nicely.”

“Some individuals take it too far, Kamalu added, “They’re getting out of their automobiles and strolling into the areas the place they are not speculated to be, or locals are attempting to get out and in of Lahaina quick ‘trigger they’ve work, or they’ve issues occurring, and persons are going actual sluggish trigger they simply need to see issues and hold pushing via. Lots of people are complaining in regards to the site visitors now in Lahaina simply because individuals need to cease and take a look at what occurred. Simply attempt to give them their area.”

“Attempt to depart Lahaina City alone for just a bit whereas,” Kamalu continued. “… simply to allow them to work out what they should do to assist get issues again up and going and placing issues in movement to begin rebuilding our Lahaina City and all the homes that have been burnt down.”


My recommendation if you’re planning a visit to Maui? Keep away from the Lahaina space altogether.

Regardless that there are some inns open once more in Kaanapali, staying there wouldn’t be my first alternative or advice for the time being. There have been protests over housing in West Maui, with locals saying displaced residents ought to get precedence in locations like Kaanapali. Certainly some native residents are nonetheless being housed in resorts within the space.

Gionson with the Hawai’i Tourism Authority echoed these statements. After saying that visitation is welcomed and inspired, he additionally stated, “We’re asking for respectful, compassionate, accountable journey … this consists of staying away from the fire-affected space of Lahaina City out of respect for the survivors and training persistence and compassion with all.”

Kaialiilii stated the incidents that occurred in Lahaina with individuals strolling and taking footage, “… that is only a fraction with everybody else being respectful.”

How else to be a very good customer to Maui

The obvious factor is that guests shouldn’t be taking images of memorials or of fireplace injury, and taking selfies with something of that nature is clearly a horrible thought.

Gionson prompt a technique that guests can specific aloha is by refraining from asking native residents about what they’ve been via: “… a well-intentioned query could also be unwelcome to a catastrophe survivor.

“Guests also can malama (look after) the individuals of Maui by procuring at locally-owned companies, consuming at native eating places and having fun with the various nice actions and points of interest all through the remainder of the island,” Gionson stated.

If you wish to give again much more, there are an abundance of unbelievable volunteer alternatives in Hawaii. Why not spend a day of your journey engaged on an area farm or serving to at an area meals financial institution? You may volunteer to donate time (or cash) at Mauinuistrong.information.

Strive different components of Maui, however do not skip the island

Kamalu prompt that guests head to different components of Maui. “Simply because our Lahaina aspect goes via a tough time, we needed individuals to return to the South aspect. We’re open. We’ve got numerous rooms down right here.”

Certainly, that is one of many issues I did throughout my keep. I spent a number of days in Wailea earlier than a visit to Hana.

There’s lots to see and do in Maui with out going close to the Lahaina space. I spent a number of wonderful nights on the Andaz Maui (evaluation coming quickly). Simply down the coast is the 4 Seasons Maui, the place they filmed the primary season of HBO’s “White Lotus.” With a plethora of resorts unfold across the island, it is a good time to discover locations which can be a bit of extra off-the-beaten-path.

In reality, my brother and I took a small airplane to Hana, which is world-famous for the treacherous however lovely Street to Hana. The Hana-Maui Resort is a World of Hyatt property and is just beautiful — extra to return on my time in Hana, too.

Hana Maui Resort, November 2023. CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY

And do not sleep on the North Shore, the place it is much less touristy and extra rugged.

Backside line

After my current journey to Maui and Oahu, I can report that Hawaii is totally open for enterprise exterior of the world of the island that was straight impacted by the hearth. Now could also be a good time to go to because the variety of vacationers is down.

You may discover not solely fewer crowds proper now, however costs have moderated some for the reason that top of the return-to-travel growth after pandemic-related restrictions have been lifted. It is crucial that guests are respectful and keep away from areas most affected by the fires. Do not be “that man” who tries to do catastrophe tourism.

CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY is the official journey web site of the Hawaiian Islands and generally is a nice useful resource for these planning a visit. You may also go to Maui County’s complete web site with info on volunteering and donating at www.mauinuistrong.information.

Kaialiilii had a fantastic message — he has numerous hope for the restoration and the rebuilding processes. “Pray for everyone,” he stated. “Everybody goes to bounce again from this. Maui remains to be Maui … the island is full of an entire bunch of Aloha and love nonetheless.”

“We nonetheless need you right here,” Kamalu shared. “We wish everybody right here. “

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